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A rare 1931, first US book form edition of Dashiell Hammett’s 'The Glass Key', sold at Christie’s New York for $60,000 (£46,875).

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Equalling a record set for the last copy in a dust jacket seen at auction, at Swann Galleries in New York in 2005, it was one of 40 or so lots in the Scott Greenbaum collection of 19th and 20th century literary firsts offered as part of this October 25 sale.

This novel, said to be the writer’s personal favourite among his books, had previously been printed in the USA across four issues of Black Mask magazine, with the same cover illustration used on the first of them.

A set of those four monthly issues was sold for $3200 (£2500) in the New York sale.

However, in this otherwise varied and successful auction there were a number of high-profile disappointments, including Hammett’s Red Harvest, The Dain Curse (both book and galley proofs) and The Thin Man.

A signed and inscribed 1930 first of The Maltese Falcon did sell – albeit at $40,000 (£31,250) rather than in the suggested $60,000-80,000 estimate range.

Melville and Monroe

Literary lots from other sources included a good, unrestored US first of Herman Melville’s Moby Dick… (1851) that had made $5000 at Sotheby’s New York in 1985 as part of the Paul Francis Webster library, but this time out managed $32,000 (£25,000).

Marilyn Monroe’s copy of Gentlemen Prefer Blondes, a 1925 first given to her in 1953 by the book’s obviously very impressed author made $13,000 (£10,155). Anita Loos had inscribed it “…to a true artist and the greatest Lorelei of all time, with my gratitude and devotion”.