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← Signed books and other collectabilia: What’s the big deal?

Signed books and other collectabilia: What’s the big deal? - Comments

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 1 by Stevehill

I have a few signed first editions.

It's about money.

Sun, 15 May 2011 08:45:06 UTC | #626949

ukantic's Avatar Comment 2 by ukantic

The way I see it, signing a book is just a way of adding a personalised touch and maybe adding a bit of value (both monetarily & aesthetically) and is a great means of promotion. Why do you think Apple have done so well over the years. One of the reasons is that their products tend to be stylish and different. Why not just make the monitor Russian tower block grey, after all it makes absolutely no difference to its function.

Sun, 15 May 2011 09:12:25 UTC | #626954

edmundjessie's Avatar Comment 3 by edmundjessie

So you are essentially saying your desire to get a signed copy of a Dawkins book is rooted in the evolutionary belief that in an encounter with a member of the opposite sex, a signed copy of The Selfish Gene will improve your chances of reproducing with her in a way that an unsigned copy of The Selfish Gene would not?

"So if we’re genetically programmed to go out into the environment and bring in the best of what we can find, and a signed book is perceived as ‘better’ than one which is not, we go after it, without conscious consideration."

But if the time, effort and energy spent in this act outweighs the reward it will get you in attracting a partner, and the time could have been better spent attempting to directly seduce a woman (without the aid of a signed copy of a biology book) then it is NOT advantageous from an evolutionary perspective.

You should consider that there are some actions influenced largely by the pressure put on us by human culture as an end in itself, where our brain overrides the single compulsion of our genes to ensure their continued propagation e.g. someone without family throwing away their life to save a stranger, or two fertile adults deciding they do not want to have children but just have fun the rest of their lives.

Evolution can be sloppily applied without scientific research to explain almost anything in the course of human development, but that does not mean it should be used to explain everything. I don't actually disagree with your premise, there's nothing wrong with wanting an authors signature on your book, though there is something slightly warped about your argument.

PS. I wish Dawkin's did wear a cloak. And I am not ashamed to admit i would find it hard to resist touching it if it was within the requisite distance.

Sun, 15 May 2011 09:43:48 UTC | #626961

Jason72's Avatar Comment 4 by Jason72

For me it's the sentimental aspect of having an item you know your "hero" (for want of a better word) has personalised for you and is a way of having something individual from said person in the face of mass production. I only get autographed items from people who I admire/are fan of the work they do like Terry Pratchet (although as Sir Terry said soon a non-autographed Pratchet book will be worth more!).

Sun, 15 May 2011 09:44:06 UTC | #626962

RDfan's Avatar Comment 5 by RDfan

The OP is basically saying we are all hunter/gatherers. Some of us gather more than others. Thanks to all those gatherers of human knowledge, also called librarians, humanity continues to build on the past. I, personally, wish to possess as little as possible in the way of material goods and as much as possible in the way of immaterial knowledge.

Good luck with your collection, Mr Ribbands.

Sun, 15 May 2011 10:16:18 UTC | #626969

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 6 by Schrodinger's Cat

"Autograph hunting is the last vestige of cannibalism "

Hmm....if I could remember the exact quote I'd be able to find who said it. Probably Oscar Wilde.

Sun, 15 May 2011 10:21:36 UTC | #626970

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Comment 7 by Mark Ribbands

Comment 3 by edmundjessie
So you are essentially saying your desire to get a signed copy of a Dawkins book is rooted in the evolutionary belief that in an encounter with a member of the opposite sex, a signed copy of The Selfish Gene will improve your chances of reproducing with her in a way that an unsigned copy of The Selfish Gene would not?

Yes, but only if it’s a First Edition : ) [This is a joke. Well, almost].

To be too specific distracts from the underlying argument. Yes, sex (and, Steve Hill, ‘money’ too – it’s the same thing) is indeed the answer to every question.

My point was that a desire to attract the opposite sex informs most of our actions, even when those actions might superficially appear to have absolutely nothing to do with it.

But if the time, effort and energy spent in this act outweighs the reward it will get you in attracting a partner, and the time could have been better spent attempting to directly seduce a woman

‘directly’? What on earth does that mean? Three Martinis and a Buddha Bar CD? Oh please, how conventional! We need to drill deeper than this!

You should consider that there are some actions influenced largely by the pressure put on us by human culture as an end in itself, where our brain overrides the single compulsion of our genes to ensure their continued propagation e.g. someone without family throwing away their life to save a stranger, or two fertile adults deciding they do not want to have children but just have fun the rest of their lives.

Yes, but ‘culture’ itself is informed by evolutionary pressure. Game Theory goes a long way to explainin some of the difficult-to-understand factors like altruism. Plus the two examples you provide are non-evolutionarily successful traits and hence will, in general, be selected against. They have their place in a population, but would not, by definition, be able to become dominant defining traits.

I wish Dawkins did wear a cloak. And I am not ashamed to admit I would find it hard to resist touching it if it was within the requisite distance

I’m not sure if you’re an Edmund or a Jessie (or whether two of you share an account) but I did originally write that I’m sure some female members of this forum (you know who you are) might make an exception in the case of Prof Dawkins to my ‘Few people [would] rush to touch an author’ assertion. (But I though it silly, so deleted it.)

Sun, 15 May 2011 10:29:57 UTC | #626971

Deako's Avatar Comment 8 by Deako

Can't say I collect anything physical. Gadgets/fast cars bore me. Too lazy to acquire knowledge. But then I don't have a girlfriend either - hum.

Sun, 15 May 2011 10:39:04 UTC | #626975

snail-12's Avatar Comment 9 by snail-12

Isn't it more likely that the desire to collect autographed books is due to memetic reasons than genetic reasons?

Sun, 15 May 2011 11:11:28 UTC | #626986

Schrodinger's Cat's Avatar Comment 10 by Schrodinger's Cat

I think book signing has a lot to do with a human need for 'affirmation'.....a constant need to feel that what we have and experience is real. I think humans are really very doubting creatures.

If someone relates to me something that Christopher Hitchens has said, even if it is repeated verbatim then it simply isn't the same as watching a video of Hitchens saying it. Similarly, watching a recorded video of Hitchens saying it is not the same as watching a live broadcast. And note a curious phenomenon here.....even a delay of 10 seconds like with the World Cup.....can spoil that 'live affirmation' when one thinks about it. And of course, watching a live broadcast on TV is not the same as actually being there in the audience and feeling that Hitchens is personally speaking to you.

At every level of the above.....the words from Hitchens are exactly the same, yet somehow with each increasing level there is a greater sense of affirmation and authority.

So I think that getting a book signed by Dawkins is exactly the same. It is a sort of affirmation that Dawkins really does exist. The signature somehow adds that extra level of authority.....just like being there in the audience.

Sun, 15 May 2011 11:15:58 UTC | #626987

edmundjessie's Avatar Comment 11 by edmundjessie

Comment 7 by Mark Ribbands "My point was that a desire to attract the opposite sex informs most of our actions, even when those actions might superficially appear to have absolutely nothing to do with it."

I understand your point i just think the example given is so tenuous as to be essentially not worth making: sometimes when an action superficially has little to do with a desire to attract the opposite sex then it really does have very little to do with a desire to attract the opposite sex.

"‘Directly’? What on earth does that mean? Three Martinis and a Buddha Bar CD? Oh please, how conventional! We need to drill deeper than this!"

By directly (if you'll excuse me a slightly indirect analogy) I mean a tiger does not waste time making himself an ornamental hat he is never going to show a female tiger when he can approach her directly and convince her to reproduce with him using 'conventional' courting techniques, 'conventional' meaning those that have proved themselves over thousands of years to be evolutionary stable strategies for reproducing with another tiger. Unlike making himself an ornamental hat.

"Yes, but ‘culture’ itself is informed by evolutionary pressure."

Of course culture is 'informed' by evolutionary pressure. Almost anything in the human sphere can be be said to be 'informed' by evolution, but equally everything in the biological sphere can be said to be 'informed' by chemistry and everything in chemistry 'informed' by physics, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't draw distinctions between them and that we HAVE to relate everything back to chemistry and physics.

We can draw qualitative distinctions between our biology and our culture even when the two things have an inextricable connection, and in this case i would think the desire to have a book signed by a famous author has more to with cultural pressures than evolutionary ones.

Sun, 15 May 2011 11:34:50 UTC | #626998

bachfiend's Avatar Comment 12 by bachfiend

If I go to hear an author speak, then I like to get the author to sign a copy of one of his or her books as a memento. So recently, I've had Richard Dawkins sign 'the Greatest Show on Earth', Tim Flannery sign 'Here on Earth' and Ken Follett sign 'Fall of Giants'. In 2 weeks, I'm going to see Michael Connelly talk during his book tour for 'the Fifth Witness' which I've read as a Kindle, so I'll probably get him to sign my copy of 'Echo Park'. I wouldn't go out of my way to get an author's signature, I wouldn't go to a book signing in a bookshop. I would want to hear a talk at least.

Sun, 15 May 2011 11:41:54 UTC | #626999

CFM's Avatar Comment 13 by CFM

Do women tend to collect things as readily as males of the species? (...) What about the ladies on here who ask Prof Dawkins and other ‘famous’ authors to sign their copies of their books? Why do you do it?

I can only speak for myself: Yes, I do. And I can personally attest to the attractiveness of potential partners with certain kinds of books on their shelves..one thing that endeared me to my husband was the fact that I saw books of some authors I loved and respected and on some topics I found fascinating "lining his bower" when I first visited his home.

There are two kinds of things that I do collect: books and rocks and minerals.

I love old books, especially old science books on geography (well, I am a geographer..), biology and astronomy, but the works of certain selected poets and novelists as well. And if I had the opportunity, I would indeed queue up to have my new books signed by the respective authors..

Why? And you ask for absolute honesty? I think there are several reasons.

Some books or rocks are simply beautiful. I even love the smell of old books, the way the pages sound like when turned.

Some are emotionally "charged", or have come to symbolize ideas or experiences. And some are, to be really honest with myself, in a way also tokens or trappings meant to show my "social status"...

There are books that "signify" certain intellectual journeys or even turning points in how I see the world. Reflecting on this as a social scientist interested in the construction of identity, I do think they have become both mementos for myself and - when others see them on my shelves - indicators of my identity. They do, in a way, show others who I am (or how I would like to be perceived by them..). They show how I position myself in a number of societal discourses. Other books on my shelves show, to be honest, my intellectual/ academic achievements. This is a kind of vanity, and I am well aware of that. Maybe some books even signify my own self-categorization as a member of certain social groups?

There are books I associate with feelings of nostalgia or love or respect and so on, books I have often bought (for too much money) in a number of different editions. The same is true concerning certain rocks I brought home from especially fascinating field trips. These need not even be very rare or even interesting specimens. For me, signed copies fall under this category.

Some "things" elicit other feelings, especially in the context of my knowledge about their origins: It is awe-inspiring to hold a rock in your hand that might look kind of uninteresting, but is very old, or has been formed by a fascinating process..

Sun, 15 May 2011 12:25:58 UTC | #627007

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 14 by the great teapot

I have a few signed editions and for me it is most definitely is not about money. It's just aesthetically nice. In fact my favourite inscription is on a second-hand book I bought, a father bought his son a hard back copy of the works of gb shaw in 1940 and on the fly sheet he wishes his son a very happy Christmas in the very formal fashion of the day . I got a real bang when I bought it , but on the other Hand i can't find it now. I know it's here somewhere.

Sun, 15 May 2011 13:04:47 UTC | #627017

Stevehill's Avatar Comment 15 by Stevehill

I have a few signed editions and for me it is most definitely is not about money.

Each to his own. I got a Nick Hornby at a signing once, paying just the face value, and we exchanged a few words, which was nice... but that book is now worth £1,000. I'm happy to leave that to my kids as a nest egg.

Sun, 15 May 2011 13:13:21 UTC | #627020

green and dying's Avatar Comment 16 by green and dying

Not everything needs a direct evolutionary explanation. When people come up with them off the top of their heads they never seem particularly likely to be true to me. Now I want to come up with one for why people like to make them up.

I have a signed copy of a Harry Potter book (I was 9, I wouldn't admit to this if I'd been an adult). I also like to get tickets signed. It's an excuse to meet the person and it's a nice souvenir, but it doesn't make the signed object THAT much more special to me, especially since there are probably thousands of things exactly the same in the world.

I volunteer in a charity bookshop and I love reading the notes in the front of books between people who actually know each other way more than I care about anything signed by an author.

Sun, 15 May 2011 13:16:07 UTC | #627023

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 17 by the great teapot

I wouldn't read a Nick hornby book if you paid me, signed or not .And arsenal is my second favourite team. Defo each to his own.

Sun, 15 May 2011 13:18:32 UTC | #627024

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 18 by the great teapot

Comment Removed by Author

Sun, 15 May 2011 13:24:27 UTC | #627027

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 19 by the great teapot

Green and dying,
I think i am personally responsible for her small fortune. Her rise to fame coincided with my desire to learn foreign languages. All her books are accompanied by unabridged cd's In whatever language you could care to mention. A quick bit of maths indicates about 2 grand of mine entering her coffers. But i wouldn't begrudge a penny.

Sun, 15 May 2011 13:39:57 UTC | #627028

green and dying's Avatar Comment 20 by green and dying

Comment 19 by the great teapot :

Green and dying, I think i am personally responsible for her small fortune. Her rise to fame coincided with my desire to learn foreign languages. All her books are accompanied by unabridged cd's In whatever language you could care to mention. A quick bit of maths indicates about 2 grand of mine entering her coffers. But i wouldn't begrudge a penny.

Assuming you're talking about JK Rowling, I actually have one in French but I don't like the way the guy reads it on the CD and I don't like the literary past tenses so I gave up. One day I will read it...

Sun, 15 May 2011 13:48:11 UTC | #627030

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 21 by the great teapot

I must admit I do have the french version but my lack of knowledge prevents me from commenting, what i would say though is this, if you are not French his is better than yours.

Sun, 15 May 2011 13:52:28 UTC | #627032

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Comment 22 by Mark Ribbands

Comment 10 by Schrodinger's Cat
…So I think that getting a book signed by Dawkins is exactly the same. It is a sort of affirmation that Dawkins really does exist.

It’s a great idea, very well-put: entertaining and interesting and probably wrong :)

Comment 11 by edmundjessie
… By directly (if you'll excuse me a slightly indirect analogy) I mean a tiger does not waste time making himself an ornamental hat he is never going to show a female tiger when he can approach her directly and convince her to reproduce with him using 'conventional' courting techniques, 'conventional' meaning those that have proved themselves over thousands of years to be evolutionary stable strategies for reproducing with another tiger. Unlike making himself an ornamental hat.

Yes, point taken, and a fine analogy. But maybe it’s still too literal and specific: I’d argue that ‘conventional courting techniques’ in homo sapiens are a lot more subtle than those in tigers, with or without exotic millinery.

The evolutionarily stable strategy in humans includes the male’s desire (unconscious or otherwise) to exhibit the ability to provide a stable environment for offspring, which brings us back to the innate acquisitiveness I refer to, and which is reflected in the often ridiculous pursuit of ‘sparkling things.’

Comment 13 by CFM
… I can personally attest to the attractiveness of potential partners with certain kinds of books on their shelves …

And, no doubt, the unattractiveness of those with certain other kinds of books, or, worse, a complete lack thereof!

… There are two kinds of things that I do collect: books and rocks and minerals …Some books or rocks are simply beautiful. I even love the smell of old books, the way the pages sound like when turned. Some are emotionally "charged", or have come to symbolize ideas or experiences. And some are, to be really honest with myself, in a way also tokens or trappings meant to show my "social status"...

Ouch! What a super response. Many thanks, CFM, for you crushing honesty.

I’d not before considered the collection of books as ‘playing on the status cymbals…’

I also maintain a herd of rocks and fossils in my garden, hailing mainly from when I studied geology at college yonks ago. (It was easier then: the fossil record was shorter).

I agree with you about the awe-inspiring nature of such objects. Books too, and as others have added, the evocative nature of dedications in antiquarian books. These provide a striking link: the inscriptions and emotions of the long-dead. It’s intensely sad to contemplate who these forgotten people might have been, and the inscriptions often act as an arresting memento mori.

I bought an 1846 History of British Fossil Mammals and Birds by Richard Owen, a few weeks ago on EBay. As I examined it a turn-of-the-century photograph of a child fell out. I spent a long time gazing at the image, trying to imagine who this little boy was, and who his (probably intelligent) parents were, all of them now nothing but dust in the wind. It’s deeply sad.

Perhaps I should stick to Jackie Collins! (Although they’d need to be kept in a Gabinetto Segreto lest casual visitors see them)

Sun, 15 May 2011 14:07:55 UTC | #627036

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 23 by the great teapot

Although of course I have often wondered how the French use the past historic in lit and then abandon it in common speech.

Sun, 15 May 2011 14:09:18 UTC | #627037

green and dying's Avatar Comment 24 by green and dying

Comment 21 by the great teapot :

I must admit I do have the french version but my lack of knowledge prevents me from commenting, what i would say though is this, if you are not French his is better than yours.

I just want him to read a little more slowly and sound a little more like Stephen Fry :-(

This is way off-topic now so I will say that my signed Harry Potter wouldn't be worth much because there are a lot of signed first editions of this one about, but even if it was it would seem kind of cold to me to sell it. It's just a book but it's also a souvenir of a nice childhood memory. It is weird that humans put so much meaning onto specific objects. Someone could swap it for a similar book with the signature copied into it and it would be exactly the same yet not the same at all.

Comment 23 by the great teapot :

Although of course I have often wondered how the French use the past historic in lit and then abandon it in common speech.

The French are mad.

Sun, 15 May 2011 14:13:23 UTC | #627039

Mark Ribbands's Avatar Comment 25 by Mark Ribbands

Comment 21 by the great teapot
… my lack of knowledge prevents me from commenting …

What an extraordinary concept, on this, or any other, internet forum!

Sun, 15 May 2011 14:13:51 UTC | #627040

the great teapot's Avatar Comment 26 by the great teapot

Mark I am thinking of having it
engraved on my tombstone.

Sun, 15 May 2011 14:26:25 UTC | #627043

Pitchguest's Avatar Comment 27 by Pitchguest

This theory applies to much of life: Why, Mr Zara, do you want to be a prolific (and respected) contributor to a famous author’s web site? Why bother? And why was said famous author driven to write highly controversial books in the first place, rather than choose a quiet life? I suggest it’s all there in human evolutionary development. The wonder of Darwin is that his theory of evolution explains everything about the organic world. Peer deep enough and there’s an evolutionary explanation to all biological activity. By definition.

Then it begs the question, why are they famous in the first place? Famous as in we put them on a pedestal above and beyond ordinary people. They might as well be just as extraordinary or have just as extraordinary ideas as Darwin did about evolution, and his predecessors before him, and their precedessors, etc. So why do we feel the need to elevate them?

I imagine signatures was a memento of sorts in the past, but now... now it's more to due with the infamous factor. Like you say, now it's more to do with how cool it is and that your chances to get laid improves, or like Stevehill says about money. A copy of 'The Origin of Species' is as ordinary as they come these days. But a signed copy, now you're talking. And if it's First Edition, hello! But why do we feel the need to elevate them to that kind of position from the start? Moreover, why do we feel the need to elevate only a specific kind of people? The human race is obviously quite fickle when it comes to fame, looking at the various "famous" people that exists today. So why?

Sun, 15 May 2011 14:34:51 UTC | #627044

seals's Avatar Comment 28 by seals

I'm more of a hoarder than a collector, and still have a few of the books I owned as a child, though many succumbed to dry rot that infested a flat I used to live in. I also have a number of books, some non fiction some fiction, and some on the paranormal which I can't quite bring myself to give the heave ho down to the charity shop. I sometimes remember descriptions and want to re-read; some appear to be quite genuine experiences and if fabricated, I can only wonder at the motivation.

However the only signed books I have are just a few by Richard. To me these signed copies are a momento of the occasion - I don't collect signed books as a rule and never otherwise go to talks by authors, although that could change. I do have a signed 1st edition of TGD as it seemed to me to be something that (like say a 1st edition of The Selfish Gene, the other obvious example) might possibly be sought after in years to come - though no doubt, many others had the same thought and they could eventually be ten a penny ;) Actually I have two hardback copies, but only one is the first print of the 1st edition with that strange sequence of numbers on the info page.

My only earlier signed item is a concert ticket from Roger McGuinn of the Byrds from one of his visits to my area which I keep in my cd of Younger Than Yesterday. Not that I was a long time fan of his, I was more of a Teenage Fanclub fan, who I never got to meet, but their music was similarly inspired. I also have a hoard of CDs and vinyl and simply no storage space left.

Why do I keep this stuff I often ask myself, but I guess it all comes down to memories, rarity value for some of the cds/vinyl, and the thought of wanting to refer to the books for some reason, as the music is mostly converted to computer versions. And a direct connection to past decades, something tangible as opposed to the tricks that mere memory can play. They certainly can't be status symbols as they are hidden away upstairs - books and cds lent out are rarely returned!

Sun, 15 May 2011 15:28:01 UTC | #627059

Ranting Socrates's Avatar Comment 29 by Ranting Socrates

wow...you are all so dishonest here! Lets be honest, you get a signed copy for two reasons: to prove to people you met the author- haha but you didnt-, and because its sooooo damn cool wowowow. The same hands which produced this work for that one second of pointless time touched my book.

Sun, 15 May 2011 17:28:10 UTC | #627103

Hellboy2's Avatar Comment 30 by Hellboy2

I think it does come down to either mementos (if signed in person) or something to keep for its future value. I've got a signed first edition of Mostly Harmless by Douglas Adams - must be worth leaving for the kids when they're older......

Sun, 15 May 2011 18:21:19 UTC | #627118