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Masterworks

My bibliophilia is a curious thing.

One of the objects of this insatiable desire for books is the UK Masterworks series published by Orion/Gollancz. I first discovered them when I ran across a copy of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend in a used bookstore. (An excellent book, btw. “Come out, Neville!”) I saw that it was #2 in the SF Masterworks series and, in an appropriately-English dialect, I thought “Hmmmm. Now what’s all this then?” Nothing triggers my biblio-lust more than a beautifully illustrated SF series featuring classic reprints.

I started picking them up whenever I saw them. Over the years, I’ve managed to obtain 18 of the 63 titles. (What’s sadder? Keeping track or collecting them in the first place? Sigh.) Many of the titles I already own, mind you…such is the sad state of bibliophilia. The most readily available copies here in the US are the trade paperback versions, but I’ve also run across hardback version as well. (I picked up Ringworld in HB for $1. I also scooped up a clearance HB of The Day of the Triffids, too. Yay me!) One of the appealing things about them is the fantastic cover illustrations, many done by Chris Moore. In fact, I liked the artwork so much that when I stumbled upon a book featuring Moore’s work, Journeyman, I picked that up too.

Alas, my biblioholic ways didn’t stop there. When I found out there was a Fantasy Masterworks line as well, I had a whole new series to seek out. I’ve got 18 of the 48 Fantasy Masterworks titles. On the one hand, collecting the fantasy line is questionable considering my love/hate track record with fantasy. On the other hand, when I satisfy my biblioholism through the Fantasy Masterworks series, I’m less likely to be title a already own.

About John DeNardo (13012 Articles)
John DeNardo is the Managing Editor at SF Signal and a columnist at Kirkus Reviews. He also likes bagels. So there.

7 Comments on Masterworks

  1. I’ve got about 40 of them, paperbacks, all picked up second hand for ?1 each (==~$30,000,000 each). And no, I haven’t read them all yet, but they are arranged in numerical order on my shelf.

    I Am Legend is a wonderful book.

  2. Obviously they’re in numerical order. As if there’s any other way to display them? 🙂

  3. Hah! You call collecting these an obsession? I’ll show you an obsession. Wait until I write about my quest for find clean, un-screwed-up, first American printing copies of Ballantine Books Adult Fantasy (get your mind out of the gutter!) series, including the several (Lord of the Rings, etc.) “pre-BAF” volumes.

    I’m down to the last two or three volumes and these are proving as hard to locate as the Grail in Monty Phython and the Holy Grail.

    The SF Masterworks are a wonderful series. I have perhaps a half-dozen or so (preferring to tilt at windmills such as the BAF series, or the John C. Winston young adult SF series, or books from Gnome Press, Fantasy Press and the like). I love the cover of “Last and First Men” by Olaf Stapledon and I bought “Stand on Zanzibar” just bedcause of what it is (a damn fine book that just about everybody has forgotten about).

  4. The numbering seems a bit off, though. The Forever War is listed as #9 and #1. Ringworld is #8 and #60. Fifth Head is also #8. Dune is also #1. Lord of Light and The Moon is a Harsh Mistress are both #7.

    Anybody have a better list of numbers?

  5. Look closely: Forever War is the 9th hardcover, but the 1st soft cover. Not sure why the mismatch…the vagaries of publishing, I guess.

    This site lists the first 57 titles.

    Someone needs to make a listology list. Better yet – a ListPro list so I can carry it around on my PDA and anal-retentively check them off as I read or purchase them.

  6. I use Mobile DB, which also works on the PeeCee to build databases of books that I’m looking for. In fact, I put one together for this list last night.

    Try http://www.mobilegeneration.com. If you buy it, let me know and I’ll e-mail you the Masterworks DB’s so you don’t need to retype.

  7. There are now over sixty in paperback (www.criticalwave.co.uk). The hardback range has only one or two duplicated.

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