News | July 1, 2024

Only Privately Owned Copy of Frankenstein in Original Pink Boards Sold for $843,750

Heritage Auctions

Mary Shelley's Frankenstein

At Heritage Auctions' part 1 sale of The William A. Strutz Library an  inscribed copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby was sold for $425,000, a presentation copy of J. R. R. Tolkien’s novel The Hobbit went for $300,000, and Henry David Thoreau’s Walden; or Life in the Woods set an auction record at $275,000.

Leading the auction was a copy of Frankenstein one of only three known first editions in the original pink boards and the only one in private hands that finally sold for $843,750.

“This was a single-owner sale 60 years in the making, and the results are a true testament to a great collector and a market that recognized the treasures assembled by William Strutz," said Francis Wahlgren, Heritage Auctions’ International Director of Rare Books & Manuscripts.

Strutz’s library, built within his Bismarck, North Dakota home, consisted of 15,000 books which the attorney began assembling while in college in the late 1950s. He focused on books of literary significance, in superb original condition and with important provenance, with a profusion of presentation and association copies. This auction is the first in a series Heritage will hold throughout this year and 2025.

William Strutz acquired his first-edition copy of Mary Shelley’s 1818 Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus in 1975. The other two known copies in pink boards reside in the Pforzheimer and Berg Collections at the New York Public Library.

Inside Strutz’s copy of the first printing of the first edition of The Great Gatsby with a superior dust jacket  Inside, the author wrote a note for its recipient: “For D. L. Shelton / from his Sincerely / F Scott Fitzgerald / Feb 1927.” Before this auction, no other copy of The Great Gatsby had topped the $400,000 mark.

Similarly, Tolkien’s 1937 The Hobbit featuring a dust jacket was gifted to dear friends, with the inscription, “Charles & Dorothy Moore / from. / J.R.R.T / with love / September 1937.” Only 2,000 copies remain of the first printing of the first edition of Thoreau’s masterpiece Walden; or Life in the Woods, the copy going under the hammer in this sale inscribed to the author’s literary executor and hiking companion Harrison Gray Otis Blake. 

Elsewher, a first edition of John Milton’s 380-year-old polemic Areopagitica; A Speech of Mr. John Milton For the Liberty of Unlicenc’d Printing, To the Parliament of England which argues for freedom of the press, speech and expression sold for more: $93,750.