by Scott Brown, Editor, Fine Books & Collections magazine
William Miglore, 22, a recent graduate from Amherst College, won second place in Fine Books & Collections’ first national Collegiate Book-Collecting Championship. When interviewed in the magazine, he said, “It’s hard for me to imagine what it was like before the Internet. AbeBooks started me collecting in 1996.” As part of the first generation of collectors who grew up buying online, we thought we’d ask him about his award-winning collections.
Photo credit: Samuel Masinter
You once said AbeBooks got you into collecting. What’s the best book you’ve bought off the website?
“Best” is hard to say. Last year I found - pretty cheap - a nice signed first edition of one of Clyde Fitch’s last plays, with his own bookplate on the pastedown. Now I’m trying to start a Fitch revival - but before that works, everybody else needs to get on board.
Before there’s a revival, I think you’ll have to explain who Clyde Fitch was.
He was a popular playwright who graduated from Amherst in 1886. Today he’s remembered less for his writing than for the affair he had with Oscar Wilde, but the writing isn’t bad. After Fitch died in 1909, his mother donated his entire library to the college - not just the books, the room itself. Some of the furnishings are still in a classroom in the old library building, but all the books and manuscripts have been moved to the college archives. I spent a lot of time there reading the books he read. One of the things the college has is a little handmade book from around the time Fitch graduated Amherst, with the text and illustrations all done by him in watercolors. I think the first line is, “Twenty-two summers had flown by me, all with their sunny sides up.”
Your parents gave you a pretty terrific graduation present - a highlight for your Ray Bradbury collection. Tell us what it was.
It’s the copy of Bradbury’s first book, Dark Carnival, that he gave to William Faulkner. My parents decided that was the right level of extravagance for a graduation gift. It’s the most recognizable association copy in my collection, but the strange thing is, I’m sure they didn’t know each other. I don’t even know if they met. Bradbury might just have been sending Faulkner fan mail.
Did your parents buy that book online?
I think they bought it off AbeBooks. It had been listed there years ago - I mean something like nine years ago, when I was in middle school. When it disappeared, I assumed I’d never see it again. Then about three years ago, I was browsing a dealer catalogue and there it was. Pretty soon afterward, that seller listed it on Abe (again), and my parents probably picked it up then.
In addition to your excellent Bradbury collection and a fine Truman Capote collection, I know you have some interesting association copies.
I don’t really have a collection of association copies - I just buy the ones that interest me, when I can. Most of them fall into my Bradbury and Capote collections: I have books from each of their libraries, as well as books they gave to their colleagues and families. I have Bradbury books inscribed to the director Carol Reed; to his editor, Stanley Kauffman; and to his favorite aunts and uncles. I have a Capote inscribed to the actress Mildred Natwick, on the opening night of a play they did together; one inscribed to his agent, Irving Lazar; and a few others. I also have that Clyde Fitch book, one of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s books, and a copy of The Cocktail Party that T. S. Eliot gave to his cousin.
Have you seen the two films based on Capote’s life? What did you think?
I finally saw Capote about a month ago. It had been built up too much beforehand. The acting was wonderful, from what I could tell, but the script seemed more disjointed to me than it needed to be. I haven’t seen Infamous yet - it takes time for these things to make their way out here to western Massachusetts.
Have you heard that the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) is sponsoring a series of city-wide reading programs called the Big Read and that Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 is one of the recommended books?
Yes - in fact, when I had my five minutes of fame for being in the Fine Books competition, Dana Gioia, the NEA chairman [and a fine poet—Ed.], sent me a nice note and copies of all the Big Read materials on Bradbury. I haven’t read Fahrenheit 451 since seventh grade, and honestly, it was never one of my favorites. But I see why people should read it, and I’m happy for all the attention it gets.
As a final question, I have to ask if you have any advice for young collectors?
I don’t like to imagine there are collectors now who are younger than me. Wherever I can, I’ve always traded on my youth. If you look puppy-eyed and poor enough, you can usually get ten percent off.