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Tarantula by Bob Dylan

by The bookworm on November 25, 2016

Bob Dylan portraitWhat do T. S. Eliot, Gabriel García Márquez, Toni Morrison, Samuel Beckett, Saul Bellow, Pearl Buck, Elias Canetti, Gunter Grass, John Steinbeck, Harold Pinter, Ernest Hemingway and Bob Dylan have in common? They have all been honored with the Nobel Prize in Literature, the world’s most prestigious and coveted award. The 2016 winner, Bob Dylan, was described by the Swedish Academy, as having “a tremendous impact on popular music, signified by new poetic expressions within the great American song tradition.” The Academy, typically awards the prize based on an author’s artistic contributions on the whole, rather than on the merits of a single item of an author’s works.

Bob Dylan’s career achievements include eleven Grammy Awards, a Golden Globe Award, and this, the Nobel Prize in literature. Dylan has been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Minnesota Music Hall of Fame, Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame, and Songwriters Hall of Fame. The Pulitzer Prize jury in 2008 awarded him a special citation for “his profound impact on popular music and American culture, marked by lyrical compositions of extraordinary poetic power.” In May 2012, Dylan also received the Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Barack Obama.

Bob Dylan’s literature artistry is for the most part expressed through the lyrics of his songs. As such, the collector of his works may choose from the myriad of works and memorabilia that includes albums, guitars, photographs, music sheets, film footage, personal items, song lyrics etc.. For the rare book collector, however, the selection is limited by the small number of books written or signed by the artist. There is actually only one book that was written by Dylan, the rest are collections of his lyrics.

In 1966, Dylan was within two weeks of making the final changes to the printer’s galleys of his first book, Tarantula, when a motorcycle accident caused him to postpone the project. Before the book was officially published in 1971 by Macmillan, a mimeographed pirated edition was issued by Wimp Press from a copy of the uncorrected proof that had been circulated. The majority of the 54-page, stapled pirated issues that are available for sale were printed in 1970 since it includes cover notes claiming that profits from the publication are to further Woodstock Nation.

Tarantula Whimp Presstarantula by Weberman











A more attractive bootleg edition of Tarantula was published in 1968 by A. J. Weberman, an American writer, political activist/gadfly, and Dylanology specialist. In the introductory notes inside front cover he writes: “The copy we received to work from was xeroxed and, according to the grapevine, was taken from the printer’s galleys. We have tried to keep as close to that as possible. This edition has the same number of pages. Each line has the same words in it. The graphics were of our own choosing. Proceeds from the sale of this underground edition are going to legal defense funds around the country”. The book features a psychedelic illustration – “The Meth Freaks fight the Feds to the finish” signed S. Clay Wilson – underground cartoonist known for aggressively violent and sexually explicit panoramas of “lowlife.”

When Tarantula was finally published, in 1971, the young protest movement and Dylan’s influence to the folk music scene was eclipsed by the polarizing effects of the Vietnam War and the political upheavals of the late Sixties. The largely enigmatic poetry written by the 23-year old boy at the height of his influence, had a very different impact than if it had been released as originally scheduled in 1966.

The uncorrected proof copies of the suppressed first edition, in spiral-bound original salmon-colored wrappers, eleven inches in height, seventy-eight pages in length, are very scarce. Macmillan’s public relations describe the edition’s size as “a few copies.” Perhaps only 3-5 copies were produced! A copy that belonged to Quentin Fiore, noted graphic artist and book designer, recently sold by Ken Lopez for $8,500. Another dealer is offering a similar copy asking $10,000. No copies are known to have ever been offered at auction.

Tarantula uncorrected proof



Scientific rare booksIn terms of total dollars, global auction sales of rare books in the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2016 were slightly down from the same period in 2015; this year’s $87 million figure, for the period, represents a 6% decrease compared to last year.

But a closer look at the top three markets – the United States, France and the United Kingdom – reveals a notable fall in this year’s sales in the U.S. The slowdown in America’s biggest auction market is partially due to the strong dollar. American buyers are still incredibly important to rare book auction sales worldwide, regardless of the location, and continue to lead global demand. It seems that smart buyers took advantage of the stronger dollar to place their bids in other currencies, namely the British pound.

Spring’s highlight was a two-day Sotheby’s Paris auction in late April of the remarkable Bibliotheque R. & B.L. Dada-Surrealisme, on the year of the 100th year anniversary of the birth of Dada, which brought 5,775,802 Euro. Among the many impressive works up for auction, the showstopper was an album of rayographs, Les Champs délicieux, by Man Ray that soared to €243,000 (estimate: €120,000-150,000), the highest price paid for an item during the two-day sale.

The summer season brought two successes in the British market, boosted by the devaluation of the British currency following the Brexit vote. The two auctions held at Christie’s London King Street location generated over 12 million British pounds combined. The first of a two part auction held on July 13, the Giancarlo Beltrame Library sold a number of scientific rare books which were meticulously kept in perfect condition. Mr. Beltrame (1925-2011) was an exceptional personality, a world-class entrepreneur, a collector or scientific instruments and rare books.

The second, the summer auction on “Valuable Books and Manuscripts,” generated a million more British pounds than the year before. It included a Johann Sebastian Bach autographed music manuscript, titled ‘Prelude [– Fuga – Allegro] pour la Luth. ò Cembal. Par J.S. Bach’, for the Prelude, Fugue and Allegro for lute or keyboard in E flat major, BWV 998, n.d. [c.1735-1740]. There are about ten of Bach’s complete autograph manuscripts that are thought to have survived in private hands. The manuscript is one of only three for instrumental compositions. It sold for GBP 2,518,500, at the high end of its estimated value.

On-line sales of collectible category books are still behind auctions in terms of total sales by value. Unlike the results from the major auction houses, European sales online are currently trending downward. The number of top value items sold through Abebooks this year, included 17% less from European sales compared to last year. In fact, 4 out of the top 5 sales conducted during the same quarter last year were through European dealers, while that number is down to one so far this year. It seems that US buyers have not taken advantage of the strong dollar through on-line purchases.

Sales at international book fairs are demonstrating the predictable nature of the marketplace: a scarce book, in perfect condition, offered at a discount price, does get sold. The discounted pricing is clearly marked on the currency conversion rate signs posted by dealers, such as Adrian Harrington and Peter Harrington from the UK. Our discussions with the dealers during such events as these are confirming a similar trend as the one exhibited at auction: more sales to American buyers. It should be interesting to find out if the trend continues during this week’s 40th Boston International Antiquarian Book Fair.

While deep discounts at the book fairs attract impulse buyers, now, more than ever the auction market has become extremely focused. Well-preserved rare books in excellent condition with impeccable provenance will continue to sell at premium, as the Giancarlo Beltrame Library at Christy’s, (which topped the presale high estimate by 46 percent) demonstrated.


RBSM 2016-Q3

RBSM Genre Breakdown


RBSM 2016-Q3 Author

RBSM Author Breakdown


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