Rare Book Monthly

Articles - June - 2012 Issue

Sendak’s Death Spurs Interest in His Works

1 cover art of maurice sendak

Cover from Art of Maurice Sendak 1980 shows Wild Things.

Not many creators of books for children get a front page obituary in the New York Times; but then there aren’t many who could match Maurice Sendak, the multi-talented illustrator and writer, who died on May 8, 2012 at the age of 83.

Sendak is best remembered as the creator of the monster-like creatures who populated the pages of “Where the Wild Things Are.” The book, published by Harper & Row in 1963, won a Caldecott medal in 1964. Its first printing was reportedly 25,000 copies.

Since then it’s been continuously in print, in hard cover, paperback and library editions, in English and many other languages. There was also a special edition commemorating its 25th anniversary. Approaching its 50th anniversary it's still going strong.

In retrospect it’s interesting to note that when Wild Things was first published concern was expressed that it was too rough and dangerous for young minds.

But no, though Max is a swashbuckler and the monsters are indeed scary with horns and claws, they are also loveable and with their own special cukoo-ness. Like the boomers themselves who marched and protested their way through the 60s (and went home to read Wild Things to their children at bedtime, not once but thousands of times), maybe, not as dangerous as all that.

Sendak – Popular and Can Be Pricey

Wild Things is popular and it can be pricey. In fact, few late 20th century books for young people have seen first edition values go up quite so steeply. An unsigned copy of the first edition, estimated at $2,000 to $3,000, brought $4,062.50 in a Heritage Auction in February of 2012 according to the AE Database.

If interest in Sendak was strong before his death, it has zoomed since then, as collectors renewed their interest not only in his books, but also toys, figurines, posters, puppets, movies. The market for ephemera, including promotional materials, calendars, Christmas cards and a variety of items signed by or with sketches by Sendak is also strong. 

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Adam Smith, <i>Wealth of Nations,</i> first edition, descended from William Alexander, London, 1776. $70,000 to $90,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> George Gershwin, photograph signed & inscribed with autograph musical quotation, <i>An American in Paris,</i> 1928. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Friedrich Engels, <i>The Condition of the Working Class in England,</i> first edition, NY, 1887. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> <i>Bury St. Edmunds Witch Trials,</i> first edition, London, 1682. $2,000 to $3,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Robert Rey, <i>Estampes,</i> complete portfolio of 12 wood engravings, Paris, 1950. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Archive of 47 letters by Enrico Caruso to a lady friend, 1906-20. $7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Books of Hours in Flemish, Netherlands, 15th century. $8,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Jack Kerouac, <i>Doctor Sax,</i> deluxe limited edition, signed, NY, 1959. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries, July 30:</b> Walt Disney, signature on title-page of Ward Greene’s <i>Lady and the Tramp,</i> first edition, first printing. $3,000 to $4,000.

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