Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2012 Issue

Over a Quarter of a Million Books Sold at Larry McMurtry's "Last Book Sale"

Lastbookposter

The Last Book Sale.

One of the largest book auctions in recent memory took place in one of the smallest venues to ever see such an auction. Of course, this was no ordinary auction, but one of a large portion of the stock of noted bookseller and author Larry McMurtry's Booked Up shop in tiny Archer City, Texas. When the dust settled (there's lots of dust in this hot, dry, country near the Oklahoma border), between 250,000 and 275,000 books had changed hands. That's roughly 150 books for every resident of Archer City, but this does mean that these folks are unusually vociferous readers. Bidders came from all over the country to participate in what was as much an event for the book as a sale of them.

The Last Book Sale (a play on author McMurtry's The Last Picture Show) was not a going out of business sale. Mr. McMurtry will continue in the business, a remaining stock of some 150,000 titles still making Booked Up one of the larger shops in the country. However, at the age of 76, Mr. McMurtry determined this was an appropriate time to downsize a bit.

From the start, Mr. McMurtry and auctioneer Michael Addison plotted out a course different from the typical auction. Auctions can generally do a good job of selling a few hundred books, but they were faced with finding a way to sell 300,000 of them. As many booksellers can attest, that is no small challenge in these days of huge online inventories on listing sites, and more people reading electronic versions of books. Their conclusion was that The Last Book Sale needed to be an event, not just an auction. And so it was. There was a barbecue, a screening of a movie, and, of course, Mr. McMurtry's presence. He has always known how to attract a crowd. How else do you explain a large, successful book store in Archer City, Texas? As Mr. Addison explained, “An auction is supposed to be fun. Many people come to auctions for the fun of it but end up bidding and buying. I think that when people have fun, they feel less inhibited and more free to bid.”

We went to Mr. Addison to get an insider's look at what must be, at least so far, a prime contender for the title of most interesting book sale of this century. He graciously put down some recollections on what was an extremely busy, whirlwind of a weekend for both him and Mr. McMurtry. “At some point during the evening before the auction when everyone gathered in the Royal Theater for the BBQ and movie-screening,” he said, “everyone just had this sense that this was a significant event. There was almost an instant sense among the bidders, guests, and staff that they were all participating in something very special. As Larry McMurtry put it after about the first day of the sale, 'It's become an event that has transcended its literal purpose.'

“The first surprise was the overwhelming presence of the national media. I haven't been in a situation where I needed a staff member dedicated to PR, but I could have used someone like that in Archer City. It started during the preview period when, early on, the local news station sent out a film crew and did interviews with Mr. McMurtry and myself. Then the local paper took photos and did an interview. No problem. But Wednesday and especially Thursday, media converged on Archer City on a scale far beyond what I anticipated. The Houston Chronicle, the New York Times, the Dallas Morning News, media reporters from L.A., New York, and everywhere in between were surrounding Mr. McMurtry in Booked Up store number 1, and they were stopping me to ask questions and do brief interviews when they could keep up with me walking from building to building at a brisk pace. We were very appreciative of all of the attention and publicity. There were plenty of questions coming from every direction. Mostly the media was interested in what Mr. McMurtry had to say. Larry McMurtry really brings out the crowds and the media, no doubt about that.

“After the two-day auction, Larry and I were finally able to catch up with each other. I immediately noticed that his voice had become a bit rough from all of the interviews. He was tired as was I. However, he was also happy, visibly relieved though exhausted from all the goings on. I think the need to downsize had been a stress for him, the auction had been a stress for all of us, and he seemed quite happy that it not only was finished but was quite successful. We heard nothing but positive feedback from the guests. Everyone had a great time, and booksellers came in droves, from Powell's in Oregon to Between the Covers in New Jersey. However, the buyer who took the 'gold' for the most lots purchased was Eric Papenfuse of Midtown Scholar books out of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.”

Mr. Addison noted that some bidders came to gather stock, but others just wanted a piece of the legendary store. He was particularly surprised to find several people interested in the four posters he had printed at Office Depot several weeks earlier. They were put up for sale and brought in around $200 each. “Locals told me that this was the largest crowd they had ever seen in Archer City. When The Last Picture Show cast returned to film Texasville, there were crowds, but according to the local folks I spoke with, our auction crowd was much larger. By the last day of the sale, we had about 200 registered bidders, and most of them brought guests. Aside from the auction bidders and guests, people came by the dozens just to shop in Building number 1, which was open for shopping. In all, I would say between 400 and 600 people came to Archer City for the sale; some stayed for days, some stayed for a couple of hours.”


Posted On: 2012-09-01 00:00
User Name: zbooks

For a first-hand account of the sale see my essay on the American Book Collecting Blog: www.bookcollectinghistory.com It will give you the flav


Posted On: 2012-09-02 00:00
User Name: scientiabk

80 cents a volume is a success?


Posted On: 2012-09-02 00:00
User Name: scientiabk

80 CENTS a volume is a success?


Rare Book Monthly

  • <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Harriet Tubman Cabinet Card by H.S. Squyer, Auburn, NY, 1892. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Scarce <i>Events of the Tulsa Disaster,</i> First Edition, 1922. $4,000 to $6,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Unpublished CDV of Frederick Douglass by Benjamin F. Smith, 1864. $3,000 to $5,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> California Imprint of <i>President Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation</i> Broadside, 1864. $10,000 to $15,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> John C.H. Grabill Cabinet Card of Buffalo Soldier Wearing Buffalo Coat, ca 1886. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare <i>What Mrs. Fisher Knows About Old Southern Cooking,</i> 2nd Cookbook Published by African American. $6,000 to $8,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Frederick Douglass Walking Stick, 1888. $3,000 to $5,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Only Known Slave Narrative Published Independently in California, <i>Life and Adventures of James Williams.</i> $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Rare First Edition of History of Black Literature, Abbé Grégoire <i>De La Littérature des Nègres</i>. $2,500 to $3,000
    <center><b>Cowan’s Auctions<br>The Road West: The Steve Turner Collection of African Americana<br>February 20, 2020</b>
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> African American Soldier and Medal of Honor Winner Christian A. Fleetwood CDV, PLUS. $8,000 to $10,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Jack Johnson vs. Jim Jeffries Pennant, 1910 Reno, Nevada. $2,000 to $4,000
    <br>Cowan’s, Feb. 20:</b> Joe Gans Photograph at 1906 Goldfield, Nevada Fight by Percy Dana. $600 to $800
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Sense and Sensibility: A Novel, By a Lady,</i> 3 volumes, London, 1811. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Virginia Woolf, <i>Kew Gardens,</i> limited edition, signed by Woolf & Bell, London, 1927. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> <i>[Arabian Nights],</i> Calcutta II version, 4 volumes, Calcutta & London, 1839-1842. $12,000 to $18,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 ALS to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor, anticipating Christie’s sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Jane Austen, <i>Emma,</i> first edition, London, 1816. $15,000 to $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Hirohito & Nagako, Emperor & Empress of Japan, 2 photographs signed, showing Nagako in kimono & obi bearing the imperial seal. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Princess Diana, 6 autograph letters signed to <i>Harper’s Bazaar</i> editor Elizabeth Tilberis, anticipating Christie’s announcement of a sale of her dresses for charity, 1995-97. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Sarojini Naidu, complete galley proof of <i>The Broken Wing</i> signed with several holograph pages & an autograph letter signed to writer Edmund Gosse, 1916. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Fernando Pessoa, <i>Mensagem,</i> first edition, presentation copy, signed & inscribed, Lisbon, 1934. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Graham Greene, <i>The Basement Room,</i> first edition, Greene’s personal copy, signed with annotations throughout, London, 1935. $4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b> Abraham Lincoln, partly-printed document signed, call for troops issued during America’s first national draft just days before the NYC draft riots, 1863. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Feb 20:</b><br><i>Les Chansons de Bilitis</i> by Pierre Louÿs, illustrated by George Barbier & F.L. Schmied, Paris, 1922. $8,000 to $12,000.
  • <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Helvelius. Two Autograph Letters Signed to Francis Aston, Royal Society Secretary, noting his feud with Robert Hooke, 5 pp total, 1685. $70,000 to $100,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Newton, Isaac. Autograph manuscript on God, 4 pp, c.1710, "In the beginning was the Word...."?$100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Beethoven's Ninth Symphony. First edition, first issue. Untrimmed copy in contemporary boards. $30,000 to $50,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Lincoln, Abraham. Signed photograph, beardless portrait with Civil War provenance. $80,000 to $120,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> IMPEACHMENT. Original engrossed copy of the first Andrew Johnson impeachment resolution vote. $120,000 to $180,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Mucha, Alphonse. 11 original pencil drawings for?<i>Andelicek z Baroku,</i> "Litte Baroque Angel," Prague, 1929. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Einstein, Albert. Annotated Galley Proofs for <i>The Meaning of Relativity.</i> 1921. $25,000 to $35,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Silverstein, Shel. Original maquette for <i>The Giving Tree,</i> 34 original drawings. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Roth, Philip. Typed Manuscript with substantial autograph corrections for an unpublished sequel to <i>The Breast.</i> $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> Taupin, Bernie. Autograph Manuscript, the original draft of lyrics for Elton John's "Candle in the Wind," 2 pp, 1973. $100,000 to $150,000.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> HARVEY, WILLIAM. <i>De Motu Cordis et Sanguinis in Animalibus Anatomica Exercitatio.</i> Padua: 1643. $12,000 to $18,000.
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    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Mark TWAIN. <i>Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (Tom Sawyer's comrade).</i> New York, 1885. First American edition.<br>Est. 5 000 / 6 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Walt WHITMAN. <i>Leaves of Grass.</i> Brooklyn, New York, 1856. Second edition gathering 32 poems. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
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    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Ernest HEMINGWAY. <i>A Farewell to Arms.</i> New York, 1929. First edition with $2.50 on the dust and A on the copyright page.<br>Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Ulysses.</i> Paris, Shakespeare and Company, 1922. First edition published by Sylvia Beach. Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> James JOYCE. <i>Dubliners.</i> Londres, 1914. First edition. Nice copy in publisher’s cardboard. Est. 2 000 / 3 000 €
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    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> David Herbert LAWRENCE. <i>Lady Chatterley's Lover.</i> Florence, 1928. Privately printed first edition. Est. 4 000 / 5 000 €
    John STEINBECK. <i>The Grapes of Wrath.</i> New York, 1939. First edition. Nice copy with $2.75 on the cover. Est. 1 000 / 1 200 €

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