Buying Signed Books and Autographs - Helpful Tips Thread (1 Viewer)

hank solo

Just practicin' steps and keepin' outta the fights
Reaper Crew
Founding member
Sadly, a common topic here in the forums of is the seemingly never ending stream of 'autographed' items that appear on eBay and whether or not the 'experts' round here are prepared to authenticate or discredit them.

In an effort to provide some cool headed advice to anyone who may not be totally familiar with the variation of Bukowski's signature I thought I would start a thread that will hopefully contain only TIPS and ADVICE for spotting genuine signatures based solely on FACTS and COMMON SENSE. Apologies in advance to anyone who finds any of this pointless, but as we have seen there are many 'new' collectors of Bukowski out there who will quite likely find themselves buying something dubious for a fair amount of money and then probably only discover their mistake when its too late to do much about it.

I won't be offering an opinion on any previously listed books or any sellers who may be discussed elsewhere.

If anyone has any good advice or links on the subject of verifying a signature's authenticity, please add it to the thread. Thanks.
Tip Number 1 - Buy a Genuine Signed Black Sparrow Press First Edition Hard Back

Black Sparrow Press would always (during Bukowski's lifetime and shortly afterwards) produce a limited signed edition whenever a new book was released. This tradition started with 'At Terror Street And Agony Way' (1968) and 'The Days Run Away Like Wild Horses Over The Hills' (1969) and ended with 'Pulp' (1994), 'Living On Luck' (1995) and 'Betting On The Muse' (1996). The signed edition would usually be unique with different colour or design to the cloth backstrip. To identify these editions I would strongly recommend that all prospective collectors seek out a copy of A Descriptive Bibliography of the Primary Publications of Charles Bukowski (ISBN: 1574231030) by Aaron Krumhansl, published by Black Sparrow Press. This isn't a cheap book, usually going for upwards of $50 USD, but to a collector it is certainly worth every penny.

A NOTE on the signed BSP hard backs: Nearly all of the Black Sparrow Limited Edition Signed Hard Backs are signed by Bukowski on the colophon, which is a page near the back of the book, providing information about the book such as the limitation, type face used and the date of publishing. These pages were signed by Bukowski before the book was bound. ie, BSP would send a package of x pages to Bukowski, he would diligently sign them and then ship them back to BSP. The signed pages could then be collated with the other pages and bound to create a finished book. At some point the colophon would be numbered or lettered or otherwise marked to identify it as a limited copy, usually in red ink. I believe this to be true upto the publication of 'The Last Night Of The Earth Poems' (1992). It seems that this and subsequent BSP limited signed editions had an otherwise blank signed page bound near the beginning of the book.
Tip Number 2 - Buy a Genuine Signed Loujon Press First Edition

Supposedly ALL 777 copies of 'It Catches My Heart In Its Hands' (1963) and ALL 3,100 copies of 'Crucifix In A Deathhand' (1965) were signed by Bukowski. As with the BSP editions, this was a case of him signing lots of separate pages which were later collated and bound by the Webbs. There is variation in these signatures, including different coloured inks or paints - silver and pink for example. It seems that for both books, each signature is accompanied by the date they were signed.

eg. It Catches My Heart In Its Hands
TIP 3 - Use The Resources Of

This site isn't just the best forum devoted to Bukowski on the Internet. There is a very educational manuscript section which features good quality scans of genuine manuscripts, most of which are signed, as well as a selection of letters written by Bukowski. This is a valuable resource demonstrating the stylistic changes in Bukowski's signature between the early 1970's right up until the 1990's. So if you want something to compare a signature with, chances are there'll be a chronologically suitable example there.
It should also be noted that anyone that sees this thread and is thinking about buying a book (or checking on one that you have) can always post a picture of the signature and we will give it our blessing. It is helpful, though, if you also send a photo of the cloth spine (for HB Black Sparrow books). We have seen cases where some people have taken trade editions, signed them, and numbered them. These are impossible to pass if you know what to look for. We are always willing to help make sure that all copies that are sold are legit.

Perhaps each such request would be better posted as a separate topic, but still hopefully within this sub-forum, Signed books - is this real?

I meant this particular thread to be a sort of FAQ type information resource to help folks help themselves, and to allow us to share any useful knowledge on this subject.
Tip 4 - Suspicious Shakey Signatures

(Thanks mjp, I hope so.)

Despite his reputation as a drunk Bukowski's signature always seems to be very fluid, even in his later years.

The telltale sign would be to look at the reverse. Bad forgers take too much time when signing and leave "starts and stops" that can be viewed as bleeds on the reverse, when in sharpie (or in extra indentations with a ballpoint). Buk would have signed his name too fast for this to happen.
Tip 5 - Check out

chronic has developed a great site which has lots of high quality scans of the rarest Bukowski items, so its particularly useful if you want to verify that a book offered for sale has the right cloth binding etc.

It really is a "visual companion to Aaron Krumhansl's excellent Descriptive Biliography of the Primary Publications of Charles Bukowski".

"Collecting the works of Charles Bukowski"

I know this site has been mentioned before, but it just occurred to me that it would be a useful link to tack onto this thread...

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