News | May 5, 2022

Modern First Editions Sell High at Potter & Potter Auctions

Courtesy of Potter & Potter Auctions

A copy of Oscar Wilde's The Ballad of Reading Gaol raised $26,400. This limited edition copy, number 16 of 99, was published in London by Leonard Smithers in 1898 and was signed by Wilde. 

Chicago — Potter & Potter Auctions' April 26th, 2022 literature sale was a cover-to-cover success with a 97% sell through rate.  When the hammer fell silent after a long day of spirited bidding, 58 lots realized $1,000-3,999; 20 lots made $4,000-9,999; and seven lots broke the five figure mark. Prices noted include the company's 20% buyer's premium.
Signed, first edition and presentation copies from the prewar era took several of the top slots at this amazing event.
·       Lot #74, a presentation copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald's (1896–1940) The Great Gatsby, was estimated at $30,000-50,000 and realized $67,200.  It was published in New York by Charles Scribner's Sons in 1925 and inscribed to Margaret Turnbull. Trumbull owned La Paix, an estate with a large house near Towson, Maryland. The Fitzgeralds rented La Paix because of its proximity to Johns Hopkins, where Zelda Fitzgerald was being treated.
·       Lot #107, a first edition, first issue copy of Ernest Hemingway's (1899–1961) A Farewell to Arms, was estimated at $4,000-6,000 and delivered $21,600. It was published in New York by Charles Scribner’s Sons in 1929, included its original first issue dust jacket, and was inscribed to the author's colleague who was covering the Civil War in Spain.
·       Lot #221, a copy of Oscar Wilde's (1854–1900) The Ballad of Reading Gaol, was estimated at $7,000-10,000 and brought $26,400. This limited edition copy, number 16 of 99, was published in London by Leonard Smithers in 1898 and was signed by Wilde.  
·       Lot #199, John Steinbeck's (1902–1968) Of Mice and Men was estimated at $2,000-3,000 and sold for $10,200. This first edition, first issue example was published in New York by Covici Friede in 1937. This handsome example included its original unclipped dust jacket and was inscribed “For Walter P. Bunson / John Steinbeck ‘37”. 
Also making headlines in this sale were a number of signed, first edition tomes from the second half of the 20th century.
·       Lot #7, a copy of Isaac Asimov's (1920–1992) I, Robot, is estimated at $3,000-5,000 and traded hands at $10,800. This first edition of Asimov’s second book was published in 1950 by Gnome Press in New York and inscribed to Edith Ogutsch, a poet and science fiction and fantasy author.
·       Lot #115, Frank Herbert's (1920-1986) God Emperor of Dune, was estimated at $300-400 and turned the page at $1,200. This first edition, signed example was published in 1981 in New York by G.P. Putnam’s Sons and included its original unclipped dust jacket.
And a series of noteworthy publications from legacy 20th century writers brought this sale full circle.
·       Lot #100, a first edition copy of Dashiell Hammett's The Maltese Falcon, was estimated at $8,000-12,000 and soared to $22,800. It was printed in 1930 in New York by Alfred A. Knopf and included its rare original first issue dust jacket with the summary printed on the front flap and a custom cloth folding box by Dragonfly Bindery.
·       Lot #87, two first edition, first issue books by Theodore Geisel (“Dr. Seuss” 1904–1991), was estimated at $300-500 realized $1,680. These included How the Grinch Stole Christmas! from 1957 and Dr. Seuss’s Sleep Book from 1962. Both were printed in New York by Random House and included their original dust jackets.
·       Lot #76, a collection of four first editions by Ian Fleming (1908–1964), was estimated at $400-600 and sold for $1,800. All were published in London by Jonathan Cape. These included Thunderball from 1961;  You Only Live Twice from 1964; The Man with the Golden Gun from 1965; and Octopussy and the Living Daylights from 1966.
·       Lot #197, an exceptionally fine, first edition copy of John Steinbeck's (1902–1968) The Grapes of Wrath, was estimated at $4,000-6,000 and made $10,200. It was published in New York by The Viking Press in 1939. It retained its original unclipped pictorial dust jacket with a “first edition” statement to its front flap corner.
According to Christopher Brink, Potter & Potter Auctions' Director of Fine Books and Manuscripts, "We were pleased with how strong prices were for modern literature. We averaged $2,000 per lot and soared past most of the high estimates while smashing several auction records along the way including Wilde's signed limited edition of The Ballad of Reading Gaol for $26,400. We have certainly had some of the best book sales in the country to start the new year and we are looking forward to Q3 with our monumental sale in October that will feature the first printed work of Aristotle from the Aldine Press plus many other early works, Americana, and literature."