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Once-Famous Author Gets Second Chance

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The market for Cabell is slow but steady, Betancourt says; he sells about five to 10 books per month. The last time there was a resurgence of interest in his work was in the '70s, Betancourt says, when the adult-fantasy division of Ballantine Books reissued certain titles. Yet readers keep discovering Cabell, he observes.

Betancourt wanted to offer titles now out of print, and a printing company agreed to do the initial runs at no cost because of a "business arrangement," he says. He called Dotts to get permission from the Cabell Associates, who hold the author's copyrights. The group was overjoyed that someone would bring the author back to life.

A few original editions will have to be sacrificed in the process, Dotts explains, because facsimile printing breaks up the book it copies. "I have my own library, but I'm not about to destroy it," he says. Fortunately, the James Branch Cabell Library at Virginia Commonwealth University owns "at least eight copies of every book" and nearly 300 in all, says Kimberly Separ, development and community relations officer for the library.

The reprinting comes at a serendipitous time, Separ says, because VCU plans in the fall to continue renovating the Cabell Library, including a replica of Cabell's study that was donated by his widow. "Most days, people just kind of peep through the stained glass window," rarely venturing inside, she says. The university plans to make the study into a haven for graduate students, with wireless Internet access and rare books on display. —

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