Monday, 13 August 2007

Signed, Sealed, Delivered...

What do these books have in common?

Give up?

Well, they have all been signed by their authors. A book presents such a complex relationship between the author and reader, which has been documented and investigated and debated by hosts of literary critics over the decades and centuries. This is all made more complicated and fun when the author's own handwriting appears on the title page - how strange to think that the author has held the book before me! Well, not so strange for A Very Great Profession by Nicola Beauman, and the biography of Judi Dench, for I was present on both those occasions, but for the other three...

When We Were Very Young, I must admit, was not written by Christopher Milne - one of these days I hope to have an AA Milne signature, but alas, not yet - but he has a very close association with the lead character. This copy was sold to me by a man named Peter Guppy, who lived in my old village and did a small business in books, but since he sold it to me for £2, it was really more of a gift. Dorothy Whipple's The Priory was bought at the Bookbarn in Somerset (or Heaven on Earth, as it may be re-labelled), but it was not until I got home that I realised it was signed. Very exciting! EM Delafield's novel set me back the most, but as one of my favourite authors, I found the offer irresistible.

How about you? Any signed copies? It's easy enough to find signed modern novels and biographies, Waterstones seems to stock little else, but what about older authors and treasured novels?


  1. I have a signed copy of There And Back Again by Sean Astin - which you bought for me. Cheers!

  2. I don't have many "old" signed books but I do have a copy of The Sound of Music signed by Maria von Trapp. A certain kitch value if nothing else.

  3. Why is it interesting to have a signature (rather than perhaps a dedication) - I have always wondered? I have a number of copies of books which have certainly been handled by the author (i.e. given to me in person by them), but I have never really felt the loss of a signature. Now as for books as gifts from people precious to me; that I find a much more obvious reason to desire some sort of imprint.

  4. I used to sign my own name in other people's books, as a child. The conscious reason was to claim ownership from my siblings; the unconscious? To make an early mark in the world of writing?
    I have a dedicated, signed copy of Jeanette Winterson's The .PowerBook (from a book signing) but strangely enough I have never read it. Time to, obviously.

  5. I don't think I have any old books that are signed. I have mooched few that have arrived signed, which is a nice treat. Two I have had signed in person are Girl in Hyacinth Blue by Susan Vreeland and Feast by Nigella Lawson.

  6. I have signed copies of several books written by and given to me by my Zen teachers ... no dedications as Peter mentioned, but one acknowledgement

  7. I don't believe that I have any old signed books, either. I do have a few personalized ones that I got at book signings following public lectures, for example Under the Tuscan Sun by Francis Mayes, The Color Purple by Alice Walker, a book of political cartoons by Plantu (cartoonist at Le Monde in Paris) and a couple others. I cherish these books. I find signatures fascinating, sort of a glimpse into the person's personality.


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