Blood Meridian

BY Cormac McCarthy
Book Information1/1/0/US/RH/185/c.1,478 sold  •  215x148x35  •  580

It is finally here, the first edition of Cormac McCarthy's Blood Meridian. Harold Bloom took three attempts before finishing the book, and then called it the "greatest single book since Faulkner’s As I Lay Dying". Contemporary critics and writers held it in similar high regard as they voted Blood Meridian second runner-up to Toni Morrison's Beloved and Don DeLillo's Underworld in a poll on best American fiction published in the last 25 years. Lawrence Buell, in his "The Dream of the Great American Novel", regarded Blood Meridian as "one of the monumental Southwestern borderlands fiction of the past several decades that seems to have Great American Novel written on it".

James Wood, however, pointed out that Blood Meridian and McCarthy's other Appalachian works somtimes alienate due to their blood-soak violence and claustrophobically male-lockedness. Interestingly, McCarthy revealed in a 2009 interview with the Wall Street Journal that the book he was working on is "largely about a young woman". Newsweek recently revealed the book's title, "The Passenger", but the publication date is as yet unknown.

This is the first edition published in 1985 by Random House, his last with this publisher before moving to Alfred Knopf. Like all his previous work,Blood Meridian did not sell well. Ford & Pastore (2014)* claim that Blood Meridian had "an initial run of five thousand copies of which only 1,478 were sold and most of these as remainders having a remainder mark somewhere on them. The unsold copies were pulp. There were no hard cover second paintings or editions until the 2010 Anniversay Edition". The book is bound in red clothed board wth gilt lettering, and has no top stain. The copyright page should state "First Edition" below the Random House line "26689753". The dust jacket has a photo of McCarthy on the back.

This book is somewhat rare, especially the non-remainder ones, and a VG copy can be purchased from eBay or Abebooks at over $2,000. This is a NF copy with a NF- dust jacket that suffers only the slightest of curve at the top of the flaps, and a NF book that is clean, tight, and withoout the remainder mark.

Anyone who is interested in a scholarly discussion of the book can watch lectures 17 and 18 of Professor Amy Hungerford's excellent OYC course, The American Novel since 1945

* Ford, P. J., & Pastore, S. R. (2014). Cormac McCarthy: A Descriptive Bibliography, Volume I. American Bibliographical Society.

PS (Nov 2015): I have the habit of tracking Blood Meridian on eBay and here's an actual occurrence illustrating the perils of buying signed edition there. A first edition with no remainder mark and without dust jacket was put up for auction and sold for around $400 in August. Immediately, the buyer, using the same pictures from the auction, put it up for sale at twice the price. Fair game but no taker. Then the price was reduced to the $500 range and the post updated with new pictures. Still no taker for a couple of month. Last week, the book was updated as a signed copy with"cut signature affixed to title page", and the price went up to $1300! Amazing. The book was initially unsigned but this seller (the buyer in the auction) managed to somehow get McCarthy's signature on some document, cut it, and affixed it to the book. If this is not fishy, nothing is. Fortunately still no taker, but this highlights the risk of paying a premium for signed books. 

Here are my views on buying signed editions:
  • Avoid books with signatures on laid in page or slip or bookplate as they tend to have the highest risk of forgery. 
  • For flat signed copies, only buy them from your trusted bookseller and keep the receipts. Exceptions can be made when a copy has a meaningful inscription to an interesting recipient but bear in mind the risk. 
  • If a publisher authorized signed edition is available, go for it as this version is harder to forge. But not all publisher authorized signed editions are equal, and some offer more protection against forgery than others. Editions that are identical to their trade editions except for a special signed tipped-in page (i.e., glued or bound into the book; cf slipped/laid in page that is loose) provide the least assurance since forgers only need to reproduce one page.  Examples are McCarthy's The Crossing and Cities of the Plain. Then there are standalone signed editions that totally differ from the trade editions and these are the best. Examples are Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms, Updike's Rabbit is Rich, and the many Franklin Library editions like Morrison's Jazz and Roth's American Pastoral. 
  • Sometimes the authorized signed editions are anniversary rather than first editions and here's where a decision needs to be made. Examples include Rand's Atlas Shrugged and Miller's Death of a Salesman. 
Incidentally, that dubious eBay seller (rwsellers) also has a similarly signed copy of the Salesmen on offer. Avoid at all cost. 

--- "Men's memories are uncertain and the past that was differs little from the past that was not."

The front of the dust jacket. For collection, the dust jacket should be bright, with as few close tear, rubbing, or chipping as possible. Valuable books should be kept in a location that is not exposed to direct sunlight; the UV light will dull the color, a phenomenon known as sunning.

The back of the dust jacket. It has a picture of McCarthy with photo credit (Mark Morrow) on the bottom left corner, and "394-54482-X" on the bottom right corner.

The inside flaps of the dust jacket with the price $17.95 on the top right hand corner of the front flap. Some flaps are price-clipped, i.e., the price is cut off, presumably to allow book sellers to sell the book at a lower (or higher) price. Another possibility is to pass off book club edition, which has no collectible value, as full-priced version because the book club edition typically has no price on the dust jacket. Price-clipped dust jacket is considered a flaw and makes the book less valuable. 
Slightly dusty top edge, but the important thing is there is no remainder mark, which can be an ink motif or a black dot from a marker pen. Remainder mark is considered a flaw and devalues the book.

This is the bottom edge, another place where remainder mark may be found. Also, this book is trimmed on all edges, meaning the leaves are cut. Some books are untrimmed, and therefore have unevened leaves. Some books are trimmed only at the top edge.
This is the full title page where the title of the book, the author, and the publisher are listed. The background map is unique to this book.

This is the copyright page after the full title page, and is an important page to inspect. It says that the book is published simultaneously in America and Canada, but the true first edition is the US edition because McCarthy is an American. Analogously, Alice Munro's true first edition is the Canadian version while Kazuo Ishiguro's is the UK version. Here, we see the unique number line for Random House (24689753) that lacks the 1 common in other publisher's first edition number line; Random House has "First Edition" printed instead.

This is the dedication page after the copyright page. McCarthy received the MacArthur (aka Genius) Award that provided him with the financial support needed to write. The Award now provides 625k USD paid equally over 5 years with no strings attached, and no it does not accept applications.

This is a unique review page that follows from the dedication page. Most books don't have a review page, and review blurbs are usually printed on the back of the dust jacket, or its back and, less commonly, front flaps.

This is the first page where the novel starts. Notice that it starts on page 3, and it has summary points at the beginning of the chapter.
The book ends with an epilogue on page 337.


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