W.G. Sebald First Editions Price Lists
It was good news to learn that Book & Magazine Collector has published an overview of the published works of W.G. Sebald by Chris Griffiths in its January 2009 issue, complete with estimates of current price ranges for both first editions and limited editions. But the bad news is that, according to the publisher’s website, the issue is already out of print and, hence, has become a collector’s item in itself. So this becomes one more thing for serious Sebald collectors to try to track down.
Griffiths gives a concise summary Sebald’s life and then walks the reader through all of Sebald’s published monographs. Along the way he provides some useful new information, particularly regarding the print runs of several hard-to-find Sebald editions. Sebald provides intriguing challenges and choices to the book collector. First there is the question of which country of origin should one collect: German, British, American or all three? With rare exceptions, nearly all of Sebald’s books first appeared in German, but English-language collectors often prefer the English-language first editions – which are always British and are often the most expensive of the three choices. Then there is the fact that Sebald’s first three books were literary criticism aimed at small German-language audiences. The collector who wishes to go beyond Sebald’s volumes of prose fiction and poetry will have to spend several hundred dollars for these elusive works.
Griffiths provides current price estimates for first editions from all three countries of origin with and without dustjackets (whenever this is applicable). But unless he is referring to a signed, limited edition publication, Griffiths stays away from pricing autographed or inscribed copies of trade first editions, as well as proof copies. For the most part, I think his price ranges are fair, albeit occasionally on the low side. I, for one, would be delighted to find a first edition of Radical Stage: German Theatre in the 1970s and 1980s, which Sebald edited and contributed to, for the suggested price range of £25-£30.
If you can’t locate a copy of Book & Magazine Collector, the only other published source for pricing Sebald’s books is to download the Sebald Author Price Guide issued by the book dealers Quill & Brush. They currently list well more than 200 individual authors in their price guide series for first editions. The Sebald guide is $3.75 and comes as an Adobe Acrobat PDF file. It was issued in 2007 and, in general, reflects the slightly lower prices that one could expect two years ago. It also avoids pricing several editions the authors hadn’t seen in book dealers catalogs yet.