Sunday, August 1, 2010

Bidding for books

Attending a book auction in New York, K.K.S. MURTHY remembers how his father had built up a stock through auctions in India.

It's winter and the New York weather not very welcoming; still the desire to attend a book auction in Manhattan was so strong that I drove from New Jersey in the cold. I had earlier noticed several books of which I owned copies back in India. So I was curious to check out their value. For example I had a gorgeous copy of Coleridge's Ancient Mariner with Gustave Dore's superb engravings. A similar copy, in excellent condition, was on display at this auction.

Though I had seen book auctions in Bangalore, the way it was conducted in New York was very different and quite complicated. The auctioneer received ever so many phone calls from different parts of the country for certain types of books, especially detective novels. Titles by writers like Ellery Queen, Dorothy Sayers, H.R.F Keating, Jacques Barzun, P.D James and several others were in excellent condition; some were limited editions with the author's inscriptions. Books in the auction were quickly sold to the highest bidder.

Unusual experience
It was an unusual experience to be in the midst of excited bidders. As it was an enormous hall, I could not closely follow the method through which some bidders were deemed successful. However, my attention was on those bidders who were interested in detective fiction. The auction came to a close as I was trying to discover the successful candidates. I looked dazed and was sitting next to an American lady, a successful bidder. She asked if I was from India and which part of the country etc. When I answered her, she invited me to see her shop the next day.

Full report here Hindu

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