May 4-11: Fahrenheit 451 and other signed material at AntiquarianAuctions.com

- by Thomas C. McKinney

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Highlighted material from AntiquarianAuctions.com's US sale #11

AntiquarianAuctions.com, an online rare book auction house, has been in business since 2010 under the leadership of antiquarian bookseller Paul Mills. In spring 2020, just as the pandemic was prompting a global shutdown, the American side of the business, led by Adam Langlands, launched with the objective of hosting sales with material specifically geared towards American collectors’ interests. With now ten auctions completed, their US Auction #11 opens at 2:30 pm eastern time on May 4th and bidding concludes at 12:30 on May 11th.

There’s a nice variety of material included here, with many signed editions and reasonable estimates. Let’s take a look at some of the highlights.

A signed, limited issue (this is copy #4 of a stated 200), first edition of Ray Bradbury’s classic Fahrenheit 451 is the headline item of the sale. Being sold now by the original owner, this copy was purchased in 1953 via mail order. AntiquarianAuctions describes it as an “enigma” because this limited issue carries with it several unanswered questions about its origin:

  1. Who came up with the idea?
  2. How many were actually printed? The current count is 215 copies!
  3. As the issue was not widely advertised, how, if at all, was it marketed?

A very interesting first edition to say the least, this copy of Bradbury’s most famous work is estimated $13,000 to $18,000 as the first lot of the sale. If this item is out of your price range, another Bradbury first edition, Dark Carnival, is being sold as lot #3 with an estimate of $1,200 to $1,800.

I’m personally only familiar with L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, because I have a friend who finds cults fascinating. Certainly a polarizing figure during his lifetime, he is evidently also collectible.  Up for sale as lot #2 is a signed, first edition of Slaves of Sleep, a science fiction novel that appeared originally in an 1939 issue of the magazine Unknown. It is estimated $1,500 to $2,500.

Pivoting to a completely different genre of material, Indian Heroes and Great Chieftains is another interesting, signed and inscribed first edition being auctioned. Written by Dr. Charles A. Eastman in 1918, the author had a fascinating life. Born in a buffalo hide tipi in Minnesota in 1858, he seemed destined to participate in the final Sioux uprisings of the 1870s. However, fate and his father intervened, and he eventually graduated from Dartmouth College and Boston University’s medical school. I highly recommend reading the longer biography included in the lot’s description. As lot 33, Dr. Eastman’s work is estimated $1,500 to $2,000.

The last highlight of this preview is a complete suite of the 158 prints, the frontispiece, and the title page from the limited edition of Henri Matisse’s artist’s book Dessins, Themes et Variations. The text leaves with several illustrations, being Louis Aragon’s accompanying essay, are missing from this sale. This particular set was used as the artwork for the reproduction issued by Dover Publications in 1995, so the plates have been annotated in the margins. They are, however, suitable for framing. As lot 171, Matisse’s prints are estimated $2,000 to $4,000.

Where information is available, AntiquarianAuctions.com goes above and beyond in providing lengthy and detailed descriptions for the items they auction. Two hundred and forty-nine lots make up Auction #11, and they are well worth your time in perusing. The entire catalog is available for preview here. If you plan on bidding, please ensure that you register beforehand.