I interrupt your scheduled posts about Spain and Portugal to share my findings from this weekend’s ANZAAB Rare Book Fair in Melbourne.
I went there with a plan to find my annual copy of The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde. Every year for my birthday, since I was fourteen, I’ve been treating myself to a new copy. One I could re-read, re-highlight, and re-giggle at. It was Jack who gave me my copy last year (which I already had, but how could he have known!), and romantically swept me away to Paris to visit Oscar’s grave.
This year the Rare Book Fair seemed to be in perfect accordance with my birthday. It was decided, I would invest in a good, rare copy. I thought my commitment to the book throughout the years allowed for a little bit of money to be spent on my quarter century birthday.
Three books into the fair and I found it in a glass encasement. A beautiful brown and gold copy, larger than most I had ever seen. It was a signed limited edition copy from 1891. SIGNED! and one of only 250 copies that exist in that form. I think the owner of the stand got nervous about all the gawking at it I was doing, and after a few jokes about how The Great Gatsby was definitely not F. Scott Fitzgerald’s best book he took it out for me to hold and play with.
Oscar’s signature was there, as promised, looking all simple and plain, as if he wasn’t the funniest man who has ever lived. The owner then told us the reason he thinks this book is so special is because it’s not trying to be a book. The title of the book doesn’t jump off the cover, the lettering on the binding is basically hidden at the bottom, and it’s so large you probably wouldn’t take it on, say, the tram to read on your way to work.
It was perfect for me. I knew I would appreciate it and take care of it and never have to buy another copy again- until I saw the price tag. A mere $49,500 for the birthday book of my dreams? Not on this birthday.