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Dear Jerry:

“To Kill A Mockingbird” is the favorite book of my brother Patrick. He has reread the novel innumerable times.

As a gift for Patrick, nothing would please me more than purchasing a first edition of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” In fact, I have been saving my money since Patrick became enamored of the book. Even better would be a first edition that is signed by the author. I am counting on you.

Obviously, Patrick has long respected Harper Lee, the author of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” and views her among the great authors of lives past.

Elise G.

Boulder, Colo.

Dear Elise:

While Harper Lee can compete with the great authors of “lives past,” she is among the authors of “lives present.” Currently, Nelle Harper Lee resides at 600 Highway 21 Bypass, Monroeville AL 36460. My reason for including her address will soon be evident.

To present your brother with a first edition (preferably signed by the author), you have several options. Start with The Antiquarian Booksellers’ Association of America (ABAA). Founded in 1949, ABAA (like “To Kill A Mockingbird”) has been around for more than half a century. By calling its New York City office at 212-944-8291, you can obtain a free copy of the ABAA membership directory. Its members specialize in virtually every category of vintage books.

Though purchasing your first edition from an ABAA member may be pricey, you can feel secure about the authenticity, the condition of the book as described by the bookseller and (if applicable) a validation of the author’s signature. ABAA members are known for their high standards in the bookselling industry. Its members have agreed to the ABAA Code of Ethics.

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Your next stop would be the usual book-shopping websites (e.g., www.abebooks.com, www.amazon.com, www.bookfinder.com, www.froogle.com). When you make inquiries, be sure to ask very specific questions. Be certain you are dealing with a reputable seller. In advance, have the bookseller’s advance agreement to refund the purchase price (less, if necessary, a nominal reshelving fee) should you be dissatisfied with the book for any reason and decide on returning it. Even if you communicate with the bookseller by email or regular mail, speak to the merchant directly before consummating the sale.

A signed first edition of “To Kill A Mockingbird” will be expensive. If the book you purchase is unsigned, consider writing the author at her above-mentioned home address. In a handwritten letter, apprise Lee that you have purchased a first edition of her book as a gift for your beloved brother Patrick. Explain how much it would mean to have it signed by his favorite author. It should be made clear the book will not be resold.

Should Lee respond positively to your request, send her the book, properly insured, via overnight delivery. Enclose the proper prepaid packaging for Lee to return the book, properly insured, after being signed. Ideally, Lee will inscribe a personal message to Patrick along with her signature. You may label me the eternal optimist.

Meanwhile, there are many interesting facets to Harper Lee. She is a celebrated, award-winning author who published a single book. After 65 years, Lee might be publishing a second book during 2015. Actually written before “To Kill A Mockingbird,” the “new” publication is a sequel of sorts to “To Kill A Mockingbird.” If and when the second book hits the bookstores, you can easily obtain a first edition. As for getting it signed by the author, I suspect that is unlikely.

Enjoy your search for the 1960 edition of “To Kill A Mockingbird.” And enjoy the expression on Patrick’s face when you hand him the book.

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Jerry Romansky is a syndicated columnist. Readers are invited to write in English or Spanish: Ask Jerry, Post Office Box 42444, Washington DC 20015. Email askjerry@earthlink.net and (because of spam situation) write the name of your newspaper in subject heading. Questions of popular interest are answered in the column. Unpublished letters cannot be answered individually.

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