As I placed the final (and, paradoxically, the first) volume on the shelf with its fellows, I half-expected a dusty, sepia-toned ghost to appear, smelling of cigarette smoke and ink, and reward me with an ironic glance at my achievement. For I had at long last attained the consummation of my dream to own a complete (if mismatched) set of the Storisende Edition of The Works of James Branch Cabell.
I have written elsewhere of my acquisition several years ago of an incomplete edition, lacking only Volume I, Beyond Life, and Volume IX, Gallantry, for $200 (complete sets were going for about $500). Although I had periodically checked eBay and Amazon, I never found copies of either as loose volumes in the necessary binding. I more or less resigned myself to merely owning them in the lesser Kalki edition. In expectation of my tax return this year, I was making a wish list of what I wanted to get, and the thought crossed my mind to check again. And there they were, going for $20 each, with shipping and handling. This is not my set, but this is what it more or less looks like:
I got Gallantry first. It is an ex-library copy, and as such carries the usual marks as well as Cabell's name in white on the spine. It is slightly faded and has a bit of a torn page where the bar-code was apparently removed, but is otherwise in good shape. Beyond Life was next, and it too carried the marks of use as small speckles of white paint on the spine and light pencil notations on the inside. I hardly mind as these show the books were actually used and appreciated; some of the volumes in my incomplete edition had not even been cut. And of course both books have the neat pencil autographs of James Branch Cabell himself, attesting to its brief but personal contact with their author.
So I can check off another item on my private internal literary bucket list, although this one is more about collecting than reading; I long ago read and enjoyed both. Indeed I am still digesting them, as Cabell is a writer who repays multiple readings and cogitation. But now I may (if I wish) do it in the fabled Storisende Edition, and that, to me, is a satisfying and comfortable thought.