Here’s a good example of just what a compulsive bibliophile I am. Charles Harper’s ‘Haunted Houses’ is one of the standard works on the subject of ghosts in Britain and I could easily refer to a cheap paperback copy – in fact I did, for years. But here I am with not one but two separate early editions.
The book on the right is the first edition of 1907. It has an appealing cover with its strange shrouded figure (the shroud trails round on to the spine). The main benefit of having this edition is that the paper quality is excellent – which is why it’s so thick – and Charles Harper’s illustrations of the haunted houses are crisply reproduced on inserted plates. All subsequent editons have pulpier paper and the illustrations are on the same paper, which means they are far less well reproduced. I got it off eBay for £25 which I think is a bargain. My main concern was the postage, bearing in mind it’s such a heavy volume. By chance, though, it was being sold by a private household just a few miles from where one of my oldest friends lives in Lincolnshire, and who I was due to visit the same month. So he was able to pick it up for me post free.
You think I’d be happy with the first edition but nope: when I saw just how gorgeous the second edition was, with its totally different and even more striking cover design, inckluding the white-and-gilt skull design on the spine – I was hooked. OK the second edition is the enlarged edition with corrections and a few more stories but that’s no excuse – I bought it for the cover. I guess that makes me a Book Fool. Actually, this is the third edition of 1927 (three years after the 2nd). Enlarged though it is, it’s printed on much cheaper quality paper and is much less hefty than the first edition. And it cost me a fiver more. But it’s in immaculate condition and has its dust jacket, too. I think it’s one of the most attractive books in my collection. Doesn’t change the fact that I could have got all the same information out of the cheap paperback I already had!