I was delighted at the weekend when I went to The Book Barn at Temple Cloud, a few miles from where I live, and found in amongst the million plus second hand books that they boast they have on their shelves a copy of Books Do Furnish A Room. This is book 10 of Anthony Powell’s series A Dance to the Music of Time. It was the last one missing which was thwarting my efforts to get a complete set so I could read them in sequence. I thereby reveal myself to be both anal and a completer-finisher type in a single sentence.
I got eight of the dozen books in a single go at a jumble sale held some time ago to raise funds for a local museum. I have gathered the others together since then through religious perusal of the shelves of second hand and charity book stores wherever I find them. I have also made repeated visits to The Book Barn and checked out their “P” section at regular intervals.
It should be satisfying to have a complete set but, of course, it is never that simple. Like with my collection of James Bond novels, acquired as a teenager, I have an unreasonable desire to have a consistent set all from the same edition.
I am resigned in the case of the Bond books to knowing I am doomed to failure as that particular Pan edition was collected in my youth at the time of the Roger Moore incarnation of Bond in the films, with the result that there was not a version of Live and Let Die produced in the format of the edition in which I collected all the books. There was only the film tie in version. I managed to trade in my copy of the film tie in version of The Man With The Golden Gun for a second hand copy of the book in my preferred edition but, sadly, there never was, so far as I have been able to discover, an edition of the original The Spy Who Loved Me produced in the set I collected – it being the sole item in the Bond canon that was out of print at the time.
So I now face the irritation of having finally completed my set of A Dance to the Music of Time but having failed to obtain a complete, consistent set of a single edition. Two-thirds of the set are the Mandarin edition featuring cartoon illustrations by Mark Boxer. I should point out at this point that these eight are not the eight I bought at the jumble sale (£1 each, as indeed have they all been as it happens). No. Book 2 of the series, A Buyers Market, and book 8, The Soldier’s Art were in that original bulk purchase and are a William Heinemann hardback and a Fontana paperback respectively. The latter features a cartoon cover illustration by “Marc”.
I have subsequently bought a couple more books in the Mandarin edition – including the final missing link, book 10, Books Do Furnish A Room and another Fontana paperback, again featuring the cartoon illustration by “Marc” on the cover. I also got hold, after much searching, of a copy of book 3, The Acceptance World but this is in a paperback edition by Flamingo, which, though featuring a cartoon cover by Mark Boxer – he of the Mandarin series – is otherwise significantly different from that Mandarin edition.
Thus my complete set is now drawn from four different editions and the completist collector in me is as frustrated by that fact as the Yorkshireman in me is reluctant to shell out more money – even at £1 a time – to replace the oddballs with the correct series edition should I encounter them in future.
Ah the pains that mingle with the pleasures of book collecting. But at least I can now get on and read the damn things!