New York—An outstanding auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature at Swann Galleries on Tuesday, November 14 offers myriad signed first editions of prose and poetical classics, with a special focus on literary sets. The exceptional sale of some 300 lots is expected to reach more than half a million dollars.
The top lot of the sale is the deluxe centenary limited edition set of 18 volumes comprising Ian Fleming’s oeuvre, 14 of which recount the antics of Britain’s most famous spy, James Bond. The set shines in vibrant leather bindings, each custom-designed to reflect the contents of the novel: Casino Royale features playing cards, while Octopussy is adorned with undulating tentacles, et cetera. The set, celebrating what would have been Fleming’s one-hundredth birthday, includes a selection of the author’s travel writings, previously unpublished stories and a copy of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang. One of 26 lettered sets published in 2008, the present works carry an estimate of $25,000 to $30,000.
Additional fine binding sets include the limited autograph edition of The Novels and Stories of Willa Cather, 1937-41, with 13 volumes, one of a small number of sets bound at the Riverside Press, with an estimate of $4,000 to $6,000. Also available is the limited autograph edition of The Writings of Thomas Hardy in Prose and Verse, 1915, with 20 volumes, each with photogravure frontispieces and plates, in the scarce dust jackets ($4,500 to $6,000). The 1802 set of William Shakespeare’s dramatic plays—considered the most monumental and uniformly beautiful—will also be available: each of the nine volumes contains engraved illustrations based on earlier works ($3,000 to $5,000). The most important set of The Novels and Tales of Henry James, 1907-17, with 26 limited-edition volumes and an Autograph Note Signed by the author tipped in, carries an estimate of $6,000 to $9,000.
Making its auction debut is the presumed true first edition with the unrestored first issue dust jacket of Anne Frank’s Het Achterhuis, with the author’s name in yellow rather than blue, carrying an estimate of $12,000 to $18,000.
Children’s literature is led by a complete set of first editions of the Christopher Robin books by A.A. Milne, through which the world was introduced to Winnie the Pooh and gang. The first three of these rare works are signed by Milne; the quartet, published serially from 1924 to ’28, is valued at $10,000 to $15,000. A first edition of Maurice Sendak’s masterpiece, Where the Wild Things Are, 1963, signed and inscribed with a full-length portrait of the protagonist Max in his iconic monster suit, makes a rare auction appearance, with an estimate of $10,000 to $15,000. Also available is a presentation copy of the first edition of Anna Sewell’s Black Beauty, 1877, inscribed “For the patients of the / London Temperance Hospital / with the Author’s best wishes.” Inscribed copies of this work are scarce, due to Sewell’s untimely death shortly after publication ($7,000 to $10,000). A signed first edition of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl’s most delicious novel, with an estimate of $6,000 to $9,000, joins first editions of beloved works by L.M. Montgomery and E.B. White.
A run of signed limited editions by William Faulkner spanning his prolific career is led by an association copy of the first edition of his first book, The Marble Faun, 1924, signed and inscribed by Faulkner and his mentor Phil Stone to Dorothy Wilcox. The present copy is especially important because its inscription was specifically referenced in Joseph Blotner’s Faulkner: A Biography, 1974 ($18,000 to $25,000).
A slew of classic first editions by important American authors of the twentieth century includes works by Joseph Heller, Ernest Hemingway, Jack Kerouac, Harper Lee, Jack London and Kurt Vonnegut, as well as the uncorrected proof of Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian, 1985, with an estimate of $1,000 to $1,500.
A robust section of science fiction works spans the development of the genre from Shelley to Bradbury. The American issue of the Atlantic edition of the complete set of 28 volumes of H.G. Well’s Works, 1924-27, signed in the first volume, is estimated at $4,000 to $6,000. The cover lot of the sale’s catalogue is the only signed first edition of Philip K. Dick’s first published novel, World of Chance, 1956, ever known to come to auction ($3,000 to $4,000). In addition to rare first editions by Arthur C. Clarke, Jack Finney, Aldous Huxley and H.P. Lovecraft, one of 200 copies of the first limited edition of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 bound in exceptionally well-preserved white Johns-Manville Quinterra asbestos ($7,000 to $10,000) will be available. The original science fiction novel, the first one-volume edition of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, 1831, is expected to sell between $1,500 and $2,000. In a similar vein, the first edition of Bram Stoker’s seminal Dracula, 1897, is estimated at $3,000 to $4,000, though it is expected to go higher.
Mystery and crime novels feature two Black Widow editions of works by Raymond Chandler, with warm inscriptions: The Big Sleep, 1945, and Farewell, My Lovely, 1945 ($5,000 to $7,000 and $4,000 to $6,000, respectively). Another highlight is the first American edition, in cloth, of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first Sherlock Holmes mystery, A Study in Scarlet, Philadelphia, 1890, valued at $6,000 to $9,000.
The complete catalogue and bidding information is available at www.swanngalleries.com.
Image: Lot 130: Ian Fleming, The Centenary Edition of the Works of Ian Fleming, one of 26 lettered sets, 18 volumes, London, 2008. Estimate $25,000 to $30,000.