Fine Books, Autographs & Illustration Art: June 15, 2023 Auction Highlights

Lot 9: Pancho Villa, Autograph Letter Signed, to the governor of Chihuahua soliciting help in persuading authorities to release him from prison, Mexico City, 1912. Estimate $7,000 to $10,000.

Our June Fine Books & Autographs sale features remarkable items signed by U.S. Presidents, musicians, and entertainers, as well as a special selection of autographs by historical figures who aspired to great heights, be they revolutionaries, writers, artists, or aviators.

Bidders will have the opportunity to explore autographs from significant leaders important to Mexican history, including Pancho Villa, whose letter implores the governor of Chihuahua to persuade authorities to release him from prison. The letter was signed and written entirely in his hand while facing execution by firing squad. Also on offer are letters and documents by Emiliano Zapata, Antonio López de Santa Anna and others.

Additional highlights feature three lots from Mahatma Gandhi, including an autograph letter signed to descendants of his old friend Dr. Pranjivan Mehta, urging that they take up a life of public service, as well as autographs from Queen Elizabeth II, Oliver Cromwell and Napoléon.

As with many of the great writers, Ernest Hemingway’s literary works continue to elevate the spirits of readers. In a sequence of lots beginning with a high school scrapbook kept by his classmate and signed thrice in 1917 by Hemingway using playful nicknames, ending with film rights contracts and letters addressed to Hemingway’s attorney concerning Old Man and the Sea and A Farewell to Arms, bidders are offered a glimpse into the character that gave rise to such works. Additional offers include an archive of letters from Ezra Pound, a 1950 typed letter signed by J.D. Salinger mentioning the completion of Catcher in the Rye, and a typed letter signed by Kurt Vonnegut warning his brother in 1946 of the imminent nuclear destruction of humanity.

The autographs portion of the sale concludes with contributions from Andy Warhol, who stamped the heads of ten black cows on a card he signed and inscribed to Robert Indiana, and six lots of Robert Indiana’s holograph sketches used as studies for larger artworks, nearly all signed.

Related Reading

The nineteenth and twentieth century literature portion of the sale is led by one of the earliest known copies of Charles Dickens’ The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, one of an early few deemed a ‘Prime Pickwick’ with this copy bound in book form; further Dickens’ titles includes a first edition of A Christmas Carol in the original cloth. Other notables include a finely bound first American edition of J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, a group of five first editions from Lewis Carroll that includes a copy of Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (London, 1866) and one of 20 signed and numbered copies of Hugh Selwyn Mauberley by Ezra Pound, a limitation not seen at auction in two decades.

Lot 146: Charles Dickens, The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club, ‘Prime Pickwick’ first printing in book form, London, 1837. Estimate $30,000 to $40,000. 
Lot 185: J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings trilogy, first American editions, finely bound by The Chelsea Bindery, Boston, 1954-56. Estimate $9,000 to $12,000. 

Highlights from the Art, Press & Illustrated book offerings include, Das Werk von Gustav Klimt (Vienna, 1918), complete with all 50 plates, a very elusive Edward Gorey item, Elefantômas, one of 26 signed and lettered sets, and seldom seen artist proof copies of both ‘Letters’ and ‘Numbers’ by Erté (Romain de Tirtoff).

The final portion of the sale consists of original illustration art, including cartoons and animation, examples of book and magazine works, fashion and theater related material and others. Headlining this section is John Carleton Atherton’s Saturday Evening Post wartime oil ‘Fall Bounty.’ Other notables include a substantial group of drawings by Charles Schulz with nearly all the Peanuts core characters represented, as well as a fine Madeleine by Ludwig Bemelmans.

Lot 268: Charles Schulz, Peanuts, 13 drawings & 6 colored cels, 1971. Estimate $8,000 to $12,000.

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