Thursday, December 16, 2010

C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia, Perpetual Want

I've been casually searching for a complete edition of the seven volumes of C.S. Lewis, The Chronicles of Narnia for years.  I do not admit to being a fan of the contemporary movies but I do admit to enjoying the tales of Narnia.  The years since I read them have been many and now, I don't recall whether I dreamed of Narnia before I fell into the world of Hobbits, Elves, Dwarfs, Sorcerers, and the coming age of man, or after.  Regardless of my memory issues, anytime I drift away and stumble through the wardrobe, I'm back in a world of fantasy and adventure with heroes and villains, and great deeds of courage and honor.

On December 10, 2010, Sotheby's in London sold a complete set of first editions in, what I can only imagine, would have been described by a bookseller, as "in near fine condition considering the scarcity of these beloved children's books," for $7,588.00, at the low end of the pre-auction estimate.  Even if I had a spare $7590, I doubt the set at auction would have been the one to buy.  I'd hold out for a better condition copy.  You can read the full auction description here.

The challenge with The Chronicles of Narnia is to find a set, either first edition or simply a collectible edition, which include the complete, original, illustrations by Pauline Baynes.  I certainly didn't read an edition with those illustrations but if I were to acquire a set for my library now, I'd like to experience Narnia as the first readers did, with those, now classic, illustrations.

The Folio Society did a reprint in a lovely edition but I've never seen a complete set of first edition Folio Society for sale.  There is no reason to settle for anything less, given the multi-hundred dollar investment necessary, considering I will probably never own the true first edition.  I do have some standards!  I would settle for a nice commercial reprint (maybe), perhaps an anniversary edition or if Penguin Classics ever released an edition. 

For now, the only option that meets my need of a complete Baynes illustrated  edition may be the new edition published by HarperCollins, The Chronicles of Narnia 80th Anniversary Edition.  I am unable to find the book at the HarperCollins website (which is absurd, the site does not recognize the ISBN) to determine whether or not all the illustrations, as first issued, are included and it is a single volume, 800 page, boxed edition, which just seems wrong.  I imagine that sometime or other, HarperCollins released a proper set of the seven volume treasure but I really don't want a standard commerical edition.  The search will continue.


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