Collecting Rare Books and First Editions: John Kennedy Toole
By Tom Congalton
Toole's story is well-known, but if you don't already know it, he killed himself in despair when he couldn't get A Confederacy of Dunces (1980) published. His mother haunted publishers until, with the help of Walker Percy, she managed to get LSU to publish the book, the first work of fiction from that publisher. To everyone's surprise, the book won the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981. The boards of the book seem to warp or splay pretty easily, but copies with just a little splaying probably shouldn't be rejected out of hand, unless you really want to be a stickler. The jacket is uncoated, and primarily black, so its hard to find copies that don't have at least some rubbing. Also, look to see whether the pale blue lettering on the book has faded or not. Needless to say, a signed copy should raise a little suspicion (unless its been channeled from the spirit world), although copies signed by either Percy or the author's mother do turn up, and command a modest premium. A decade and a half ago one collector told us he had a bunch of copies signed by Percy, and rather annoyingly, he's been dangling them ever since. We'll keep you posted.
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