Sunday, 8 September 2013

Book and Magazine Collector - W. Somerset Maugham Issues

covers of book and magazine collector maugham issues
Book and Magazine Collector - Maugham Issues

Book and Magazine Collector (November 1984, no. 9; January 1989, no. 58; June 2000 no. 195; September 2008, no. 298)


In this post, I will look at several issues of the Book and Magazine Collector in which W. Somerset Maugham's novels, short stories, essays, and plays are discussed.

Book and Magazine Collector for Book Collectors


I came across this magazine quite by accident, and a happy accident in this case. I was buying a book from The Sanctuary Bookshop (Lyme Regis, Dorset), and when they realized my interest in Maugham, very kindly they enclosed with the book I purchased several issues in which Maugham's works were discussed. The bookshop is situated in a fantastic looking place and it seems truly a book lover's sanctuary. One can stay over just above the bookshop, with five thousand old books at hand to examine. It sounds fantastic and very promising for a few days of holiday.

The articles in the Book and Magazine Collector cover briefly the life of Maugham, closely linking it to the author's publications. Special editions and copies are highlighted and the prices (usually in UK) included. At the end, a list of Maugham's first editions is given with market prices attached. It is interesting to look at them retrospectively, to see their values increase, in some of them, quite dramatically throughout the years.

At the end of each issue, a few pages are devoted to advertisements on buying and selling; there are also notices of book fairs, auctions, etc. There is even a section of letters to the editor concerning general issues about old books and book collecting.

The articles are very well written, researched, and informative; they cover the trends in book collecting, which authors or subject matters are in fashion, etc. The condition of the books reviewed is generally "very good," and thus the prices listed are quite high on the whole.

Sad but inevitable, with the online book markets in full steam, it would be difficult to keep the magazine in print. It stopped publishing after its December 2010 issue. Back issues are available in eBay, as far as I can see.

"W. Somerset Maugham" by Lew Thomas, November 1984, no. 9


cover of Book and Magazine Collector November 1984, no. 9
Book and Magazine Collector November 1984, no. 9

In this issue, Lew Thomas gives a brief biography of Maugham, which is extremely well written. He goes over different periods of Maugham's life, relating it to the books published at that time, with information about the number of copies issued and intercalated with interesting anecdotes.

Thomas also discusses some general points about book collecting, for example, whether one would collect the first UK or US, or the true first; whether one is a "completist" aiming for simply everything.

Looking at the prices given at the end, one would wish vehemently to have bought some of them then!

"The Early Novels of W. Somerset Maugham" by Kevin Nudd, January 1989, no. 58


cover of Book and Magazine Collector January 1989, no. 58
Book and Magazine Collector January 1989, no. 58

As the title suggests, this article focuses on Maugham's early novels; the format is very similar to Thomas's article, covering Maugham's life, circumstances of publication with information about Maugham's dealing with the publishers and other anecdotes relating to the editions; and the quality as good.

In five years, many of Maugham's works have doubled their market values.

"Somerset Maugham" by Crispin Jackson, June 2000, no. 195


photocopy of Book and Magazine Collector June 2000, no. 195
Book and Magazine Collector June 2000, no. 195

This issue I got in photocopy. The editorial is titled "Magnificent Maugham;" it is a very nice tribute to Maugham and I'll quote the paragraphs relating to him in full:
Most authors are happy if they can master a single literary form. Not so Somerset Maugham. He is widely acknowledged to be one of the greatest novelists of the last century, and yet he was also amongst the most accomplished short story writers of modern times and, for thirty years, one of London's most successful playwrights. Towards the end of his life he became something of a film star, introducing three portmanteau films based on some of his best-known stories. He also wrote successful travels books, autobiographies and essay collections.

Today, 35 years after his death, he remains as popular as ever with both readers and collectors. And yet critics have been slow to give him his due, perhaps because he was simply too successful in too many fields. He once wrote: "I am a professional writer and I hope to get from it a certain amount of money and perhaps a little praise." Few writers are willing to be this honest about their work, and Maugham has perhaps suffered for his candour, but if literary reputations are judged in terms of sales and readership, then Maugham's standing remains very high indeed.

The article looks also at film adaptations of Maugham's novels. There are some interesting details given to how much some of Maugham's first editions have fetched in auctions.

Jackson mentions especially Cakes and Ale, that the first issue has a misprint on page 147. However, according to Stott, it is only a state in printing in this case; and he goes on to mention several others. My copy does not have the misprint on page 147, but it has the others mentioned by Stott, alongside others not registered, which I have found very common indeed in other first editions. In any case, Stott says that both states were issued simultaneously.

Needless to say, the prices continue to rise merrily.

"W. Somerset Maugham" by Mike Ashley, September 2008, no. 298


cover of Book and Magazine Collector September 2008, no. 298
Book and Magazine Collector September 2008, no. 298

This article, again, ties more in with films based on Maugham's works that have been continuing to be produced. There are more information about the different editions, especially between the UK and US. Ashley also records some rare gems, for collectors with loads of money of course...

I knew that Maugham earned quite a bit from short stories published in magazines; Ashley tells us that for the stories that Maugham wrote for Cosmopolitan he fetched what would be £40,000 per story in today's currency! You better read every word carefully!

The price list would be nearer to today's and it includes that of some special issues; in a word, more elaborated than the ones in past issues.

Book and Magazine Collector


All in all, this is a very interesting historical document about book collecting. I like to look at the ads too. It is a pity that it discontinues, but that is "progress," simply meaning that time is progressing, not necessarily that things are getting better (well, they are, in many ways).

In a way, it is quite a relief to read something without having to think whether you can trust it or not, but of course you have to get to know quite a bit in the first place to feel that. It is a respite from searching on the Internet. This is one thing we have lost in the online world. I know you must be thinking that you cannot trust my information too much either, but I have no answer to that...

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