Presentation copies of two volumes of poetry by Philip Larkin were highlights of a shared Bloomsbury/Forum (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) sale of April 27.
Bid to £14,000 was a doubly inscribed first impression copy of The Less Deceived, a work published in a limited edition of 100 copies in 1955 by George and Jean Hartley’s Marvell Press. Complete with unclipped jacket proclaiming the original price of 8s 6d, it was inscribed by Larkin to both George and Eric Johnston, business manager of that East Riding press.
The book had been estimated at just £1000-2000, as was a 1964, first impression copy of The Whitsun Weddings of 1964 that Larkin inscribed for Johnston, which sold for £11,000. A collection of 32 poems, it proved exceptionally successful for a volume of modern verse, selling 4000 copies in just two months. Both these works had been owned by Johnston.
Bid to what would appear to be an auction-record £6500 was a 1938, first of Daphne du Maurier’s novel Rebecca in those familiar red and black lettered yellow covers favoured by the publisher, Gollancz.
A 21pp pamphlet called The Greatest Gift: A Christmas Tale that realised £5000 was one of a privately printed edition of 200 copies. Intended for distribution among friends by the author, Philip Van Doren Stern, this slim work, though much altered in many details over time, was to form the basis for a very famous film of 1946, It’s a Wonderful Life.
Stern’s agent, one of the lucky recipients, had asked the author’s permission to offer the story to Hollywood film producers and in 1944 the rights, to his great surprise, were sold for $10,000 to RKO.
Jimmy Stewart enthusiastically agreed to play the lead role and the rest, as they say, is cinematic history.
The sale’s most expensive purchase, at £16,000, was a 1953 first impression copy of Casino Royale, the first of Ian Fleming’s dozen James Bond tales.