Every month, I get several emails from AbeBooks, an online marketplace for booksellers to market their inventories of new, used, rare and out-of-print books. One of the regular, monthly emails is the “AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales of the Month,” and I almost always browse through their list of the 10 priciest sales, not so much because I’m in the market—or even fantasizing about being in the market—for any of these books, but because I love to see the variety of books available which appear on the list (and yes, it’s amusing to see how much people are willing to spend on them).
The books that show up from month to month are amazing: an autographed first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, a 1934 edition of Aristophanes’ Lysistrata with etchings by Picasso, a first edition, first issue copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales, the list goes on and on. Items range contemporary favorites like the books of J.K. Rowling and Stephenie Meyer to the 1806 A Compendious Dictionary of the English Language by Noah Webster or a 16th century edition of Chronica, by Ramon Muntaner, detailing his adventures as a 14th century mercenary.
Often I recognize titles on the list, because the greatest hits of modern literature show up quite frequently, as do other canonical authors from further in the past. This month’s list is no exception, containing an illustrated, 1833 edition of John Milton’s Paradise Lost, a copy of Ann Radcliffe’s genre-launching classic The Mysteries of Udolpho, and a Dali-illustrated edition of Dante’s The Divine Comedy. What surprised me about this month’s list, however, was that one of my favorite fantasy writers appears on it, and he isn’t C.S. Lewis or J.R.R. Tolkien. Clocking in quite respectably at #5, and selling for the impressive sum of 4,500 dollars, is a British first-edition set of The Belgariad, a five novel fantasy series by the late American writer David Eddings.
I reread The Belgariad at the end of the summer every year while I was in prep school, because returning to its familiar world and well-drawn, endearing characters made me feel less anxious about returning to a place I didn’t fancy very much. Admittedly, my first two or three times through the books I read copies stolen from my brother Andrew, but I’ve since then begun to re-collect the series on my own, and I took the first four novels of The Belgariad (in non-British, non-first edition, six dollar paperbacks) with me when I moved to my apartment in Cambridge last month.
It was exciting to see Eddings’ name up there with Dante, Milton, and Radcliffe. It’s hard to think of an author whose works I’ve enjoyed as often and as consistently as Eddings. Other than an autographed first edition of Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, no book on the “AbeBooks Most Expensive Sales of the Month List” has given me such a smile.