Collecting Tarkington

Ever consider collection Tarkington firsts?  I did.  And did.

Here’s why.

First, I greatly enjoy his books.  If you’re reading this, I imagine you do, too.

Second, I’m a very bad collector… because I don’t know when to quit.  One of my collections was Ennio Morricone soundtracks on LP… and there are hundreds, many of them very, very expensive.  I was soon acquiring more LPs than I actually had time to listen to, and I was going broke!

Collecting Tarkington was a good alternative.  He’s dead, so the list isn’t open-ended… and he only wrote a few dozen books.  So you can collect knowing that, realistically, some day you’ll have a complete collection (like mine, now!) without losing your shirt.  Tarkington is still obscure enough that you can pick up bargain firsts on eBay and

How do you go about collecting?  Well, if money isn’t an object, you can use services like, which researches and and verifies the states of the editions they sell.

Or, if you want to save money and have a little more fun (and take several years to to the job!) you can go my route.  Buy a copy of a Tarkington Bibliography, like Russo and Sullivan’s, and study the collations yourself.  You’ll learn so much more about Tarkington that way!  Tarkington bibliographies are readily available via

And when you collect… read!  I think you’ll find that every Tarkington volume, no matter how slim, is a very rewarding read.  And talk about varied!  Sometimes one of his books will feel like “variations on a theme,” but only rarely.

So why bring this up now?  I ran across a neat little article about collecting Tarkington at the aforementioned Between the Covers.  Here’s a bit about what they have to say:

Booth Tarkington as collectible author is an enigma, wrapped in a contradiction, and drizzled with irony. Ask any book collector or dealer who have been around for a long time and they’ll probably shrug — who cares about Booth Tarkington? But the funny thing is that he has more collected books than many more highly regarded authors. … One of the primary guides to collectible children’s books is entitled Peter Parley to Penrod, the later title, Penrod (1914), is a Tarkington novel, and very scarce in jacket. Even booksellers have a favorite Tarkington title — Rumbin Galleries (1937) about a European emigre dealing in art and antiques in New York City, who dispenses wisdom about the antiquarian trades, all the while smiling benevolently upon his lovely assistant and her beamish beau. … He wrote approximately a zillion other books as well, some of them good, many of them forgotten. But then who cares about Booth Tarkington anyway?

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