Welcome to our most expensive sales from July to September 2023. A spectacular, 1,200 year old manuscript, iconic works by Oscar Wilde, T. S. Eliot, Aldous Huxley, and George Orwell, and more fantastic books sold by expert sellers.
The Picture of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde - £38,150
The Picture of Dorian Gray is the story of a decadent young man who trades his soul for eternal youth and beauty. It was first published in Lippincott's monthly magazine in 1890 before being expanded and published in book form in 1891.
The story was heavily edited at various stages in its publication history to remove queer content which offended British sensibilities (and the law). The book was bowdlerized and used against Wilde at his trials, eventually resulting in a prison sentence for gross indecency.
This large paper 'edition de luxe' was published in July 1891, three months after the first trade edition.
Sold by Shapero Rare Books
As Lord Henry Wotton says in The Picture of Dorian Gray, ‘The only way to get rid of temptation is to yield to it’. Who could resist the temptation of such a fine copy of the deluxe first edition of Oscar Wilde’s only novel? This is one of only 250 copies signed by Wilde himself, in the original publisher’s parchment-backed grey boards.
The Waste Land by T. S. Eliot - £28,480
A copy of the first U.S. edition of one of the most influential works of twentieth century poetry published in 1922.
T. S. Eliot was awarded the 1948 Nobel Prize in Literature for his outstanding, pioneer contribution to present-day poetry.
The book is bound in the publisher's black cloth and is in great shape with minor wear to the boards. The binding is tight with no cocking or leaning and the boards are crisp. The pages are clean with no writing, marks or bookplates in the book.
Sold by Quintessential Rare Books
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley, with a handwritten letter by the author - £20,345
In a technologically advanced future, humans are genetically bred, socially indoctrinated, and anesthetized to passively uphold an authoritarian ruling order.
This is a spectacular copy of the first edition of this famous dystopian novel, with a handwritten letter signed by Aldous Huxley laid into the book.
Sold by Quintessential Rare Books
An Early Vellum Manuscript Leaf From A Carolingian Homiliary - £16,900
The script of this remarkable surviving manuscript is an outstanding example of the highly legible Caroline minuscule that dominated Europe in the ninth century, characterized by clear letter forms, ample spacing between letters and between lines, and very few abbreviations (the most common occurrence being "&" for "et" occurring anywhere in a word).
This leaf might have come from a Homiliary originally composed by Paul the Deacon at the behest of Charlemagne, a version that was widely circulated throughout the Carolingian Empire in the eighth and ninth centuries.
Sold by Phillip J. Pirages Rare Books
It's not every day that one has the opportunity to handle a scribal text that is 1,200 years old. This specimen is not only among the earliest leaves we've ever offered for sale, but it is also one of the most extraordinary survivals in terms of condition that we could hope to acquire.
Letters Suppressed in the English Edition of "De Profundis" by Oscar Wilde - £15,000
De Profundis was written by Oscar Wilde during the time of his imprisonment (1895 to 1897) in the form of a letter to his lover Lord Alfred Douglas ("Bosie"). The text was later published by his literary executor Robert Ross.
The four letters printed in this publication were initially not included by Ross in his first edition of De Profundis. They illustrate Wilde's varying moods in prison.
This is a proof copy of the earliest separate printing in English of these letters. While the 1906 edition is not uncommon, this 1905 edition is by contrast extremely scarce.
Sold by Maggs Bros. Ltd
Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell - £14,300
At the Ministry of Truth, Winston Smith skillfully rewrites the past to suit the needs of the Party. Yet he inwardly rebels against the totalitarian world he lives in, which demands absolute obedience and controls him through the all-seeing telescreens and the watchful eye of Big Brother, the symbolic head of the Party.
First printing of the first British edition, original light green cloth, spine lettered in red, with red top-stain, in original red dust jacket.
Sold by Idler Fine Books
The Confidence-Man: His Masquerade by Herman Melville - £14,250
Herman Melville's final novel, published in 1857.
Set on April Fool's Day, The Confidence-Man is an engaging comedy of masquerades, digressions and shifting identity, and a devastating satire on the American dream.
This is a copy of the first English edition, likely published two or three days after the American edition.
1,000 copies were printed but 516 sets of sheets were scrapped by the publisher when the book failed to sell. Only two copies have appeared at auction in the last 25 years.
Sold by Clarel Rare Books
Dark Passage by David Goodis - £13,000
This novel was the basis for the 1947 noir film directed by Delmer Daves, starring Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall. The author's second hardcover book, and one that propelled him to fame and success.
Producer and screenwriter Jerry Wald's own copy, clearly consulted prior to and during the filming of Dark Passage.
Wald produced some of the most recognizable noirs and crime dramas from the period, including Background To Danger, Mildred Pierce, Key Largo, Flamingo Road, They Drive By Night, and The Harder They Fall, among others.
Sold by Captain Ahab's Rare Books
Aside from being an excellent read, Dark Passage is one of the great film noir source books. It also includes an inscription to a key figure involved with the film. Goodis did not inscribe books casually – virtually all of the few inscribed titles we've seen over the years stem from his few productive years working for Warner Brothers. So an inscription like this in his best-known title was a joy to handle.
12 Page Hand-written Letter and Other Documents by John Steinbeck - £13,000
John Steinbeck (1902-1968), the author of major works like Mice and Men, The Grapes of Wrath, and East of Eden, won the 1962 Nobel Prize in Literature.
This is a twelve-page, hand-written, unsigned letter by Steinbeck that includes 5 typescript letters & 2 typed signed letters.
In one passage, Steinbeck writes: A writer is essentially a very talkative person who has not the power of speech. And so he takes out his impulses with a pencil. The only social advantage he has over other bores lies In the fact that no one has to read him, no one that is except his agent. Relatives can avoid it, friends do.
Sold by CWO Books
The North American Review and Miscellaneous Journal, 237 Volumes - £12,200
Founded in 1815, the North American Review established itself as the most intellectual magazine in America. It quickly gained an international reputation and was a leading literary force in American letters throughout its 125-year history.
Known for its long essay reviews of contemporary American and European literature, it also published scholarly articles on American society and current affairs, serving both as a platform for much of the social and literary commentary in the country, and as an arena for public debates on slavery and other controversial issues of the day.
Most importantly, the magazine published contributions by some of America's best writers, ranging from Ralph Waldo Emerson to Thomas Wolfe, including Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, Walt Whitman, John Russell Lowell, Mark Twain, Henry James, John Steinbeck, and others.
Sold by Between the Covers Rare Books
Brave New World by Aldous Huxley - £12,200
The first British trade edition of the classic dystopian novel that posited a nearly omnipotent totalitarian state essentially built from the ground up, rather than the top-down dictatorship of 1984.
This copy is in excellent Near Fine condition.
Sold by Burnside Rare Books
This particular copy of Huxley's classic dystopian novel was in such nice condition you could fully appreciate the beauty of its iconic dust jacket design.
The Works of Henry James: The Novels and Tales, 24 volumes - £11,400
First edition of the New York edition of the works of Henry James. Octavo, Published by Charles Scribner's Son between 1907 and 1909.
An exceptional collection of the definitive edition of Henry James. Henry James is regarded as a key transitional figure between literary realism and literary modernism, and is considered by many to be among the greatest novelists in the English language.
He is best known for a number of novels dealing with the social and marital interplay between emigre Americans, English people, and continental Europeans. Examples of such novels include The Portrait of a Lady, The Ambassadors, and The Wings of the Dove.
Sold by Raptis Rare Books
Cosmographey: das ist, Beschreibung Aller Länder [...] by Sebastian Münster - £10,700
This is a copy of the 18th German edition of Sebastian Münster's monumental, extensively illustrated description of the world, published in 1598.
The work contains over 1,200 woodcut illustrations. Contemporary pigskin binding. Clasps are missing, spine and raised bands with some defects.
The most highly valued of all cosmographies, it passed through 24 editions in 100 years and was of paramount importance for the revival of geography in 16th-century Europe.
Sold by Antiquariat Daniel Schramm
History meets modernity: A famous description of the world from the 16th century finds a buyer via the world-connecting network of the 21st century. Big thanks to Abebooks.