Pleasing Results for Pulitzer Prize Winners at Swann Galleries

New York—The top lots at Swann Galleries’ November 20 auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature were first editions of Pulitzer price winners—and two of them set auction records. Booth Tarkington’s The Magnificent Ambersons, inscribed first edition with dust jacket, 1918, and Edith Wharton’s The Age of Innocence, first edition in first issue dust jacket, New York, 1920, each brought a record $16,800. A first edition in the first issue dust jacket of Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, Philadelphia and New York, 1960, sold for $15,600. Also featured was a humorous typed letter signed from Harper Lee to her editor at Lippincott, February 1967, which achieved a surprising $4,080.

Rounding out the top five lots were John Steinbeck’s Cup of Gold, first edition of the author’s first book, New York, 1929, $14,400 and A.A. Milne’s beloved The Christopher Robin Books, complete set of four first editions, London, 1924-28, $12,000.
John Larson, Swann’s 19th & 20th Century Literature specialist, said, “Determined buyers were out in force, particularly for some rare-at-auction Pulitzer Prize winners, giving lie to the notion that the Modern Firsts market is moribund. The several record prices achieved are ample evidence that collectors will still pay a premium for strong material. Also particularly notable is that all the Henry Alken and Sporting books enjoyed a complete sell-through, with very strong prices.”

Other record setters included two first editions published in 1930, one Sigmund Freud’s work on the conflict between the instinctual needs of the individual and the demands and restrictions of society, Das Unbehagen in der Kultur, which he inscribed to pioneering psychiatrist and sex researcher Havelock Ellis, $7,200, the other a signed first edition of Margaret Ayer Barnes’s Pulitzer-winning novel, Years of Grace, Boston and New York, 1930, $4,320.

Poetry highlights included Jorge Luis Borges, Seven Saxon Poems, signed limited edition with Bronze relief on the cover by Arnaldo Pomodoro, Verona, 1974, $9,000; Phillis Wheatley’s Poems on Various Subjects, Religious and Moral, first edition, London, 1773, $6,000; and a signed copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, Camden, New Jersey, 1876, $5,760.

Also sought after were a signed first edition of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, New York, 1920, $7,200; Henry David Thoreau’s The Writings . . . Manuscript Edition, with an original manuscript sheet, Boston, 1906, $6,480; Ernest Hemingway’s For Whom the Bell Tolls, first edition, signed and inscribed, New York, 1940, $6,000; Dashiell Hammett’s The Thin Man, first edition, signed, New York, 1934, $5,760; and Saul Bellow’s Sammler’s Planet, galley proof with annotations in Bellow’s hand, New York, 1970, $5,520.

The highest priced sporting book was a fine copy of Henry Alken’s The National Sports of Great Britain, London, 1825, $4,560.

For complete results, an illustrated auction catalogue, with prices realized on request, is available for $35 from Swann Galleries, Inc., 104 East 25th Street, New York, NY 10010, or online at

For further information, and to consign items to Swann’s upcoming auctions of 19th & 20th Century Literature, please contact John Larson at 212-254-4710, extension 61, or via e-mail at

*All prices include buyer’s premium.
Auction Guide