Library of America Updike volume now available ahead of distribution date

Library of America has just published the fifth and final volume in the John Updike: Novels series: John Updike Novels 1996-2000, containing In the Beauty of the Lilies, Gertrude and Claudius, and Rabbit Remembered. Not available in bookstores until March 13, the volume is now on sale through the LOA webstore for $32 plus free shipping—29 percent off the $45 retail price.

In addition, the complete LOA five-volume set, John Updike: Fifteen Novels (five individual volumes, not a boxed set) is on sale now at the webstore for $145 plus free shipping—34 percent off the $225 retail price.

Series editor Christopher Carduff said “there are indeed more LOA Updike volumes to come. None are as yet scheduled, but stay tuned.”

We will.

Updike’s owned books selling now on eBay

Scholars can study what Ernest Hemingway was reading and what influence it might have had on his fiction because all of his books remain at the Finca Vigia in Cuba, which is now a museum. After Updike died, his extensive book collection was sold to a local book dealer, so it will be a little more difficult for scholars to do their work. But pieces from that collection are appearing now on eBay, sold by Manchester by the Book, the Manchester, Mass. used book store that bought the Updike books in bulk.

The gem of this batch (and yes, The John Updike Childhood Home would love it if someone bought the set and donated it to us) is Updike’s set of Albert Camus Notebooks Vols. 1-2, with one of the volumes heavily annotated in Updike’s handwriting.

Herb Yellin’s Updike collection is now selling online

Book collector Herb Yellin founded Lord John Press in 1976 in order to publish special limited editions of authors’ works, including a great many by John Updike. Although he died in 2014, Yellin’s extensive collection of Updike books is now being sold online by Between the Covers, a rare book store located in Gloucester City, N.J.

Search “John Updike” on eBay and sort from highest to lowest and the first item to pop up is Yellin’s collection of 438 foreign language signed first editions of John Updike, which is being sold in bulk and carries a whopping price tag of $32,000. The John Updike Childhood Home would love to have these, but it’s a little out of our league. For collectors, Between the Covers has individual Updike items as well, all signed and some very scarce.

Updike in South Africa?

Fans of John Updike know that his books, especially signed ones and first editions, continue to be highly collectible and available from numerous dealers. But in Cape Town, South Africa?


Rare Collections of Cape Town is currently selling 72 Updike volumes, many of which somehow came from the collection of Philadelphia lawyer and Updike fan Albert J. Raman. “John Updike and Albert obviously got to know each other very well over the years,” Rare Collections’ Christo Snyman said. “Many of the signed books have notes referencing their ‘friendship,’ ranging from John saying thank you for the golf balls Albert sent him to a thank you on behalf of his wife for some compliment given.”

If society members type “UPDIKE” in the Promo Code window, they will get a 30 percent discount. Be aware that shipping is $45, whether one volume or 10. Shipping will be via tracked courier and takes around 4-10 days. Here’s the link. Members are welcome to email Christo ( with any questions.

Updike’s booksigning generosity recalled

Writer-artist-blogger Tim Lemire just published “Yours, John Updike,” a fun piece about signed books, recalling a time in high school when he visited a friend’s house and saw shelf-upon-shelf of books written by John Updike—all of them signed, though his friend’s father wasn’t a professor, a book reviewer, or a fellow novelist. He was an Updike lover . . . and collector.

Lemire tells how that friend’s father and another man showed up at a Harvard event with two duffel bags full of books they wanted Updike to sign.

“I get in line. Updike signs my books; I think him. Turning, I see that Sidney and Charlie have positioned themselves to be the very last in line. . . . Later that night, at home, I get a call from Sidney, who announces with a victor’s pride: ‘He signed them all.’

“Sidney describes the scene: While Mrs. Updike looks on with glowering impatience, John Updike sits in astonishment as one book of his after another is produced like an endless string of colored handkerchiefs from a top hat. As Sidney tells it, Updike delights in re-encountering foreign editions of his books or one-off publications that he had totally forgotten about.

“The story does not end there. The following year, Updike releases yet another book of short stories, and to promote it, he will be reading at the Borders bookstore in Boston’s Downtown Crossing. The newspaper ad for the event reads: ‘One signed book per person. No exceptions.'”

Herb Yellin’s Updike foreign language editions for sale

Herb Yellin, who published multiple Updike poems and short stories as part of his Lord John Press offerings, turned up on eBay as a collection of 438 foreign language editions of Updike’s signed 1st editions that are being offered for sale at $32,000.

These days everyone seems to be going after a pay-off, when years ago such collections would have been donated to the Houghton or The John Updike Childhood Home archive.

We wish Herb well—though it would have been nice to have been able to display some of those books at the museum the society is creating.

Sylvia Plath auction shows the comparative value of author typewriters

Somewhere in a Guardian article about a recent auction of Sylvia Plath miscellany there’s a comparative mention of the value of author typewriters, and Updike’s name comes up:

“. . . a proof of The Bell Jar, complete with her corrections, sold for £60,000; her own first edition of the novel, poignantly signed and dated “Christmas 1962”, a few weeks before her death, went for £70,000; and the typewriter on which she wrote it, a mint green Hermes 3000, for £26,000. This puts Plath’s typewriter comfortably above Jack Kerouac’s, also a green Hermes, which pulled in $22,500 (£16,000), and John Updike’s $4,375 (£3,110) — but below the £56,250 paid for Ian Fleming’s gold-plated Royal and the stunning $254,500 (£181,000) for Cormac McCarthy’s humdrum Olivetti.”

According to the unsigned Books Blog article, Plath is so hot right now that “Even Wordsworth and Napoleon couldn’t compete with Plathinalia going under the hammer this week—including clothes, a typewriter and her thesaurus.”

The positive takeaway for Updike collectors and, more importantly, those inclined to purchase and donate items to The John Updike Childhood Home, John Updike items remain affordable.

Clouds Hill Books lists new Updike items for sale

With their website under construction, Clouds Hill Books of Village Station, N.Y. has emailed their John Updike – Fall 2017 List to people on their mailing list. We post it here as a courtesy to those who collect Updike.

Since we notice that many of the items come from the collection of one of The John Updike Society members, we wanted to remind everyone that the Society has been actively seeking DONATIONS of archival and Updike-related materials. Selling your collection puts items in the hands of individual collectors and deprives the public; donating your collection (or even just some of the more significant or appropriate items) to The John Updike Society for The John Updike Childhood Home makes those items available to researchers and also rotational display at the house, so that future generations can appreciate and benefit from the items you’ve collected. An additional option is to donate items to the archive at Alvernia University that the society began and subsequently donated to Alvernia before the childhood home was purchased and turned into a museum and literary center.

To make arrangements to donate to The John Updike Society, contact James Plath,

To make arrangements to donate to The John Updike Collections of the Alvernia University Archives and Special Collections, contact Sharon Neal,

Both organizations are 501 c 3 tax-exempt non-profits, and your donations to either of them are 100 percent tax deductible.

You spent your life collecting Updike; keep your life entwined with Updike by donating your collection so that your name can be forever linked to Updike and the items you donated.

Bookseller offers Updike association copies for sale

screen-shot-2016-12-14-at-10-38-34-pmCloud Hill Books
of New York City is selling a collection of inscribed and signed Updike first editions from the library of Theodore Vrettos and his wife, Vassile. Darren of Cloud Hill Books writes, “The Vrettos were residents of Peabody, Mass. In addition to being social acquaintances of John and Martha Updike, Vrettos was Updike’s regular golfing partner [until his death in 2004] and also a consultant for Greek characters and text in Updike’s stories and novels. After attending Tufts College and Harvard University, Vrettos taught creative writing at Salem State College and was director of the Writers’ Conference at Simmons College for 13 years. He was also the author of a number of fiction and non-fiction works, including Hammer on the Sea (1965), A Shadow of Magnitude: The Acquisition of the Elgin Marbles (1974), Origen: A Historical Novel (1978), Birds of Winter (1980), Lord Elgin’s Lady (1982), The Elgin Affair: The Abduction of Antiquity’s Greatest Treasures and the Passions It Aroused (1997), and Alexandria: City of the Western Mind (2001).

Here is the list of first editions for sale:  john-updike-first-editions-from-the-library-of-theodore-vrettos

The John Updike Society won’t be bidding because our funds are tied up with the house restoration, but if an Updike fan or Secret Santa would like to purchase one or two to donate for rotating display in The John Updike Childhood Home, items #15 and #49, with interesting content inscriptions, certainly would be nice additions to our museum-in-progress!


Michael Updike: Moran’s haul wasn’t trash

We received the following note and accompanying materials from Michael Updike, who notes that the bags that Paul Moran famously hauled away from his father’s Beverly Farms curbside contained much more than trash, and offers an important donation if Moran will donate his part to The John Updike Childhood House:

Dear John Updike Society,
As you know my father, as a young aspiring cartoonist, sent off fan letters asking established cartoonist for original artwork. I have enclosed a letter to Harold Gray of The Blondie strip that has miraculously survived.
The most famous successes to these letters were original works by Saul Stienberg and James Thurber. These were in the exhibit of JHU items at the Boston conference and mentioned in Due Consideration P.612 . Another bit of booty was this original Mickey Finn strip by Lank Leonard. It is signed in cartoon capitals “-TO JOHN UPDIKE-WITH ALL THE BEST FROM Lank Leonard”. It has been kicking around our house ever since I remember. At some point (circa mid seventies) the last three panels went missing. The tape had long given way. I assumed they were lost for good to the far corners of the house or thrown out. Recently, to my great surprise, the lost panels showed up on The Other John Updike Archive. I can only assume that my father took them during the divorce and they went to the trash shortly before or after his demise. My siblings and I would love to see the two parts of this comic reunited after forty years of separation. We would happily donate our half of the work to the John Updike House if the other owner would donate as well.
Thanks very Much



January 2, 1948

Mr. Harold Gray
c/o New York News Syndicate
220 East 42nd Street
New York 17, New York

Dear Mr. Gray:

I don’t suppose that I am being original when I admit that ORPHAN ANNIE is, and has been for a long time, my favorite comic strip. There are many millions like me. The appeal of your comic strip is an American phenomenon that has affected the public for many years, and will, I hope, continue to do so for many more.

I admire the magnificent plotting of Annie’s adventures. They are just as adventure strips should be–fast moving, slightly macabre (witness Mr. Am), occasionally humorous, and above all, they show a great deal of the viciousness of human nature. I am very fond of the gossip-in-the-street scenes you frequently use. Contrary to comic-strip tradition, the people are not pleasantly benign, but gossiping, sadistic, and stupid, which is just as it really is.

Your villains are completely black and Annie and crew are practically perfect, which is as it should be. To me there is nothing more annoying in a strip than to be in the dark as to who is the hero and who the villain. I like the methods in which you polish off your evil-doers. One of my happiest moments was spent in gloating over some hideous child (I forget his name) who had been annoying Annie toppled into the wet cement of a dam being constructed. I hate your villains to the point where I could rip them from the paper. No other strip arouses me so. For instance, I thought Mumbles was cute.

Your draughtsmanship is beyond reproach. The drawing is simple and clear, but extremely effective. You could tell just by looking at the faces who is the trouble maker and who isn’t, without any dialogue. The facial features, the big, blunt fingered hands, the way you handle light and shadows are all excellently done. Even the talk balloons are good, the lettering small and clean, the margins wide, and the connection between the speaker and his remark wiggles a little, all of which, to my eye, is as artistic as you can get.

All this well-deserved praise is leading up to something, of course, and the catch is a rather big favor I want you to do for me. I need a picture to alleviate the blankness of one of my bedroom walls, and there is nothing that I would like better than a little momento of the comic strip I have followed closely for over a decade. So–could you possibly send me a little autographed sketch of Annie that you have done yourself? I realize that you probably have some printed cards you send to people like me, but could you maybe do just a quick sketch by yourself? Nothing funny, just what you have done yourself. I you cannot do this (and I really wouldn’t blame you) will you send me anything you like, perhaps an original comic strip? Whatever I get will be appreciated, framed, and hung.


(Signed, ‘John Updike’)

John Updike
Elverson P. D. #2

Moran did the Updike world a huge favor when he saved all those bags from the dumpster, and the Society would have loved to bid on them. They would have made for terrific exhibits for The John Updike Childhood Home at 117 Philadelphia Avenue in Shillington, Pa., where Updike said his “artistic eggs were hatched.” Hopefully they’ll end up in a public, not private, collection.

The John Updike Society is committed to building a world-class author home museum, and anyone with materials to donate or offer for sale should contact Society president James Plath, We are a 501c3 non-profit organization so all donations are tax deductible, and all donors will be acknowledged at the point of exhibit. We are also planning a donor wall where all who donate $500 or more, cash or in-kind, will be honored.