A “Barn Fresh” Rarity DISCOVERED – Harper Lee and I take a ride…

Long ago, I grew tired of writing, talking or really even discussing To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee.  Tremendous first novel; southern white girl on race issues in 1960 America; autographed copies available at little shops in Monroeville, AL…  Every collector and Antiquarian book dealer in the world has a story, a blog, a something about Mockingbird in their repertoire.  The book and the film based on the book have truly taken on a life of their own in the collecting realm. From hardcover first printing, to book club editions, to innumerable printings of anniversary editions, Mockingbird fans and book collectors alike have scoured the planet for the printed trail left by Harper Lee in this timely and potent novel.  I swore I would never write another word about Mockingbird, Harper Lee, Monroeville, Alabama etc…  That was before it happened.  That was before I found myself driving all night on one fateful day in March of 2017 with a copy of the true first edition IN THE ORIGINAL DUST JACKET riding alongside me for over six-hundred miles.

For those of you who are low-brow like me enough to have watched American Pickers a time or two, Mike Wolfe’s old line of “barn fresh” comes to mind here. In Nashville for a College trip with my daughter, I took the opportunity to meet up with old friends of course. Lunches and dinners with my old friends, book scouts, authors and various other scoundrels from a lifetime of picking in and around Nashville.  For those familiar with the used book landscape of Nashville, you most certainly understand the loss of the GREAT Bookman-Bookwoman shop in the Hillsboro Village area. I hear (but do not know) that a crazy 300% rent increase finally brought the shop down. Larry and Sara Lee Woods were the absolute best!  Sweet folks and wonderful stewards of traditional used book-selling in the heart of middle Tennessee. This loss has strained quite a few of my “scout” friends as you might imagine.  Feeling the pinch of the “tweeking” that must now have to happen in order to stay a book scout, one of my friends mentioned that they would soon be parting with their most treasured possession – A FIRST EDITION, FIRST PRINTING COPY OF ‘TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD’!  I was all ears of course…


The book, free of nearly ALL the usual damage you see on books and dust jackets of this age is timeless.

I literally shed a tear of joy when he pulled it from the safe it had been residing in for the last eight years. 

No mylar.  No pretense.  No restoration.  No bull-shit.  This was the best copy of the book I had, and have, ever seen.  Stated First Edition on the copyright page. Original blurb from Jonathon Daniels (and not Shirley Ann Grau) on the back flap of the DJ.  Original price of $3.95 intact with no rubbing and/or wear (you have to be careful as unscrupulous dealers will sometimes rub the printing notation off the front flap with steel wool or the like).  The book appears practically unread.  The DJ has slight wear at the folds, but no closed tears etc…  A TRUE GEM.

How can you not write about something like this?  How can you not still see the romance in book-collecting as a business and/or hobby?  How can it be that a newly discovered true first printing copy of Mockingbird laid in waiting for over 50 years without any public attention at all?  From an estate sale a few years ago to a book scouts personal “stash” safe.  THE WORLD GETS TO FINALLY SEE HER NOW!


Mike Cotter


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