Friday, 1 July 2011

NOTES FOR PENNIES

I love stories told by book collectors of rare finds picked up for a song. Well, here's one of mine...

Many years ago, I was walking up Charing Cross Road when it was still the street of a dozen bookshops and outside one of them, on a trestle, was a cardboard box of assorted paperbacks, "All one price: 10p", among them, this one...

Notes on a Cowardly Lion (Cover)

Being a huge fan of The Wizard of Oz, I instantly recognised the name Bert Lahr, although I was later surprised that the cover image shows Lahr in Beckett's Waiting for Godot.

Worth 10p of anybody's money, I thought and I was right!

This was an American paperback of John Lahr's 1969 biography of his father and, as such, was very tightly-bound so I paid my ten pence without even opening (or trying to open) the book.

Later that day, home-bound on a train, I decided to take a closer look at my bargain purchase and, for the first time, saw the title-page...

Notes on a Cowardly Lion (Title-page)

Many years, later I told this story to the book's author but, for some reason, he didn't seem to find it too amusing – I guess because Sir Ralph was still alive when I bought the book!

Oh, well, never mind, it made me very happy!

As for Bert Lahr, he said of his most famous role: "That was my one big Hollywood hit, but, in a way, it hurt my picture career. After that, I was typecast as a lion, and there just weren't many parts for lions."

But, fortunately, there was that one!



6 comments:

Andy J. Latham said...

You seem to have the knack of getting bargains like this Brian! I remember your story about the signed Disney biography.

You don't get things like that happening on Amazon!

scb said...

Oh how I love (and identify with) the Cowardly Lion! That quote is priceless, and as for your wonderful find -- Wow! Well done. What a serendipitous find! (Serendipity is the very best kind of dipity there is.)

docnad said...

What a great story!

Geno said...

That is a great find! I love biographies and the two that I have found signed are treasures to me as well.

Alan Gilliland said...

The cowardly lion’s song was my favourite as a kid and his whole personality made the film for me.

Unknown said...

That is an amazing find. It would have been cool to have contacted Sir Richardson at the time when he was still alive to see what he thought of his missing book and where it had traveled to