Sold for $26,000 (£20,310) was a 37-volume ‘Definitive’ edition of the writings of Mark Twain, published in 1922-25 and bound in three-quarter crushed brown morocco.
It contains in the first volume an autograph page from the manuscript of A Tramp Abroad and a flyleaf signed both as Samuel Clemens and Mark Twain. The latter had of course been accomplished before the author’s death in 1910, and in anticipation of the appearance of just such an edition, as attested in a note by the writer’s biographer and literary executor, Albert Bigelow Paine.
Bid to $75,000 (£58,595) – albeit just a little under estimate – was an earlier, 23 volume ‘Hillcrest’ edition of Twain’s works. Each of the green buckram bound volumes of this 1904-06 set is inscribed on a front leaf with an autograph aphorism signed by the writer.
One of only a handful of such sets identified by the saleroom, it was one that the writer gave to his daughter Clara, and that in 2004 had sold in the same rooms for $80,000 (then £44,820) as part of the first of the Maurice Neville library sales.
One of the 99 sets of the ‘Manuscript’ edition of the works of Richard Burton’s ‘Arabian Nights’ that were privately printed in London c.1903 for the Burton Club, sold at $17,000 (£13,280).
Each of the sets contained a leaf from Burton’s autograph manuscript and all 16 volumes were in elaborately gilt red morocco bindings featuring arabesque panels.
Bid to $28,000 (£21,875) was a 35 volume set of the 1937-39, ‘Sussex’ edition of the works of Rudyard Kipling bound in russet morocco by James Burn, while a 26 volume ‘Vailima’ edition of the works of Robert Louis Stevenson reached $16,000 (£12,500).
The latter, in three-quarter crushed blue morocco and marbled boards, also contained a cheque for £10 made out by RLS to his housekeeper.
Other highlights of this latest Neville sale included a couple of letters sent by Dylan Thomas to his wife, Caitlin. One of them, a four-page letter dated Vancouver, April 7, 1950, records his impressions on the first of his four transatlantic journeys to North America, where he gave poetry readings and enjoyed to characteristic excess the drunken parties that followed.
Including the comment “Thank God to be out of British Canada & back in the Terrible United States of America”, it was described by Sotheby’s as “a passionate love letter… and a lively West Coast dialogue”. The letters made $28,000 (£21,875).
Inscribed and dated to the year of publication on a front free endpaper, a 1908 first of Winston Churchill’s My African Journey made a record $10,000 (£7810).
A signed and inscribed 1889 first of The Rough Riders, an account of his experiences in the Spanish-Mexican War by another man who was to serve as his country’s leader, Theodore Roosevelt, also set a record at $9000 (£7030).
One of 300 first edition copies of George Gershwin’s Song Book of
1932, signed by both composer and the illustrator, Constantin Alajalov, made $12,000 (£9375), while one of 300 signed, 1936 firsts of the score of Cole Porter’s musical comedy Red Hot and Blue reached $17,000 (£13,2890).
In a fine example of the notoriously fragile red, blue and gilt stamped silk binding, it set yet another record – as had the Gershwin lot.
The biggest advance on expectations came with the appearance of a 1928, presentation first of Das Werke des Malers Diego Rivera, inscribed on the flyleaf to the mural artist Parker Hall.
It also contained a brief autograph note of Christmas greetings signed by both ‘Malers’, Diego and his wife, Frida Kahlo de Rivera, above a tiny self-portrait by Frida, who wears enormous earrings.
Valued at $1000-1500, the lot sold instead for $32,000 (£25,000).
Other sale highlights, principally focused on works by Hemingway and F Scott Fitzgerald, which included teh auction’s highest-priced lots, were published in ATG No 2291.