To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee sold for £15,175
To Kill a Mockingbird
Harper Lee

It was a bumper year for rare bookselling. The combined total of AbeBooks’ top 10 most expensive sales during 2011 is £141,293. The November sale of Karl Marx’s Das Kapital for £33,151 was the year’s most significant transaction on AbeBooks and one that sparked many wry smiles.

The sale of a signed first edition of Harper Lee’s one hit wonder, To Kill a Mockingbird, for £15,175 illustrated that this novel remains one of the most desirable of modern firsts.

Our third largest sale was a complete set of all 10 issues of Aspen Magazine, a multimedia publication that ran from 1965 to 1971.  Many leading figures in contemporary art, both British and North American, were contributors to Aspen including Andy Warhol, John Lennon, Timothy Leary and Susan Sontag.

Browse the acquisitions of big spending book collectors and you will encounter the Grinch, a Hobbit, the world’s most famous pilot, a spy licensed to kill, the Boy Wizard, a novel about the Spice, courageous senators, banned poetry and a book about teeth.

 




Most Expensive Sales Categories




AbeBooks' 10 Most Expensive Sales in 2011

1. Das Kapital, Kritik der politischen Oekonomie by Karl Marx - £33,151
The first edition (in three volumes) with the first published in 1867 by Otto Meissner.

2. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - £15,175
First edition of Lee’s first and only, Pulitzer Prize-winning, novel; signed “with best wishes Harper Lee.”

3. Complete Set of 10 issues of Aspen Magazine - £14,680
Ten issues of Aspen Magazine were published between 1965 and 1971. The publication was described as the first “three dimensional magazine” with each issue in a customized box or folder with a variety of materials including postcards, posters, movie reels, records and booklets.

4. The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien - £12,758
First edition, first impression of Tolkien’s classic with a complete dust jacket featuring the requisite ink correction to the "e" of "Dodgeson" on the rear flap. Published in 1937, this first edition is highly valued because only 1,500 copies were printed.

5. Fourteen Pages on Thomas Carlyle by John Ruskin - £11,535
An autograph (meaning handwritten) manuscript written in 1866 containing Ruskin’s notes after reading Carlyle’s classic work History of Friedrich II of Prussia which were made in preparation for his essay Notes on the Economies of the Kings of Prussia. The text addresses the early years of the Austrian and Prussian monarchies from 900 to 1667.

6. The Camels Are Coming by W.E. Johns - £10,920
First UK edition (first printing) of the first book in W.E. Johns’ legendary Biggles series printed in 1932. It contains 17 short stories, each preceded with illustration by Johns. The first edition can be difficult to identify because it was undated at publication but does contain tell-tale signs. There is no list of other W.E. Johns’ titles at the rear of the book and early editions contain an error on page 224 where the code number of a spy is given incorrectly as 2792 when it should have been 2742.

7. An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China by Sir George Leonard Staunton (pictured at right) - £10,654
Published in 1797-1798 in three volumes. This set is the second edition (corrected) and was signed by the author.

8. The Botany of the Antarctic Voyage of H.M. Discovery ships Erebus and Terror in the Years 1839-1843, under the Command of Sir James Clark Ross by J.D. Hooker - £10,027
These books document the botanical research of J.D. Hooker during the voyage. Hooker was the voyage’s assistant surgeon and naturalist. The trip’s goal was to determine the position of the magnetic South Pole. Published in London 1844, this is an incomplete, but still very rare, set of three volumes each in two parts. This sale contained one part from each of the three volumes.

9. An Authentic Account of an Embassy from the King of Great Britain to the Emperor of China by Sir George Leonard Staunton - £9,900
This copy of the three-volume set differs from the copy listed above in that it is the first edition and printed in a larger format.

10. Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire - £9,152
This first edition of The Flowers of Evil was published in 1857 and was Baudelaire’s first and most famous volume of poems. French authorities under Napoleon III prosecuted both Baudelaire and his publisher, and six poems were suppressed.

See All of Abebooks' Most Expensive Monthly Sales

 

Dr. No by Ian FlemingAbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Modern Firsts

1. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee - £15,175
First edition of Lee’s first and only, Pulitzer Prize-winning, novel; signed “with best wishes Harper Lee.”

2. The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien - £12,758
First edition, first impression of Tolkien’s classic with a complete dust jacket featuring the requisite ink correction to the "e" of "Dodgeson" on the rear flap. Published in 1937, this first edition is highly valued because only 1,500 copies were printed.

3. Dr. No by Ian Fleming - £8,893
Published in 1958 by Jonathan Cape, this first edition of the first 007 novel was signed by Fleming.

 

 

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Children's & Young Adult

1. Set of seven deluxe edition Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling - £7,362
All seven books were signed by Rowling ‘To Hugh.’

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! by Dr. Seuss - £6,074
First edition, first impression of Seuss’ 1957 classic, including an inscription “For Stephanie - Best wishes - Dr. Seuss.”

3. Amphigorey by Edward Gorey - £5,213
A collection of 15 works by Gorey from 1972. The set was limited to 50 signed copies and contained an original watercolour. The 15 titles are The Unstrung Harp, The Listing Attic, The Doubtful Guest, The Object Lesson, The Bug Book, The Fatal Lozenge, The Hapless Child, The Curious Sofa, The Willowdale Handcar, The Gashlycrumb Tinies, The Insect God, The West Wing, The Wuggily Ump, The Sinking Spell and The Remembered Visit.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Art Books

1. Lexicon Iconographicum Mythologiae Classicae - £8,991
An eight-volume work listing representations of mythology in the plastic arts (ie: architecture, ceramics, collage, conceptual art, drawing, glass art, land art, metalworking, mosaic, painting, paper art among others).

2. 40 Dessins de Picasso en Marge du Buffon by Pablo Picasso - £6,551
This edition was limited to 226 copies (this was number 148) and signed by Picasso in green crayon. Published in 1957, this folio includes 40 facsimile lithographic plates.

3. Raccolta di Statue antiche e moderne data in luce sotto i gloriosi auspicj della Santità di N.S. Papa Clemente XI by De Rossi Domenico - £6,122
Published in 1704, this collection of engravings of ancient and modern Roman sculpture was one of the first 18th century art books and contains 160 plates. 

 

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Photography Books

1. Nippon Gekijō Shashinchō by Daidō Moriyama - £3,746
First edition, from 1968, of “Japan: a Photo Theatre,” a photo-essay detailing the darker sides of urban Japanese life. Signed by Moriyama.

2. ABECEDA by Vitezslav Nezval - £3,546
Alphabet designed by Karel Teige and photographed by Karel Paspa.  Published in 1926, this book contains 25 black and white photomontages in which dancer Milča Mayerová performed particular poses to represent the letters of the alphabet.  Signed by Mayerová.

3. Lisboa: Cidade triste a alegre by Victor Palla and Costa Martins - £3,198
Published in quarto, this volume contains 152 photographs from these famous photographers

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Poetry Books

1. Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire -£9,152
This first edition of ‘The Flowers of Evil’ was published in 1857 and was Baudelaire’s first and most famous volume of poems.  Six poems were banned for their erotic content. 

2.The Heart’s Quest by Archibald Rutledge - £5,010
This is a signed first edition of Rutledge’s earliest work. The book itself is undated but it is believed to have been published in 1904.

3.Under The Pines and Other Poems by Archibald Rutledge - £4,512
Under the Pines was Rutledge’s second publication from 1906. This copy was signed and inscribed “O to recall/What to recall Myhew Phillips.”

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Religious & Theological Books

1. 1629 Folio King James Bible - £3,545
Published by Bonham Norton and John Bill in 1629, bound in speckled full calf with raised bands with the title in gilt on the spine. 

2.A Few Plain Words Concerning Conformity in Matter by William Smith - £3,160
An association copy of this scarce Quaker pamphlet inscribed from George Fox (founder of the Religious Society of Friends) to William Caton (an early English Quaker itinerant preacher and writer).

3. Catigas de Santa Maria by Alfonso X el Sabio - £3,180
A facsimile edition published in 1989 of the 13th century religious songs written by King Alfonso X the Wise.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Science Books

1. Ueber die chemische Zusammensetzung der Eiterzellen by Johann Friedrich Miescher - £6,070
First edition, from 1871, of one of the earliest contributions to what became molecular biology.  Miescher's discovery was a new class of compounds rich in organic phosphorus and forming the major constituent of cell nuclei. He rightly concluded that these ‘nucleins,’ as he called them, were as important a center of metabolic activity as proteins. Miescher's ‘nuclein’ was later demonstrated to be the hereditary genetic material (that’s DNA). He was also the first to suggest the existence of a genetic code.

2.The Natural History of British Insects by Edward Donovan - £5,845
This 16-volume set was published from 1792 to 1813 and contains explanations of various species and includes 576 engraved plates.

3. Mundus Subterraneus by Athanasius Kircher - £5,389
A first edition of Kircher’s famous work that attempts to explain the mysteries lying beneath the surface of the earth, two parts in one volume published in contemporary vellum circa 1664. 

 

Cover Her Face by PD James

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Mystery Novels

1. Death on the Nile by Agatha Christie - £5,970
A first edition of Christie’s classic novel published in 1937 by The Crime Club by Collins.

2.Ten Little Niggers by Agatha Christie - £5,766
First UK edition, and true first edition, from 1939 of Christie’s title that eventually renamed “And Then There Were None” when it was published in America.

3. Cover Her Face by P.D. James - £5,213
A signed first edition, with an intact dust jacket, of James’ debut novel. The first book in the Adam Dalgliesh series.

 

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Medical Books

1. Le Chirurgien Dentiste ou Traité des Dents by Pierre Fauchard - £5,011
First published in 1728, ‘The Surgeon Dentist’ was written by the man considered to be the father of modern dentistry. The book was the first complete scientific description of dentistry.  Before this work dentists generally extracted decayed teeth rather than treating them. 

2.Traité Complet de L’Anatomie de L’Homme by Jean-Baptiste Marc Bourgery et Claude Bernard - £4,659
A classical reference book on the history of medicine and human anatomy, published over eight volumes. The first five covered descriptive anatomy, six and seven were about surgical anatomy and the final volume concerned philosophical anatomy.  Beautifully illustrated.

3. Anatomy: Descriptive and Surgical by Henry Gray - £3,041
Published in 1858 by John W. Parker and Son, this first edition, first printing, sold out very quickly and was reprinted many times. It features 363 detailed anatomical drawings by Henry Vandyke Carter. Embossed cloth binding with a gilt-lettered spine.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Ephemera

1. Complete Set of 10 issues of Aspen Magazine - £14,680
Ten issues of Aspen Magazine were published between 1965-71 on an irregular schedule.

2.Civil War Diary of Captain Emanuel D. Roath by Emanuel D. Roath - £4,700
Written from 1864-1865, this diary contains 160 pages detailing the experiences of the 107th Pennsylvania Infantry in the American Civil War including combat and imprisonment in a Confederate jail.  Recruited in central Pennsylvania to serve for three years, and attached to the main body of the Army of the Potomac, the 107th fought at Bull Run, Antietam, Fredericksburg, Chancellorsville, and Gettysburg.

3. Handwritten, signed postcard by Hart Crane - £3,338
A postcard written by the American modernist poet Harold Hart Crane to his stepmother seven weeks before his suicide in 1932.  The postcard features the altar in the ‘Cipres de Catedral Puebla Hernandez’ in Mexico. On the reverse: “Dear Bess: This is the altar in the Cathedral in Puebla that I mentioned in my letter. Harold.” Crane mentions that “Puebla is one of the most beautiful places I have ever seen…the second largest cathedral on this continent whose interior blazes with enough gold railings and gold-leaf ornament to pay off German’s reparation debts.”

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Travel & Exploration Books

1. Troisième Voyage de Cook, ou voyage à l'Océan Pacifique, ordonné par le Roi d'Angleterre, pour faire des Découvertes dans l'Hémisphère Nord, pour déterminer la position & l'étendue de la Côte Ouest de l'Amérique Septentrionale, sa distance de l'Asie, & resoudre la question du passage au Nord - £5,255
The original French edition of Captain Cook’s third (and final) voyage where he hoped to find a passage connecting the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.  The translation was completed by Demeunier and it was published in 1785 in Paris.

2.The Voyages and Travels of John Struys by John Struys - £5,259
This celebrated account of three journeys (1649-73) from Europe to Asia, includes early descriptions of the politics, customs, people, and cities found along the way as well as the many dangers.  Published in 1684, first edition.

3. Voyage D'Égypte et de Nubie by Frederic Louis Norden - £4,863
This is the second French edition of Travel To Egypt and Nubia, published in 1795 in three volumes.  This famous work details the results of the Danish explorer’s expedition between 1737 and 1738 where he described Egypt’s monuments, ruins and temples.

 

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Books Written by Presidents

1. No Easy Walk To Freedom: A Firsthand Report of the Struggle of Apartheid  by Nelson Mandela - £5,927
Signed first edition of Mandela’s struggle against South Africa’s apartheid system.  This volume contains his famous speech at the Rivonia Trial.  No Easy Walk to Freedom was extended and republished in 1994 as Long Walk to Freedom.

2. Big Game Hunting in the Rockies and on the Great Plains by Theodore Roosevelt - £5,048
Published by G.P. Putman’s Sons in 1899 and limited to 1000 copies that were signed by Roosevelt (this is #276), the book comprises of two earlier books, Hunting Trips of a Ranchman and The Wilderness Hunter. This edition contains 55 illustrations.

3. Profiles in Courage by John F. Kennedy - £3,681
A signed first edition of JFK’s 1956 Pulitzer Prize-winning book that described the bravery by eight US senators. A photo of Kennedy and the previous owner together when the book was signed authenticates the signature of the former president.  This book helped to position Kennedy as presidential material.

 

Dune by Frank Herbert

AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of Science Fiction & Fantasy Books

1. The Hobbit or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien - £12,758
First edition, first impression copy of Tolkien’s classic with a complete dust jacket.

2. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? By Philip K. Dick - £7,799
First edition, first printing of the book that inspired the Blade Runner movie. Published in 1968 and signed by Dick.

3. Dune by Frank Herbert - £4,670
First edition, first printing with a laid-in signature by Herbert. Includes a dust jacket in fine condition.

 

 

 

AbeBooks’ Most Expensive Sales of Complete Fiction Series

1. Set of seven deluxe edition Harry Potter novels by J.K. Rowling - £7,362
Signed by Rowling ‘To Hugh.’

2. Dark Tower Limited Series by Stephen King - £3,851
A complete set of seven novels published from 1982 to 2004.  Books two to seven are limited editions (#159) in a slipcase with book one (Gunslinger) being a signed first trade edition. 

3. The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien - £3,745
Complete set of UK first editions published by George Allen & Unwin. As all collectors of fantasy know, the three volumes are The Fellowship of the Ring (July 1954), The Two Towers (November 1954), and The Return of the King (October 1955).

 

 

What was the most expensive book you bought this year? - leave a comment: