In an earlier post I discussed Janet Friskney’s book, New Canadian Library: The Ross McClelland Years 1952-1978. Using her excellent study I wrote about the sales figures of Philip Child’s WWI novel, God’s Sparrows:
God’s Sparrows was in the bottom 13% in sales of the entire NCL line up to 1979, averaging less than 500 copies sold a year (Friskney, 160, 248 note 28). God’s Sparrows sold 887 copies in 1978, and just 70 in 1979, for a grand total of 957 over two years (Friskney, Appendix B, p. 203).
Simon Fraser University did not have a copy when I was a lowly but enthusiastic undergrad, so I turned to Abebooks, where I was shocked to discover the cheaper of two copies was $75.00 plus shipping. This was not for a first edition, but for an M&S NCL paperback reprint from 1978. I resolved to never pay that much for such a cheap book, but questioned my stance when both copies disappeared from Abe very quickly.
This summer, while browsing the discount shelves in Renaissance Books in downtown Victoria, I picked up a respectable (and obviously unread) copy for a dollar. Unfortunately, some vandals appear to have desecrated what I can only assume was once a lovely and artful cover.
Some initial research shows that such vandalism was commonplace during the period; for more information I’ll direct you to Mr. Brian Busby’s musings on the subject at The Dusty Bookcase.
I don’t intend to get Philip Child on punishment detail here for a while yet, but I wanted to point out to any curious readers that there are three copies of this edition currently on Abe in the 12.oo – 16.00 dollar range. Unless you’re a dedicated stalker of used bookstores, that’s about as good a price as you’re likely to see.