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