Literature in English
Chronology : 1460-1479 1620-1629 1800-1809
1473 An English Merchant in the Burgundian Court
2014 SOLD 1.08 M£ including premium
The court of Philippe le Bon was the most luxurious in Europe. Perpetuating the traditions of chivalry, the Duke encouraged literature. One of his protégés, Raoul Lefèvre, successively wrote a story of Jason and a history of Troy.
Charles succeeds Philippe in 1467. His marriage in the following year with Margaret, sister of Edward IV, is an opportunity for Caxton. To please the new ducal couple, he immediately began to translate into English the Troy of Lefèvre. He finished this work in 1471.
Charles the Bold was like his father a great patron of the illuminators. Caxton had traveled throughout Europe and his confidence in printing is extraordinary in this context. The Histoire de Troie translated by Caxton becomes in 1473 or 1474 the first book printed in vernacular English.
A copy of this edition is estimated £ 600K, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 15, lot 502.
This book was probably printed in Bruges in the entourage of Colard Mansion. Translator and probably editor, Caxton undoubtedly contributed actively to this achievement. After this successful experience, Caxton became the first English printer when he came back to London in 1476.
POST SALE COMMENT
This good copy of the first printed book published in the English language was sold for £ 1.08 million including premium.
First book printed in English □#OnThisDay in 2014 a copy of The Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye, first published around 1474, sold at @Sothebys for £1,082,500. The book was a translation by British print pioneer William Caxton of a French original. pic.twitter.com/e2l95HRNLf— GuinnessWorldRecords (@GWR) July 15, 2019
1477 Canterbury Tales by Chaucer
1998 SOLD for £ 4.6M (including premium ?) by Christie's
1516 The True Utopia
2010 SOLD 325 K€ including premium
Humanists are looking for an ideal. Utopia passed into everyday language. It is a pun derived from the Greek byThomas More, both Eutopia (the place that does not exist) and Outopia (the place of happiness). What a program!
Thomas More makes it the title of his masterpiece of political literature, in Latin, printed in a small in-quarto of 54 sheets 20 x 14 cm in 1516 by Thierry Martens at Louvain. Erasmus had acted as intermediary in this operation. It includes the map of the island of Utopia, its special alphabet, and all thoughts of Thomas More on the ideal way to govern a country.
A bibliophile of the eighteenth century attached to a copy of the original edition of Utopia an in-octavo of the same time where an author named Giovanni Francesco Bracciolini discusses the craft of a prince. The copy being so assembled is for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on May 18. It is estimated 200 K €.
Engaged in political affairs, opponent of the Lutherans, moralist, Thomas More became a
martyr of humanism for trying to thwart Henry VIII. He wanted the deletion, or at least a reduction, of personal power.The solution laid in a permanent intervention of the state. Like Draco in Athens, two millennia before him!
POST SALE COMMENT
Two results at 325 K € including premium in this sale. Both have a connection with Erasmus.
One of them is the rare original edition of Thomas More's Utopia, that little book which is so important in the history of ideas.
The other is an imposing 10-volume collected works of St. Augustine, edited by Erasmus in 1528 and 1529 and annotated with thousands of commentaries from a religious thinker of the time. An announcement illustrated by a detail had been shared before the sale by Guardian.
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2001 SOLD for $ 6.2M including premium by Christie's
1623 The Quadricentennial of Shakespeare's Death
2016 SOLD for £ 1.87M including premium
The First Folio, published in 1623, is of utmost importance in the history of literature since it is the first edition for 18 of the 36 collected plays. It is a beautiful edition 30 x 20 cm for which the texts have been prepared with great care. A complete copy in splendid condition was sold for $ 6.2 million including premium by Christie's on 8 October 2001 over a lower estimate of $ 2M.
The example offered in the next sale was not yet known to scholars. It is resurfacing from the descendance of a prominent bibliophile who was also a scientist of the Enlightenment. Untouched for two centuries, the book has kept a remarkably fresh condition but the nine preamble leaves are missing and several repairs are announced in the catalog. It is estimated £ 800K, lot 101.
The Second Folio, published for the first time in 1632, is very close to the First Folio with respect to the Shakespearean corpus and the bibliophile had perhaps not desired to own it. The copy for sale atlot 102, printed circa 1641, comes from another source. It is estimated £ 180K.
The other two books were in the same collection as lot 101. The Third Folio was published in 1664. This copy in an exceptionally fresh preservation is estimated £ 300K, lot 103. This edition is very rare. At lot 104 the Fourth Folio, dated 1685, is estimated £ 15K.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
First Folio : £ 1.87M
Second Folio : £ 195K
Third Folio : £ 360K
Fourth Folio : £ 47K
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's to introduce the First Folio of the next sale:
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2010 SOLD 1.5 M£ including premium
In 1623, seven years later, his closest collaborators had restored and released the closest version of his texts, by memory and using scattered manuscripts. This remarkable and prestigious edition is known as the First Folio. It is forever used as the top reference for any Shakespearean scholarship.
A story gives an idea of the passion that animated the work of these collecters. The printing of the First Folio was suspended over a hundred times to make corrections to the text, so that one cannot find two identical books.
On December 7 in London, Sotheby's auctions a First Folio in very good condition. It has the rare feature of being complete as regards to the texts of all the 36 collected plays.
The estimate, £ 1M, seems low. The same auction house sold £ 2.8 million including premium another complete copy on July 13, 2006. It had been estimated £ 2.5 million, correctly. The binding of the mid-seventeenth century was a little earlier, but I doubt that it explains such a price difference. Wait for the result!
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, £ 1.5 million including premium, is in the upper part of the estimate range.
1804 My Dear Watsons
2011 SOLD 1 M£ including premium
In 1804, she has already tested several literary genres, but has not yet published. She began writing a new novel, The Watsons. In accordance with her favorite theme, she develops the various social strategies of four sisters. This largely autobiographical novel was finally stopped at the death of her father.
The first twelve pages of the manuscript of The Watsons are kept at the Pierpont Morgan Library in New York. The following eight pages have not been located, and the last 68 pages are estimated £ 200K, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 14.
Jane Austen's manuscripts are extremely rare. They are also of great interest to understand the creative process of this excellent author, thanks to the numerous revisions made by Jane to look for the right word.
POST SALE COMMENT
The uniqueness of this lot is confirmed by the result: £ 1M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared on the web by Sotheby's:
1827 Just Before Edgar Poe
2009 SOLD 660 K$ including premium
It is a small book of 40 pages, 162 x 107 mm, printed in Boston in 1827 by Calvin Thomas, who has otherwise left no trace in literary history. For this format, it could be a pamphlet. It is a collection of poems by an anonymous author: "Tamerlane and Other Poems by a Bostonian."
Byron died in 1824. The very young author of Tamerlane was inspired by his illustrious predecessor to become himself the first great American romantic poet. The author, however, still seeks his own personality. His preface even states that his poems are of low quality.
Two years later, he chooses to use his real name to sign his works:
Edgar A. Poe.
Such a book published on author account had no chance of success at that time. In bibliophily, the rarest pieces are frequently unsuccessful editions like this one. Only twelve copies are known including only two in private hands.
One of them is that of Christie's, of course. The other one was purchased $ 15 on February 29, 1988 in an antique shop, and sold $ 198K at auction at Sotheby's on June 7 of the same year.
Source: Article Tamerlane and Other Poems of Wikipedia and its external links.
POST SALE COMMENT
The estimate might seem high, but the sale is successful: 660 K $ including premium.
Here is the picture of the cover of this copy, shared prior to the sale by Telegraph.
For #worldbookday, I asked my fellow specialists to share some of their favorite books that have passed through the Christie's salerooms. NYC specialist Heather's pick is the Self copy of the first edition of Poe's first book, Tamerlane. https://t.co/7ECjt2oYne pic.twitter.com/tIxK8xsNoZ— Christie's Books (@ChristiesBKS) March 1, 2018
1830 The Games of the Brontë Children
2011 SOLD 690 K£ including premium
The Reverend Patrick Brontë is a pastor in Haworth, West Yorkshire. His wife dies in 1821, leaving him with six children : Maria, Elizabeth, Charlotte, Branwell who is the only boy, Emily and Anne. The sister of the mother becomes the housekeeper of the family.
Patrick Brontë makes a serious mistake : he sends his four elder daughters to a lodging school that proves unhealthy. In 1825 Maria and Elizabeth die of tuberculosis. Charlotte is traumatized by these two deaths. She will need to take refuge in an imaginary world.
In 1827 the four surviving siblings begin a secret game in which they share the world around a capital named Glass Town. Toy soldiers are their emissaries, one per child. Personifying a hero of the history or an explorer according to the choice of the child, these toys have a role of links with the real life.
This secret activity takes some extent. In 1829, inspired by the father's literary culture and by the regular reading of Gothic stories in Blackwood's Magazine, Branwell decides that Glass Town needs a magazine. Charlotte takes the lead in this new game. They become writers and compose stories of adventures and travels.
One of these issues is titled Second Series of the Young Men's Magazine, No. second for September 1830 edited by Charlotte Brontë. It is entirely autographed by Charlotte then aged 14, and dated August 19, 1830.
The children used five sheets, each folded in half, which they sewed into a wrapper in brown paper. The format of these twenty pages, 35 x 61 mm, is as small as possible so that the book and its contents can escape the adults. Charlotte used from end to end an extremely tight script imitating print characters, with a total of over 4,000 words. The set is inserted in a slip-off case 5 x 7 cm.
This unpublished little book was sold for £ 690K including premium by Sotheby's on December 15, 2011, lot 46. I discussed it in this column before the sale. It is estimated € 600K for sale by OVA Aristophil in Paris (Hôtel Drouot) on November 18, lot 11. The sale is operated by Aguttes.
1899 The Importance of being Oscar's Friend
2012 SOLD for $ 360K including premium by Sotheby's
2015 SOLD for £ 197K including premium
Oscar Wilde wanted to have a flamboyant life while attacking literary taboos, with no restriction for verbal provocation. He succeeded. The Picture of Dorian Gray, his great novel published in 1890, brilliantly demonstrates that the opposition between aesthetics and ethics can be total. The writer, Balzac for example, does not copy life, he creates it.
Oscar had been raised as a girl by his mother but does not seem to be interested in an active homosexuality before 1886 when he meets Robert Ross. Ross deliberately violates the English law that prohibited this practice since the previous year. Their friendship will remain steadfast until the death of Oscar even when the writer falls madly in love with Alfred Douglas.
1895 marks a turning point in the life of Oscar Wilde. His play The Importance of being Earnest provides the best example of his wit and subtlety in a plot relying on real and fake identities of the characters, long before Pirandello. In the same year, he claims too loudly his right to homosexuality in the trials for immorality that are brought against him by Alfred's father.
The Importance of being Earnest is published in London in 1899 in quarto size. The author lives in exile in France after being released from the British jails. He warmly inscribes to Ross one of the twelve copies on Japanese vellum. This valuable book was sold for $ 360K including premium by Sotheby's on April 20, 2012. It is now estimated £ 160K for sale by Sotheby's in London on November 24, lot 132.
Robert Ross had a highly important role in preserving the work of Oscar Wilde during his last years and afterward as the executor of his will. The writer owes much to him for his posthumous rehabilitation. The scandal is off. In 1950, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Oscar's death, the ashes of Robert Ross are installed in the funerary sculpture commissioned by him and dedicated to the writer at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
1935-1936 Why was the Sun shining on London
2013 SOLD 960 K£ including premium
Formerly a collaborator of Joyce, Beckett came to London to undergo psychoanalysis. He disliked the city, where he locates this novel. All the action follows the mental confusion, or rather the mental disaster, of an idle character who finds a job as a male nurse in a psychiatric hospital.
Beckett already sees reality as a nonsense. A degree of freedom is obtained by the mind, but it is easily vanishing.
The first version of the novel was titled "Sasha Murphy." Murphy is often seen as a tribute to stricken chess genius Paul Morphy, the paranoid who wandered in the streets of New Orleans to talk to invisible interlocutors. I speculate that Sasha could designate Alekhine.
On July 10 in London, Sotheby's sells the complete draft of Sasha Murphy, written from August 1935 to June 1936 in 776 pages divided into six notebooks 20x16 cm. This manuscript is a dive into the creative act of one of the most complicated of twentieth century writers, with many small drawings.
Beckett wanted his novel to reach perfection according to his own criteria and ever doubted of the result, which explains the numerous author's remorses which he carefully dated.
Entitled simply Murphy, the final version will be rejected by forty publishers. Beckett was certainly pleased to have succeeded in writing a book understandable only by himself.
On the opposite, when the Nobel Committee awarded him the prize in 1969, he considered this honor as an intolerable insult to the hermeticity of his description of nothingness. However, unlike Sartre, he accepted.
The manuscript is estimated £ 800K. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The uniqueness of this manuscript had been properly announced. It was sold for £ 960K including premium.
1947-1951 Desire from Stage to Screen
2015 SOLD for $ 406K including premium
Elia Kazan is one of the first experimenters of this revival of theater and cinema. He is the producer of the drama by Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, from December 1947. A new tone is set in the shows. Revealed by the play, the very young Marlon Brando already brings his refusal of conventions and his brute force.
In 1949, the same triumphant welcome rewards another theatrical realization of Kazan, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. In 1951, Kazan is adapting the Streetcar of Williams for the cinema.
Tennessee Williams brought his personal torments in A Streetcar Named Desire. He is homosexual and his beloved sister is insane. He comes as close as possible to the expression of lust while maintaining the restrictions necessitated by the risk of censorship. The public understands and is enthusiastic.
On December 14 in New York, Sotheby's sells a set of working papers by Tennessee Williams for the Streetcar, from the writing of the play and the stage instructions up to his support for the scenario of the film.
This lot consists of typescripts with manuscript notes and also includes some correspondence and photos. It is estimated $ 300K,lot 108.
2007 The Special Edition of Beedle the Bard
2016 SOLD for £ 370K including premium
In seven books, Harry Potter reaches an unprecedented popular success with 450 million copies sold. J.K. Rowling uses much of her immense wealth for charities.
The author has learned to maintain the excitement through the media. In 2007, the final volume of Harry Potter is published. A character in this book reads a fictitious collection of fantastic stories entitled The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
J.K. decides to give a reality to this fictitious book. She writes five stories which she collects and prepares in seven autograph copies, illustrated by herself. The first six are sent by mail on December 12, 2007 in gratitude to friends who had helped her to publish the Harry Potter books.
The next day the seventh manuscript was sold by her at Sotheby's for The Children's Voice charity after an intense media buzz. Estimated between £ 30K and 50K and offered without buyer's fees, it is acquired by a broker acting for Amazon for £ 1.95M. The public is excited and frustrated by this book which is not accessible to them. J.K. authorizes Amazon to use their copy for preparing an edition which becomes a new best seller as soon as it is released.
One of the six presentation manuscripts of The Tales of Beedle the Bard is estimated above £ 300K for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 13, lot 319. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.