The dedication consists of a few words or a few lines written by an author, on the first page or at the end of a book. The writer thus shows his feelings of gratitude towards someone who bought his book or values a friendship, a relative, a lover or even a collaborator who - usually - contributed in some way to the realization of the work. It can be printed together with the book or personalized later, handwritten. Even if the most common form of it refers to books, we can consider that photographs, CDs or even works of art can gain a few words written by an artist. In reality, it is a gift, a form of recognition.
The production of the handwritten dedication
Writers, their publishers and bookstores organize events where the author makes dedications for his readers, usually at the launch of a new title. It is a common practice for writers to dedicate their novels, books to photographs or even drawings and comics.
This tradition has a commercial objective and seems to benefit everyone: the bookshop attracts more visitors, the author sells many books at once and the reader himself goes home with a personalized book, for the same price. It is also a rare opportunity for the author and his readers to establish contact, exchange ideas, give and receive praise or criticism, ask questions or comment on the theme addressed in the book.
Some writers are nationally or internationally famous and these events welcome hundreds of people in an atmosphere of hysteria! Outside these events, it is also possible to write directly to the author and ask for a dedication, some authors respond personally, others through an assistant.
Pleasure or punishment for writers?
The dedication is the star of book fairs around the world. At these events, thousands of authors carry out the ritual, throughout the weekend, breaking with the daily life of a writer - accustomed to facing his sheet of paper or a computer screen alone - to meet his readers.
" These encounters with our readers create a bond, because writing is an exercise in great solitude ", says one writer. For the reader, these words that he gets after a few minutes (or hours) of waiting, represent a furtive link between the reader and the writer, with whom he identifies due to his ideas. But this meeting is not always so romantic: many readers wait patiently to bring their relatives a book signed by their favorite writer and simply check that the writer wrote what they really wanted, like " To Marie Claire, who read all my books, thank you very much ”.
Some writers, used to these sessions of dedications in a chain, prefer to use short standardized sentences, but confess that they prefer to have more time with readers, to exchange ideas, get to know their audience better and, in the end, deliver a personalized dedication. It is not easy to be original, without knowing anything about the reader. There are writers who are more original, more observant, who like to improvise according to circumstances. Some, who really enjoy the exercise and this contact with the public, make a point of really personalizing each signature: for example, a famous French author of children's books systematically adds a drawing, because "it gives an additional emotional value and makes the reader loyal" .
What interests the collector of autograph documents most?
In the autograph market, the quality of the content is decisive in defining the value of a piece: the dedication is no exception to this rule. For this reason, and because they are short, the most coveted are not those intended for anonymous people, but those spontaneously imagined by the author for his circle of relatives or friends, fellow writers, artists or scientists, politicians, church leaders or even God. Ideally, the author and honoree are both famous people. It is what collectors call "association": a writer for another writer, a politician for an opponent, a painter for a photographer, etc.
If she has a thought or a literary quote, the dedication takes on another dimension. And a small author's drawing can turn a few handwritten lines into a rare piece. But most are mysterious, difficult to understand or interpret without being intimate with the personal lives of the writer and recipient. Who can easily understand the enigmatic "Madame Z." by Jean-Paul Sartre in his novel "Les Mots" ? Finally, other factors influence the value of these handwritten lines: when the book is important, in excellent condition, a first edition, it becomes a highly sought after autograph document.
And the photographs?
Some illustrious people usually send a photo with a dedication to their admirers. From the 1860s, with the spread of photography, people began to exchange photographs in business card format. It was at this time that the idea of asking for signatures on photos came up, combining image and manuscript and giving rise to a new category for the autograph. In this case, to be able to appreciate the photograph and the signature at a glance, the autographs made on the front of the photograph (and not on the back of it) are generally the most sought after.
The dedication in the future
Contrary to what many imagined with the popularization of new technologies, many paper books are still being sold, guaranteeing many beautiful dedications for the future. At the same time, digital works, which can be downloaded over the internet and read on a computer, tablet or even smartphones, are seducing an ever-growing audience, but seem to complete the paper book market, instead of competing. Therefore, for this category of virtual books, how will writers, readers and collectors be able to perpetuate the dedication tradition? There are initiatives like http://dedeecation.com, which aim to offer authors the possibility of making digital dedications... but would it have the same charm and interest for the collector?This article is offered by the Glórias collection, specialist in rare autograph documents . We evaluate, buy and sell letters, manuscripts, books with dedications or drawings of great historical personalities. Click here to learn more