Kelmscott Press Chaucer tops strong lineup at Potter & Potter, Feb. 16
CHICAGO – Potter & Potter Auctions will hold a Fine Books & Manuscripts, Including Americana Sale, its first in 2023, on Thursday, February 16, starting at 10 am Central time. The 531-lot auction will feature century-spanning works across all categories, as well as signed and presentation editions and maps. Absentee and Internet live bidding will be available through LiveAuctioneers.
Museum-quality antiquarian books should take several of the top lot slots in this sale, such as a copy of The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer Now Newly Imprinted, a limited edition from 1896 that was published by William Morris at the Kelmscott Press. It is the 425th copy from a total edition of 438, is printed in black and red, and includes its custom folding box. It is illustrated with borders and initials by C.E. Keates, W.H. Hooper,and W. Spielmeyer after William Morris, and 87 woodcut illustrations by W.H. Hooper after Edward Burne-Jones. According to the industry reference Artist & The Book, the Kelmscott Chaucer “is the most important … [and] perhaps the most famous book of the modern private press movement, and the culmination of William Morris’ endeavor.” The example on offer carries an estimate of $100,000-$125,000.
Inscribed books with breathtaking provenance include a first edition presentation copy of W.W. Jacobs’ (British, 1863-1943) Salthaven, inscribed to Samuel L. Clemens, aka Mark Twain, (American, 1835-1910), which has an estimate of $25,000-$35,000. It was published by Methuen & Co. in London in 1908. Twain additionally inscribed on the half title “It’s a delightful book. Mark.” Below, Twain further reaffirmed this statement, apparently in passing the book to someone else: “Bog House, Bermuda, March/10. I have read it about 5 times. The above verdict stands.” In Mark Twain’s Letters, Vol. VI, Albert Bigelow Paine comments that “Clemens was a great admirer of the sea stories of W.W. Jacobs and generally kept one or more of this author’s volumes in reach of his bed, where most of his reading was done.”
Another standout is a first edition of Ward Greene’s (American, 1892-1956) Lady And The Tramp, estimated at $5,000-$8,000. It was published in New York by Simon and Schuster in 1953 and is the basis of the 1955 classic film of the same title. This exceptional association copy has its jacket and is signed by Walt Disney (1901-1966), animator Bill Justice (1914-2001), and four of Disney’s Nine Old Men: Frank Thomas (1912-2004), Ollie Johnston (1912-2008), Eric Larson (1905-1988) and Woolie Reitherman (1905-1985).
The February 16 sale lineup also includes first editions of some of the most famous, beloved and important books of the past two centuries. Chief among them is a 1917 first edition of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ (1875-1950) A Princess Of Mars in its original dust jacket. This landmark novel was based on the scientific writings of the time, especially those of Percival Lowell. The book inspired many writers and artists, including Robert A. Heinlein, Ray Bradbury, Arthur C. Clarke, James Cameron and George Lucas, and virtually singlehandedly created and then explored a new genre of adventure fiction – the interplanetary romance. Its estimate is $6,000-$8,000.
Certain to command attention is J.R.R. Tolkien’s (1892–1973) the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. This threesome includes The Fellowship Of The Ring from 1954, The Two Towers from 1954 and The Return Of The King from 1955, and is together estimated at $10,000-$15,000. All were published in London by Allen & Unwin Ltd., and have provenance to the bookseller, R.S. Heath Ltd. The Fellowship of the Rings is a second impression; The Two Towers is a first impression in a first state dust jacket without reviews on its rear flap; and The Return of the King is a first impression, third state, in a second state dust jacket with reviews on its rear flap. According to Potter’s experts, this is “A lovely set of one of the best-selling book series of all time in attractive dust jackets.”
Completing the highlights is a first edition, limited issue of Oscar Wilde’s (1854–1900) The Importance Of Being Earnest: A Trivial Comedy For Serious People, which has an estimate of $6,000-$8,000. It was published in London by Leonard Smithers and Co. in 1899 and is number 34 of 1,000 copies. Smithers published this work four years after the original production with some changes that Wilde had made in the preceding months. The book comes with an original albumen photo of Wilde and Lord Alfred Douglas (1870-1945), Wilde’s partner, depicting Douglas sitting on a bench wearing a straw hat with Wilde leaning with his left foot on the bench. It was taken in Oxford in the summer of 1893.
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