November 2016 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Singular "Phantom of the Opera" First Edition at Auction

Coming to auction later this week is a first American edition of Gaston Leroux's novel, The Phantom of the Opera, that is very likely unique, said John D. Larson of Swann Galleries.  

Phantom.jpgPublished in 1911 by Bobbs-Merrill Company in New York, Phantom is one of those modern first editions that is nearly impossible to find in its dust jacket (of which there are two variants). Last November, Swann Galleries sold the first jacketed example to appear at auction for a record-breaking $35,000.

Larson, who worked on that sale, was therefore very surprised when another Phantom first in its jacket surfaced again a few months ago. A consignor brought it to Swann having done some research of his own; his copy, he revealed, lacks the $1.25 price on the spine. "We've never seen another copy without the price on the spine panel," said Larson.   

At the suggestion that this jacket was some kind of publisher's trial, Larson said he didn't think that was likely. As the Phantom catalogue copy explains, "The true first, as here, was issued without a printed price thus allowing bookstores to assign their own price (beyond the suggested retail price)."

Estimated at $25,000-35,000--on par with last year's copy only because this one is a bit chipped--this unique jacket is sure to draw attention from collectors of modern firsts. Its sale will benefit the FOS arts foundation.

Image Courtesy of Swann Galleries.