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Cormac McCarthy's $254,500 typewriter

December 4, 2009 |  7:37 pm

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Cormac McCarthy's typewriter sold at auction today for 254,500 bones, more than 12 times the estimated cost of $15,000-$20,000. And the thing barely works!

Functionality isn't the point, of course: Provenance is. It's notable that McCarthy has written all of his 10 novels on this exact typewriter, including a National Book Award winner and a Pulitzer Prize winner. These days, many writers use computers -- but those don't last quite as long as McCarthy's machine, which he bought used in 1963.

And then there's timing: In 2008, the film version of McCarthy's "No Country for Old Men" took four Oscars. And "The Road," which Oprah picked for her book club, became a film that began playing in theaters Thanksgiving weekend. 

Were the other items up for auction so well-positioned? Not quite so extravagantly. A rundown of those we drooled over this morning -- and their final prices -- follow.

"Tamerlane and Other Poems" by Edgar Allan Poe. Estimated cost: $500,000-$800,000. Sold for $662,500.

One of the first eight printed copies of "A Christmas Carol," inscribed by Dickens to a friend on Dec. 17, 1843. Estimated cost: $120,000-$180,000. Sold for $290,500.

A first edition of Walt Whitman's "Leaves of Grass," bound in green and gilt, printed for the author. Estimated cost: $80,000-$120,000. Sold for $218,500.

A first edition of "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin. Estimated cost: $80,000-$120,000. Sold for $146,500.

A first edition of Jane Austen's "Emma," published in three volumes. Estimated cost: $60,000-$80,00. Sold for $104,500. 

A first edition of "Pride and Prejudice" by Austen, in three volumes. Estimated cost: $40,000-$60,000. Sold for $52,500.

A first edition of "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë. Estimated cost: $40,000-$60,00. Sold for $40,000.

A first American edition of "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville. Estimated cost: $25,000-$35,000. Sold for $32,500.

A first edition of Ernest Hemingway's first book "Three Stories and Ten Poems." Estimated cost: $15,000-$20,000. Sold for $30,000.

A first edition of Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark," inscribed by the author Charles Dodgson. Estimated cost. $20,000-$30,000. Sold for $21,250.

A first edition, first printing of "Walden: or, Life in the Woods" by Henry David Thoreau. Estimated cost: $7,000-$10,000. Sold for $20,000.

Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," first American edition. Estimated cost: $18,000-$24,000. Sold for $18,750.

Vladimir Nabokov's "Pale Fire," inscribed and with a butterfly hand-drawn and hand-colored by the author. Estimated cost: $8,000-$12,000. Sold for $13,750.

Two books: "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle, both first editions. Estimated cost: $4,000-$6,000. Sold for $9,375.

Elizabeth Barret Browning's "Poems," first edition, inscribed by the author to writer John Ruskin. Estimated cost: $4,000-$6,000. Sold for $7,500.

A first edition of William Faulkner's "Light in August," hardcover with dust jacket. Estimated cost: $1,000-$1,500. Sold for $4,750.

The original serialized version of Dickens' "Bleak House" in 20 parts. Estimated cost: $3,000-$4,000. Sold for $3,750.

After the jump: what didn't sell.

The original of  "The Original of Laura" by Vladimir Nabokov. Estimated cost: $400,000-$600,000. Not sold.

A first edition of James Joyce's "Ulysses," published by Shakespeare & Co. in Paris in 1922. Estimated cost: $200,000-$300,000. Not sold.

"The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club" inscribed by Charles Dickens to Hans Christen Andersen. $200,000-$300,000. Not sold.

A handwritten manuscript page from "The Pickwick Papers," edited and signed by Charles Dickens. Estimated cost: $90,000-$120,000. Not sold.

A first edition of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. Estimated cost: $10,000-$15,000. Not sold.

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: Cormac McCarthy's typewriter. Credit: Christie's / Associated Press

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