New York—Science fiction ruled on May 15 at Swann Galleries’ auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature. Selections from the Estate of Stanley Simon, featuring 84 rare and first editions of cornerstones of the genre, boasted a 98% sell-through rate. All of the offered titles by Isaac Asimov, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Stephen King sold, with many achieving auction records.
Leading the pack was a signed first edition of Dick’s dystopian novel The Man in the High Castle, 1962, which was purchased by a collector for $10,400, above a high estimate of $6,000, a record for the work. Another record was achieved by a signed first edition of Ubik, 1969, at $5,500, while the auction debut of the rare galley proofs for Valis, 1981, reached $5,000.
Simon had acquired several uncorrected proofs of important works, none of which had previously appeared at auction. While not strictly science-fiction, material by Stephen King outperformed in this category. The highlight was the presentation copy of an uncorrected proof of The Stand, 1978, which sold to a collector for $9,100. Also available were one of apparently 28 copies of proofs of King’s The Shining, 1977, inscribed, which sold for five times its high estimate for $6,250, and the complete six-volume set of uncorrected proofs of King’s The Green Mile, 1996, exceeded its $1,200 high estimate to sell for $5,200.
Another highlight from the Simon estate was the complete Foundation trilogy, 1951-53, by Isaac Asimov. Together, the three signed first editions achieved an auction record of $9,750. Also by Asimov, a signed first edition of I, Robot, 1950, reached $6,250, above a high estimate of $3,500. Important editions of Ray Bradbury’s magnum opus Fahrenheit 451, 1953, were led by the limited author’s edition personally inscribed to Simon ($7,500). The popular asbestos-bound edition reached $5,200. All six editions offered were purchased.
Specialist John D. Larson noted, “Sci-fi has always had a multi-generational appeal; pop culture's appetite for literary-based films of this genre continues unabated.” He added, “Material from both the nineteenth & twentieth centuries performed equally well, with a robust 86% sell-through rate overall.”
Further highlights from the auction included the first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s first work, Three Stories & Ten Poems, 1923, which sold to a collector for $23,750. The first editions of Emily Dickinson’s first three books of Poems, 1890-96, reached $13,750.
The next auction of Books at Swann Galleries will be Early Printed, Medical, Scientific & Travel Books on October 16, 2018. The house is currently accepting quality consignments for autumn auctions.
Image: Lot 4: Isaac Asimov, Foundation trilogy, first editions, signed, New York, 1951-53. From the Estate of Stanley Simon. Sold May 15, 2018 for $9,750, a record for the work. (Pre-sale estimate: $4,500 to $6,000)