Auctions | December 16, 2013

Auction Records Set for Books by Rex Stout at Swann Galleries


New York—Swann Galleries’ November 21 auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature featured a selection of scarce first editions by Rex Stout in their original dust jackets. The sale’s top lot, in fact, was Stout’s first detective novel, Fer-de-Lance, New York, 1934, which sold for a new auction record of $21,250*. Another record-setting title by Stout was The League of Frightened Men, first edition, New York, 1935, at $9,375.

The auction also offered fine copies of well-loved classics by celebrated authors, such as a wonderful association copy of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, first edition, signed and inscribed to a movie producer, with one of the author’s trademark “Pigasus” drawings, New York, 1939, $18,750.

A copy of the first published edition of James Joyce’s Dubliners, one of 746 bound by London publisher Grant Richards, 1914, brought $15,000.


Also selling for $15,000 was a true first edition, in red cloth, of Mark Twain’s The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, London, 1876, $15,000; and other first editions by Twain included an excellent copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, in the elusive blue cloth, New York, 1885,  $11,250; and The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County, and Other Sketches, New York, 1867, $8,750.

Also from the 19th century was a first American edition, in original binding, of Jane Austen’s Mansfield Park, two volumes, Philadelphia, 1832, $5,376; a first collected edition of Lord Alfred Tennyson’s Poems, two volumes in original boards, London, 1842, $5,500; a very handsome first edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter, Boston, 1850, $6,250; a first issue copy of H.G. Wells’s The Time Machine—which predated the English edition by several months—New York, 1895, $6,250; and Theodore Dreiser’s Sister Carrie, first edition, New York, 1900, $5,500.

Other literary highlights were one of 500 first edition copies of T.S. Eliot’s first book, Prufrock and Other Observations, London, 1917,  $10,625; Jack London’s The Call of the Wild, first edition, New York, 1903, $6,500; Vladimir Nabokov’s Lolita, first edition, in two volumes, Paris, 1955, $7,680; and an extraordinary presentation copy of Raymond Carver’s first short story collection, Will You Please Be Quiet, Please, warmly inscribed to his mother, “with all love and affection, yr. son, Ray,” 1976, $4,750.

For complete results, an illustrated auction catalogue, with prices realized on request, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to consign items to Swann’s upcoming auctions of 19th & 20th Century Literature, please contact John Larson at 212-254-4710, extension 61, or via e-mail at

*All prices include buyer’s premium.

First image: Rex Stout, Fer-de-Lance, first edition, New York, 1934. $21,250

Second image: Mark Twain, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, first edition, in red cloth, London, 1876. $15,000