Selections from Maurice Sendak’s Personal Collection Sold to Benefit the Rosenbach

- by Announcement, Rare Book Hub staff

Christie’s New York is pleased to announce the sale of selections from artist and author Maurice Sendak’s personal library in its upcoming Fine Printed Books & Manuscripts Including Americana auction taking place online from 11-25 April.


Maurice Sendak (1928-2012) was an avid book collector as well as a creator. Rosenbach Curator and Senior Director of Collections Judy Guston notes, “In 2016, The Rosenbach received a bequest of a substantial number of rare books and manuscripts from Mr. Sendak’s personal library. A selection from the bequest is now part of The Rosenbach’s permanent collection. Included are first editions and manuscripts by author Herman Melville—the collecting of which prompted a congenial competition between Mr. Sendak and The Rosenbach staff, with the knowledge that the two collections would eventually be united—and illustrated books by artist, printer, and writer William Blake. Other rare and significant items from the bequest, which were not within the museum’s mission-based collecting scope and were thus never accessioned into the collections, are being offered in this sale.”


These items include a wonderful selection of books reflecting Sendak’s creative and literary interests. There are over two dozen first editions by Beatrix Potter, an artist whom Sendak greatly admired (he would call her the “quintessential children’s book writer”) and felt a certain camaraderie with, in that as “beloved illustrators” they were both considered lesser artists than they may have been otherwise. There are several books from the Brothers Grimm, including a rare presentation from them as well as the original autograph manuscript for their long-lost story Dear Mili, which Sendak illustrated for its first publication in 1988. Accompanying the Grimm tales are other works of German Romanticism, namely folk and fairy tales. There is notably a fine selection of Henry James, representing Sendak’s love of nineteenth-century literature, including first editions and presentation copies. Moving to the 20th century, writers and artists include Dr Seuss, Crockett Johnson, and William Steig, together with special editions of Sendak’s own works.


Guston reflects on the history of the Sendak relationship with the Rosenbach. “After Mr. Sendak’s initial visit to the museum in 1966—during which he was invited to stay overnight in the then-director's quarters, surrounded by books and artwork he so loved—he began to leave his work on deposit. The deposit eventually comprised more than 10,000 pieces of original artwork, manuscripts, dummy books, correspondence, printer’s proofs and other working materials, plus first editions, all representing such books as Where the Wild Things Are (1963), In the Night Kitchen (1970), and Outside Over There (1981). The artwork was regularly exhibited to the public, lent to other museums, and made accessible to researchers. In 2014 The Rosenbach returned the collection to Mr. Sendak’s estate and Foundation, the legal owners of the deposit.  The Rosenbach still retains a small collection of original book art by Sendak and editions of many of his notable works collected separately from the deposit.”


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