Bronte first edition reaches Wuthering Heights alongside a Dickens classic

Last night, Sotheby's held a rare book sale which captured the interest of collectors of various different interests. It was the first auction of a bibliophile's collection, lovingly put together over a number of years.

The 149 lot sale achieved a striking £3.16m in London. There were many highlights, but we've tried to give a flavour here:

Perhaps most appropriate for the days leading up to Halloween was a first edition of Mary Shelley's The Modern Prometheus, better known as Frankenstein. The copy was once the property of the Oscar-winning lyricist Paul Francis Webster.

Uncut in the original boards and preserved in a velvet-lined red morocco folding box, the book was quickly pressed past its £60,000-80,000 listing to sell for £115,250.

A true 20th century masterpiece was to be found in the form of James Joyce's Ulysses. One of just 750 copies (copy 358 to be precise) on handmade paper printed by the then obscure Shakespeare and Company publishers in 1922, this presentation copy was inscribed by the author.

The inscription is made out to Raymonde Linossier, a lawyer, poet, and the muse of the composer Poulenc, who tragically died in her early thirties. An extract from her poem "Bibi-la-Bibiste" was published in the issue of The Little Review included in the lot, where it is highly praised by Ezra Pound.

First edition of James Joyce's Ulysses
First edition of James Joyce's Ulysses

Linossier helped to type up part of the manuscript for Ulysses, and Joyce was sufficiently grateful to introduce her name into the Circe episode: "even their wax model raymonde i visited daily to admire her cobweb hose."

The copy sold for £121,250, which beat the £60,000-80,000 estimate, but we still think it represents an excellent investment and will be sold for more someday.

A first edition of Darwin's On The Origin Of Species By Means Of Natural Selection sold for $127,250 (estimate:  £50,000-70,000) whilst one of his near-contemporary Jane Austen's most famous work Pride and Prejudice, uncut in the original publisher's drab boards brought  £139,250 (estimate £75,000-100,000).

There was even a first collected edition of William Shakespeare's poems, in which John Benson famously re-organised the sonnets, often running them together to appeal more to the Cavalier Poets, and some were tweaked to reduce homo-erotic implications. The copy sold for £133,250 against a £80,000-100,000 listing.

None of these were the top lots, however. The best performing lot was a first edition of Emily Brontë's novel Wuthering Heights formerly owned by a Norfolk parson. Decorated in gilt with red morocco labels it trounced its £50,000-75,000 listing to sell for £163,250.

Charles Dickens inscribed Christmas Carol
Christmas Carol inscribed by Charles Dickens

Top lot status went to a first edition, first impression, presentation copy of Charles Dickens inscribed by Dickens to his close friend W C Macready on New Year's Day 1844.

The classic, which takes us from Halloween to the festive season, is regarded as perhaps the most covetable copy of all and sold for near to the top of its £150,000-200,000 listing at £181,250.


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