Wednesday, December 15, 2010

The Dreiser Edition, University of Illinois Press- Collectible Now, Rare Later

Earlier this year I acquired a new edition of Theodore Dreiser, The Financier:  The Critical Edition, University of Illinois Press.  This edition is a title in The Dreiser Edition, Edited by Thomas Riggio, professor emeritus of English at the University of Connecticut.  From the publisher's catalog:

"First published in 1912, Theodore Dreiser's third novel, The Financier, captures the ruthlessness and sparkle of the Gilded Age alongside the charismatic amorality of the power brokers and bankers of the mid-nineteenth century....Dreiser laboriously researched the business practices and personal exploits of real-life robber baron Charles Yerkes to narrate Frank Algernon Cowperwood's early career in The Financier, which explores the unscrupulous world of finance from the Civil War through the panic incited by the 1871 Chicago fire."

I love Theodore Dreiser, generally described as a naturalist writer and one who defines the self-made artist archetype who pursued and eventually forged a successful creative life from nothing, fought censorship, hard times and triumphed to become known as one of America's greatest writers.  If you don't believe me or have never explored his writings, do start now.  The Financier is a personal favorite, the anchor of the three-volume Trilogy of Desire which includes The Titan and The Stoic (neither have been republished in this series-yet,).  I still know where and when I read this trilogy over two weeks, Fall 1980 at the Carnegie Library reading room, next to the campus of Carnegie-Mellon University.  A wonderful procrastination from the studying I was supposed to be doing.

Collecting Dreiser's original publications is well beyond my means.  I do own a cherished edition of The Genius, a book pulled from circulation at the urging of the New York Society for Suppression of Vice one year after publication and not re-issued until 1923 after spirited and effective defense of Dreiser's writing.  My edition of this autobiographical novel, inspired by the Superman of Nietzsche, is the 8th printing Boni and Liveright edition printed in 1925 and includes the correspondence detailing the issues the Society for Suppression of Vice had with this wonderful novel.  I also own the two volume Horace Liveright edition of A Gallery of Woman published in 1929. 

An original edition of The Financier is available for a mere $12,500 in fine condition.  For my money, the best compromise is to work towards completion of the new The Dreiser Series.  At $95 per title, they are expensive relative to other new books but will quickly be out of print and become as scarce and rare as all previous editions of Dreiser are today.  I can not even suggest paperback reading copies other then the generic print on demand editions--a literary crime in my humble opinion. I am mostly a completest in my mind but for Dreiser, I may well acquire this Series in full.  Especially since today, while researching links for this post, I learned the The Genius was published by University of Illinois Press in 2004 and still available.   

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