Friday, December 04, 2009

Auction Report: William E. Self Library @ Christie's

I previewed it yesterday morning, and here it is: the William E. Self Library sale at Christie's New York, as indicated on the auction house's website.

The sale started off with a bang, as first editions of Jane Austen's Sense and Sensibility and Pride and Prejudice, and Emma each did well, selling for $32,500, $52,500, and $104,500 respectively. The latter was in original boards.

A Charlotte Bronte manuscript of two poems made $62,500, and one of her autograph letters fetched $56,250. A first edition Jane Eyre just hit the low end of the estimate at $40,000. Charlotte's own copy of her work Poetry Past and Present made $50,000, and her copies of Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey (with annotations throughout) sold for $86,500 (on estimates of $40,000-60,000).

Two Elizabeth Barrett Browning manuscripts sonnets sold well: the first, "Sonnet VII - Love" made $20,000, and the second "H.S. Boyd - Legacies" sold for $12,500. The first edition of Darwin's Origin sold for $146,500.

The Dickens section was a bit of a downer at first: a presentation copy of the first edition in book form of Sketches by Boz (to Dickens' wife's uncle) didn't sell, nor did a copy in parts or a manuscript leaf from Pickwick Papers, or the Hans Christian Andersen copy of Pickwick. Then things got going: the very rare Oliver Twist in parts made $30,000, and a presentation copy of Nicholas Nickleby to the painter Sir David Wilkie surpassed expectations, making $158,500. One of the eight known pre-publication presentation copies of A Christmas Carol (to Mrs. Eliza Touchet) made a whopping $290,500 (guess somebody was in the Christmas spirit!). Presentation copies of The Haunted Man and the Ghost's Bargain and David Copperfield both did better than expected, making $52,500 and $158,500 respectively. A dedication copy of Bleak House fetched $134,500. Dickens' own copy of the New Testament better than doubled estimates, selling for $13,750. A presentation copy of Our Mutual Friend made $122,500.

A copy of the first published edition of Alice in Wonderland made $21,500, as did a presentation copy to Dodgson's sister of The Hunting of the Snark. A big surprise came with a first edition in part of Eliot's Middlemarch, which was estimated at $4,000-6,000 and made $68,500!

A first (English) edition of Melville's The Whale sold for $43,750, while a copy of the first American edition (Moby-Dick; or, The Whale) fetched $32,500.

Two early manuscript poems by Poe fetched $362,500 (on estimates of $60,000-80,000!), and then came the moment everyone was waiting for: Lot 155, Poe's Tamerlane and Other Poems, the "black tulip" of American literature. One of twelve known copies, and one of just two not in institutional collections. It made $662,500, not quite reaching the high estimate but setting a record for Poe.

A first edition of Murders in the Rue Morgue did not sell; a first edition of The Raven and Other Poems made $182,500. A manuscript fragment of Poe's essay "The Rationale of Verse" sold for $30,000, but then came the shocker: a manuscript of the first eight stanzas of "For Annie", estimated at $50,000-70,000, sold for $830,500 (breaking the Poe record set just moments before with Tamerlane)! That was followed by a set of the first printings of the first collected edition of Poe's works, which made $80,500 (on an estimate of $3,000-4,000).

After the Poe, a first edition of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein made $50,000, and a Steinbeck manuscript made $20,000. A first edition of Stowe's Uncle Tom's Cabin didn't sell, and a beautiful first edition of Whitman's Leaves of Grass ended the sale on a very high note, surpassing estimates of $80,000-120,000 to sell for $218,500.

Impressive performances by the literary greats this morning, for a grand total of $4,896,625 - and stay tuned this afternoon for the Fine Printed Books and Manuscripts, Including Americana sale (previewed here).

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