Auctions | July 9, 2014

Melville’s White Whale & Rex Stout Titles Bring Top Dollar at Swann Galleries


New York—Topping Swann Galleries’ June 19 auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature was a first American edition of Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick or, The Whale—with white endpapers—New York, 1851, which brought $40,000 against a pre-sale estimate of $18,000 to $25,000, while a scarce fourth edition copy also exceeded expectations, bringing $7,168 in its first time at auction.

The sale featured more than 20 titles by Rex Stout, and all of them found buyers. Record prices were also set for many, including Where There’s a Will, 1940, $9,375; Too Many Cooks, 1938, $7,500; and Over My Dead Body, 1940, $6,500.

Signed and inscribed first editions by Flannery O'Connor, which seldom appear at auction, also set records. These were all signed and inscribed to her former professor and family friend, George Haslam, and included her novel Wise Blood, 1952, $8,750, and her best known collection of short stories, A Good Man Is Hard to Find, 1955, $9,375.


From the 19th century were Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest, first edition, large-paper issue, one of 100 numbered signed copies, London, 1899, $20,480; Mark Twain’s Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, first American edition in blue cloth, New York, 1885, $10,000; Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through The Looking Glass, first editions, London, 1866 and 1872, $7,250; and a scarce first edition of the science-fiction rarity, The History of a Voyage to the Moon, London, 1864, which was previously considered to be by an anonymous or pseudonymous author, but this copy contained an inscription identifying the author as H. Cowen, and sold for a record $8,750.

Also establishing a new auction benchmark was a group of five early first editions by Objectivist poet Charles Reznikoff, New York, 1918-23, $6,750. Additional poetry highlights included a set of three first editions of Emily Dickinson’s first three books, Poems, Poems Second Series and Poems Third Series, Boston, 1890-96, $7,500; and an inscribed copy of Robert Frost’s North of Boston, first edition, one of 200 copies in binding F, London, 1914, $4,864.

Rounding out the top lots were John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, first edition, in an unrestored original dust jacket, New York, 1939, $9,375; A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh, first American edition of the large paper issue, New York, 1936, $7,500; James Joyce’s Ulysses, one of 2000 copies on handmade paper, London, 1922, $6,500 and Dubliners, first published edition, London, 1914, $5,000.

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: Herman Melville, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale, first American edition, with white endpapers, New York, 1851. Sold for $40,000 (including buyer's premium).

Second image: Mark Twain, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, first American edition in blue cloth, New York, 1885. Sold for $10,000 (including buyer's premium).