'Final' Keats poem auctions with 303% increase on top estimate

Part of a John Keats handwritten poem, thought to be the final Keats manuscript to come to auction, smashed its £45,000 high estimate, selling with a 303% increase at Bonhams London on April 10.

The autographed manuscript of his poem I Stood on Tiptoe Upon a Little Hill (which Keats originally titled Endymion) brought £181,250 ($278,572), leading Bonhams' auction of the Roy Davids Collection of poetical manuscripts.

John Keats manuscript auction
John Keats died from tuberculosis, in Rome, aged just 25

The substantial sale price represents a new auction record for a Keats manuscript. The previous record for a Keats poem at auction was $130,000 in 2001.

Bonhams' catalogue notes for the item state: "In terms of what is known, it is unlikely that another poetical manuscript by Keats will be available to collectors in the foreseeable future, perhaps ever."

"Little of Keats output remains in Britain."

The page consists of 33 lines, which traverse both sides of the single sheet - demonstrating how Keats self-edited even as he composed.

Keats began work on the poem in Margate in July 1816 and finished it in November of the same year.

The entire 10-leaf manuscript of the poem originally belonged to Keats' close friend Charles Cowden Clarke, who cut it into 13 pieces following the poet's death. Clarke then gave the pieces out to Keats' friends and family as mementos. Of the other 12 pieces, the locations of four have never been discovered, while six reside in institutions including Harvard and the British Library.

An unusual portrait miniature, believed to feature a rare painting of John Keats, is to auction at Bonhams London on May 30. The record-breaking manuscript sale suggests the miniature could prove popular also.

Browse the books and manuscripts currently in our inventory.

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