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Fantasy Xmas shopping for book lovers: Christie's droolworthy auction

December 4, 2009 |  8:48 am

Tamerlane

Looking for just the right gifts for the book lovers in your life? Today, in two auctions, Christie's is auctioning some rare and stunning literary artifacts. Cormac McCarthy's typewriter is only the beginning; there are first editions and letters and manuscript pages from Jane Austen, Mark Twain, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, Charlotte Brontë, Edgar Allan Poe, Vladimir Nabokov, James Joyce, William Faulkner and many more. To highlight a few pieces, here's a handy fantasy shopping guide.

If you've got $400,000-$800,000 to spend:

"Tamerlane and Other Poems" by Edgar Allan Poe. There are only 12 known copies of this, Poe's first work, that remain in existence. Financed by the 18-year-old Poe and printed in a run of 50, the attributed author is "A Bostonian," perhaps because Poe was trying to avoid being found by his foster father, to whom he may have owed gambling debts. "Tamerlane" would appear in another Poe poetry collection two years later. Estimated cost: $500,000-$800,000.

The original of "The Original of Laura" by Vladimir Nabokov. Published this year after spending decades in a Swiss vault, Nabokov's last work is a collection of 138 index cards, each written by hand. Christie's writes that no significant Nabokov manuscript has ever been offered at auction. Estimated cost: $400,000-$600,000.


For $200,000-$400,000:

A first edition of James Joyce's "Ulysses," published by Shakespeare & Co. in Paris in 1922. This copy was one of the first 100 -- #41 -- all printed on fine paper and signed by Joyce. Estimated cost: $200,000-$300,000.

Talk about a fabled pairing. In 1947, Hans Christen Andersen visited England and met Charles Dickens; the two became friends. One day Dickens went to visit Andersen, who wasn't home, so he left him a package of his books, including this copy of "The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club." Dickens inscribed it to Anderson: "Hans Christian Andersen From his friend and admirer Charles Dickens London Jul. 1847." Estimated cost: $200,000-$300,000.


For $120,000-$200,000:

A very merry limited edition -- 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.


For $80,000-$120,000:

A first edition of "The Origin of Species" by Charles Darwin. The first run -- an edition of 1,250 copies -- was sold on the day of publication in 1859. Estimated cost: $80,000-$120,000.

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

A handwritten manuscript page from "The Pickwick Papers," edited and signed by Dickens. Such pages are rare because typesetters usually threw them out -- but someone at the printers saved 44 leaves from this book. Estimated cost: $90,000-$120,000.

... a few cheaper items after the jump...

For $40,000-$80,000:

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

A first edition of "Pride and Prejudice" by Austen, in three volumes. This, her first novel, was published in a small edition of about 1,500. Estimated cost: $40,000-$60,000.

A first edition of "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Brontë. First published in October 1847, the book went into a second printing in January 1848 -- and many more since. Estimated cost: $40,000-$60,000


For $15,000-$35,000:

Want to get something for the folks at Gawker? How about a first edition of Lewis Carroll's "The Hunting of the Snark", inscribed by the author -- whose real name was Charles Dodgson -- to his sister. Estimated cost. $20,000-$30,000.

A first American edition of "Moby-Dick" by Herman Melville. The U.S. edition was published a month after the British edition and includes additional passages. Estimated cost: $25,000-$35,000.

Mark Twain's "The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn," first American edition. Bound in blue with gilt and an illustrated cover. Estimated cost: $18,000-$24,000.

Ernest Hemingway's "Three Stories and Ten Poems," first edition of 300 printed in 1923 -- which, according to Christie's, "sold miserably." With a letter signed by Hemingway. Estimated cost: $15,000-$20,000.


For $8,000-$15,000:

A first edition of "Uncle Tom's Cabin" by Harriet Beecher Stowe. The first printing, a run of 5,000 copies, sold out in days, and before the year was out, more than 300,000 copies had been sold in the U.S. Estimated cost: $10,000-$15,000.

Nabokov's "Pale Fire," with a butterfly hand-drawn and hand-colored by the author. Inscribed to his wife's cousin, Sonia, and autographed; first printing, third edition. Estimated cost: $8,000-$12,000.

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


Less-than-$7,000 bargains:

Two books: "The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes" and "The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes" by Arthur Conan Doyle, both first editions. The former was owned by Ellery Queen and Barnaby Ross (pen names of mystery writers Manfred Lee and Frederic Dannay). Estimated cost: $4,000-$6,000.

The original serialized version of Dickens' "Bleak House" in 20 parts. While these serials were usually covered in green paper, Dickens had this one wrapped in blue. Estimated cost: $3,000-$4,000.

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

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

Happy holidays!

-- Carolyn Kellogg

Photo: A copy of "Tamerlane" being auctioned today. Credit: Christie's Images Ltd. / Associated Press

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