Records & Results: 19th & 20th Century Literature

First editions and inscribed copies filled the shelves at our May 16 auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature. The sale broke several auction records and encompassed a variety of genres, dates and media. The trifurcated Books department (specializing in Art Books and Early Printed Books as well as Literature), is as old as Swann Galleries itself.


Lot 188: T.E. Lawrence, Seven Pillars of Wisdom, privately printed edition, inscribed,
London, 1926. Sold May 16, 2017 for $62,500.


The top lot of the sale was a complete privately printed edition of Seven Pillars of Wisdom, 1926, by T.E. Lawrence, the inspiration for the classic film Lawrence of Arabia. The stunning tome, bound in green leather, boasts 65 plates and color illustrations by contemporary artists. The present copy was inscribed by Lawrence and given to his dentist, Warwick James; it was purchased by a collector for $62,500.


Lot 61: George Cruikshank, The Scourge, first edition, complete set of 12 volumes, London, 1811-16.
Sold May 16, 2017 for $11,250, a record for the work.


An auction record was achieved for the complete set of 12 volumes of The Scourge; or Monthly Expositor of Imposture and Folly, 1811-16, illustrated by George Cruikshank. This was only the third complete set ever to appear at auction; the final, twelfth volume is extremely scarce due to the dwindling subscriber numbers towards the end of the periodical. The set was especially unusual because it contained the rare suppressed plate of A Financial Survey of Cumberland, or Beggars Petition, 1815, which overtly suggested the disgraced Duke of Cumberland had murdered his valet, in both its censored and uncensored state. After breakneck bidding, a collector made the winning bid of $11,250.


Lot 73: Fyodor Dostoyevsky, The Brothers Karamazov, first American edition, New York, 1912. Sold May 16, 2017 for $10,000.


The auction debut of the first American edition of Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s The Brothers Karamazov, 1912, set a strong precedent, exceeding its high estimate of $7,500 to reach $10,000.


Lot 96: William Faulkner, Soldiers’ Pay, first edition, New York, 1926. Sold May 16, 2017 for $21,250.


Half of the highest prices in the sale went to first editions of cornerstones of American literature. Twentieth-century authors performed especially well, with William Faulkner’s first novel, Soldiers’ Pay, leading the pack at $21,250. The first edition of Main Street, 1920, by Sinclair Lewis, achieved a new auction record of $6,500. Harper Lee’s monumental To Kill A Mockingbird, 1960, sold for more than five times its high estimate of $1,000, finally finishing at $5,750. Similarly, a first edition with the dust jacket of The Pastures of Heaven, 1932, charmingly inscribed by author John Steinbeck to his friend Louis Paul, reached $13,750.


Lot 147: Ernest Hemingway, A Farewell to Arms, first trade edition, presentation copy, inscribed, New York, 1929.
Sold May 16, 2017 for $6,750.


Works by American modernist author Ernest Hemingway were well received, with 100% of the 14 offered lots going to buyers after frenzied bidding. An inscribed first trade edition of A Farewell to Arms, 1929, reached $6,750, while a first edition of Death in the Afternoon, 1932, was purchased for $2,125.


Lot 171: James Joyce, Ulysses, first edition, on handmade paper, number 724,
Paris, 1922. Sold May 16, 2017 for $33,750.


Another highlight was a rare limited first edition on handmade paper of James Joyce’s magnum opus Ulysses, 1922, which exceeded its high estimate to sell for $33,750.


For full results, browse the catalogue. The next auction of 19th & 20th Century Literature will be held on November 14, 2017.