Monday, August 24, 2015

One Book In The Grave, and Rare Fairy Tale Books

It's not a fairy tale retelling or one of the typical fiction books you'd find me talking about on here, but I saw this book in the mystery section at the library and just had to try it: One Book in the Grave by Kate Carlisle.
"There may be grave consequences for bookbinder Brooklyn Wainwright as she attempts to solve two murders tied to one book...

Brooklyn's chance to restore a rare first edition of Beauty and the Beast seems a fairytale come true--until she realizes the book last belonged to an old friend of hers. Three years ago, Max Adams, a renowned, brawny papermaker, fell in love with a stunning beauty, Emily, and gave her the copy of Beauty and the Beast as a symbol of their love. Soon afterward, he died in a car crash, and Brooklyn has always suspected his possessive ex-girlfriend and her jealous beau.

Now she decides to find out who sold the book and return it to its rightful owner--Emily. She believes a rare book dealer can assist her, but when she arrives at his shop, she finds him murdered. Is it possible the same couple who may have killed Daniel is now after his edition of Beauty and the Beast? With the help of her handsome boyfriend, Derek Stone, Brooklyn must unravel the murder plot--before she ends up in a plot herself..."

I don't usually have super high expectations of mysteries I find by authors I'm not familiar with. I thought that as a mystery, it wasn't especially well written (the characters don't cleverly put the clues together, they're just conveniently told pieces of the puzzle by other characters; there are no true red herrings or twists, because the people you suspect all along really are guilty, there's just an extra bad guy thrown in at the end to provide some sort of surprise, etc. The murderer's motivations seemed far-fetched to me). Yet, the book is pretty highly rated on Amazon, and it was an easy vacation read.
It was fun to read a book with an old fairy tale book at the center of it. The author doesn't go into the plot of BATB in detail, but one of the couples in the book sort of represents Beauty and the Beast and the book is a symbol of their love. Even the whole idea of restoring old books is compared to the story-the idea of taking something old and worn and revealing the beauty that is inside and that was once outside is very fitting.

As someone who loves old books and would take a musty-smelling, falling apart old copy of a book over a shiny new copy any day, it was also interesting to read a little about someone whose job is to restore old books and the tools and the process involved in that, or in papermaking, rare book selling, and that whole world. Although I'm not sure how accurate some facts are-one character paid $12,000 for the central book. I'm no expert in rare books, but that seemed a bit much for a book in poor condition (other copies of fairy tale books from the same era are going for around $15-20, like this one). But I guess it also depends on who's selling and buying, because for a whopping $48,000, you can be the proud owner of this 1937 illustrated Snow White book, signed by Walt Disney himself:
And this first edition of "East of the Sun, West of the Moon" with illustrations by Kay Nielsen is going for $6,200.
It's hard to research online, when typing in "rare Beauty and the Beast book" brings up an awful lot of Disney products-does anyone know more about the edition featured in the book cover above (does that particular copy even exist??) or how much a fair price for late Victorian-era first edition fairy tale books would be? This site seems to have its antique fairy tale books more reasonably priced, most at under $100. This first edition fairy tale book from 1890 is $142. And of course the price also depends on how many copies there are of the book in question, the condition, etc. It's a topic I'm not too familiar but would be interested in learning more about!

UPDATE: Heidi Anne Heiner of Surlalune has some information on the value of old fairy tale books in the comments! Thanks for sharing, Heidi!


  1. Hi Kristin,

    I'm not familiar with the Beauty and the Beast book in the mystery you read, I didn't even look for the title, but I am pretty sure it is fictional just from the clues in your post.

    The real impact on antique fairy tale books and high pricing is influenced by the illustrators. First editions of fairy tale collections illustrated by popular Golden Age illustrators like Arthur Rackham, Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, etc.will sell for thousands of dollars. A few first editions of books like the Grimms or such also have healthy price tags. But without either of those factors, no, fairy tale titles are not going to be worth too much.

    Single title books without something unique to them like historical significance or important illustrator are not going to top out above $100 in my experience and usually well below that. A few books--like The Snow Queen and Other Tales illustrated by Adrienne Segur--have great sentimental value and are rare enough to go into the $100-500 range for fairy tale fans. But again, those are centered around the illustrator more than anything else.

    1. Thank you! This makes a lot of sense. I kind of suspected the book didn't exist...very rare to find a hardcover copy of just one fairy tale. I can see that the artists would make the book more valuable, or a first edition Grimm.

  2. It's real. Kate Forsyth has it on her pins for the BatB book and if you Google BAtB vintage book covers you'll find it. Looks to be the back not front cover of a two sided old print.

    1. Interesting-I found the image, which has been shared a bit on Pinterest and tumblr, but can't find any information on the book itself. I have a linen copy of a children's book from 1897 that has that illustration in the middle but a blank back cover; maybe some editions put that on the back? It still wouldn't fit in with the clues Kate Carlisle gives in her book although that doesn't really matter

  3. Your Posts are fantastic! I just stumbled upon your blog when searching out older editions of Beauty and the Beast, and it's just fantastic! I'll be back!