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W.G. Sebald First Editions Price Lists

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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.

3 Comments Post a comment
  1. martin #

    What then could be considered the rarest Sebald of all? (as you know Terry, I’ve been avidly collecting him for years). I would suggest his second book (on Doeblin) is the very hardest to obtain (unless you enjoy spending lots of money on ex-library copies). I only ever managed to find it once in good condition, until (quite unbelievably!) a signed copy came along and I could upgrade even further! Otherwise of course the first, Sternheim, and the leather limited editions of the major prose works that some of our German friends now proffer for sale for somewhat ridiculous four-figure sums – particularly the Emigrants. The latter would also be the most valuable English edition as a signed first edition – I’ve only ever noticed one of those on the market in the past, and that was over $2000. Likewise a signed first of Saturn, which had a very small intial hardback printing. For my part, I would like to find a little pamphlet called “Am deutschen Ozean”, but otherwise I’m pretty done! Any of your readers incidentally who are looking for any advice about finding rare copies of Sebald books(and what sort of price they should consider paying!), feel free to contact me at martinericshaw@hotmail.com. Finally, for a review of recent literature on Sebald, the wonderful Richard Sheppard has a new article in the Journal of European Studies 2009 – available on the Sage Publications website for $20 a pop…he’s always good value

    best
    Martin

    April 2, 2009
    • Martin, You make some great points. There really are several ways to look at “rarest.” 1) The hardest to find. 2) The most desirable (which is clearly a personal choice). And 3) the most expensive. I think the book that probably fills the most expensive category for Sebald is the limited edition of 33 copies of Unerzählt with all 33 etchings by Jan Peter Tripp. I haven’t seen one of these for sale in a year or two and the last copy was priced well over $3,000, if I remember correctly. For me, the most desirable book – meaning the one I personally love the most – is the beautifully printed Nach der Natur: Ein Elementargedicht ; this is the book I would love to have a signed copy of. This is what makes Sebald collecting so fun!

      April 2, 2009
  2. Prof. Richard Sheppard #

    I found a copy of WGS’s The Radical Stage a couple of years ago via Amazon @ $50,- I had to wait ages for it as it was stored somewhere very obscure. A second (US) edition was supposed to appear but never did.

    Prof. Richard Sheppard

    July 12, 2011

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