I was moved to wonder how much added value a really fine print edition of out-of-copyright work can bring by a Facebook post about a pre-publication offer on a new collection of the work of American fantasy great Clark Ashton Smith,  entitled The Eldritch Dark: Collected Prose Poems and Artwork of Clark Ashton Smith. In hardcover, this retails for $163.84 on Amazon, but against an original list price of $250.00. For that price, Centipede Press will offer you 460 pages including “all of Smith’s known artwork and sculptures” and “his complete prose poems as well as a revealing introduction and bonus essays and memoirs on Smith by other writers,” when the book is finally published in June 2014. That’s quite a markup.

All well and good. But much, possibly all, of the book’s content, and certainly a respectable percentage of the artwork, is available on the website The Eldritch Dark, created by Boyd Pearson and “dedicated to one of the greatest and least recognized literary talents of the 20th century — Clark Ashton Smith. A labour of love that started in July 1997 and has been updated monthly ever since.” It contains just about every story that he wrote that I am aware of, and certainly the fantasy and dark fiction classics that made his reputation, as well as his prose poems. And just in case you were wondering, “Permission has been granted for the non-profit use of Clark Ashton Smith material on The Eldritch Dark website by – CASiana (the Estate of Clark Ashton Smith) and Arkham House.”

Centipede Press specializes in extremely high-quality collectible editions of notable fantasy and science fiction works. Their cloth slipcased edition of Tim Powers’s 1986 classic The Anubis Gates, for instance, will set you back $295.00. There is absolutely no question here of them trying to supplant or replace existing cheap print or ebook editions – they supply an entirely different market with its own special requirements. The Tim Powers edition, for instance, runs for only 500 copies, each signed by Tim Powers.

All the same, the fact remains that the Clark Ashton Smith volume groups material that is available entirely for free elsewhere. And some of the enthusiasts posting about the upcoming Centipede Press volume on Facebook seemed unaware of that fact. So what do you think of the added value of fine print for out-of-copyright work? Is it worth this level of markup? I’d be interested to hear everyone’s opinion.

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Paul St John Mackintosh is a British poet, writer of dark fiction, and media pro with a love of e-reading. His gadgets range from a $50 Kindle Fire to his trusty Vodafone Smart Grand 6. Paul was educated at public school and Trinity College, Cambridge, but modern technology saved him from the Hugh Grant trap. His acclaimed first poetry collection, The Golden Age, was published in 1997, and reissued on Kindle in 2013, and his second poetry collection, The Musical Box of Wonders, was published in 2011.


  1. If all you are looking for is content, then these collectibles are not for you.

    First and foremost, they are collectibles, not books, and like collector comics, they are often put into storage and not even opened to preserve their pristine condition.

    And a collectible is worth what a collector thinks it is worth. If it is overpriced, fewer are sold so the ones that have been bought may prove to be of even more value. Or, then again, they be worth nothing.

    A side value of these high-quality editions is their survivability. After the price dropped on an anniversary edition of LORD OF THE RINGS, complete with incredible artwork, I bought a pile of them as presents for family members who were diehard fans.

    It was the edition my brother has shared with his boys by reading it aloud and allowing them to read as they have gotten older. It’s no longer pristine, but after years of use, it is still whole, and the pages haven’t become flaky like those with high acid content. It is also more than worth money because of all the good memories attached.

  2. I happen to own the CAS piece shown in your article. I scanned it for the Eldritch Dark
    site many years ago along with a number of others there. I doubt that the book will have a complete collection of every known
    artwork since I have many that have never been reproduced as far as I know.

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