18 October 2010

Limited Time, Limited Editions (4/6)

As for Me and My House
Sinclair Ross
Saskatoon: Fifth House, 1994

"This is an edition of 250 signed and numbered copies, of which the first 25 copies have been presented to the author."

The rise of As for Me and My House from forgotten to canonical is as curious as it is controversial. First published in 1941 by New York's Reynal & Hitchcock, the novel was all but ignored by critics and book-buyers, yet there it was sixteen years later as title #4 in the fledgling New Canadian Library. The novel has been a part of the series ever since; "a landmark work... essential reading for anyone who seeks to understand the scope and power of the Canadian novel," says current cover copy. I won't disagree, but do wonder as to its place. How is it possible that sixteen years after publication, fourteen years after the author's death, Fifth House has yet to run through the 225 copies for sale? Evidence of a disconnect between the academic's canon and the public's classic, or just another sad reflection of the deflated market for things CanLit?

A bit of both, I think.

Ross was eighty-six and suffering from Parkinson's when he signed the sheets used in this limited edition. Copies can be purchased directly from the publisher.

Addendum: In her Twayne study of Ross, Lorraine McMullen tells us that just a few copies of the 1941 Reynal & Hitchcock edition were imported into Canada. One ended up in Bayfield Public Library, was discarded and, finally, rescued from a leaky, mice-infested barn by yours truly. The "Date Due" slip indicates that it was only once ever checked out of the library.


  1. Hey, this isn't about that, but I wondered what D. Bookshelf would make of it:


  2. Anon, my apologies for the tardy response... I was going over the proofs of the Glassco bio (second plug).

    What do I make of it? One does what one must to put food on the table, I suppose. I've never seen anyone using the technology on this side of the border... and I've had my eye out. Seems a mindless, mindnumbing task - one in which one learns nothing.

    I have a feeling that the day will come in which thrift shops will pass everything beneath a "BUY/REJECT" scanner.

    One last thing, the barcode for a first edition is typically the same as that for a 59th printing.