Auctions | February 2, 2012

Property of Serendipity Books On Offer at Bonhams

Los Angeles - Timed to coincide with the 45th California International Antiquarian Book Fair, Bonhams is pleased offer property from the Serendipity Bookstore in Berkeley, CA on February 12.  Highlights will include general antiquarian books, art and fine press, modern literature and poetry with a section dedicated to John Steinbeck, Americana and early baseball literature.
Peter Howard [1939-2011] of the landmark Bay Area Serendipity Books has been eulogized as "one of the most imaginative booksellers of his generation."  Howard stocked not only individual titles but entire collections.  The store was organized in sections by the original source: a collection of modern poetry from collector X is in one corner; another collection with similar titles from another source might be on the opposite side of the building.  It wasn't a library and so, to Howard's mind, it wasn't supposed to be organized like one.

The bookstore on University, for those who never crossed its threshold, was a warren of rooms filled to the roof with titles from the mundane and popular to the erudite and obscure.  Howard wanted people to search for their books, looking carefully and hopefully finding not only what they were looking for, but far more.
The centerpiece of the February sale is Howard's tremendous collection of John Steinbeck material.  This includes the typed manuscript of "The Pearl of the World," the original short story version of The Pearl (est. $15,000-20,000); copy number 4 of The Red Pony, a presentation copy inscribed to Louis Paul (est. $2,000-3,000); an inscribed copy of Cup of Gold (est. $10,000-15,000); an inscribed copy of The Grapes of Wrath (est. $10,000-15,000); Steinbeck's novella version of Lifeboat, written at the behest of Alfred Hitchcock (est. $5,000-7,000); advance proofs of several of his most famous novels (estimates vary); as well as letters, photographs (estimates vary), and even a signed document relating to a proposed musical version of Viva, Zapata! (est. $2,000-3,000).
The Antiquarian section features early printed works in architecture, travel literature natural history, and English literature including a first collected edition of Beaumont and Fletcher (est. $1,000-2,000) and several Thackeray titles in parts (estimates vary).
The Art, Fine Press and Photography offering includes a portrait of William Blake by Leonard Baskin (est. $1,000-1,500); a group of signed photographs of Wright Morris (est. $8,000-12,000); and several albums of 19th and early 20th century photograph albums, including images of India and California (estimates vary).
In the Modern Literature and Poetry section features a rare broadside of Elizabeth Bishop's poem, The Fish, one of only 12 known copies (est. $3,000-5,000); a large group of Lawrence Durrell first editions and letters (estimates vary); a strong selection of William Faulkner material, including a signed copy of Sartoris, the Ole Miss yearbook from 1918 featuring a submission by Faulkner (est. $8,000-12,000), screenplay adaptations of his work (estimates vary), and a photograph of himself taken in 1960, signed and inscribed for his longtime love, Meta Carpenter Rebner (est. $3,000-5,000).
The sale will also feature an impressive group of Robinson Jeffers novels and letters (estimates vary); the exceedingly rare James Joyce broadside, Gas from a Burner, his angry farewell to Ireland after the suppression of his book Dubliners (est. $12,000-18,000); Ross Macdonald's working manuscript of the screenplay version of The Instant Enemy (est. $5,000-7,000); Nancy Mitford's manuscript of her biography Madame de Pompadour (est. 1,200-1,800); Carl Sandburg's guitar (est. $10,000-15,000); and original costume designs by Orson Welles for Macbeth (est. $800-1,200) and another production (3,000-5,000).
In honor of Howard's great love for the game of baseball, the auction will conclude with a rare offering of baseball material, including one of the earliest known baseball broadsides for the first intercollegiate ball game (est. $2,500-3,500), and an 18th century German book that contains one of the first known mention of "das englische Base-ball" (and its other variants of the period, Thorball, Schnurball, Fangball and Prellball) (est.12,000-18,000).
Additional property from Serendipity Books will be offered by Bonhams throughout 2012 in the following auctions: Fine Photography in New York on May 8, Period Art & Design in San Francisco on April 15 and May 20, Made in California in Los Angeles on May 21, Fine Books and Manuscripts in New York on June 19 and Entertainment Memorabilia in Los Angeles on June 24.
The illustrated auction catalog for this sale will be available online for review and purchase at in the weeks preceding the sale.
San Francisco Preview: February 3-5
Los Angeles Preview: February 9-11
Auction: April 16, Los Angeles, simulcast to San Francisco