Both autograph and typewritten literary manuscripts featured prominently in two recent US sales and in some cases they brought six-figure bids.
A Bonhams New York (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) sale of March 9 presented a separately catalogued group of 28 such lots, among them four Elizabeth Barrett Browning manuscripts that had been valued at $1m or more overall.
On the day, only one sold – and that at $175,000 (£144,035) against an estimate of $400,000-600,000.
This was EBB’s autograph notebook for the years 1835-36, containing drafts for every poem in her first significant collection of verses, The Seraphim and other Poems of 1838. At Sotheby’s in 1984 this extensively revised manuscript had sold at £19,000.
An interesting piece on those EBB lots written by AN Wilson for the Bonhams house magazine can be found at bonhams.com/magazine/23392/
In all, only 13 lots found buyers, but among them was the Oscar Wilde lot which made a treble-estimate $150,000 (£123,455).
Other high spots included Jule’s Verne’s 27pp autograph manuscript for his short story Une fantasie de Docteur Ox of 1871. Sold at Christie’s New York in 1990 for $45,000, it made $90,000 (£74,075) this time.
Two leaves from Sir Walter Scott’s manuscript of Kenilworth (most of which is held by the British Library) that had made £550 at Christie’s in 1983 this time sold for $15,000 (£12,345).
It’s a long story
Sold for $110,000 (£90,535) by Heritage (25% buyer’s premium) on March 8 was the lot illustrated on the cover of the sale catalogue, Jack Kerouac’s typescript of The Dharma Bums.
The 200pp draft that he submitted to Viking for publication in 1958 was copied from the original, 6ft-long scroll-form typescript that in 2003 was sold for $110,000 at Christie’s New York.
In 2001, the 120ft-long typescript scroll of the first draft of On the Road had sold in the same rooms for $2.2m.
Bid to $166,600 (£137,120) in the recent Heritage sale was a famous 18pp typed and autograph letter sent in 1950 to Kerouac by Neal Cassady, a major figure of the ‘Beat Generation’ of that era.
Written while Cassady was high on speed and known as the ‘Joan Anderson Letter’ from his detailed references to his love life, it was a letter that Kerouac admired greatly and one that influenced the direction of his own writing.
Believed lost for decades, it was rediscovered in 2012.