Literature in English
Chronology : 1460-1479 1620-1629 2007
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 The Canterbury Tales printed by Caxton
1998 SOLD for £ 4.6M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
He is a very important promoter of English literature, himself making numerous translations of secular texts. He understands the cultural incentive of the printing press during a visit to Cologne in 1471. He immediately transfers a printing press to Bruges. Translated from French by Caxton and printed in Flanders in 1473, the Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye is the very first incunabula in the English language. A copy was sold for £ 1.08M including premium by Sotheby's on July 15, 2014.
When Caxton returned to London in 1476, his new expertise was eagerly awaited. He instals a printing press in Westminster, the first of its kind in England.
His passion for English literature is heightened by this possibility of dissemination. He is a great admirer of Chaucer, which he publishes without resorting to sponsors. Chaucer's masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, becomes in 1477 the first masterpiece of English printing. This achievement is all the more meritorious as Caxton later complained of the poor literary quality of the manuscript at his disposal.
About ten copies of this original edition have survived, plus three important fragments. The only complete copy, which had belonged to King George III, is in the British Library. The illuminated copy kept in Oxford has been completed.
On 8 July 1998 at lot 2, Christie's sold for £ 4.6M including premium the only copy in private hands, which is also one of the most complete with only 4 lacking leaves.
1623 Malone on Shakespeare
2020 SOLD for $ 10M including premium
Shakespeare is the greatest success in English literature and editions are multiplying. Garrick puts Shakespeare still higher in fashion and Edmond Malone devotes his life to the study of his work. Malone proposes in 1778 a chronology of the plays, observes the literary greatness of the First Folio and has a new edition published in 1790.
The production run of the First Folio is estimated at around 750 copies, of which less than one third survive today. 56 copies complete of their 454 leaves are known, of which only 5 are in private hands. One of them was sold for $ 6.2M including premium by Christie's on October 8, 2001.
On October 14 in New York, Christie's sells another complete copy, lot 12 estimated $ 4M.
In 1809 its owner had submitted it to Malone's appreciation just before having it bound. The expert's autograph letter is joined to the volume. Malone found it to be a fine, genuine copy of the First Folio. A few small repairs will be carried out according to his recommendations. This copy has retained the cleanliness observed by Malone more than 200 years ago.
Only five complete copies of the 'First Folio' remain in private hands, and on 24 April in #NewYork, Christie’s will offer the first complete copy to come on the market in almost two decades during our #ExceptionalSale. https://t.co/orNUeX30H0 pic.twitter.com/k90SszIXD0— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) February 25, 2020
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2001 SOLD for $ 6.2M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
John Heminges and Henry Condell, who own overall half of the shares of the Globe Theatre, judiciously decide to reconstruct with the best possible accuracy the whole of Shakespeare's dramatic work. They know 36 plays of which 18 had never been published. They will have to buy back the publishing rights to some plays and to find the partial manuscripts that had been entrusted to the actors to perform their own role.
The print is luxurious, in relation to the literary magnificence of the work. What would later be called the First Folio is a superb volume of 454 leaves 32 x 21 cm, printed in 1623 by Jaggard and Blount.
On October 8, 2001, Christie's sold a copy of the First Folio for $ 6.2M including premium, lot 100. It is complete and is considered in the catalog as one of the two finest copies in private hands.
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2006 SOLD for £ 2.8M including premium by Sotheby'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, lot 13. 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:
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.
1951 On the Road by Kerouac
2001 SOLD for $ 2.43M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
His bulimia of reading turns into a frenzy of autobiographical writing, with which he stages under pseudonyms his companions of travels, drugs, alcohol and homosexual or heterosexual relationships. In 1948 he coins a title for his "travel notes": On the Road.
In December 1950 Neal Cassady sends him the Joan Anderson letter, an exaggerated story triggered by the suicide attempt of a girlfriend. Cassady typed 16,000 words in a total of 18 pages, in a row, without punctuation, without chapters, fulfilling Breton's old dream of a spontaneous prose fueled by feelings.
The final version of On the Road is inspired for style by the Anderson letter, with much more emphasis. It is written on semi-translucent paper of which we will know much later that Kerouac recovered it after the suicide of a friend. He glues the pages end to end as if to form an endless road that unwinds in his typewriter, without punctuation and without paragraphs.
Kerouac worked continuously from April 2 to 22, 1951 on this unprecedented novel. The result is a document 36.50 m long and 23 cm wide, with many handwritten revisions. The format can be compared to the 12.10 m x 11.3 cm autograph roll of the 120 Journées de Sodome by Sade.
The On the Road typescript was sold for $ 2.43M including premium by Christie's on May 22, 2001, lot 307. The final segment is missing because it was chewed by a friend's dog, as reported in an autograph inscription by the author. A photo of an exhibition in 2012 in Paris is shared by Wikimedia with attribution.
Kerouac has never been phased with his own time. His Beat friends reproach him for his refusal to commit in politics, which indeed seems to contradict his rejection of society. On the Road was refused by publishers until 1957. Discouraged by such an incomprehension, Kerouac was even more unseated by the recognition. He died of cirrhosis in 1969, becoming forever the symbol of this modern nomadism that he had launched in his pathetic breakthrough.
2007 Manuscript of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling
2007 SOLD for £ 1.95M in charity sale without fees by Sotheby's
narrated in 2016 before the auction on another manuscript copy by Sotheby's (see below)
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. See report in Wikipedia page dedicated to the title. 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 was sold for £ 370K including premium by Sotheby's in London on December 13, 2016, lot 319. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.