A 1924 first of Ernest Hemingway’s In Our Time offered by Freeman’s (26/21/15% buyer’s premium) of Philadelphia had some condition issues but was a copy that bore a truly significant presentation inscription.
The boards showed some dampstaining and scattered wear to its extremities, along with discolouration to endpapers and an ink stain at the foot of the frontispiece.
However, the key to the value of this work, one of just 170 copies issued in Paris by the Three Mountains Press, lay in the fact that it was billed as perhaps the most consequential association copy of any Hemingway title.
That significance took bidding on February 2 to $220,000 (£179,590).
This copy of Hemingway’s slim first collection of tales was inscribed to his future editor at Scribner’s, “For Maxwell E. Perkins/With very best wishes/from Ernest Hemingway/Paris 1925.”
The two men had met only weeks earlier, but that led to one of American literature’s most significant editorial relationships, one that eventually resulted in the publication of many of Hemingway’s books under the guidance of Perkins.
It was F Scott Fitzgerald who had first recommended him to Perkins, writing to tell him of a “…young man named Ernest Hemmingway [sic], who lives in Paris, (an American) writes for the Transatlantic Review + has a brilliant future.... I’d look him up right away. He’s the real thing.”
At that time copies of the original, French-issued edition of the vignettes that filled In Our Time were not available in the US, but Perkins eventually tracked one down in Paris and had it shipped to his New York office.
The timing for Perkins, however, was poor, as Hemingway had by then signed a contract with Boni & Liveright to publish the first American edition of In Our Time, as well as his next two books. He nevertheless wrote to Perkins regarding his excitement at the interest shown by Scribner’s.
Two weeks later Perkins wrote back, asking Hemingway to remember him if the chance to publish his works ever arose, and in an act of great generosity, included his own copy of that original issue of In Our Time. His only request was that if Hemingway were to ever come across another copy, would he kindly return his copy, adding “…if with your signature, I should value it more”.
Only a presentation copy to Sylvia Beach, the American-born bookseller and publisher who lived most of her life in Paris, can compare in terms of historical and literary significance, noted Freeman’s. That copy, it seems, was sold for the first time in 1936 and most recently in 2004, at Sotheby’s New York, when the premium-inclusive price was $321,600.
Texan map rarity
Other highlights of the recent Freeman’s sale included what was billed as a rare ‘Reconstruction-Era’ map of Galveston in Texas.
A hand-coloured litho map produced by Jackson E Labatt, a Jewish cartographer and former captain in the Confederate Army, it was issued by Strobridge & Co of Cincinatti in 1869.
Freeman’s could find no record of any other copy having been offered at auction and its example doubled the high estimate to sell at $24,000 (£19,590).
An association copy of Stride Towards Freedom: The Montgomery Story, Martin Luther King Jnr’s memoir of the ‘Montgomery Bus Boycott’, inscribed by him to Alfonso and Lucy Campbell, two of the early organisers of that famous protest, was sold at $10,000 (£8165).
Bid to $6500 (£5305) was a 1965 first issue copy of Frank Herbert’s science fiction classic, Dune.