News | July 25, 2023

Collection of Co-Publishers of Firsts Magazine Robin and Kathryn Smiley to Auction

Potter & Potter

Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

The Smiley collection features modern firsts of literature, mystery and detective fiction, and western literature, with a special emphasis on books into film. The 382 lot sale will be held by Potter & Potter Auctions on August 17.

"We are excited to offer the collection of Robin and Kathryn Smiley, co-editors and proprietors of Firsts Magazine," said Christopher Brink, Potter & Potter Auctions' Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts. "They have been contributing to the field of book collecting for over three decades with their exhaustive entries on first edition identification and books into film. The Smileys are again giving back to our field of collecting by placing their books into the hands of both new and old collectors to enjoy just like they had all these years."

First or limited editions of the world's most iconic 19th century publications take several of the top lot slots in the sale including:

* Herman Melville's Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, estimated at $20,000-30,000. This first American edition, printed in New York by Harper & Brothers in 1851, features a sumptuous binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe. 

* The Innocents Abroad, or The New Pilgrims’ Progress by Samuel Langhorne Clemens ('Mark Twain') was published in Hartford by the American Publishing Company in 1870. This early edition is inscribed by Twain to Mrs. Catherine Haley, dated March 28, 1906: “Do your duty to-day and repent tomorrow” and “Truly yours, Mark Twain”.  Estimate: $15,000-20,000.

* Charles Lutwidge Dodgson's ('Lewis Carroll) Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has an estimate of $5,000-7,000. It was published in London and New York by Macmillan and Co. in 1886. This seventh edition, presentation copy is inscribed by Carroll on a slip to Maggie Savile Clarke (1870-1894). Clarke was the daughter of the playwright Henry Savile Clarke (1841-1893) who wrote the lyrics and book that same year for the first professional dramatization of Alice’s Adventures and Through the Looking-Glass.

* Love is Enough by William Morris (1834–1896) was published in Hammersmith by The Kelmscott Press in 1897. This edition is printed in Troy type and features two woodcuts by W. H. Hooper after Sir Edward Burne-Jones. It is a limited edition, one of 300 copies on Perch paper, and is one of only two Kelmscott Press books printed in three colors. Estimate: $4,500-5,500.

* Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley's Frankenstein; or, The Modern Prometheus, is estimated at $3,000-5,000. It was printed in Philadelphia by Carey, Lea & Blanchard in 1833. This exceptional and rare first American edition has the author’s name misspelled as “Shelly” on the title page. 

The Hobbit
Potter & Potter

The Hobbit

Potter & Potter


Love is Enough by William Morris double page spread
Potter & Potter

Love is Enough by William Morris 

An archive of material from a Japanese couple incarcerated at the Manzanar War Relocation Center from 1942-44
Potter & Potter

An archive of material from a Japanese couple incarcerated at the Manzanar War Relocation Center from 1942-44 

Among the important prewar era books included in the sale are:

  • Ernest Hemingway's A Farewell to Arms (estimate: $20,000-30,000), first edition, limited issue, and one of 10 presentation copies signed by Hemingway from a total edition of 510 copies, and with a binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe, originally from the library of American author Owen Wister Jr. who was friends with Hemingway in the late 1920s 
  • The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien (estimate: $10,000-15,000), first American edition, first state with its original dust jacket, printed in Boston and New York by Houghton Mifflin Company in 1938. This rarity includes the “bowing hobbit” on the title-page, the color frontispiece inserted on a stub, and the endpapers bound opposite to the order of the List of Illustrations
  • Ernest Vincent Wright's Gadsby. A Story of Over 50,000 Words Without Using the Letter “E” (estimate: $5,000-7,000) - the first edition was printed in Los Angeles by Wetzel Publishing Co. in 1939, the only copy known to Potter & Potter's specialists that retains its rare dustjacket
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell (estimate: $3,000-5,000), first edition, first issue with its original dustjacket 
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby (estimate: $3,000-5,000), first edition, first printing includes noteworthy language that would not appear in later editions including “chatter” for “echolalia” on p. 60, “northern” for “southern” on p. 119, “sick in tired” for “sickantired” on p. 205, and “Union Street station” for “Union Station” on p. 211.

Also going under the hammer is a first edition of Harper Lee's To Kill A Mockingbird (estimate: $10,000-15,000) with its first issue dustjacket with a photo of Lee credited to Truman Capote - it is sold with an autograph letter signed from Lee to the Smileys thanking them for her first copy of FIRSTS which she writes that she is subscribing to immediately, as well as the uncashed check for her subscription, signed “Nelle Harper Lee”. Elsewhere, Lot #332, is Larry McMurtry's personal copy of E.B. White's Here is New York (estimate: $4,000-6,000). Again, this first edition includes its original dustjacket and is inscribed by White to Mollie Panter-Downes, a British novelist and columnist for The New Yorker.

Finally, the sale rounds out with category spanning publications, archives, artwork, and ephemera:

  • Benjamin Franklin's The Private Life of the Late Benjamin Franklin, which is estimated at $2,500-3,500. This first edition in English was published in London in 1793 by J. Parsons. This book was first printed in an unauthorized French translation in 1791, and then translated back into English for this edition.
  • Illustrator Eric Gill's (1882-1940) The Four Gospels of the Lord Jesus Christ According to the Authorized Version of King James I, limited edition from 1921, one of 500 copies produced on Batchelor paper and with a binding by Sangorski & Sutcliffe (estimate: $10,000-15,000)
  • An archive of material from a Japanese couple incarcerated at the Manzanar War Relocation Center from 1942-44 (estimate: $2,000-3,000) which includes documents, certificates, yearbooks, photographs, passports, and other paperwork. In 1922, Koji and Masai Watanabe emigrated to California. From 1942-1945, the couple was interned at the Manzanar concentration camp until the war was over, after which they settled in Chicago.