Auctions | May 28, 2013

Classic Literature, Detective Fiction, and Sci Fi Upcoming at Swann Galleries


New York—On Thursday, June 20 Swann Galleries will conduct an auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature that features fine examples of mystery and detective fiction, children’s literature and science fiction; as well as desirable editions of works by William Faulkner, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain and original parts issued of Charles Dickens books.

The item with the highest pre-sale estimate is a superb first edition copy of The Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett. This groundbreaking work of private-eye fiction is in the rare first issue pictorial dust jacket (estimate: $35,000 to $50,000).

Also by Hammett are a first American edition of The Glass Key—used to illustrate the cover of the Swann auction catalogue—published in New York, 1931, three months after the first English edition ($8,000 to $12,000); and two first edition copies of The Thin Man, the author’s last novel, in different dust jackets ($3,000 to $4,000 and $3,500 to $5,000). Other detective novels include Raymond Chandler’s Farewell, My Lovely, New York, 1940 ($3,500 to $5,000) and The Lady in the Lake, New York, 1943 ($3,000 to $4,000).

Books of another popular genre—science fiction—are also featured. There is a copy of H.G. Wells’s exceedingly rare cornerstone work, The First Men in the Moon, a remarkable example of the first printing in the dust jacket, London, 1901 ($18,000 to $25,000); as well as Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Lost World, in the nearly unattainable “ordinary edition,” London, 1912 ($6,000 to $9,000); and a signed limited “fireproof” asbestos edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, New York, 1953 ($6,000 to $9,000).

Monster tales include two copies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, a London 1931 edition, which was the first to appear in a single volume, first to be illustrated and first to credit her as the author ($3,000 to $4,000), the other a Photoplay edition in the scarce original dust jacket, New York, 1931 ($800 to $1,200); and a first edition of Wallace and Cooper’s novelization of King Kong, New York, 1932 ($3,500 to $5,000).


In addition to Shelley, featured works by female authors are Gertrude Stein’s Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia, privately printed in Florence in 1912, one of 300 unnumbered copies, ex-collection Arthur Dove, the American abstract painter, and containing his signature ($6,000 to $9,000); a first edition of Willa Cather’s O Pioneers!, bearing her initials on the front free endpaper, 1913 ($2,000 to $3,000); a signed first edition of Margaret Mitchell’s Gone with the Wind, 1936 ($8,000 to $12,000); and an early presentation copy of Harper Lee’s beloved To Kill a Mockingbird, signed and inscribed in the year of publication, “To Miss Ethel, with love, Nelle Harper, September 17, 1960” ($8,000 to $12,000).

The sale offers a wonderful selection of Hemingway, including his short stories, with one of only 300 copies of the first and only edition of his first book, Three Stories & Ten Poems, Paris, 1923 ($15,000 to $20,000); and two editions of In Our Time, one a first limited edition, Paris, 1924, the other a first trade edition with chapters not appearing in the Paris edition, New York, 1925 ($25,000 to $35,000 and $10,000 to $15,000 respectively). There are also desirable copies of A Farewell to ArmsFor Whom the Bell Tolls, and The Old Man and the Sea.

A run of works by Faulkner includes a first edition of his first novel, Soldier’s Pay, New York, 1926 ($15,000 to $20,000) and a first edition of The Sound and the Fury, in an entirely unrestored first issue dust jacket, New York, 1929 ($20,000 to $25,000).

From Fitzgerald is a first edition of his final completed novel Tender Is the Night, in the first issue dust jacket, New York, 1934 ($8,000 to $12,000).

There is a scarce advance copy of Graham Greene’s Bright Rock, an uncorrected proof with a short, signed presentation inscription by Greene on the title page, London, 1938 ($8,000 to $12,000).

From the same era is a signed first edition of John Steinbeck’s masterpiece The Grapes of Wrath, with a Typed Letter Signed from Ira Wolf recounting the story of the author’s signing of the book during a spirited evening at the Player’s Club, New York, 1939 ($12,000 to $18,000).

Dickens enthusiasts will appreciate sets of the original parts making up his best-known books, such as The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby, 20 parts in 19, London, 1838-39 ($1,500 to $2,500); The Life and Adventures of Martin Chuzzlewit, 20 parts in 19, 1843-44 ($2,000 to $3,000) and The Personal History of David Copperfield, 20 parts in 19, 1849-50 ($4,500 to $6,000).

A notable copy of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn is a first American edition, one of approximately 500 in the publisher’s deluxe morocco binding, New York, 1885 ($8,000 to $12,000).

The auction will begin at 1:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 20. The works will be on public exhibition on Saturday, June 15, from noon to 5 p.m.; Monday, June 17 to Wednesday, June 19, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; and Thursday, June 20, from 10 a.m. to noon.

An illustrated catalogue with information on bidding by mail or fax is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to arrange in advance to bid by telephone during the auction, please contact John Larson at (212) 254-4710, extension 61, or via email at

Live online bidding is also available via

First image: Dashiell Hammett, The Maltese Falcon, first edition, New York, 1930 (estimate: $35,000 to $50,000).

Second image: Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird, first edition, signed and inscribed in the year of publication, Philadelphia & New York, 1960 (estimate: $8,000 to $12,000).