of the Opera
by Gaston Leroux
Low Cost Alternatives for the Cash-Strapped Phan
For about 12 years (2000 - 2012), I had a copy of the 1911 Bobbs-Merrill publication of Leroux's novel, a "trophy" as I called it. It was sheer luck that I got it for only thirty dollars on eBay early in the year 2000. The seller either did not know or did not care, but I won by default as the only bidder, starting bid at thirty dollars. Funny thing is, when I made my joyful post about it at one of the forums, a few of my "phriends" made fun of me. If only they could have seen how expensive these books can get (as others later did), they would not have been so ready to laugh. At that time, there were no photos of the book and I had only been able to find a few of the Castaigne illustrations. First thing I did when I got my copy was to post all five illustrations on my site back then.
I disappeared from the online "phandom" a few years later due to offline issues and turned the locust on my site. Upon my return, quietly haunting a few message boards, I noticed that countless posts over the years had been made about the original publication(s) of Leroux's novel... about how expensive it can get. I also noticed (and understood) the confusion as to exactly which one is the original and which are early reprints.
Due mostly to a desire to make a fresh start, clear space, relieve a few minor money woes, and buy my husband a nice gift, I sold that book and it went for about two hundred dollars on eBay. I had priced it that way based on the other prices at that time. One was going for $150, another for $250, and a few others had sold for about $200. Strange thing is, someone had sent me a message insisting he/she was able to get one like that recently for only sixty dollars. Still, my book sold. As it turned out, and I caught him red-handed, it was a sock puppet account for a book dealer who then posted it for $775!
People, I love the phantom and I have no quarrels with book dealers in general, but there comes a point when I must protest and warn you all not to be a fool and pay that much for this book! There are other merchants (and regular sellers) who sell it for noticeably less. EBay is usually about "lowballing" a bit anyway, not charging retail, but even at retail prices, he has it grossly overpriced! At AbeBooks.com for instance, a site for retail booksellers, there are copies listed there for around $600 or less. The copies are in reasonably good shape considering their age and contain all five color illustrations to boot. At eBay as I type this page in April 2012, some are going for $450 to $500. Usually if I have seen it going for $700 or more, it has at least PART of the old dust jacket. Dust jacket is usually beat up and possibly torn, otherwise it would go for more, but there are remnants of a dust jacket. If the dust jacket is in decent shape then, yes, expect to pay through the nose for it! :)
Additionally, there comes a point when one has to realize that the story and the illustrations are public domain now. If it is the illustrations that interest you, for instance, there are much more affordable options for you out there! You can read it for free, and view the illlustrations, online at this site.
If you prefer still to have a book, do not despair! For whatever bizarre reasons all these years, I had been quite unaware that back in 1988, Mysterious Press reprinted this book, complete with the Castaigne illustrations. It is part of a new technology known as "Print on Demand." Another company, Michael O'Mara, in the UK did likewise in 1987. It was very easy to find once I found out the ISBN number and entered it into search engines at sites such as eBay, Amazon, and AbeBooks. The numbers are as follows for Mysterious Press: ISBN-10: 0892962798, ISBN-13: 978-0892962792. I bought myself a copy for only ONE DOLLAR ON EBAY. It has all the color illustrations in it. The Michael O'Mara ISBN numbers are as follows: ISBN 10: 0948397179, ISBN 13: 9780948397172.
The variation is this: in the original 1911 novel, four of the five illustrations were two-page, so a crease runs up the middle of them. The 1911 book itself is actually small, measuring only approximately 8.3 X 5.6 X 0.9 inches. The reprint is larger, measuring 9.9 X 7.5 X 1.2 inches, and the illustrations are only on one page. Still, at least you don't have the crease.
The original 1911 novel (pictured above, on the left) has a salmon-color to the cover, with an imprint of the Phantom as the Red Death on the front. The title on the cover is printed in a gold color with a gold color square around it. If it has a dust jacket (pictured below, left), which is very rare, expect to pay A LOT for it. It is a publication by Bobbs-Merrill. Do not confuse it with Grossett and Dunlap, which IS a reprint. Grossett and Dunlap was known for making more affordable reprints, which it did a few times with this book. There is the better-known copy, a photoplay edition, with photos from the silent movie. The cover (picture above, right) on that particular copy - the photoplay edition - has a red-cloth cover with the title printed in black and a black square around the title. Every so often an edition with the ever-rare dust jacket (pictured below, right) is also available and again, expect to pay noticeably more because of it. (Something about the magic dust jacket!)
What I did NOT know until recently is that there was an even earlier reprint (pictured above, center) circa 1912 to 1915 also by Grossett and Dunlap! It has the same dimensions but is colored red, with a golden image of the Phantom as the Red Death on the front and the title in black letters. I found out by accident actually. Recently on eBay. I was literally in tears, yelling at myself about my one-in-a-lifetime gift Erik had given me and I sold it. Then PLOP! Like the hammer of Thor, this one popped up with a "Buy it Now" feature... for THIRTY DOLLARS! So I had my happy ending of sorts (even though it is missing one of the five color plates... but at least I have all the Erik pictures). Even with a missing plate, and the fact it is a reprint, these often do NOT sell for no thirty dollars! I feel much better. It is not exactly the same, but still I had a copy of the 1911 novel and a copy of the 1925 photoplay edition for a long time, but never the one from in-between. Okay sounds weird but anyway...
Feeling confused? Well, I also discovered recently that there was another early reprint in 1925, a Reader's Library edition from the UK with photo stills from the silent movie (below, left). This one is also very difficult to find but one merchant on eBay sold a copy for $150 as of April 2012. It did not have the dust jacket (below, right) but if it did, expect of course to pay a lot.
Folks, please to NOT ever toss your money away to pay $775 for that book. It does not make you a bad phan for questioning such a thing. Most merchants do sell it for noticeably less and often you can even get a golden opportunity (twice in my life so far) if you keep your eyes peeled and stay patient. Or at least go with the copy by Mysterious Press or Michael O'Mara. A lot of used copies of those go very cheap on Amazon, eBay, and AbeBooks and you get all the same stuff. Or just go to that site I mention. I just thought it outrageous he would charge so much! When I bought mine 12 years ago, the only ones I saw going for that much at least had some remains of a dust jacket or something and like I said, there are others selling it for noticeably less.
I have not actually seen a copy yet, but there are also reprinted Print on Demand copies by Kessinger Press with photos from the 1925 movie. Do not quote me on this, but that one MIGHT be the reprint of the photoplay edition because it mentions having some photos from the 1925 movie AND some Castaigne illustrations (like the first photoplay editions had) but again I do not know for a fact.
Hope this helps. Often I've seen sad posts by phans wanting a copy but of course the money is a major obstacle. Trying to point out options, from a web site to low-cost Print on Demand reprints.
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