Auctions | February 12, 2012

Results from Bonhams First Auction of Serendipity Books Material

Los Angeles - Timed to coincide with the 45th California International Antiquarian Book Fair, Bonhams was pleased offer property from the Serendipity Bookstore in Berkeley, CA on February 12.  Highlights included 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 Bay Area landmark 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.
Leading the February auction were pieces from Howard's tremendous collection of John Steinbeck material.  Strong online bidding was seen for many of the works on offer.  This included a screenplay adaptation of Cannery Row, an intriguing piece of literary history (est. $2,000-3,000, sold for $12,500). Cannery Row was published in 1945 and certainly given consideration by the studios, but did not make it on screen immediately. In 1948 actor and Steinbeck friend Burgess Meredith wanted to adapt the novel as a vehicle for himself, but that production never materialized. Nonetheless, Steinbeck's biography mentions that he produced a script for that intended project, of which this may be a copy.
Additional works of note related to Steinbeck included a first edition, presentation copy of the Sea of Cortez from Ed Ricketts to his new girlfriend, later wife, with a Las Vegas marriage certificate (est. $2,000-3,000, sold for $11,875); copy number 4 of The Red Pony, a presentation copy inscribed to Louis Paul (est. $2,000-3,000, sold for $2,000); an inscribed copy of The Grapes of Wrath (est. $10,000-15,000, sold for $8,750); Steinbeck's novella version of Lifeboat, written at the behest of Alfred Hitchcock (est. $5,000-7,000, $4,375) and a mimeographed manuscript of Viva, Zapata! (est. $2,000-3,000, sold for $3,125).
The sale also featured 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, sold for $17,500); a selection of Jack London's personal checks from 1905-1915, drawn on various banks, including Oakland Central Bank, Merchant's National of San Francisco, the National Bank of the Pacific, and the Bank of Hawaii (est. $2,500-3,500, sold for $8,750); Nancy Mitford's manuscript of her biography Madame de Pompadour (est. 1,200-1,800, sold for $8,125); Carl Sandburg's guitar (est. $10,000-15,000, sold for $7,500); exceptionally rare first and second editions of Robinson Jeffers novel Stars (est. $1,000-2,000, sold for $5,000); Ross Macdonald's working manuscript of the screenplay version of The Instant Enemy (est. $5,000-7,000, sold for $4,750); original costume designs by Orson Welles for an unknown Shakespearean or other period production (est. $3,000-5,000, sold for $2,500).
The Antiquarian section featured early printed works in architecture, travel literature natural history, and English literature that included a first collected edition of Beaumont and Fletcher (est. $1,000-2,000, sold for $3,500) and several William Thackeray titles in parts highlighted by a first edition of Vanity Fair, A Novel Without a Hero (est. $800-1,200, sold for $1,500).
The Art, Fine Press and Photography offering included several albums of 19th and early 20th century photograph albums of Buenos Aires (est. $2,000-3,000, sold for $5,625), India (est. $800-1,200, sold for $813) and a collection of authors, artists and composers (est. $1,000-2,000, sold for $3,750).
In the Modern Literature and Poetry section works of note included a large group of Lawrence Durrell first editions and letters highlighted by a signed and inscribed copy of Ten Poems (est. $1,500-2,500, sold for $3,500) and a selection of personal letters that included correspondence to Henry Miller (est. $1,000-1,500, sold for $2,750); a strong selection of William Faulkner material, including a signed copy of Sartoris (est. $8,000-12,000, sold for $9,375) and a photograph of himself taken in 1960, signed and inscribed for his longtime love, Meta Carpenter Rebner (est. $3,000-5,000, sold for $3,500).
In honor of Howard's great love for the game of baseball, the auction concluded with a rare offering of baseball material that included one of the earliest known baseball broadsides for the first intercollegiate ball game (est. $2,500-3,500, sold for $5,250), among others.
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.