Auctions | April 19, 2012

Ginsburg, Swift, and Sassoon Soar at Bonhams

NEW YORK—Bonhams is pleased to announce the results of its Fine Books and Manuscripts auction that took place April 16, during the weekend of the New York Antiquarian Book Fair. This 419 lot auction brought in just under $950,000.

The top lot of the auction was a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s Howl. This rare mimeographed edition was printed in May of 1956 for merely 25 close friends, peers and literary heroes of the famous Beat poet, including Ezra Pound, T.S. Eliot, Lionel Trilling and William Faulkner. This particular copy of the now legendary collection was sent to Alan Ansen, and is inscribed by Ginsberg: “To be published July 30th, 1956—City Lights Bookstore Pocket Poets series Broadway & Columbus Ave. S.F. Cal. U.S.A With introduction by W.C. Williams.” This top lot sold for $74,500 against a pre-sale estimate of $40,000-60,000.

An autographed letter by Jonathan Swift performed admirably, selling for $56,250 against a pre-sale estimate of $15,000-25,000. This letter, signed J: Swift, addresses his “very good and old friend,” who was the government printer and former Lord mayor of London John Barber. A Swift letter of this length and insightful content is very rare to come to auction.

Siegfried Sassoon’s own heavily annotated and signed copy of The War Poems of Siegfried Sassoon was another highlight to the sale, claiming $27,500 against a pre-sale estimate of $4,000-6,000. To note a few annotations in Sassoon’s hand: two pages listing poems for four versions of his reading poem; a list of 29 venues for his readings on the title page; and two pages of notes used by Sassoon to guide his commentary on his poems.

Other highlights in the auction include In our time by Ernest Hemingway, selling for $47,500 (pre-sale est. $30,000-50,000); The Book of Mormon: An Account Written by the Hand of Mormon, upon the Plates Taken from the Plates of Nephi by Joseph Smith, selling for $46,250 (pre-sale est. $30,000-50,000); and A Natural History of Uncommon Birds and of Some Other Rare and Undescribed Animals, selling for $32,500 (pre-sale est. $25,000-35,000).