Collecting Holy Grails

Here's a story that makes me look stupid a couple times over. I might have mentioned a couple of weeks back that Sir Richard Burton's translation of the Arabian Nights was my Used Book Store Holy Grail, that I thought I'd found it in PEI, but it was some other translation, and so it goes.

How did it become my Holy Grail? Well, I'd seen it at this wonderful used book store we used to have called the Attic Owl, and was intrigued because I'd read about it, possibly in Farmer's first Riverworld novel (which has coincidentally gone missing, who did I lend it to?!), and in how Burton had had to create new words to approximate concepts not present in the English language, and so on. So on the one hand, I was interested in myth, fantasy and fairy tales from all corners of the world. On the other, there was the linguist's fascination with this particular adaptation.

So I riffle through it, and on many pages, but probably not that many, the ink's seeped through the pages so that, while legible, there's superimposed text/mirror text there. It's not a pristine copy, it's a used book. And it's probably about 30 bucks, so I hem and I haw and I end up putting it back on the shelf. I go home, and I toss and I turn and I think well, where am I gonna get a copy of this book if not this one. They don't grow on trees (so to speak). And the next time I go to the Attic Owl, I look for it and it's gone. Of course it's gone. And every time I've walked into a used book store worth its salt - i.e. not just a mass paperback turnstile - I've looked for it.

Which is ridiculous, because in this day and age, with eBay and online stores and ebooks and everything, I could have found the book many times over. In fact, the pic above is of a current printing available, leather-bound, from Amazon for 30$. Stupid retro collector's mind! Then again, grabbing something off a website doesn't feel like collecting, the thrill's just not there. Do I HAVE to find it like a piece of lost treasure for it to COUNT?

So what makes a collector's Holy Grail? To me, it was Regret. The one that got away when I was most primed (not an Amazon joke) to have and read it. For others, it may be Nostalgia and retrieving something from their childhood, which is similar. My finger's been hovering over some eBay sales of Remco monster action figures, Gecko and Snake-Man, which were my brother and I's favorite toys as kids. And it's possible a Holy Grail is Holy because of its rarity. You tell me. What are YOUR collection Holy Grails? Did you ever glimpse them? Did you mortgage your house to get them? Have you abandoned all hope?


Brendoon said...

Yep, abandoned hope so much that I can't even remember what my grail WAS, now!

No wait... I remember the main one: vintage 60's and 70's rock instruments.
They're physically huge, heavy and prone to breaking down. In the case of keyboard instruments, authenticity also means they're harder to play than the soft touch found on modern digital copies, so your perceived skill gets downgraded a notch or two.
They're also, as any vintage collectible, enormously expensive. I think I've managed to stop the addiction now, though it ran red hot for a while.
Top that expense, time lavished on restoring and repairing the instrument, getting it onto a trailer and bringing it to a gathering of other musicians one can often discover that you receive no Kudos for authenticity: "Dude!" you are sometimes told, "that thing is OLD! It's huge! It looks hard to play and it's covered in wood! Save up to buy something real and get with it, and don't come back until you do!"
Yup, geekery, that deviant disinterest in the mainstream*, ALSO flows into music.

*Wait... in today's age IS there even a mainstream?? It seems more a great plaited cord of many strands, a braided river of interests.

So I haven't mortgaged the house, but mmmmmmmay have spent more than a wise man might. The question is: now that I no longer wonder if this delusion is going to lead to fame and riches... when should I stop claiming them as business expenses?

Stu Ordana said...

I am a big Tolkien fan. When I learned they had published the Lord of the Rings in a red leather(faux leather) hardback, I had to have it. It took a few years for the stars to align before I was able to get it. I think it was like a $50 or $60 book. I was very happy when I got it and it sat proudly on my shelf. That had to be 20 years ago. I never read it and now not sure exactly where it is at the moment. Most likely in a box in a storage unit.

Siskoid said...

That's how they probably lost the actual Holy Grail for 2000 years as well


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