Archive for the Close Up Category

Close Up: Highways in Hiding

Posted in 1956, Close Up with tags , on June 6, 2011 by Aaron

closeupGeorge O. Smith

I’m reading this one at the moment. This copy is in VG condition and sports great Ed Emsh cover art that’s still quite bright. I like the artwork on this, although the theme is quite dark and a bit of a mystery unless you are aware of the story.  What are those strange things?  Why a stone(?) fist?  I (most people?) like a cover that allows us at least a little insight into the story.  For example, Starman’s Quest – two spacemen, we get the idea.  Iceworld – kids and an alien, got it.  This is one of the reasons I really dislike the later cover art as I mentioned in the Close Up for Two Sought Adventure.  This here sets up more mystery than insight, but some like that I guess.  Let’s have a look.

Quite nice overall with no glaring issues except looking generally old.  No issues sans dust jacket but some slight bumping to the head and tail of the spine.

Looking at the edges at the top and bottom of the book we can see the aged look highlighted.

Some slight curving to the edges of the boards with a couple of small dings. The block is typically GP darkened as well with the pages well on the way to becoming brittle.

A close look at the head and tail reveals some wear on the jacket.

Negligible wear on the tail of the dust jacket.  The edges all-round are in excellent condition in fact aside from the top of the spine.
A book plate affixed to the front pastedown tells us that one William Robards Wetmore once had this copy in his library. I wonder if it lived next to any other GP titles?

William seems to have looked after it, at least.  Cheers.
A bit of age darkening makes the rear of the book look old, just like the rest of it.  Still, nice and clean with no rubbing.

Year: 1956
Paid: $41
Art: Ed Emshwiller
Copies: 4000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Tan cloth with dark green lettering on the spine
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: HIGHWAYS IN HIDING, by George 0. Smith, 1956, pp.223, $3.00. 4000 copies printed. Jacket by Ed Emshwiller.
Currey: HIGHWAYS IN HIDING. New York: Gnome Press, Inc. Publishers, [1956]. Three bindings, probable priority as listed: (A) Tan cloth, spine lettered in dark green; (B) Gray boards, spine lettered in red; (C) Black boards, spine lettered in red.  First edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: A reasonably nice copy of this title.  I wish it didn’t just look… old. It doesn’t deserve to look that way as it’s actually quite nice, yet it does. $41 not too bad a price either I think.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database



Close Up: Two Sought Adventure

Posted in 1957, Close Up with tags , on June 5, 2011 by Aaron

closeupFritz Leiber

I’ve had these pics over on my Gnome Press Flickr site for almost a year. Since I posted a Review for this title recently, it’s past time to get the Close Up done.

A somewhat odd cover. Kind of stylized and I didn’t like it much at first.  I’m a very classic ‘Golden Age’ cover kind of guy.  The covers for Pattern for Conquest and Cosmic Engineers being two of my favorites.  It grew on me however, and I’m not adverse to it now.  It does thought present a nice segway from Golden Age art into the New Age nonsense represented by the likes of The Philosophical Corps.  Come to think of it, because Gnome Press spanned a period of time running from the tail end of the Golden Age to the beginnings of the New Age, the evolution of their cover art provides an interesting commentary.  I might post about that sometime.  Anyway, check out the cover below.

The artwork quite accurately depicts our two heroes – Fahrfrd and the Grey Mouser.  Some slight rubbing on the cover that is somewhat masked by the appearance of the artwork.  Around the jacket where the block sits against the flaps there is some foxing on the unprotected areas there.

The boards are a little rubbed, but in generally good condition.

From the top and bottom we can see the typical GP browning of the block.

Though it’s not too bad for a book of this vintage.  You can see that the edges of the jacket are in quite nice condition as well.  Except for one thing.
This view, while illustrating the nice condition of the edging, hints at two major problems with this copy.  First, there is a 1cm tear through the ‘W’ on the front.
And you can see the rubbing on the spine of the jacket is quite bad.
Close photography always really highlight cosmetic issues like this.
The tail of the spine presents no issues except that damn rubbing.
The back of the jacket exhibits more of the endemic rubbing.

Year: 1957
Paid: $40
Art: Lionel Dillon
Copies: 4000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Black boards with red lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: TWO SOUGHT ADVENTURE, by Fritz Leiber, 1957, pp.186, $3.00. 4000 copies printed, 3000 initially in black boards, 1000 in 1959–1960 in gray cloth.
Currey: TWO SOUGHT ADVENTURE. N.Y. Gnome Press Inc., [1957]. Two bindings, priority as listed: (A) Black boards stamped in red; (B) Gray cloth stamped in red, (C) Red boards stamped in black (not seen) First edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: Rubbing, as has been described above, is the major flaw with this copy.  If we set that aside, it’s pretty damn good.  Unfortunately though, we can’t set it aside.  However, $40 isn’t outlandish for this title even in this condition.  Interesting that Currey notes an unseen (C) state binding while officially recognizing only two.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


Close Up: Reprieve From Paradise

Posted in 1955, Close Up with tags , , on May 3, 2011 by Aaron

closeupH. Chandler Elliott

It’s about time I got another proper Close Up on the site.  It’s been eight and a half months since the last which was Science Fiction Terror Tales.  The photos for this book have been kicking around over at my Gnome Press Flickr site since mid-November along with a couple of other titles too.  Not happy with the quality as the background is far from white, but we can see the book itself well enough and at this stage, beggars can’t be choosers…

Back to the issue at hand.  The condition overall is very nice.  Nice cover, quite clean though you can see some slight browning around the cover.  This is accentuated by the lighting I’ve got here, it’s not as noticeable in actual fact.

Nice overall and a good first impression.

As expected, the cloth is nice with the dust jacket removed.  Very clean, no issues at all.  Well, some slight bruising at the head and tail, but not affecting the condition of the book.

With a closer look at these points, we can see the excellent condition of the jacket and the binding.

Some slight browning of the block and we get a glimpse of an unusual feature of this particular copy.  Let’s pull back a little.

Very nice, a hint of a roll at the top of the spine.  Can’t quite see that ususual feature here so let’s get closer again.

See it now?

This copy was evidently bound with two different grades of paper.  The majority of the block has discolored more rapidly than the first signature there.

The back looks slightly discolored, but as for the front, it’s emphasized by the lighting here.

And there we have it.  The first Close Up for a long time.  Let’s hope I can get a few more up soon. Lighting continues to be an issue, but we’ll soldier on…

Year: 1955
Paid: $38
Art: Mel Hunter
Copies: 4000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Green cloth with deep red lettering on the spine.
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: REPRIEVE FROM PARADISE, by H. Chandler Elliott, 1955, pp.256, $3.00. 4000 copies printed. Jacket by Mel Hunter.
Currey: absent
Comments: In a nice solid condition.  Interesting tidbit with the two grades of paper used in binding this copy.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


Close Up: Science Fiction Terror Tales

Posted in 1955, Close Up with tags , , on August 17, 2010 by Aaron

closeupGroff Conklin, ed.

This title is one of the pinnacles of Gnome Press collecting. This was one of the books I’d resigned to the last legs of my Odyssey. In book collection circles it seems to share the rarefied atmosphere inhabited by such titles as Asimov’s  I, Robot and Foundation, Simak’s City and Against the Fall of Night from Arthur C. Clarke.  It’s certainly not the most expensive of titles – any of those mentioned in similar condition would fetch more – but urban legend has it that it’s the rarest of all the GP books.  The reason, I read somewhere (and I wish I knew where exactly, I can’t for the life of me remember), is that it was a particularly popular title with libraries.  Once a book hits a library it get’s stuff glued into it, stamped, taped, rebound and generally receives all manner of abuse.  Hence picking up a copy in reasonable condition is a rather special occasion.

So, for this special occasion, cue the golden horn wielding cherubs and garlands of wild flowers.  Here we go.
Groff Conklin, ed. - Science Fiction Terror TalesNot bad.  Looks like some slight sunning on the spine, but otherwise pretty good.  Colors are still bright and the dust jacket in general is free from any rubbing.  Sans jacket it also looks sharp.
Nice. No wear on the edges of the boards at all and only some slight bumping to the head and tail. Looking from the top we see a couple of problems.

First, the discoloration here is quite evident and we can see some spotting. Also some creepy-crawly has had a bit of a munch on it at some stage. Thankfully though the hole only goes about a quarter inch deep. The bottom view is a little better.

The edge of the block is much cleaner with less discoloration. A closer look reveals no surprises.

The edge of the jacket is excellent all-round with that slight wear at the extremities of the spine. No problem.
A bit of age toning inside.

But nothing unusual for this vintage. Some foxing where the paste-down and front free end-paper meet, non-existent at the rear.

All in all, very nice. The rear of the jacket is a continuation of the front – minimal rubbing and shelf wear, still bright too.

Year: 1955
Paid: $267
Art: Ed Emshwiller
Quantity: 5000 copies (Eshbach)
Binding: Red cloth with black lettering on the spine
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: SCIENCE FICTION TERROR TALES, edited by Groff Conklin, 1955, pp.x/ 262, $3.50. 5000 copies printed. Points: Because of the relative scarcity of this title, we were initially inclined to believe not all were bound, but have since determined that the print run is correct; Conklin had an exceptional public library status as a must-order anyway and this received a superior review from Kirkus. Reprints: Mass market pbs., Pocket Books, 1954; again, 1969.
Currey: absent
Comments: I consider myself very lucky to have a copy of this book.  The condition is nice enough and a fair price for such.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


Close Up: Undersea City

Posted in 1958, Close Up with tags , , , on July 31, 2010 by Aaron

closeupFrederik Pohl & Jack Williamson

I’m always excited in anticipation of receiving a new book.  I should have learned by now that over-excitement more often than not leads to disappointment.  I can only think of one occasion offhand where my expectations have been well and truly exceeded.  And quite a few where I have been crestfallen to a greater or lesser degree.  But, that’s all part of the drama and excitement of being a book collector.  It’s always, at the very least, interesting.

On this occasion I did have high hopes.  The flaws were described well in the auction, but weren’t noticeable in the provided image.  I thought, “Great, he’s being very honest about stuff that needn’t be mentioned”, but it wasn’t quite that way.  Let’s have a look.
At casual glance, looks great!!  But careful inspection of the image reveals what I couldn’t see in the auction.
Now, you can see the two flaws described in the auction as “…two small tears on top border of front cover.”  One indeed is a small tear with an associated crease about three times the length of the tear running up to the edge.  The other is not a small tear.  It is a large tear.  And the creasing is also significant.  These I would have definitely spotted in the auction and hence my surprise upon receipt of the book.  The image was apparently from a different copy he had up sometime in the past.
Boards are in good condition.  Currey ‘B’.

The view from the top and bottom is, aside from that tear, very nice.Spine sits nicely and the binding is very tight.
The head and tail are likewise in excellent shape.
The GP bugbear of the poor quality paper shows itself with the typical age-toning of the block.
Not as bad as some that I have.  Nice ocean surface rippling across the top of the chapter pages too.
The back of the jacket is nice and white and exhibits little rubbing or wear.

Year: 1958
Paid: $15
Art: Wallace Wood
Quantity: 5000, 2000 remaindered (Eshbach), 5000 (wikipedia)
Binding: Currey priority ‘B’ – gray cloth with red lettering on the spine
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: UNDERSEA CITY, by Frederik Pohl and Jack Williamson, 1958, pp.224, $3.00. 5000 copies printed, but only 3000 bound in two bindings, first black boards (about 2000), second gray cloth c.1959 (1000); rest “remaindered” and probably destroyed in liquidation. Jacket by Wallace Wood. Reprint: Ballantine.
Currey: UNDERSEA CITY, Hicksville, N.Y.: The Gnome Press Inc., Publishers, [1958]. Two bindings, priority as listed: (A) Black boards lettered in red; (B) Gray cloth lettered in red. First edition so stated on copyright page.
Comments: Damn tear on the cover.  I don’t know how to rate an otherwise VG+ book with a defect like that.  Offset to a certain degree by the truly outstanding price for this title.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


Close Up: SF’57: The Year’s Greatest Science Fiction and Fantasy

Posted in 1957, Close Up with tags , , on July 18, 2010 by Aaron

closeupJudith Merril, editor

The second in the series and the one I acquired third.  This particular copy has two sides.   Firstly, the jacket, while quite nice, has a couple of significant issues.  None are apparent on the cover itself which is quite… nice. But you can see some problems on the spine.  We’ll have a closer look at those soon.
I said two sides.  The other ‘side’ as it were, is the condition of the binding.  Which is Fine.  I’m inclined to suspect that this jacket may have been married to the book.  The wear overall doesn’t seem to be reflected on the binding.
I think I will have to exhibit a bit more care with my post-processing of the Close Up photos.  I’m not very happy with these in hindsight.  There are a few ragged edges where I haven’t removed the background carefully enough.  I’ll see if I still have the originals and maybe replace these ones.  In any event, you can see the boards are nice and clean and sharp. The pages are crisp without any discoloration.
The top and bottom view are pleasing from the binding’s point of view.  The block is white and sits nice and square.
The bottom of the jacket is quite frayed.  Thankfully there are no chunks missing and the dust jacket protector holds it together well.  The pink color on the spine looks a bit faded when compared to that on the front cover.
There is a nasty score on the spine, you may have noticed it earlier.  Here’s a closer look.
Now, there is no trace of this on the spine of the binding.  I thought perhaps there might be hence my suspicion about the jacket/book combination not being original.  Maybe.  Maybe not.
A little dirty looking shelf-wear on the back.  Not as bad in person.  Apart from the obvious fraying at the base of the spine, it is pretty sound.

Year: 1957
Paid: $16
Art: W.I. Van der Pohl
Quantity: 3000 (Eshbach, wikipedia)
Binding: Red cloth with black lettering on spine
GP Edition Notes: 1st edition so stated
Chalker & Owings: SF:57—THE YEAR’S GREATEST SCIENCE FICTION AND FANTASY, edited by Judith Merril, 1957, pp.320, $3.95. 3000 copies printed. Jacket by W.I. Van der Poel. Simultaneous edition: mass market pb, Dell, NY: 1957. Basically for the library market, explaining the short run.
Currey: SF’57. New York, The Gnome Press Inc, Publishers, [1957]. First edition so stated on copyright page. Note: Dell and Gnome Press editions published simultaneously.
Comments: Pages and binding are in beautiful condition, pity about the jacket.
Expand Upon:, Internet Speculative Fiction Database


Seen: The Forgotten Planet – juvenile dust jacket

Posted in 1954, Close Up with tags , , on June 15, 2010 by Aaron

One of the hardest-to-come-by items from Gnome Press is the alternative jacket for The Forgotten Planet.  I mention it on the GP Trivia page, but in case you can’t be bothered to go and have a look, it’s was the product of a experiment in pitching the books at the juvenile market.  An undertaking that never flew and the jackets were never released ‘on book’ so to speak.  However, they do surface occasionally and one did on eBay a couple of weeks ago.

Harry at Ravenwood Books on eBay kindly allowed me to use his pics here for our interest and information.  Thanks Harry. The jacket came with a slightly soiled copy of the book.  I had a couple of questions about this and was a little concerned about the jacket being a copy.  I put this to the seller and was satisfied with his answers, the book comes from a source he has had no issue with in many previous dealings.  Considering this, and the fact that these covers should have seen no ‘reading use’  (never being released and of interest only to true collectors), as well as that it does make sense to put it on a reading copy of the book to make it easier to safely store and transport or post.

Here they are:

Looks to be in beautiful condition.  Both front and back.  Slightly awkward cover art by Ed Emshwiller.

Why the hell didn’t I bid on this??  I’m going to be kicking myself for I while, I suspect…

No wear down the wrap-around at all.  You can see the condition of the book (Currey ‘D’ binding) vs the jacket, which initially made me think twice.  But as I said, after consideration I had no issue with it.

It finished up going for $102 – an excellent price I thought.  Congrats to the winning bidder.