Collecting Bernard Cornwell SHARPE Books

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The Richard Sharpe books by Bernard Cornwell have been popular reading ever since 1980 when Bernard Cornwell first introduced the rough and ready soldier. If you are lucky enough to own one of his first editions then not only do you own a great book, but you also probably own a book of value.

If you have a signed 1st edition so much the better as they seem to steadily increase in value over the years. There are only so many 1st editions around and to own a complete set of 1st signed or otherwise although not impossable to collect, would certainly cost a considerable amount of money.

However there are other options and if you have read any Bernard Cornwell you will appreciate that its worth owning a complete set of 'Sharpe' books even if they aren't all 1st editions.

The Sharpe books have been published in many countries, in many languages and different formats. When you take into account all the different reprints of these books you begin to get an idea of how many different versions exist. The artwork and in particular the spine artwork often changes with each new reprint.

There are four basic options of books to collect.

  • Hardback - regular size
  • Hardback - Book club size
  • Trade size paperbacks (Generally hardback size with a soft cover)
  • Paperback (Mass market size)

A Hardback set (normal size) are not only great to hold and read, they also look good within a cabinet or other display unit. Hardbacks will have an ISBN number.

A Hardback set of Book club edition books is also a very nice option, and some collectors prefer this size of book. Book club books generally have a CN number as opposed to an ISBN number.

There are a number of advantages in a Book club set of Sharpe books.

  • They take up about half the space a set of normal size hardbacks would take up.
  • They are generally cheaper and because they weigh less the postage should be less.(Always check with the seller which format a hardback is in if they don't give a ISBN or CN number.) When photographed and listed its often difficult to tell the difference. Use the ask seller a question if unsure.

The third option is to collect Trade size books.

The forth option is to collect a regular size set of mass market paperbacks.

Different artwork on different editions can mean that when a set of books are displayed side by side you don't get a pattern of repeating lines and colour bands running the length of the books, If you own a Bernard Cornwell Sharpe book take a moment to examine the spine. If you are going to add to your collection, then books having the same spine artwork theme will make your collection look much better when displayed. the serialisation of Bernard Cornwells books on TV has led to a number of books featuring Sean Bean on the cover. I personally think Sean Bean is a great actor and the TV series great viewing, but I prefer artwork on the cover of my books rather than a photograph of an actor.

Those of you familiar with the books and TV series will appreciate that there are many differences between the books and the TV interpretation and although both are enjoyable I prefer to maintain the gap between them.

The choice is a personal thing and I know that some collectors buy and collect Hardback's for display whilst owning a set of paperbacks at the same time.

I do however recommend that you try and read the series in historical date order. Chronologically the series starts with Richard Sharpe as a rifleman in India 1799. New conflicts arise as Sharpe gains promotion and moves around the globe encountering different enemies, including many British officers and belligerent NCO's.

The real advantage in following the series this way is that you never quite know who will get bumped off and who will reappear to haunt or assist Sharpe later on in his adventures. 

If you are interested in building up a set of Sharpe books then ebay really is a great way to find and purchase your books. What I advise is always check with the seller as to format and artwork, and don't be afraid to ask questions. All good sellers should include a photograph and sufficient information within the item description as well as answering all questions from potentila buyers. When searching for Bernard Cornwell Sharpe books try typing CORNWALL instead of CORNWELL. You will be amazed at the number of sellers who regularly misspell this author' name.

Thank you for taking the time to read this guide and I hope you found it of some help or interest.

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