Auctions | September 27, 2011

The Jackson Collection of 19th-Century Lit at Bonhams

NEW YORK—Bonhams is thrilled to host the auction of The Robert H. and Donna L. Jackson Collection, Part I: 19th Century Literature on October 18. This is an exceptionally complete collection of 18th century and Victorian literature as published in original parts and serial publications. Obtaining books from auctions, collectors and book dealers all over the world, this 270-lot sale represents 35 years of avid collecting by Robert H. and Donna L. Jackson. The Jacksons were constantly searching, editing and upgrading the quality of their copies; rejecting and replacing lesser examples. In time, their passion and dedication built one of only two comprehensive collections of this niche book-collecting genre—the other being the collection now at the Huntington Library in California. Bonhams is honored to take part in this monumental sale which boasts new to market items and will likely attract lifelong literature admirers along with a new generation of collectors.

One of several stunning highlights of the sale is an item that offers great insight to a writer’s creative process—William Harrison Ainsworth’s (1805-1882) model of “The Tower of London” and draft paragraphs, pages and notes that document the creation of his serial publication. This unique handmade model, complete with a moat made of glass, aided Ainsworth during his writing process, giving him a topographic guide to his unfolding story (est. $4,000-6,000).

Another highlight comes from the hand of Charles Dickens. This handwritten leaf is from the working manuscript of the author’s first novel The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, also known as The Pickwick Papers. This leaf is a rarity since a vast majority of the holograph manuscript was discarded after the publication went to print. Fewer than 50 pages of the manuscript were salvaged by the foreman printer and 35 or more of them are in institutions, making this leaf a true market rarity (est. $70,000-100,000).

Also from Dickens is a first edition of The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club in monthly parts. Prime copies of The Pickwick Papers are extremely uncommon, and a copy such as this—featuring numerous first issue points, and including 25 additional plates that account for many of the variant issues of illustrations—is seldom available (est. $30,000-50,000).

Noteworthy for collectors of American literature is the Second Boston Edition of Shakespeare’s Plays, one of the earliest known books to be published in parts in America. Still in its vibrant original orange wrappers, this 18-part series includes a complete representation of the famous playwright’s plays (est. $3,000-5,000). There is also a two-volume, leather-bound first edition of Harriet Beecher Stowe’s Uncle Tom’s Cabin. This best-selling American novel, of the 19th century, questioned the morality of slavery and is said to have laid the ground work for the Civil War (est. $5,000-8,000). A third Americana highlight to appear in the sale is the manuscript of Walt Whitman’s “Notes on the Meaning and Intention of Leaves of Grass.” Written in 1876, it served as a reminder of his aims, some two decades after the publication of the poem. (est. $8,000-12,000)

Another lot comes from the working autograph manuscript of William Makepeace Thackeray’s first novel Catherine. This manuscript page is the final lines of Chapter 10 and the beginning of Chapter 11. On the verso are red chalk sketches of a woman’s profile; a three-quarter torso sketch of a woman holding a child (est. $3,000-5,000). Among several Thackeray items that appear in the sale, another stand out highlight is the first edition in original monthly parts, complete with all advertisements, of the author’s masterpiece Vanity Fair, A Novel Without a Hero (est. $12,000-18,000).

A notorious rarity that is up for auction is Anthony Trollope’s Ralph the Heir. Trollope himself deemed this to be one of his worst novels, but it was his description of a Parliamentary campaign in the fictional borough of Percycross that made this work important. It was unabashedly based on Trollope’s first-hand knowledge of corruptible country politics. The present issue is, without question, the most desirable, being the first, the rarest and the most complete. With no sale records in the past 60 years, this is one of only two copies known in existence (est. $50,000-80,000).

The collection will be on preview at Bonhams in New York from October 15-18. The auction will take place in New York at 1 pm EDT on October 18 and will be simulcast at Bonhams in Los Angeles. The public is also invited to attend a highlights tour hosted by a Bonhams Fine Books and Manuscripts specialist, taking place Sunday, October 16 at 4 pm. All events will be held at Bonhams in New York, located at 580 Madison Avenue.