Collecting Twain, Nabokov, and Pynchon
May 14, 2016 3:21 PM   Subscribe

Robert Nelson collects books. This is his webpage.

Eventually I realized that I was going to have neither infinite funds nor infinite shelf space, so I started to specialize on four authors, Mark Twain, Vladamir Nabokov, Thomas Pynchon and Richard Brautigan.

My collection of first book or pamphlet appearances of Mark Twain's writings is the most extensive subcollection, including over 200 items. The Nabokov collection, while smaller, includes all of his major novels and short story collections in English, including the notoriously difficult to find John Long editions from the mid 1930's. Pynchon's output has not been so prodigious, but my collection includes almost everything he wrote, including the "piracy" copies of his short stories, most of his magazine appearances, and very rare articles written for techinical journals while he was honing his skills in fiction. The Brautigan collection includes all of his major works, almost all of his lesser writings and many magazines and broadsides. The Burton collections is much spottier. Burton prices have gone through the roof, so I doubt if that part of my bookshelf will be seeing any new company soon.

The Twain collection has gathered partiular interest, including newspaper articles, a museum appearace, and use in a book on Twain. While such exposure is fun, the main pleasure has been in finding, owning, and preserving works by those who have so stongly influenced Western thought. I hope the next person to take on guardianship of these books has as much fun with it as I have.
posted by chavenet (5 comments total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I love these personal bespoke utilitarian websites. He's going to incur some server bills with those full resolution embedded photos though.
posted by drwicked at 5:01 PM on May 14, 2016

Finally! Someone I can offload my disintegrating first edition of Innocents Abroad onto! Oh crap, he has one already with one minor defect, o/w fine. Bah!

I will continue to peruse this website and occasionally mutter 'Bah!' as I find more things to envy. Thanks!
posted by carsonb at 5:12 PM on May 14, 2016

I like this way of collecting. I do something similar in a very, very small way. I don't personally care about specific editions of old books, or rare books, so I don't do that. But I do collect copies of different versions of Song of Myself by Walt Whitman. Not old books, but different versions of the text. I have the 1892 deathbed edition, the first 1855 version, the Stephen Mitchell version that starts with the 1855 version and includes only the changes Mitchell thinks improves the poem, the illuminated version, and a beautiful handmade edition I got from an artist on etsy. I have them all together on a bookshelf in the living room, some of them on bookstands for display. My oldest kid calls it "Song of My Shelf."
posted by not that girl at 6:24 PM on May 14, 2016 [2 favorites]

Oh, haha: that Richard Burton.
posted by steef at 4:35 AM on May 15, 2016

If you're going to specialize in Nabokov, why on earth would you only collect material in English? Bah.
posted by languagehat at 7:55 AM on May 15, 2016 [1 favorite]

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