Literature Auction Reaches $500,000 at Swann Galleries

96-PhilipKDick copy.jpgNew York—Swann Galleries’ auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature on Tuesday, November 14 offered a veritable library of scarce first editions and inscriptions by authors from the last two centuries. More than two thirds of the sale was devoted to twentieth-century literature, with myriad genres represented among the highlights.

Topping the sale was the deluxe centenary limited edition set of 18 volumes comprising the works of Ian Fleming, the creator of James Bond. Each tome is ensconced in a custom leather binding reflecting its contents: Casino Royale features playing cards, while Octopussy is adorned with undulating tentacles. 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what would have been Fleming’s one-hundredth birthday, includes a selection of the author’s travel writings, previously unpublished stories and a copy of Chitty-Chitty-Bang-Bang.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 work reached $30,000, tying the previous auction record.

Works by William Faulkner performed well, selling 100% of the lots offered. 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, was especially important because its inscription was specifically referenced in Joseph Blotner’s Faulkner: A Biography, 1974 ($22,500).

An auction record was established for Het Achterhuis, known in English as The Diary of Anne Frank. The true first edition of the iconic work, in the exceedingly rare unrestored dust jacket showing the author’s name in yellow rather than blue, sold to a collector for $18,200.

Each of the four works by Philip K. Dick offered found buyers, with three of those surpassing their previous auction records. The cover lot for the sale, a signed first edition of World of Chance, 1956, reached $7,250, a record for the work, above a high estimate of $4,000. The stand-out lot was the first edition of The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, 1965, inscribed by Dick: it far exceeded its high estimate of $3,000, finally selling for $16,250, a record for the work.

The auction debut of The Intelligent Investor, by Benjamin Graham, was well-received: financiers competed for the first printing of the first edition, in the original dust jacket, achieving $8,750, over a high estimate of $6,000.

John D. Larson, Specialist of 19th & 20th Century Literature at Swann Galleries, said of the sale: “The high sell-through rate and the high prices achieved once again demonstrate that the top-quality material will find enthused bidders. As always, condition is paramount, especially for books published after 1800.”

The next auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature at Swann Galleries will be held May 15, 2018. The house is currently accepting quality consignments.

Image: Lot 96: Philip K. Dick, The Three Stigmata of Palmer Eldritch, first edition, inscribed, Garden City, 1965. Sold November 14, 2017 for $16,250, a record for the work. (Pre-sale estimate: $2,000 to $3,000).

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