Auctions | October 2, 2019

Heritage Auctions to Offer John Steinbeck Collection

John Steinbeck's 1946-47 journal, estimated at $20,000+.

Dallas – A collection from one of the most celebrated American authors of all time will cross the block Oct. 24 in Heritage Auctions’ Estate of John and Elaine Steinbeck Manuscripts Internet Auction.

The collection is from the family of Elaine Steinbeck – John’s third wife – and has been housed in a storage unit that held the contents of their apartment on New York’s Upper East Side. Called “a giant of American letters, John Steinbeck authored 27 books, including 16 novels, six non-fiction books and two collections of short stories. The Grapes of Wrath is considered his masterpiece, and earned him a Pulitzer Prize. He also won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature for “his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.”

“These manuscripts and decorative objects have been in storage for several years and the family has decided to make them available to Steinbeck fans everywhere,” Heritage Auctions Trusts and Estates Director Elyse Luray said. “These are items that personally belonged to John. They give collectors a front-row seat into this life, travels, thoughts, family and personal feelings.”

One of the most intriguing lots in the sale is the John Steinbeck 1946-1947 "Warm Up Journal" (estimate: $20,000+), which he described as “one of those interminable notebooks that serves no purpose but to warm  me up and sometimes to cool me down.” Dated from November 1946 through June 1947 and written in both ink and pencil, the journal is approximately one-third full, with 103 of 300 pages used. The journal reveals insights into the author’s mind while he worked on The Wayward Bus, his (ultimately scrapped) play The Last Joan and other various projects.

John Steinbeck Tortilla Flat Typescript (estimate: $5,000+) is a 232-page manuscript with the title and author typewritten above the publisher’s information. One of the author’s great “California novels,” Tortilla Flat was Steinbeck’s first critical success, winning the California Commonwealth Club’s Gold Medal. Although not the clear social criticism that some of his later books became, Tortilla Flat and some of its characters probably contributed to Steinbeck expanding his readership. The novel later was adapted into a 1942 film starring Spencer Tracy and John Garfield.

A John Steinbeck Autograph Manuscript Unsigned with Carbon Copy (estimate: $2,500+) is a five-page document written in pencil with a few emendations. The manuscript discusses Steinbeck’s feelings and concerns about the current state of the United States. In the letter, he addresses the fact that “nerves are drawn tense” and the fact that emotions, “both in individuals and groups bail up and spill over into violence and largely in oblique and unnatural directions.” He bemoans the “legal and criminal distribution of “sleeping and pep pills” and expresses frustration over the fact that “Attempts to write and pass laws defining ethical conduct in public servants become confused and aimless because no two people can agree on what constitutes ethical conduct.”

Jacqueline Kennedy Autograph Letter Signed “Jacqueline Kennedy” (estimate: $2,500+) is a six-page handwritten letter dated March 22, 1964 from the First Lady to Steinbeck, in which she answers questions about her late husband. The questions likely were meant to be used in a biography that Steinbeck never ended up writing. The letter is accompanied by one of two Mass cards of John F. Kennedy, as well as a hand-addressed stamped envelope, the top right corner of which is signed “Jacqueline Kennedy.”

A John F. Kennedy Typed Letter Signed “John Kennedy” (estimate: $2,000+) is a single typed sheet dated September 8, 1961 from the 35th United States president to Steinbeck, regarding future collaborations between the government and those in the arts. In the letter, Kennedy discusses the pleasure he and his wife had going through two albums of letters received from Miss Kay Halle, adding that he is “hopeful that this collaboration between government and the arts will continue and prosper. Mrs. Kennedy and I would be particularly interested in any suggestions you may have in the future about the possible contributions the national government might make the arts in America.”

Other top lots include, but are not limited to:

Jacqueline Kennedy Autograph Letter Signed (estimate: $2,000+)
Jacqueline Kennedy Autograph Letter Signed "Jacqueline Kennedy" (estimate: $1,800+)
John Steinbeck Proof of the Dust Jacket for First Edition of The Grapes of Wrath (estimate: $1,000+)