SCIENCE FICTION & FANTASY COLLECTIBLES
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A Journey to the Wilds of Northern Indiana
Doc Smith is one of the notable authors of early "Scientifiction". He passed away in 1965, so I never met him. However, his pulp collection passed on the his daughter Verna, who contacted me several years before she died. She wanted to sell his pulp collection, not for the money, but to preserve the collection before it was destroyed. She had stored the collection in her basement, which was damp, and several boxes had already been damaged by moisture.
Doc's scientific training was obvious by the construction of the boxes in which he stored his collection. He took heavy duty boxes, glued one inch strips of wood on the top, and fitted eyehooks on the end of the wood strips. He connected these eyehooks with metal rods. This construction sealed the boxes, and prevented them from opening, even if they received rough treatment.
His daughter had piled them in the basement in three tall stacks- one with a complete Astounding collection, the other pile was a complete collection of Amazing Stories, and the third was Wonder Stories and associated titles. The latest issue was about 1955. Of course the first issues of Amazing and Astounding were on the bottom, and it was these that were completely destroyed by moisture.
I was relating this story several years ago to a fellow collector and he made the comment that Verna had stored the boxes all wrong. She had stored the boxes upside down! What we thought was the top was actually the bottom. The wooden strips were intended to provide an air gap between boxes and floor. Had she stored the boxes properly, dampness coming from anything less than an inch of standing water would have not mattered.
Today I wish I had been able to hang onto this treasure, as it contained Doc's personal copies of Amazing Stories where many of his stories originally appeared. These contained marginal notations as to changes in the stories he contemplated for future publication, as well as his comments about a few stories by other authors. With the prospect of putting four children through college, there was no way I could add these to my personal collection. I did include a certificate with each pulp telling the new owners that this was from Doc Smith' personal collection. I rebought one of these several years ago, so be on the lookout for such items.
Verna had one highly desirable item I did not purchase- I did not even ask the price as there was no way I could have afforded such an item. It was the original oil painting from the October 1939 issue of Astounding Stories. This was the first appearance of the Gray Lensman story. The painting was about 36 inches tall and was far more impressive than the cover on the magazine.
Verna had one more artifact from Doc Smith's past. Doc had sold a number of his Lensman books in special editions published by Fantasy Press in the late 1940's. These were published as numbered copies as part of a subscription service that would deliver them over time. They could be purchased unsigned or inscribed by Doc. Doc had a file cabinet with several 3 x 5 cards for each person. On these cards, he noted the inscription he used for each book for each particular person. This made sure that the same inscription was not used twice to any individual, and maintained the illusion that your copy was personalized. Copies were also sold unnumbered and unsigned.
Doc's collection also contained his personal copies of many of the hardcover books he sold, including proofs of many. Verna did not want to part with these at the time. Doc's estate is now managed by her son Kim Trestrail who may still have these items. This was far from the largest collection I ever purchased, but was one of the more interesting.
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