Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2016 Issue

A Very Special Edition of a Very Special Book Offered

A signed, limited edition of Go Set A Watchman is now available.

A very special edition of the best selling novel of 2015 is now available. An edition limited to 500 copies of Harper Lee's Go Set A Watchman has been published by HarperCollins, with a price tag of $1,500. It features a leather binding with gold foil stamping, gold gilded edges, and comes in a velvet lined "elegant" cloth box with a magnetic latch. We suspect this is secondary to the book's $1,500 price. What is remarkable is that it is signed by Ms. Lee. She is 89 years old and said to be in less than spectacular health. She reportedly signed the pages over a period of a few months, with those pages later being bound into the copies of her book.

 

Harper Lee is, of course, best known for her 1960 novel To Kill A Mockingbird. It is a tale of race relations in the Old South, a classic in its time and still today. It took 55 years for Ms. Lee to have a second novel published. For some time after Mockingbird was published and became an instant success, she apparently tried to write some more. For whatever reason, it didn't work out for her, and she stopped trying long ago. Watchman was supposedly found by her lawyer in her safe deposit box. It was actually written before Mockingbird, an apparent first attempt that with many rewrites morphed into Mockingbird. However, it is not at all the same book. It is in effect a sequel, twenty years later, lead character Scout all grown up, and her progressive father, Atticus Finch, more of a typical southern bigot of the time.

 

Critics were not fond of it, but a public kept waiting 55 years grabbed it up. Certainly, readers had long ago given up on there being a second Harper Lee novel and this was an incredible surprise, enough of one to overcome the book's weak reviews.

 

Lee's role in all of this raised suspicions. She never published a second book and steadfastly retained her privacy. She retired to small town Monroeville, Alabama, avoiding interviews and publicity. Her legacy, like her privacy, was jealously guarded by her older sister, Alice. Alice died last year, and attorney Tonja Carter became primarily responsible for Ms. Lee's affairs.

 

A few months later, the discovery of Watchman was announced. Some wondered about the sudden turnabout in Ms. Lee's attitude toward publishing another book. She is 89 years old, reportedly hard of hearing and not of good eyesight, and living in a home. Since the death of her sister, she has gone from being a withdrawn, small town resident to something of a business, this $1,500 limited edition being the latest example. Still, Harper Lee herself remains inaccessible to all but a few. Has she changed, emerged from the shadows of a more aggressive sister, or is she a very elderly lady easily influenced by a lawyer and publisher who have taken over her sister's role? I don't know, but I do think these 500 copies, despite their cost, will soon be gobbled up. There are not likely to be many other signed copies of Go Set A Watchman ever available. Once these are gone, you will be left to troll the secondary market, and pay whatever it demands.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.

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