Wednesday, 6 February 2013
First Editions? D'oh!
When Pride and Prejudice was originally published in 1813, it was printed as a set of three volumes. A mere 1500 copies of the novel were printed. Today, one of these first edition sets can (depending on its condition) fetch prices ranging from $78,000 to $220,000.
And the University of Alberta in Edmonton possesses one of these valuable sets! It is kept in the Rutherford Library's climate-controlled and security-protected Special Collection branch.
But here's the kicker! Until 25 years ago, no one at the university actually recognized these volumes' value or rarity and so the first edition copy was just sitting out on the regular library shelves, available for circulation like any other book. As an article in the Edmonton Journal recently reported:
You can still see [the] glued-in piece of lined paper where librarians stamped the due date. Miraculously, over all those years, no enthusiastic undergraduate nor absent-minded professor ever made a note in the margins, underlined a word, or damaged the spine.
Or, it goes without saying, ever stole it, sold it and kept the proceeds for themselves. Think of the student loans it could have paid off . . . or the monster blow-out frat parties it could have financed!
No one knows how the university came to own this valuable asset. Somebody probably just donated it early in the university's history when the library was trying to build its basic book collection.
[Photos by Bruce Edwards, Edmonton Journal]
Tomorrow: There is Only One.