Sunday, October 23, 2016

Blog Post No. 2000: Charles Addams and the Birth of a Rare Book Collector

A collector may be thought of as someone who discovers something he never needed—perhaps never knew  even existed—and then realizes he cannot live without it. I have always treasured books, but I can point to the very first instance when I just had to have a particular copy of a book, one that today would be classified as a rare book. That book was Favorite Haunts, the 1976 cartoon collection by that master of the macabre Charles Addams. I was excited to learn that the artist was soon to appear at a book signing when an announcement appeared in the New Yorker of October 18, 1976.

999 Bookshop Advertisement
The New Yorker, October 18, 1976, page 187
I had never attended a book signing, but the logistics of getting to this one were somewhat daunting. In order for me to meet Mr. Addams and get my book signed, I would need to get my parents' permission to take a train into the city, then make my way to the bookstore on the Upper East Side, attend the signing, and head back home fairly late. It would take at least six hours of my time, and all on a school night. Fortunately the announcement offered me a simple alternative: having a signed copy of the book sent to me for $9.50 postpaid. After reviewing my options, I chose this course, putting my education before entertainment as I usually did. Thus I obtained my first autographed copy of a book. In retrospect, though, this was the only opportunity I ever was offered to meet the formidable Charles Addams and I didn't take advantage of it.

Charles Addams, Favorite Haunts, 1976
My copy

Signed by Charles Addams

Had I attended the signing and offered my shy hello to Mr. Addams, I imagine the book would have been personally inscribed to me. Some copies of this book have original drawings, but I don't know if any of these come from the signing at the 999 Bookshop.

When I first looked on eBay almost twenty years ago, autographed copies of Favorite Haunts just like mine were selling for $85. Today there are no signed copies on eBay, but one similar to mine is on AbeBooks currently offered at $195. The bookseller's photo shows the dust jacket in truer colors than my own photo, which is bathed in yellow incandescent light.
Charles Addams, Favorite Haunts, 1976
Bookseller Image

AbeBooks Listing as of October 23, 2016
Jeryl Metz, Books

There is also an example of a personalized copy on AbeBooks, and this could well have come from the same signing:
Charles Addams, Favorite Haunts, 1976
Bookseller Image

Charles Addams, Favorite Haunts, 1976, Back Cover
Bookseller Image

Inscribed "For Sophie Kahn/Chas Addams"

Letter from Sandy Frank to Sophie Kahn
AbeBooks Listing as of October 23, 2016
Atlantic Bookshop

Today, I go out of my way to collect rare books, by which I usually mean signed or personalized copies, and I avoid most other books until they are discounted. I am still on occasion plagued by book signings scheduled at hours inconvenient to the overworked and overcommitted. In fact, just recently I ordered a couple of signed books by mail because of this issue. Book discounting is more widespread than it used to be and today I generally don't pay full price for any new book unless it is signed.

Note:  In 1976 while I was doing my homework, I'm sure many others did attend the Addams book signing at 999 Bookshop, or perhaps at another venue, and I'd love to see any materially different examples of the book, perhaps with unusual inscriptions or original drawings. I would be so pleased if any reader would care to send me an image or two of a distinctly unique copy of Favorite Haunts and relate the story that goes with it.

For that matter, any original artwork by Charles Addams is welcome on this blog. Come on, don't let it fester.

Attempted Bloggery's quick links:

Attempted Bloggery's Haunting Index

The Attempted Bloggery Centennial Posts
Blog Post No. 100
Blog Post No. 200:  A Shaggy Dog Story



  1. I actually have a copy of this book not only signed, but with a drawing of Morticia in it.

    My brother was friends with a woman who knew Chas and she got a copy made out to him with the drawing and signature. Morticia is even in two colors: black and a gray wash (watercolor?). Knowing what a buff I am, my brother was kind enough to give it to me.

    Unfortunately my library's in a bit of a disarray, so you'll just have to take my word for it. :/ But if I come across it, I'll send you a scan of it.

    1. It sounds awesome! I mean loathsome! I hope it turns up!