Confederacy of Dunces, by John Kennedy Toole, is a picaresque comedic novel set in New Orleans in the early 1960s. By any measure a classic novel in the realm of contemporary southern literature, its chief protagonist is the slovenly and vainglorious Ignatius J. Reilly. The plot focuses on his bumbling adventures around the city and the colorful and eccentric characters he meets, and it is often considered to be the finest depiction of New Orleans in a work of fiction.
Although the book was written in 1963, Toole was unsuccessful in getting it published. This failure, combined with an increasing sense of paranoia, produced a deteriorating mental state which culminated in his suicide in March 1969. After his death, his mother, Thelma, made repeated attempts to get her son’s novel published. Eventually she found her way to the office of renowned author Walker Percy, who was teaching in the English department at Loyola University New Orleans. She forced him to take a copy of the manuscript and made him promise to read it. As he recounts in his foreword to the published work, initially he read with great hesitation, but “in this case I read on. And on. First with the sinking feeling that is was not bad enough to quit, then with a prickle of interest, then a growing excitement, and finally an incredulity: surely it was not possible that it was so good.” With Percy’s help, the book was eventually published by Louisiana State University Press in 1980, and quickly became a classic, winning the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1981.
The first print run was only 2,500 copies, so a first edition of the book is relatively rare. But what makes this specific copy even more special is that Thelma Toole signed it and dedicated the inscription to THNOC. It reads “May 9, 1980. A merited contribution to The Historic New Orleans Collection John Kennedy Toole’s mother, Thelma Ducoing Toole.”
Citation 1: 
by John Kennedy Toole
Citation 2: 
Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1980
Accession #: 
Bobby Ticknor, Reference Assistant