Published: March 13, 2007
By the close of its February 18 sale, Bonhams & Butterfields’ clients †fans of fine literature, book collectors and an entourage of book dealers bidding on behalf of their private clients †spent more than $1 million for the fine books and manuscripts that were offered.
The sale, conducted for the second consecutive year during the California ABAA Book Fair, which took place in San Francisco this year, featured a collection of rare and desirable John Steinbeck works, many first edition presentation copies inscribed by the Nobel prize winner to his sister, Beth.
“Interest was widespread,” said Dr Catherine Williamson, director of book and manuscript sales for Bonhams & Butterfields, “not only from the attendees in San Francisco for this year’s book fair, but from noted collectors and important libraries across the country.”
Top lot of the Steinbeck collection was a first edition, presentation copy of the author’s best-known work, The Grapes of Wrath, 1939. Estimated at $20/30,000, the superlative copy brought $47,800 †a new at-auction world record. Steinbeck had written: “For Beth with Love John” on the front endpaper, making this copy exceedingly desirable to collectors. As the Los Angeles Times reported, Cup of Gold, Steinbeck’s first published novel, was his least favorite. Copies of the 1929 work are hard to find, however, and dust jackets of the work even more so. A bidder paid $21,510 for this book with its dust jacket intact.
Bidding battles were seen as prices exceeded their estimates for copies of Steinbeck’s works, including Of Mice and Men, 1937, which sold for $7,768; In Dubious Battle, 1936, which brought $11,353; East of Eden, 1952, which realized $8,365; and Nothing So Monstrous, 1936, which fetched $8,365, among many others.
Artwork by Thomas Hart Benton used as illustrations in The Grapes of Wrath comprised four lithographs signed and inscribed by Benton to Steinbeck, each selling within or above estimate. A bidder paid $8,365 for a portrait of the character “Sharon Joad” from that best-seller, and $5,378 was paid for a portrait of “Casy.” A portrait of John Steinbeck drawn by the author’s friend and collaborator artist Mahlon Blaine sold above estimate for $7,170.
Additional sale highlights include $77,000 paid for a first edition of Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, 1936, signed and inscribed by Hemingway; $88,500 paid for Ansel Adams’s first published photo portfolio, “Parmelian Prints of the High Sierras,” 1927, comprising 18 signed gelatin silver prints; and $20,315 paid for a copy of Ayn Rand’s The Fountainhead, 1943; this copy signed by Rand as well as actors who starred in the film version of her masterwork †Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal and Raymond Massey, among others.
Prices reported include the buyer’s premium. For information, www.bonhams.com or 415-861-7500.
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