The Wenner collection catalogue cover.

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The same could be said for a huge single-owner collection of Mars-related books which has come to the market for nearly a million – $975,000 to be exact. Dubbed Mars and the Imagination: A Record of Our Relationship with the Red Planet, it comprises more than 900 books, both fiction and non-fiction, and is available from the Manhattan Rare Book Company.

“We are aware of no other Mars collection that contains anywhere near as complete a collection of both Mars science and fiction, and no extensive collection of Mars fiction in both its original ‘pulp’ and stand-alone printings,” said Michael DiRuggiero of the New York City dealership.


The collection in its boxes.

It was compiled by David Wenner, who brought together a collection that reflects a history of scientific understanding as well as social and cultural attitudes.

Among the scientific titles are Johannes Kepler’s observations of planetary circuits and the 18th century measurements of Mars’ axis and rotation by Christiaan Huygens, Giacomo Maraldi and William Herschel.

Canal confusion

Just as fascinating as the scientific exploration of the fourth planet is the fiction that surrounds it.

Speculative works around the existence of little green men were fuelled by Percival Lowell and based on a mistranslation. Italian scientist Giovanni Schiaparelli’s writings about ‘canali’ or channels were interpreted as simply ‘canals’, suggesting the work of sentient beings.

HG Wells and Edgar Rice Burroughs (author of John Carter of Mars) put out some of the most famous works on the subject, and these are key to the collection.

Among the other famous names represented are Nikola Tesla, Camille Flammarion, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C Clarke and Ray Bradbury.

However, it also includes less well-known science fiction volumes of Mars fiction stories and issues of National Geographic, Life, Playboy and The New Yorker with relevant articles.

The majority of works are housed in custom-made boxes, with the contents grouped by theme.

The mixing of purely scientific with the more familiar is not unusual when it comes to natural history sales. In February, Christie’s Deep Impact sale included a variety of meteorites (including the thirdlargest piece of Mars rock on Earth, which failed to sell at $500,000- 800,000) as well as a homemade Costa Rican doghouse that had been struck by a meteorite in 2019.

The doghouse, which did sell, then appeared at the stand of ArtAncient at Frieze Masters in October, where it was surrounded by minerals, meteorites and antiquities.