April’s most expensive sale illustrates the high regard for Emily Dickinson among book collectors. A set of first edition copies of her first three publications - First Series, Second Series and Third Series of Poems - sold for £19,315 last month on AbeBooks.
These volumes were published in 1890, 1891 and 1896 respectively and only 500 copies of the First Series were printed, 960 copies of the Second Series and a thousand copies of the Third. This set had been housed together in a custom clamshell box and the £19,315 price makes it is the most expensive sale on AbeBooks this year. The previous record for a Dickinson sale on AbeBooks was £1,900 for a copy of the Second Series in 2007.
The First Series volume appears to have been previously owned by one of the two pastors who officiated at Dickinson's funeral in 1886. While these books were published posthumously, they were in fact the first full volumes of Dickinson’s poetry to be published. Precious few of her nearly 1800 poems were published during her lifetime. Today Dickinson is considered one of the most important American poets but the vast majority of her writing was only discovered after her death by her younger sister.
Other eye-catching rare sales from April included a first US edition of The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams, which sold for over £9,500. There was also a signed first edition, first issue, of The Great Gatsby for £6,116 – the book lacked the all-important Gatsby dust jacket.
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2. The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams - £9,657
A first US edition from 1922 of one of the first modern picture books for children. Illustrated by William Nicholson with colour pictorial endpapers and seven richly coloured full page lithographs.
3. Rénovateur Du Ballet Français by Julie Sazonova & Jean Laurent - £7,379
A first edition, first printing of this work which contains a colour illustration on the front cover by Pablo Picasso as well as monochrome photographs, and a frontis of legendary ballet star Serge Lifar also by Picasso. This copy is inscribed on the fly leaf by Lifar "A Madame Baron, grande amie des arts, cordialment , Serge Lifar, Cannes le 3.9.63."
4. Almagestum novum astronomiam veterem novamque complectens observationibus aliorum et propriis by Giambattista Riccioli - £6,692
Published in 1651 in two volumes, ‘The New Almagest’ became the standard technical reference book for 17th century European astronomers. Within the two volumes, there are 10 main sections detailing objects in celestial motion, the Earth and sun’s size, gravity and motion, eclipses, and the structure of the universe.
5= Valley of Fear: A Sherlock Holmes Novel by Arthur Conan Doyle - £6,438
Published in 1915, this first edition is rare in its original publisher’s dust jacket. Illustrated by Arthur I. Keller with seven full page illustrations.
5= Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell -£6,438
A first edition in the red dust jacket, published 1949 and in fine condition.
7. The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald - £6,116
A first edition, without a dust jacket, published in 1925. It also contains a signed envelope, laid in, addressed by Fitzgerald to a friend.
9. Poor Richard Improved by Benjamin Franklin - £4,204
Published 1760, this is a scarce example of Franklin's most famous project, this copy is of added interest for the contemporary manuscript notes added to its margins about burials, marriages, and travel of various Philadelphia merchants of the 1760s. There is also the typical astrological advice and medical counsel including the promotion of the recently-introduced practice of inoculation against smallpox.
10. Endymion: A Poetic Romance by John Keats - £3,974
Published 1818 by Taylor and Hessey, this first edition was bound without advertisements in full crushed red morocco by Riviere & Son.