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The most desirable rare book of 2020 – A Wonderful Time by Slim Aarons


The most desirable rare book of 2020 is pure escapism. A Wonderful Time by Slim Aarons is an out-of-print photo-book from 1974 that revealed the sumptuous lifestyles of America’s elite society in the 1950s, 1960s and 1970s.

Before 2020, it was possible to purchase copies for less than $200. This year, copies have been selling for thousands of dollars via AbeBooks.

Aarons (1916-2006) specialized in photographing America’s socialites and jet-setters decades before we discovered the Kardashians. His photographs showed beautiful people in beautiful places having a wonderful time. Stunning mansions with unbelievable views, swimming pools with the bluest water, hunting lodges, and parties were all recorded by Aarons and his camera.

A Wonderful Time: An Intimate Portrait of the Good Life is an 190-page folio edition filled with images of America’s wealthiest families such as the Fords, Vanderbilts and Rockefellers. They are shown in Bermuda, the Caribbean, Acapulco, Aspen, and on ranches and private estates across the United States.

Aarons (1916-2006) gained access to high society through his photo assignments for Town & Country, Harper’s Bazaar, Life, Vogue, Travel & Leisure, and other publications. He also photographed business moguls, actors, royalty, and politicians as they relaxed on ski slopes and their yachts. Cecil Beaton, Barry Goldwater, TS Eliot, Burl Ives, and Truman Capote are among the celebrities displayed in photographs in the book.

In January 2020, a customer bought a copy of A Wonderful Time, without a dust jacket, for $130 on AbeBooks. That was a bargain. By July, a copy with a dust jacket sold for $2,000. By August, demand peaked when signed a copy sold for $5,000.  Copies have sold at an average price of $2,250 in 2020. Only a couple of copies are still available.

Aarons didn’t just influence the rare book world in 2020. In May, French fashion brand Maje launched a line of clothing using Aarons’ poolside images.

In October, a Palm Springs home designed by legendary architect Richard Neutra went on the market for $25 million. The ‘Kaufmann Desert House’ is famous for its swimming pool with mountain views, which was featured in Aarons’ 1970 image Poolside Gossip.

In the year of staying at home, A Wonderful Time by Slim Aarons has clearly found a generation of admirers who crave sitting beside the perfect swimming pool while sipping the perfect martini.

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