As strong advocates for the importance and vibrancy of the humanities, we here at the Rubenstein Library greatly enjoyed Duke President Richard Brodhead’s appearance on The Colbert Report last Thursday. As custodians of thousands of rare books, we were especially interested in Mr. Colbert’s mention of his “beautiful copy of [Moby-Dick] — hand-tooled leather, everything.” Colbert went on to say, “I don’t really want to crack it open, ’cause it’ll ruin the resale value.”
Which leads us to our quick pop quiz for the day: which of these copies of Moby-Dick is more valuable?
The answer: the second copy — this is the 1851 first American edition of Moby-Dick, in its original variant red binding cloth. The first copy, in “hand-tooled leather,” is a 1977 Easton Press publication, and copies can be found for sale online for roughly 600 times less than you’d need to pay for the first American edition. Book historians and collectors, like Richard and Nancy Riess, who donated the Rubenstein copy of the first edition of Moby-Dick, generally prize first editions in their original bindings, for the evidence they preserve of the process by which a book was seen through the press and first encountered by readers.
The lessons, we hope:
Appearances can be deceiving, as Mr. Colbert and students of the humanities around the world know very well.
And it pays to know your book history — the kind of thing you learn with a quality humanities-based education.
Post contributed by Will Hansen, Assistant Curator of Collections.
Search The Devil’s Tale
Tag Cloud2011acquisitions 2012acquisition 2013acquisition advertisements advertising African American history archives artistsbooks civilwar conservation diaries digitization documentary dorisduke dukehistory durham durhamhistory economists events film fullframe games Haiti Heschel holidays human rights letterhead literature longcivilrights madmen Mad Men madmenmondays medicine movediary move prep movinghom photography recipes renovation rubensteinstaff scrapbooks sports students women's history zines
The Devil’s Tale Archive
- William Clark Missouri Territory treasury receipts, 1810, 1815. November 21, 2014
- Frost family genealogy and history, 1975 and undated. November 21, 2014
- Edward S. Ransom letters, May, November 1863. November 21, 2014
- Harry L. Mitchell printed materials on the Southern Tenant Farmers' Union, 1972-1974 and undated. November 20, 2014
- Mulligan family papers, 1864-1880 and undated. November 20, 2014
- Ireland's miseries: their cause. From the Plough, the loom, and the anvil, for September, 1852 November 21, 2014
- Reflections upon the conduct of human life : with reference to the study of learning and knowledge : in a letter to the excellent lady, the Lady Masham November 21, 2014
- General order, no. 1 November 21, 2014
- Der Prairiefuchs : eine Erzählung aus dem Amerikanischen (Volume c.1) November 7, 2014
- Ferdinand Lasalle : ein Roman al fresco (Volume Bd.1 c.1) November 7, 2014