Signed & Inscribed Oscar Wilde Play Leads Literature Auction
SciFi Works Continue to Prove to be Popular in Swann Literature Sales
Book collectors from far and wide partook in Swann Galleries’ auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature on Tuesday, November 13. The sale saw demand for genre works and classics alike with an 88% sell-through rate.
Specialist John D. Larson noted:
“the strong prices achieved across the spectrum of the sale was impressive, with canonical titles by Poe, Hemingway and Wilde leading the way. In addition, the more recent material, particularly the sc-fi variety, went from strength-to-strength with auction records set by Asimov, Philip K. Dick and Heinlein, proving once again the sky is no limit.”
Topping the sale was a first edition of Oscar Wilde’s Lady Windermere’s Fan. A Play About a Good Woman, 1893. The presentation copy signed and inscribed by Wilde to Elisabeth Marbury–a leading play agent in New York who handled all of the author’s plays in America–was sold for $27,500 to a collector after breakneck bidding.
The first American edition of All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque commanded $9,375 over its high estimate of $6,000. The 1929 book included the author’s signature and an inscription to the daughter of Carl Laemmle–the founder of Universal Studios.
Top prices earned by Transcendentalist authors include Henry David Thoreau’s 1845 Walden; or, Life in the Woods, which garnered $11,250. The author’s 1906 manuscript edition of The Writings, which featured a handwritten selection from Autumnal Tints, brought $8,750.
Lot 261: Henry David Thoreau, The Writings, 20 volumes, manuscript edition, Boston, 1906.
Walt Whitman was present with a signed author’s edition of Leaves of Grass, 1876; and a signed first collected edition of Whitman’s Poems & Prose, 1888; which sold for $7,500 and $5,250, respectively.
Lot 278: Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass, author’s edition, signed, Camden, 1876. Sold for $7,500.
Lot 277: Walt Whitman, Complete Poems & Prose, first collected edition of Whitman’s works, signed, Camden, 1888. Sold for $5,250.
Additional works by Transcendentalists included the first edition, presentation copy, of Ralph Waldo Emerson’s May-Day and Other Pieces, 1867, which realized $3,750. The publication featured the author’s signature and an inscription to his nephew.
Lot 106: Ralph Waldo Emerson, May-Day and Other Pieces, first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed to his nephew, Boston, 1867. Sold for $3,750.
Other notable publications from the late nineteenth century included the first edition, first printing of Edgar Allan Poe’s Tales, 1845, which produced $15,000.
Lot 231: Edgar Allan Poe, Tales, first edition, first printing, New York, 1845. Sold for $15,000.
Appearing for the first time in its extraordinarily rare dust jacket was Jack London’s The Sea-Wolf, 1904. The first edition, second issue, brought $6,250.
Lot 200: Jack London, The Sea-Wolf, first edition, second issue, in extraordinarily rare dust jacket, New York, 1904. Sold for $6,250.
Other early twentieth-century literature included the first edition of Gaston Leroux’s Le Fantôme de l’Opéra, 1910. The scarce example garnered $5,250.
Records for works signed and inscribed by Philip K. Dick to his last romantic partner, Joan Simpson, included a 1970 first edition of Our Friends From Frolix 8, and a 1970 first hardcover edition of Galactic Pot-Healer. The works earned $5,000 and $4,750, respectively.
Lot 81: Philip K. Dick, Our Friends From Frolix 8, first edition, presentation copy, signed and inscribed to Joan Simpson, New York, 1970. Sold for $5,000.
Lot 78: Philip K. Dick, Galactic Pot-Healer, first hardcover edition, presentation copy, signed and inscribed to Joan Simpson, New York, 1970.
Also by Philip K. Dick: the original 1952 typescript for Martians Come In Clouds, won for $9,375. The early story was published in a 1954 issue of Fantastic Universe.
Lot 80: Philip K. Dick, Martians Come In Clouds, original 1952 typescript, later published in Fantastic Universe, June/July 1954. Sold for $9,375.
Additional science fiction and genre works included a pre-proof copy of Stephen King’s It, 1986. The unique example represents the book’s earliest state of production and brought $4,000.
Lot 184: Stephen King, It, pre-proof copy, New York, 1986. Sold for $4,000.
Other records were set by Isaac Asimov, with a signed and inscribed first edition of The Caves of Steel, 1954, which earned $7,500, while a signed first edition of The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, 1966, by Robert A. Heinlein, reached $5,250.
Lot 3: Isaac Asimov, The Caves of Steel, first edition, presentation copy, signed and inscribed, Garden City, 1954. Sold for $7,500.