Sotheby's auctions Raymond Chandler classic 'Big Sleep' and other books

On December 13 Sotheby's Fine Books and Manuscripts sale in New York will include The Jean-Vounder Davis Collection of the Raymond Chandler Library - a unique group of books from the collection of one of America's greatest detective fiction writers.

Many of the titles are personalised by the author and offer a fascinating insight to his closest relationships. The writer rarely inscribed his works and this is by far the most important Chandler collection to have appeared on the market.

After Raymond Chandler's death all of these books, manuscripts, and screenplays entered the library of his secretary and fiancé Jean Vounder-Davis, whose daughter has consigned the collection.

Despite a 30 year age gap, Jean cared for the author keeping him healthy, sober, and focused on his writing. In turn he helped to care for her children, becoming their legal guardian.

The group is led by a remarkable double presentation copy of The Big Sleep - Chandler's momentous first novel - that is inscribed to his beloved wife, Cissy (est. $80/120,000). Raymond Chandler met Cissy Pascal in 1919 after his return from the war.

The dominant figure in his life, she would go on to become the crucial force that propelled him into writing.


Chandler's personal copy of 1938's The Big Sleep is also included in the sale

Twenty years his senior, Cissy was married when she met Chandler; however she divorced her husband and married the writer in 1924. In the 1930s Chandler lost his job as an oil company executive as a result of his heavy drinking and promiscuity.

This led him to pursue a writing career which started with the publication of The Big Sleep in 1938.

The landmark book introduced the character of Philip Marlowe, profoundly changing American detective fiction. This first edition is inscribed: "For my Cissy / Who wants something / much better, but was / pleased even with this / Raymond / La Jolla Jan 1939 / Riverside Feb 1939."

Chandler's personal copy of The Big Sleep is also included in the sale with the inscription: "For me / without my compliments / Raymond Chandler / Riverside Feb 1939" (est. $60/80,000).

The novel was written over three months in the summer of 1939, with the absence of a clean ending in which justice was served, setting it apart from much detective fiction of the day.

Sotheby's upcoming sale offers a chance for collectors to acquire a scarce copy of a rare book which influenced all that came after it. Watch this space for more news on the auction.


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