W B Yeats' first poem leads sale at $100k

W B Yeats was one of the most highly-regarded figures of the 20th century. He was the first Irish writer to be awarded the Nobel Prize for literature in 1923, although many believe his greatest works came later, such as The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929).

In a week's time, a poem written by Yeats is expected to be a key lot at Bloomsbury's New York rare book sale, which has an Irish theme.

Although the auction has a number of key lots relating to James Joyce, including a first edition of Ulysses for up to $70,000, it's the first edition copy of Mosada (an epic poem) by Yeats which is expected to top off the sale with a $70,000-100,000 guide price.

Mosada was Yeats's first published work, and first editions of it are very rare. Indeed that point was made back in 1925, long before the poet's death, by his cousin, Grace Yeats, in a six page letter to her mother which is included in the lot. She writes:

"Tell Dad to hold on tight to his Mosada. The value is going up. Lolly has a lot of first copies of W.B.'s but not that. She says one of it was sold recently in London for £30. A friend of hers sold it for £6 and it was sold later for £30. So that 1/ was not a bad investment of Dad's"

First edition of Mosada by WB Yeats
First edition of Mosada by W.B. Yeats, with letter

It's an extraordinary example of someone picking up on the value of a first edition as an investment right from the start, and being proved right.

Yeats is not thought to have kept any copies of the work himself, so this item is the closest to a personal copy in existence. The New York sale takes place on March 23.

Collectors focusing on Irish writers may be interested to know that a signed photo of Yeats's contemporary, Oscar Wilde, is currently available.


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