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First Edition

Book collectors seek out first editions as they represent the original form in which a book was originally published.

Signed and inscribed copies are even more desirable, and the ‘dedication copy’ – the copy which is inscribed to the person to whom the author dedicated the book – is more sought after still.


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Frankenstein and the fireproof book

22 June 2004

A TYPED first draft of Henry Miller’s Tropic of Cancer in which he uses real names of characters and places, not the pseudonyms of the finished book, carried a $100,000-150,000 estimate in a May 27 modern literature sale held in San Francisco by PBA Galleries but it joined a long list of unsold lots.

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Heath Robinson’s asbestos fun

16 June 2004

IN a May 18 sale held by Tennants of Leyburn, a copy of the 1902, first trade edition of The Tale of Peter Rabbit, bearing a neat inscription that was added 90 years later, was lotted with a copy of Jack and the Beanstalk in English hexameters by Hallam Tennyson and illustrated by Randolph Caldecott [1886?] and sold for £1000.

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Swedish history bound for a French king

16 June 2004

A VERITABLE feast awaits lovers of early bindings at Christie’s on July 7, when they present the first part of the Michel Wittock collection, a 118-lot sale of Renaissance bindings, but seen right is something rather special from their sale of June 2.

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Emma the leading lady and still a bestseller...

10 June 2004

EMMA was the leading lady in a May 19 sale held by Dreweatt Neate of Newbury, an 1816 first of Jane Austen’s novel selling at £6000. Catalogued as bound in both contemporary half red morocco and later boards, it retained the half title to Vol. III only and showed a little spotting and staining. It also bore the booklabels of Gilbert Bethune of Balfour.

On the origin of a couple of Austens

10 June 2004

BOUND in half calf gilt and marbled boards, the three-vol., 1813 second edition of Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice that sold for £4600 in a May 21 sale held by John Bellman of Billingshurst bore the pencil initials H.D. for Horace Darwin (Charles Darwin’s son) and his bookplates were to be found in a copy of the 1818, four-vol. first edition of Northanger Abbey and Persuasion in a similar but less well-preserved binding that sold at £2500.

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Postcard offers brief new note on Chamber Music

10 June 2004

A POSTCARD sent by Joyce to the publisher Elkin Mathews sold for €12,000 (£8170) in a May 18 sale held by Mealy’s in Dublin.

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Californian Wizardry

02 June 2004

A children’s and illustrated sale held by Pacific Book Auctions of San Francisco on May 13 included a collection of Oz books by L. Frank Baum.

Wrong-footed Somerset Maugham jacket design brings $42,500

19 May 2004

THE first part of the Maurice F. Neville collection of modern literature, which sold for a premium-inclusive $5.22m (£2.95m) at Sotheby’s New York on April 13, was primarily but certainly not wholly focused on the work of American writers. Seen here are two of the English books that brought strong results.

Cornish Hobbit has few financial rivals

13 May 2004

A 1937 FIRST edition of The Hobbit was always likely to be the big story in the April 14 books and collectables sale held by David Lay of Penzance. In a jacket with some chips and losses, notably towards the spine ends, and showing an ink correction to the mis-spelt version of Charles Dodgson’s name on the back flap, it duly sold at £10,500.

Man and Ape

01 April 2004

Edward Tyson’s Orang-outang, sive homo sylvestris: Or, the anatomy of a pygmiecompared with that of a monkey, an ape, and a man... was the first work to demonstrate scientifically the structural relationships between man and anthropoid ape and one which had a powerful influence on subsequent thoughts on man’s place in nature – albeit the orang-outang on which his work was based was actually a young chimpanzee.

£9200 for The Chimes that Dickens gave to a man who struck back

23 September 2003

THERE were very few books in the September 9 antiques sale held by Sworders of Stansted Mountfitchett, but one of them was a copy of Charles Dickens’ The Chimes that was signed and inscribed to a man with whom Dickens was later to become involved in a tiresome and disagreeable round of threats of litigation – an episode that was categorised in the title of a 1996 American book on the subject as The Charles Dickens-Thomas Powell Vendetta.

The Hobbit reaches £40,000 at Sotheby's.

20 August 2003

Last summer Sotheby’s took a bid of £36,000 on a copy of the 1937 first edition of The Hobbit inscribed in October of that year to Tolkien’s Aunt Jane; this summer they raised £40,000 for a copy that he had inscribed at the time of publication.

Subastas Segre sale

24 July 2003

Subastas Segre (16% buyer’s premium) held their monthly sale from May 20 to 22. In the picture catalogue, top price was the double-estimate €30,000 (£22,060) for a complete set of Goya’s Caprichos, catalogued as First Edition but not in ideal condition. A 3ft 3in (1m) square abstract oil on canvas of 1982 by Fernando Zobel (1942-1984), whose work is highly regarded in Spain, made €23,700 (£17,425).

Early issue Hobbits have a £10,300 day out in Hagley

03 June 2003

Apparently consigned for sale by a local lady who had no idea of its commercial potential – it had been acquired as holiday reading when she was a young girl – a 1937 first edition of The Hobbit was sold at £10,300 in a general antiques sale held by Fieldings in Hagley, Worcester-shire, on April 26.

‘Woman as good as Man’ and other Departmental Ditties…

21 May 2003

SOLD AT £600 (Temple) in the April 25 sale held by Y Gelli (15% buyer's premium) in Hay-on-Wye was a “much nicer than average” copy of the 1886, privately printed, Lahore first edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Departmental Ditties and other Verses. One of 350 copies of this tall, narrow production, printed on one side only, it was in the original wrappers but with the flap removed, leaving an uneven fore-edge to the upper wrapper.

$200,000 for first (lunar module data) book on the moon

14 May 2003

It hardly qualifies as a book, but the data card book in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin recorded critical values for input into the lunar module computer during the Apollo XI mission of 1969, autograph data that enabled them to make the first moon landing, certainly qualifies as an historical technical document.

Joseph Crawhall – a talent for art and eccentricity

04 April 2002

“Pistol Sir – yes Sir – here you are sir – Revolver – most improved construction – 6 chambers sir – 2 for your wife – 2 for the destroyer of your happiness – 2 for yourself Sir – all the rage Sir – sell hundreds of ’em for bridal presents Sir !!!”....

A horrid Hobbit and a glimpse of London shadows and swamps

07 February 2002

The estimate of £25-35 placed on a second impression copy of Tolkien’s The Hobbit was a reflection of its condition – “deplorable” being the cataloguer’s chosen epithet. There was no jacket and 20-30 leaves had been torn loose, one of which had been further torn into four (now three) pieces.

Where to go in London – in 1876

09 November 2001

A 1926 first, limited edition copy of Winnie the Pooh, signed by both Milne and Shepard, that came for sale in these Rendells Devon auction rooms on 12 October was in the original binding but dampstained to the front board, causing some loss of the paper. It sold at £950.

P is for the Potters – Beatrix and Harry

27 July 2001

THERE WAS no competing with Harry Potter in the Sotheby’s sale of July 10, and bidding rose to £75,000 for Thomas Taylor’s original illustration for the the book that launched those wizard tales in 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but Beatrix Potter did her bit too, as did Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, W. Heath Robinson, E.H. Shepard, Lawson Wood, Ronald Searle, Dr Seuss and others.