Jan 13, 2010

My White Whale

My name's Patrick and I'm an biblioholic.

Hi Patrick!!!

Last week at SF Signal, John raised the question "Which books have you bought more than once?"

The answer, at least for me, is not that many. I keep my books nice and I obsessively keep track of what I have so outside of a few beautiful Subterranean Press editions, my collection features few duplicates.

What interested me most about John's post was a picture of his duplicate SF Masterworks titles. I like John, have a few SF Masterworks titles of my own. And by a few, I mean most of them. And by most of them I mean all of them, minus one. It's taken a long time and a lot of help from the UK Book Depository but I've acquired a decent quality edition of every single one of Gollancz

The one book missing from my collection is none other than H.G. Wells's classic, The Invisible Man rereleased as SF Masterworks #47 and assigned ISBN 1-85798-949-X. As a clarification, I didn't need to look that information up. I've memorized it. I've searched what feels like hundreds of websites from foreign Amazon.com sites to online book stores to ebay.co.uk. Nothing. I have various notifications set up if the ISBN appears on some of the better sites.  I've even googled (it's a verb) the ISBN trying to find people that have reviewed the book that might be willing to part with it. Yes it's creepy and no it didn't work. Anytime I happen by a used book store I haven't been in before I stop in a look around. I've found a couple of Year's Best Science Fiction Collection (my other project) but finding used UK editions in the US is like finding a well-adjusted adult Twilight fan.

I've come close. There was the eBay.co.uk auction of 2007, when I refused to pay $120 for a single paperback. There was the false hit of 2008, when a used book store turned up a SF Masterworks edition but shipped me a run of the mill Penguin classic edition. Check the ISBNs! Then there was the shameful false hit of 2009, which I'm fairly confident involved the same shady bookseller. Again, I was promised the SF Masterworks edition. Again, I received a small crappy copy of the book I already had. Those people just don't understand. I hope those isbn ignorant bastards burn in hell with the heat of a hundred thousand suns. Eventually a few days pass and I forget about my white whale. I return to my normal life, not caring about which edition of which book I don't own. But then something triggers my passion again and the cycle starts once more and I hunt this book like Eugene Tooms looks for livers during hibernation season.

This time it was John's post with the picture of his SF Masterworks editions that did it. I've regressed once more into my ISBNOCD.  But 2010 might be my year. A search last week turned up not one but two potential matches. I ordered both. One from Powell's in the US and another from a used bookstore out of the UK. I also picked up a copy of Harlan Ellison's classic anthology Dangerous Visions, another book which has been difficult to get a copy of. Cross your fingers, I might have just landed the big one. We will see what shows up.

Oh and if anyone needs a copy of the regular edition of The Invisible Man you can buy in any bookstore, let me know. I've got two.


  1. Now here a tragic tale, if ever I heard one. Fingers crossed one of your hopefuls turns out to be the edition you're looking for.

    If not, hey, I'll keep my eyes peeled for you in the local second-hand bookstores. Not that there are very many left these days.

  2. You've tried Abe, I presume: http://www.abebooks.com/servlet/SearchResults?sts=t&tn=invisible+man+masterworks


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...