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Friends Book Sale ‘Specials Room’ Features Historic First Edition, Restricted Publication, Other Surprises



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A first edition book that caused quite a stir — yet set sales records around the world — ahead of its 1992 release.

The front section of a New York City newspaper published three days after the sinking of HMS Titanic.

A restricted publication produced in 1946 by the engineer and research scientist widely recognized as the father of Chinese aerospace

Madonna’s Sex, the first section of the April 17, 1912 issue of New York Day, and Jet Propulsion A Reference Text are among the items that John Renjilian has set aside for his area of this year’s Friends of C.H. Booth Library Book Sale.

These are among the rare and collectible items serious book sellers will encounter at this year’s massive event that returns next month to Reed Intermediate School, 3 Trades Lane, July 8-12.

Friday, July 8 will be a preview event, with the public admitted between 1 and 4 pm. Admission is $40 that day only, and ticket sales will begin at noon.

Saturday, July 9, through Monday, July 11, hours are 10 am to 5 pm. There is a $5 admission on Saturday for those age 19 and over (ticket sales begin at 9 am). Items will be sold at their marked prices.

There is no admission fee as of Sunday morning, through the remainder of the event. Items will be sold at half price on Sunday, and $5 per provided bag on Monday.

Tuesday, the final day of the sale, remainders are free and the event will run 10 am to 1 pm.

Cash, checks, and debit/credit cards are all accepted payment, as is PayPal. Contactless payment will also be available.

‘Sex’ And Special Ephemera

The Specials Room is where shoppers will find the rare and collectible items, including valuable media and children’s books. This section is set up in the auxiliary gym of Reed School. It will be well marked by enhanced digital signage

Published 30 years ago, Sex sold more than 150,000 copies on its first day of publication in October 1992. Those who purchased a first edition found it bound within a mylar wrapper, which held a spiral bound book with thin aluminum front and back covers. Those first copies, which originally sold for $50 each, also included a CD single of Madonna’s single “Erotic.”

The library’s offering features all of the above, in what Renjilian calls “surprisingly good condition.”

A Friends of Booth Library volunteer and professional antiquarian book specialist, Renjilian said the book “is in good shape.

“There are no scratches of significance. The cover is not bent, it’s in very good condition,” he added when speaking to The Newtown Bee on June 2.

Considering the materials used to package and cover the risqué book three decades ago, Renjilian said he was not surprised “many have not survived.”

The book sale copy has been priced at $150, and it will be sold only to adults, according to notes accompanying the lot.

Renjilian is unsure if the 12-page section of New York Day that was donated to the library was the entire paper that day or just its first issue. He is sure, however, that it is worthy of the collectibles section of the book sale. Seven of the 12 pages are filled with coverage of the disaster that changed leisure travel.

“Usually with newspaper we’ll put it into the ephemera section, and get $1 or $2 for it,” he said. “This is quite different, however,” he said, gesturing toward the newspaper.

The 12-page section is priced at $150.

Tsien’s Jet Propulsion Reference Text

The 2022 sale’s big ticket item is a very recent donation. Book Sale Chair Denise Kaiser told The Newtown Bee on July 13 that the latest addition for the Specials Room is a 799-page tome she called “a restricted description of jet propulsion research from 1946.”

The book, Jet Propulsion A Reference Text Prepared by the Staffs of the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Galcit, California Institute of Technology for the Air Technical Service Command, is filled with research notes as well as diagrams, charts, photo illustrations, and drawings.

Thousands of math and physics symbols were inserted into the original master by hand, “apparently not available on the typewriters available,” according to notes accompanying the book.

The book’s author was Tsien Hsue-shen (a/k/a Qian Xuesen, Wade-Giles romanization Ch’ien Hsüeh-sen), co-founder of the Jet Propulsion Laboratory of CalTech. During this country’s second Red Scare, Tsien was accused of Communist sympathies by the US federal government and the Ku Klux Klan. He was stripped of his security clearance, then spent five years under house arrest before being sent back to China in exchange for the repatriation of American pilots who had been captured during the Korean War.

Notes for the book sale indicate the library’s copy is in a post binding, “presumably an earlier issue, preceding the hard-bound issue.” Its title page bears two signatures of a previous owner, Joseph Kelly Jr.

“It’s mind-boggling, the range of donations we receive for this event,” Kaiser said Monday morning, stopping to talk for just a moment amid the bustle of volunteers continuing to sort ahead of the approaching fundraiser.

The book has been priced at $1,250, the highest price in this year’s sale. Volunteers do not expect the cost to be a deterrent for a determined buyer.

Last year’s big ticket item, Josef Albers’s Interaction of Color, a portfolio of 80 folders containing multiple screenprints originally published by Yale University Press in 1963, was tagged at a sale-record-high of $4,500.

“It sold almost immediately,” Friends of Booth Library Communications Chair Nancy Dvorin said earlier this month. “That sold, along with a $2,500 book, to the same person, who sent an agent to get them.”

A Few Additional Highlights

There will be a few dozen offerings in The Specials Room this year. Additional highlights include a copy of Fishing For Fun — and To Wash Your Soul, signed by author and former President Herbert Hoover.

The book is inscribed to Francis Caro, with Hoover’s signature below a line of text.

“You can tell he was up in age at this point,” Renjilian said, indicating Hoover’s signature. “His hand is shaking pretty bad.”

A bound lecture, “The Romance of Books,” presented by C.B. Randall to the New Castle Woman’s Club in 1925, noted as #IX of 100 copies, inscribed by the author and held between full gilt decorated leather boards and doublures, is being offered for $65.

Many Happy Returns! An Unofficial Guide to Your Income-Tax Problems, written by Groucho Marx and illustrated by The New Yorker artist O. Soglow, is in this year’s sale. The 1942 publication from Simon & Schuster has some wear marks, but “otherwise very good,” and is priced at $60.

Two books that belonged to the pioneering journalist Emma Bugbee may have been gifted to the writer by Eleanor Roosevelt. Bugbee’s career with The New York Herald included coverage of the First Lady for virtually the entire FDR administration. Eleanor reportedly considered Bugbee to be her personal correspondent, according to notes from the Friends.

Renjilian is unsure, he said, but a copy of 42 Years in The White House by former White House Chief Usher Irwin Hood Hoover, was gifted to Bugbee around Christmas 1934, according to notes inside the book’s cover. The inscription is signed “Eleanor,” which Renjilian notes “it is possible … it is of the era.”

The book carries a price tag of $75.

Donations Pause

The final day to donate for this year’s sale will be Sunday, June 19.

The Friends will not be accepting donations from June 20 until July 17. During those weeks the volunteers will be making final preparations for this year’s sale, conducting the sale, and then doing clean-up work. Multiple signs posted around the library building warn those who leave books during the donations pause that those books will be thrown out.

Donations will resume Monday, July 18, in marked locations at C.H. Booth Library.

The Friends of the C.H. Booth Library is a 501(c)(3) organization dedicated to providing financial and material support to this town’s library.


Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at shannon@thebee.com.

Antiquarian Book Specialist John Renjilian gently lifts up a copy of Madonna’s Sex, a 30-year-old collector’s item that will be part of The Specials Room of the 2022 Friends of C.H Booth Library Book Sale next month. The book, including mylar wrapping and aluminum covers, is in surprisingly good condition, according to Renjilian. —Bee Photos, Hicks
Herbert Hoover’s signature is shaky but clear on the title page of Fishing For Fun — And To Wash Your Soul, also part of this year’s book sale Specials Collection.
An ad for Travelers Insurance Company in Hartford is among the notices in the April 17, 1912 edition of New York Day, published three days after the sinking of Titanic.
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