Category: Book Auction

First Edition ‘Hobbit’ Inscribed By J.R.R. Tolkien Sets Huge New Sales Record, Because Fans Will Pay A TON For a Rare Book

hobbit first editionSource:

If you think you’d shell out a lot for a rare book, I bet you wouldn’t pay this much. At a recent auction a first edition copy of The Hobbit inscribed by J.R.R. Tolkien fetched — are you ready for it? — £137,000, or about $209,000. The buyer paid an unprecedented amount for the rare book, exceeding even the already-staggering projected sale price.

Leading up to the auction, The Guardian reports that the book was expected to go for between £50,000 and £70,000. Until that point, the most a copy of The Hobbit had fetched was around £50,000, back in 2008. Although a record at the time, it looks like a steal in comparison to the latest sale. Book collectors can get seriously into it.

So, what made this particular copy so special that someone was willing to pay for it more than cost of my college education (and without the help of Sallie Mae, mind you)? Besides the fact that people love The Hobbit, it’s one of only a “handful” of inscribed presentation copies. The exclusive group to whom Tolkien gifted them includes the likes of his buddy C.S. Lewis. (I don’t think I even want to know how much that copy would sell for. Probably the equivalent of my undergrad plus a hypothetical medical degree.) This particular book was given to Katherine Kilbride. Now deceased, she was a student of the author at Leeds University back in the 1920s.

College’s decision to auction part of rare book collection upsets donor’s descendants, faculty

Jenks Library

Jenks Library at Gordon College

Published February 27, 2015 Associated Press
Information from: The Boston Globe,

WENHAM, Mass. – A decision by a Christian college to auction a portion of its rare collection of Bibles and Shakespeare folios donated nearly a century ago by the family of a railroad executive isn’t sitting well with his descendants and some faculty members.

The family of Edward Payson Vining donated the 7,000-volume collection to Gordon College, outside Boston, in 1922 with the condition that it remain intact and with the college.

Gordon, which was thrust into the national spotlight last year when its president joined other religious leaders in calling for an exemption to federal workplace protections for gay and transgender workers, wants to sell about 10 percent of the collection, saying it could generate as much as $2.5 million to help preserve the remainder.

“Simply put, the college believes the best way to honor the larger intent of this collection … is applying the proceeds of the sale of the 10 percent of the collection to preserve and maintain the larger 90 percent,” Gordon spokesman Rick Sweeney said.

The sale has the support of the college’s trustees, he said. It originally was scheduled for April but has been postponed indefinitely for an unspecified reason.

Vining’s great-granddaughter, 76-year-old Sandra Webber, told The Boston Globe ( ) she was “shocked” when she was told of the sale by a reporter.

“I know his collection would not want to be broken up,” she said.

Faculty members say they were left out of the decision-making process.

“The Vining collection is an example of the larger issue of a breakdown between the faculty and the administration,” said James Trent, a professor of sociology and social work.

The sale also has disappointed donor Dale E. Fowler, who told the Globe he was considering withdrawing a $60 million bequest. He blamed college president D. Michael Lindsay, who spearheaded the auction.

Officials at Gordon College later insisted Fowler wasn’t considering withdrawing his bequest. Fowler didn’t return messages from The Associated Press seeking comment or clarification on Thursday.

The collection includes a Ximenes Greek Bible, a first-edition Martin Luther German Bible and “Up-Biblum God,” a 1663 Bible translated by the Puritan missionary John Eliot into Algonquin.

Some volumes date to the 1400s and are written in ancient languages from Australia, Southeast Asia and Mexico, said professor K. David Goss, who doesn’t want to see the collection broken up.


“les Essais de Montaigne” Sells at auction for $9,600

A rare book “les Essais de Montaigne” garnered strong interest from many antiquarian book dealers and was finally hammered down at $9,600 at Kaminski Auctions Sale.




Pre sale estimate – Les Essais de Michel Seigneur de Montaigne, Abel L’Angelier, Paris, 1595, 19th century rebinding, all three books in one volume, bound in full red kid leather with inner gilt borders and marbled end pages, the spine lettered in gilt with five raised bands, gilt page edges, 13 1/4″h x 9 1/4″w. Provenance: From a Massachusetts estate.

EST: $3,000 – $5,000

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Rare, Signed James Joyce Dubliners Comes to Auction

Source: Independent IE

James Joyce author of Dubliners

James Joyce

A rare signed first edition copy of Joyce’s Dubliners is set up fetch up to €60,000 when it comes up for auction at Sotheby’s in London next month.

The book was signed by Joyce while he was staying in Torquay, Devon, on August 4, 1929, and it was presented by him to Jacob Schwartz, proprietor of the Ulysses Bookshop in London.

On the inside cover, Joyce wrote: “To Jacob Schwarz (sic) James Joyce.”

A spokesperson for Sotheby’s told the Sunday Independent: “Despite Joyce’s slight misspelling, the recipient (of the book) is almost certainly the proprietor of the Ulysses Bookshop in London, Jacob Schwartz. There are several references to Schwartz in Joyce’s letters where Joyce omits the letter ‘t’.”

First edition copies of Dubliners signed by Joyce are particularly rare and only two other signed copies of the book have been sold at auctions in the last 40 years.

The copy is coming up for sale at Sotheby’s in London on July 15.

Joyce signed Schwartz’s copy of Dubliners during the writer’s two month holiday at the Imperial Hotel, Torquay, with lover and Connemara baker’s daughter, Nora Barnacle.

Signed Dubliners by Joyce

Signed Dubliners by Joyce

Sotheby’s said: “They were accompanied by Stuart and Moune Gilbert and were joined there by friends from time to time, many of whom cheered Joyce by the praise which they lavished on him.”

In his award-winning biography of Joyce, the late Richard Ellmann recalls Joyce’s stay in Torquay: “In his usual deliberate, though seemingly desultory way, Joyce read a series of strange newspapers and magazines. During the afternoons he lay on the beach, as he loved to do, fingering the pebbles for texture and weight. Occasionally he had a rush of energy and during one of these vaulted over a wall, but fell (because his sight was poor) on the other side, hurting his arm. In the evenings he went with (Stuart) Gilbert to local pubs, sipping a little cider (which he did not like) but mainly listening to several conversations at once and, to Gilbert’s wonder, following them all.”

The imminent sale of the signed copy of Dubliners neatly coincides with the centenary this month of the book’s publication in June 1914.

When a signed copy of Dubliners last came up for sale at an auction it fetched STG£105,000 at Sotheby’s in London on December 12, 2012.

The only other signed copy to come up for sale at an auction in the last 40 years sold for $230,000 at Christie’s in New York on October 11,2002.

Schwartz privately published Joyce’s ‘James Clarence Mangan’ under the Ulysses Bookshop imprint in 1930.

He was also the purchaser of the ‘complete and final’ proofs of Ulysses.

– See more at:


Elmore Leonard estate sale includes signed, first edition books



TORONTO — Famed author Elmore Leonard’s personal items are up for grabs this week in Michigan.

The Get Shorty writer died last August at 87.

The estate sale at his home in Bloomfield Hills — about 30 minutes outside Detroit — runs Thursday until Saturday and features first edition and signed books as well as furniture, lamps, linens and rugs.

Photos of what’s available for purchase can be found at

Many of Leonard’s 45 novels were adapted into movies, including Be Cool, Jackie Brown and the made-in-Toronto Killshot.


Defaced first edition of ‘Ulysses’ valued at €13,500

Book was defaced by an irate reader who regarded the book as pornographic…

Ulysses defaced

A copy of Ulysses by James Joyce in which a previous reader has written “A Pornographic Bible” under the title. Photograph: Philip Cloherty

Source: The Irish Times
By: Michael Parsons
First published:
Tue, Dec 31, 2013, 01:00

A first-edition copy of James Joyce’s novel Ulysses has been valued at €13,500 despite having been defaced by an irate reader who regarded the book as pornographic.

Galway-based rare book dealer Norman Healy, who acquired the book in London, said a previous owner had defaced the book by writing the comment “a pornographic Bible” on the famous blue paper cover beneath the title. The word “pornographic” is underlined.

Defaced books are often worthless but such is the desirability of first-edition copies of Ulysses it has been catalogued for resale at €13,500. Mr Healy said the book would normally be valued at about €10,500 but he believed the comment, added by “a previous, less than enthusiastic owner”, had enhanced the value.

The identity of the previous owner is not known but the defacement is likely to have occurred long before the book’s importance and financial value became apparent. The comment reflected the view, widely held in the early 20th century, that Ulysses was scandalous.

Ulysses was published in Paris on Joyce’s 40th birthday, February 2nd, 1922, by Sylvia Beach, an American publisher and founder of the Paris bookshop Shakespeare and Company. A thousand numbered copies were printed, clad in soft covers that featured the title and the author’s name in white on a blue background. A copy can be worth tens or hundreds of thousands of euro, depending on the condition and whether or not it was signed or inscribed by Joyce.

For collectors of rare books, Ulysses is said to be the most sought-after and valuable 20th century first edition. The most valuable are those rare examples that still have the fragile dust-jacket wrapper intact and were signed or inscribed by Joyce.

The defaced “pornographic” copy is missing half the dust jacket and was not signed by Joyce.

The highest price achieved to date for a first edition of Ulysses was for a copy, inscribed by Joyce to Henry Kaeser, a Swiss publisher, that was sold in 2002 at Christie’s, New York, to a private collector for $460,500 (€333,600).

Of the 1,000 first-edition copies of Ulysses, 200 are reliably believed lost or destroyed. Of the 800 copies known to be extant, about half are in public collections – including that of the National Library – and the others are privately owned. Copies occasionally turn up at auction or for sale by dealers.

In the 1920s the New York Society for the Suppression of Vice ensured Ulysses was effectively banned in the United Sates and copies sent there were seized and destroyed by the post office. Despite strict censorship during the 20th century, Ulysses was not banned in Ireland but was not imported, for fear of a prosecution.

Even some of Joyce’s literary contemporaries expressed disapproval of the novel. DH Lawrence regarded Molly Bloom’s soliloquy at the end of the novel as “the dirtiest, most indecent, obscene thing ever written” and told his wife: “This Ulysses muck is more disgusting than Casanova.”

Virginia Woolf was shocked by the “obscenity” she encountered in Ulysses.

In 1934, a US court ruled that the book was neither pornographic nor and obscene. Further editions were then published and the novel became available worldwide.


Rare Book of Psalms Sells for Record-Breaking $14.2 Million

Bay Psalms

A tiny book of psalms from 1640, believed to be the first book printed in what’s now the United States, sold for just under $14.2 million on Tuesday, setting an auction record for a printed book.

The Bay Psalm Book, which was auctioned at Sotheby’s in Manhattan, had a pre-sale estimate of $15 million to $30 million. A copy of John James Audubon’s “Birds of America” was the previous record-holder, selling for $11.5 million at Sotheby’s in 2010.

Only 11 copies of the Bay Psalm Book survive in varying degrees of completeness. The book sold at Sotheby’s was one of two owned by Boston’s Old South Church, which voted to sell it to increase its grants and ministries. Samuel Adams was a member and Benjamin Franklin was baptized at the church, which was established in 1669.

“This is enormous for us,” said the Rev. Nancy Taylor, senior minister of the church. “It is life-changing for the ministries we can do.”

The book was bought over the phone by American businessman and philanthropist David Rubenstein, who plans to lend it to libraries around the country. The sale price included the buyer’s premium.

In April, Taylor called the book “spectacular” and said it is “arguably one of the most important books in this nation’s history.”

The church owned five copies of the 6-inch-by-5-inch book. One is now at the Library of Congress, one is at Yale University and one is at Brown University.

The book was published in Cambridge, Mass., by the Puritan leaders of the Massachusetts Bay Colony just 20 years after the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth.

It was supposed to be a faithful translation into English of the original Hebrew psalms – puritans believed selected paraphrases would compromise their salvation. The 1,700 copies were printed on a press shipped from London.

A yellowed title page, adorned with decorative flourishes, reads: “The Whole Booke of Psalmes, Faithfully Translated into English Metre.” At the bottom, it says: “Imprinted 1640.”

Historians believe an almanac may have come off the press before the Bay Psalm Book. But the chief of rare books and special collections at the Library of Congress, Mark Dimunation, has said the almanac was more of a pamphlet or a broadsheet than a book. No copy of the almanac exists today. Dimunation noted that in the Americas, in general, books were printed in what is now Mexico as early as 1539.

“American poetry, American spirituality and the printed page all kind of combine and find themselves located in a single volume,” Dimunation said of the Bay Psalm Book.

The last time a copy came on the auction block, in 1947, it sold for a record auction price of $151,000, surpassing auction prices for the Gutenberg Bible, Shakespeare’s First Folio and “Birds of America.”

The auction record for any book goes to the Leonardo da Vinci Codex Hammer, a personal notebook of scientific writings and diagrams. It sold for $30.8 million at Christie’s auction house in 1994.


Era ends: Liquidation sale at Berkeley’s Serendipity Books


Source: Berkeleyside
November 7, 2013 11:00 am by Frances Dinkelspiel
Photo: Scott Brown

When Peter Howard, the owner of Serendipity Books, died in March 2011, he left behind more than one million books crammed into his two-level store on University Avenue in Berkeley with the oak barrel hanging out front.

Howard’s collection of rare and antique books was considered one of the best in the country; he often sold books and manuscripts to places like the Bancroft Library at UC Berkeley or the Lilly Library at Indiana University.

The collection included so many amazing items that Bonham’s held six different auctions of his holdings, selling off early editions of John Steinbeck, a broadside by James Joyce, many modern first editions, early baseball memorabilia — even poet Carl Sandburg’s guitar.

But there are still books left to sell. More than 100,000 books, in fact.

On Saturday at 10 a.m., the doors of Serendipity Books at 1201 University Ave. will open for what will surely be one of Berkeley’s most memorable used-book fairs. Eureka Books of Eureka, California, acquired the remainder of the Serendipity collection, and will sell the books on most weekends through Dec. 15. The books start out at $5 early in the sale, and will drop to $1 each in mid-December.

“It was a one of a kind place,” said Scott Brown, the co-owner of Eureka Books, who was also a longtime Serendipity customer. “I don’t think there is another bookstore like Serendipity around.”

The bookstore was a jumble of books stacked high in shelves and in boxes and bags when Howard, 72, died of pancreatic cancer. The auctioneers moved out most of the books, but the store was still a wreck when Eureka Books came in to sort, said Brown. Workers spent weeks reassembling the place.

The mystery section of the second floor was virtually impassable, with bags of books blocking the floor. Many books were still stacked up on high shelves and were unreachable; the Eureka staff brought them down to viewing height. The shelves in the front room were almost empty, but now have been refilled with books from other parts of the store. (The shelves and other fixtures are also for sale.)

“It would not be wrong to say there were 1,000 bags and boxes filled with books in the store,” said Brown. “By the time we unpacked those I would say the whole ground floor was full again.”

Even though the best books were auctioned off, many gems remain, said Brown. There will be an entire section of 18th- and 19th-century leather books on sale for $5.

“While there are no $1,000 books laying around, we left many, many things that were priced in the hundreds,” said Brown.

Howard’s daughters plan to keep the University Avenue building and find a new tenant after the sale, said Brown. They donated Howard’s correspondence with literary luminaries like J. D. Salinger, Graham Greene and Larry McMurtry to the Lilly Library, he said.

A number of leather-bound old books will be on sale for $5 at the Serendipity Books liquidation sale.

Howard started Serendipity Books in 1967 in a small store on Shattuck Avenue and moved to the University Avenue location in 1986. Howard collected a voluminous number of books – he often bought individual’s entire collections. He had a reputation as an astute rare-book dealer. He discovered and saved many important manuscript collections, as well as collecting works by both well-known and lesser-known writers. He consulted with major libraries on what to buy and how much to bid.

“He was one of the major antiquarian book dealers of our time,” said Victoria Shoemaker, a literary agent, close friend and former neighbor of Howard’s.

Howard made some notable purchases in his lengthy career as a bookseller.

In the late 1990s, he bought the 18,000-volume collection of Carter Burden, a descendant of Cornelius Vanderbilt, and a progressive New York politician and businessman. The size of the collection prompted Howard to install space-saving compact shelving, making Serendipity the only bookstore in the world to have such shelving.

In 1991, Howard was offered the archives of Thomas M. Jackson, an Oakland grocer who had served as secretary for the California chapter of the NAACP from 1910 and 1940. After Jackson died, in 1963, someone took his papers to the Berkeley dump. Someone else rescued them and asked Howard to help them find a proper home. Howard sold the papers to the Bancroft Library.

Later in that decade, someone found 946 letters exchanged between two Japanese-American teenagers who met at an internment camp in Utah. Tamaki Tsubokura and David Hisato Yamate were separated for a few years during the war, and they wrote to one another frequently. These letters were also dumped at the Berkeley landfill and later rescued. Howard brokered their sale to the University of Utah.

One indication of the reverence in which Howard was held by the rare-book community came every two years around the time of the Antiquarian Book Fair in San Francisco. Howard would throw a huge party at Serendipity Books the Wednesday before the fair. He would clear the books in his store out of the aisles and off of the tables, tent-over the parking lot, and have Poulet cater the meal. He would have a suckling pig, and the printer, Alistair Johnson, would print up the menu, said Dahm. The party was so popular that the store and tent were jammed.

The liquidation sale will be held from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. almost every weekend through Dec. 15th. Check Here for schedule.

All books will be $5 on Nov. 9, 10, 11, 15, 16, and 17th. Then the price will drop to $3 each book on Nov. 21, 22, 23, and Dec. 5, 6, and 7. The prices drop to $1 on Dec. 12, 13, 14, and 15th.

Visit the Serendipity Books Liquidation sale Facebook page.


Unique collection of first edition books from Wind in the Willows and Gulliver’s Travels illustrator is auctioned

Arthur Rackham

Arthur Rackham

A one off collection of first edition books by the celebrated 20th century illustrator goes under the hammer at Sworders’ Fine Art Auctioneers next week.

The collection is expected to fetch up to £30,000 and contains 26 books – all first editions.

Twenty-one of them are signed and inscribed with humorous pen and ink drawings by Rackham. He was widely regarded as one of the leading illustrators in the first 20 years of the last century when high quality illustrated books were in great demand in what was considered to be the ‘golden age’ of such work.

The books were all given as presents to his wife’s sister and her husband, and handed down through the family who live on the Essex/Hertfordshire border. Each book has a cloth cover with gilt embossed titles and all are in a good condition.

They’re being auctioned at the Books, Prints and Maps sale on Tuesday, November 12 at Sworders’ auction rooms in Stansted Mountfitchet.

Sworders’ managing director, Guy Schooling said: “We are very excited to be selling what we believe to be a unique collection of books. The vignettes are absolutely exquisite. They’re of a high quality and packed with humour. It’s a rare find.”

The books are being auctioned separately and prices range from £800 to £1,500.

Since his death in 1939 Rackham’s work has grown in popularity and his images have been widely used in the greeting card industry. His original drawings are highly sought after and there is expected to be a lot of interest in the auction next week. He illustrated classics such as A Christmas Carol, Wind in the Willows, and Gulliver’s Travels.

Stansted Mountfitchet Saleroom
GES and Sons Limited
Cambridge Road
Stansted Mountfitchet
CM24 8GE

Tel: 01279 817778
Fax: 01279 817779

Telephone Bidding

We can provide telephone bidding for higher value lots. This service is only available for our Country House and Specialist Sales and only on lots with an estimate of £500 or more.

Please phone us on 01279 817778 to request a telephone bid. The number of lines is limited so we would advise booking as early as possible. We require requests before 4pm the day before the sale. We cannot organise telephone bidding on the day of the sale.

We take every care to ensure the smooth running of this service but we cannot be held liable if your bids are missed for any reason. We advise leaving a maximum covering bid in case we are unable to contact you by telephone.

Online bidding

The latest method which is rapidly growing in popularity and allows you to participate in the auction live via your computer.

For our specialist sales, we offer a live online bidding service via for bidders who cannot attend the sale.

To bid online you need to register at


Rare book auction includes the white whale of first editions






Source: Melville House

by Julia Fleischaker

Swann Auction Galleries has listed an extremely rare first edition of Moby-Dick.

Now’s your chance to own the white whale of rare literature! A first edition copy of Moby-Dick: or, The Whale, including extremely rare white endpapers is up for auction at Swann Auction Galleries. Part of their 19th and 20th Century Literature Auction, the edition is expected to go for a mere $35,000-$50,000.

Stephen J. Gertz at BookTryst notes that these endpapers add “upwards of $20,000 to the value of a standard, first American edition, first issue copy with orange endpapers.” So what makes these endpapers so special? According to this collectibles website, “In 1853 a fire at Harpers – the book’s publisher – destroyed all but around 60 copies, making the edition extremely rare. This example is one of only two known that feature white endpapers, further enhancing its desirability.”

Herman Melville isn’t the only bold-faced named included in the auction. Paul Fraser Collectibles takes note of some of the other interesting items:

A signed first edition of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath is also featured with an estimate of $18,000-25,000. It is inscribed: “For Jules and Joyce and also Joan with love John Steinbeck”.

It features the rare flying pig illustration that Steinbeck reserved for close friends. Jules Buck was a movie producer with whom Steinbeck worked on a screenplay that became Eli Kazan’s Viva Zapata.

The dust jacket is in excellent condition with virtually no rubbing or wear, and features the original price of $2.75.

William Faulkner’s The Sound and the Fury is offered as a first edition, with the original cloth-backed patterned boards and dust jacket. A masterpiece of modernism, the book relates the story of the Compson family – formerly wealthy southern aristocrats who have fallen on hard times.

The edition has been expertly repaired on areas of the spine, panel and folds and features a small split to the lower front hinge. It is expected to bring $15,000-20,000.

Other books include an inscribed first edition and one of only 500 copies of T.S. Eliot’s Prufrock and Other Observations ($6,000-$9,000), and a first edition of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s The Scarlet Letter ($6,000-$9,000).

Setting your budget under a grand? There are plenty of options: first editions of Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut, an inscribed Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller, and In Cold Blood, signed by Truman Capote, are just some of the titles being estimated at under $1,000.

The auction starts on November 21, and Swann Galleries lets you bid live online, over email, or on the phone, so don’t forget!

From Swann’s description of Lot 197:

“ONLY FOUND ANOTHER ORPHAN” MELVILLE, HERMAN.Moby-Dick; or, The Whale. 12mo, original black cloth, boards slightly bowed, blind-stamped with heavy rule frame and publisher’s circular device at center of each cover, minor chipping to spine ends, short fray along front joint; white endpapers, double flyleaves at front and back, usual scattered light foxing, 6-page publisher’s advertisement at end, penciled ownership signature on front free endpaper; preserved in 1/4 morocco gilt-lettered drop-back cloth box. New York: Harper & Brothers, 1851

Estimate $35,000 – 50,000

unsophisticated copy of the first american edition, first state binding, containing thirty-five passages and the Epilogue omitted from the English edition (published a month earlier). Melville himself famously described his book thus: ‘It is the horrible texture of a fabric that should be woven of ships’ cables and hawsers. A Polar wind blows through it, and birds of prey hover over it.’

Julia Fleischaker is Melville House’s director of publicity.