Two of the many record-breakers from the auction held at Christie’s to raise funds for English PEN: David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas sold at £22,000 and Hilary Mantel’s Bring Up the Bodies reached £24,000.

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Almost all of them were specially annotated or even illustrated by their authors and were sold to raise funds for English PEN, a long-established human rights organisation that champions the right to read and to write around the world.

In this auction a significant portion of the premium, said Christie’s, was donated to English PEN, and no VAT was payable on either selling price or premiums.

The handful of works noted here were among the many that sold well over estimate and set auction records.

Le Carré cut short

Bid to £28,000 was a copy of The Spy who Came in from the Cold that had been annotated by John Le Carré only as far as page 45 before his death in December 2020 – but those notes did include numerous reflections on his experiences in MI5.

“Many agents lie about their personal lives for fear of losing their salaries. They also babble to their mistress, or the stranger on a train,” he wrote.

An extensively annotated 2012 first of Hilary Mantel’s Bring up the Bodies, the award-winning second work in her Thomas Cromwell trilogy, made £24,000, while a 2001 first of Ian of McEwan’s Atonement, once again heavily annotated, took £18,000.

A 2004 first of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, featuring his notes to every one of its 529pp and even bearing a title-page teacup stain that Christie’s suggested may have been deliberately created by the author realised £22,000.

The online Christie's sale ended on July 12.