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First Edition

Book collectors seek out first editions as they represent the original form in which a book was originally published.

Signed and inscribed copies are even more desirable, and the ‘dedication copy’ – the copy which is inscribed to the person to whom the author dedicated the book – is more sought after still.


Man and Ape

01 April 2004

Edward Tyson’s Orang-outang, sive homo sylvestris: Or, the anatomy of a pygmiecompared with that of a monkey, an ape, and a man... was the first work to demonstrate scientifically the structural relationships between man and anthropoid ape and one which had a powerful influence on subsequent thoughts on man’s place in nature – albeit the orang-outang on which his work was based was actually a young chimpanzee.

£9200 for The Chimes that Dickens gave to a man who struck back

23 September 2003

THERE were very few books in the September 9 antiques sale held by Sworders of Stansted Mountfitchett, but one of them was a copy of Charles Dickens’ The Chimes that was signed and inscribed to a man with whom Dickens was later to become involved in a tiresome and disagreeable round of threats of litigation – an episode that was categorised in the title of a 1996 American book on the subject as The Charles Dickens-Thomas Powell Vendetta.

The Hobbit reaches £40,000 at Sotheby's.

20 August 2003

Last summer Sotheby’s took a bid of £36,000 on a copy of the 1937 first edition of The Hobbit inscribed in October of that year to Tolkien’s Aunt Jane; this summer they raised £40,000 for a copy that he had inscribed at the time of publication.

Subastas Segre sale

24 July 2003

Subastas Segre (16% buyer’s premium) held their monthly sale from May 20 to 22. In the picture catalogue, top price was the double-estimate €30,000 (£22,060) for a complete set of Goya’s Caprichos, catalogued as First Edition but not in ideal condition. A 3ft 3in (1m) square abstract oil on canvas of 1982 by Fernando Zobel (1942-1984), whose work is highly regarded in Spain, made €23,700 (£17,425).

Early issue Hobbits have a £10,300 day out in Hagley

03 June 2003

Apparently consigned for sale by a local lady who had no idea of its commercial potential – it had been acquired as holiday reading when she was a young girl – a 1937 first edition of The Hobbit was sold at £10,300 in a general antiques sale held by Fieldings in Hagley, Worcester-shire, on April 26.

‘Woman as good as Man’ and other Departmental Ditties…

21 May 2003

SOLD AT £600 (Temple) in the April 25 sale held by Y Gelli (15% buyer's premium) in Hay-on-Wye was a “much nicer than average” copy of the 1886, privately printed, Lahore first edition of Rudyard Kipling’s Departmental Ditties and other Verses. One of 350 copies of this tall, narrow production, printed on one side only, it was in the original wrappers but with the flap removed, leaving an uneven fore-edge to the upper wrapper.

$200,000 for first (lunar module data) book on the moon

14 May 2003

It hardly qualifies as a book, but the data card book in which Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin recorded critical values for input into the lunar module computer during the Apollo XI mission of 1969, autograph data that enabled them to make the first moon landing, certainly qualifies as an historical technical document.

Joseph Crawhall – a talent for art and eccentricity

04 April 2002

“Pistol Sir – yes Sir – here you are sir – Revolver – most improved construction – 6 chambers sir – 2 for your wife – 2 for the destroyer of your happiness – 2 for yourself Sir – all the rage Sir – sell hundreds of ’em for bridal presents Sir !!!”....

A horrid Hobbit and a glimpse of London shadows and swamps

07 February 2002

The estimate of £25-35 placed on a second impression copy of Tolkien’s The Hobbit was a reflection of its condition – “deplorable” being the cataloguer’s chosen epithet. There was no jacket and 20-30 leaves had been torn loose, one of which had been further torn into four (now three) pieces.

Where to go in London – in 1876

09 November 2001

A 1926 first, limited edition copy of Winnie the Pooh, signed by both Milne and Shepard, that came for sale in these Rendells Devon auction rooms on 12 October was in the original binding but dampstained to the front board, causing some loss of the paper. It sold at £950.

P is for the Potters – Beatrix and Harry

27 July 2001

THERE WAS no competing with Harry Potter in the Sotheby’s sale of July 10, and bidding rose to £75,000 for Thomas Taylor’s original illustration for the the book that launched those wizard tales in 1997, Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, but Beatrix Potter did her bit too, as did Edmund Dulac, Kay Nielsen, W. Heath Robinson, E.H. Shepard, Lawson Wood, Ronald Searle, Dr Seuss and others.

Trench and his Embankment – a panoramic first proposal

19 July 2001

A BIBLE was one of several lots that moved into the four-figure range in this summer sale at Y Gelli in Hay on June 8.

A medieval lawyer’s pocketbook and Quevedo’s Seneca

28 June 2001

UK: WRITTEN shortly after 1290, perhaps for a practising lawyer and presumably by professional scribes – it exhibits a variety of neat English cursive and charter hands – the manuscript copy of Magna Carta and the Statutes of England illustrated right is a remarkable example of an English medieval secular book.

“My imagination, unbidden, possessed and guide me…”

29 May 2001

In the past ten years, there have been only five or six first edition copies of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein at auction, and not since 1991 have we seen a copy in the original boards*.

The Countesse of Pembroke’s Arcadia – the first public reading

09 April 2001

UK: OFFERED at Phillips on March 30 was the former Houghton copy of the 1590 first edition of The Countesse of Pembroke’s Arcadia.

1858 first issue of Coral Island

09 April 2001

UK: AS well as a quantity of letters, journals and sketch albums written or compiled by R.M. Ballantyne – among them an album containing sketches made on excursions to Scotland and fishing trips to Norway in the 1850s, which sold at £1000 to David Miles – the Bonhams (Buyer’s premium: 15/10 per cent) sale contained an 1858 first issue of Coral Island, the publisher’s decorative blue cloth binding slightly worn but generally good, which made £4000 (Heritage).

Sheldrake’s ... Herbal of Medicinal Plants

09 April 2001

Timothy Sheldrake’s ... Herbal of Medicinal Plants is often found without a title and with fewer than the 118 plates by C.H. Emmerich after Sheldrake called for, but they have great appeal and the Phillips copy, a first issue of c.1759 with 111 coloured plates, made £5500 at Bonhams.

First edition of Greenville Collins’ Great-Britain’s Coasting Pilot...

09 April 2001

The Scillies in one of 49 engraved charts from a 1753 first edition of Greenville Collins’ Great-Britain’s Coasting Pilot... which made £4000 at Bonhams.

The Sign of Four

09 April 2001

The contents and joints are loose and the upper hinge is nearly detached, but the maroon cloth gilt binding of this 1890 first issue of what was only Conan Doyle’s second Sherlock Holmes story, The Sign of Four, are pretty good and this copy sold at Dominic Winter for £3000 to Bromlea & Jonkers.

Koster's Travels in Brazil

09 April 2001

UK: ONE of eight coloured aquatints, plus map and plan, from an 1816 first edition of Travels in Brazil by Henry Koster, who first went to Brazil in 1809, hoping that a change of climate might alleviate his TB, and eventually settled to the life of a sugar planter at Jaguaribe, near Recife in Pernambuco, where he died in 1820.