Tuesday - 16 September 2014

Hirschhorn collection provides major sale of modern first editions

16 November 2012Written by Ian McKay

Modern firsts from the library of Clive Hirschhorn produced plenty of strong and many record prices at Bloomsbury Auctions but a number of significant works did not sell. As such, this was an important sale for illustrating the vagaries of the market.

Clive Hirschhorn has worked in TV and newspapers, spending many years with the Daily Mail and Daily Express, as a film and theatre critic for the latter, and has written several books on cinema, notably a best seller on The Hollywood Musical. He began collecting as a teenager but admits to having been "infected by the first edition bug" in 1984.

He sometimes persuaded authors to sign his acquisitions, and all the books described here can be assumed to be offered with dust jackets.

In broad terms the British were better received than the Americans. Some US writers did well, F. Scott Fitzgerald for example, but in other instances only around half of the titles offered found buyers.

The best-represented author, William Faulkner, for example saw only 13 of 32 lots sold. Max Hasler of Bloomsbury noted that this is not the first time that Faulkner has performed poorly at auction in recent times, and wonders if he is not to the taste of newer collectors.

Fashions and tastes are not restricted to the actual writers. There was also the issue of repair and restoration. Jackets of some of the Hirschhorn books had been improved, which is nowadays something that many collectors dislike.

Overall around a third of the 416 lots were unsold at the sale on October 25, and with some of the higher-valued writers the worst hit, the premium-inclusive total of £724,368 fell short of the predicted low-estimate total for all lots.

A number of highlights from the sale appear in the image slideshow at the top right of this page.

American Writers

F. Scott Fitzgerald was one major American writer who bucked the trend in the Bloomsbury sale but Hirschhorn's copy of The Great Gatsby, the jacket showing some bumps and nicks, and with repairs and restoration to the spine ends, joints, edges and corners only came in on the low-estimate figure of £50,000.

Copies of his second novel, The Beautiful and the Damned (1922) and Taps at Reveille (1935) sold at £6000 and £10,000 respectively.

The jackets of both showed some repairs and restoration, but the latter was a first state copy inscribed to Isabel Owens, his Baltimore secretary from 1932 until his death in 1940. The inscription reads "Hoping we'll both be able to look back to this winter as a bleak exception, in a business way, from F. Scott ('Old Scrooge') Fitzgerald".

At Sotheby's New York on June 15, the autograph and typed manuscript of 'The I.O.U', an unpublished short story of c.1920 by F. Scott Fitzgerald that is a humorous, almost satirical look at publishing was sold at $160,000 - £102,690.

A longer version of this article appeared in ATG issue 2066.

Antiques Trade Gazette is the weekly bible of the fine art and antiques industry. Read articles like this every week in the Antiques Trade Gazette or ATG app. Click here to subscribe today.

Back to top