Described as “evidently a fair copy”, signed and dated “Paris 6.iv.1930”, it contained the opening of the ‘Anna Livia Plurabelle’ section beginning “Well; you know or don’t you kennert…”.
Sold at €6200 (£5390), was a 1939 first of At Swim Two Birds by Flann O’Brien (Brian O’Nolan).
Most copies, it is said, were destroyed during German bombing raids on London during the Blitz and the book that Graham Greene describes on the jacket as one in a thousand and “…in the line of Tristram Shandy and Ulysses” is now quite a rarity. This very fine example also contained two of the author’s business cards.
That Dublin price has only once been bettered at auction. One of six first issue copies reserved for the author – and inscribed to his great friend Niall Sheridan, who had helped edit and cut his original draft – that was a copy which made £6500 at Sotheby’s in 2015.
In his contribution to a 1973 work called Myles. Portraits of Brian O’Nolan, Sheridan recalled that he had also been entrusted with taking a copy of the book to James Joyce in Paris:
“He was alone in the flat when I called, and he said Sam Beckett had already praised At Swim- Two-Birds very highly to him and that he looked forward to reading it… [It] was, I am certain, the last novel he ever read”.
Contained in five large folders, an important archive of texts and documents relating to Flann O’Brien’s life and work realised €10,000 (£8695) in the recent Mealy sale.