Rare Book Monthly

Articles - March - 2015 Issue

55 Years Later Harper Lee to Publish Second Novel

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Harper Lee received Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Bush.

Some authors take a while to write that second book. Sophomore slump, writer's cramp, any number of reasons can make that second book hard to write, even, maybe especially, if the first was a great success. However, Nelle Harper Lee must have set a record with the recent announcement that her second novel will be published this summer. It follows on the heels of her enormously popular first novel, To Kill A Mockingbird, by a mere 55 years. For comparison's sake, one Corin Tellado, who tops Wikipedia's list of the most prolific writers, wrote 4,000 novels between the date of his first and the date of his death – 63 years between them.

 

What we learned from the surprising announcement by publisher HarperCollins was that the book, while effectively a sequel to To Kill A Mockingbird, was actually written prior to her only published book. Indeed, this “new” book, Go Set A Watchman, was taken by Lee to a publisher who recommended she write about the characters' lives 20 years earlier. In Watchman, the protagonist, “Scout,” has returned from New York to her hometown of Mayville to visit her father, Atticus Finch. According to HarperCollins' statement, Lee followed her publisher's advice, wrote To Kill A Mockingbird, put the completed Watchman aside, and never returned to it. It was lost, or misplaced, for over half a century before being found attached to an original typescript of Mockingbird.

 

This history has raised a few eyebrows, but we will get back to that in a moment. Here is HarperCollins' statement about the discovery of this book:

 

“Harper Lee says, 'In the mid-1950s, I completed a novel called Go Set a Watchman. It features the character known as Scout as an adult woman and I thought it a pretty decent effort. My editor, who was taken by the flashbacks to Scout's childhood, persuaded me to write a novel from the point of view of the young Scout. I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told. I hadn't realized it had survived, so was surprised and delighted when my dear friend and lawyer Tonja Carter discovered it. After much thought and hesitation I shared it with a handful of people I trust and was pleased to hear that they considered it worthy of publication. I am humbled and amazed that this will now be published after all these years.'

 

Go Set a Watchman is set during the mid-1950s and features many of the characters from To Kill a Mockingbird some twenty years later. Scout (Jean Louise Finch) has returned to Maycomb from New York to visit her father, Atticus. She is forced to grapple with issues both personal and political as she tries to understand her father's attitude toward society, and her own feelings about the place where she was born and spent her childhood.

 

“After To Kill a Mockingbird was published by J. B. Lippincott in 1960, Harper Lee set aside Go Set a Watchman and never returned to it. The original manuscript of the novel was considered to have been lost until fall 2014, when Tonja Carter discovered it in a secure location where it had been affixed to an original typescript of To Kill a Mockingbird.

 

The announcement elicited not just shock for being unexpected, but because the circumstances sounded so strange, and the reaction so unlike Ms. Lee. Harper Lee had long maintained she had said everything she had to say in Mockingbird and had no more to add. She also closely guarded her privacy, was litigious toward those she thought tried to exploit her, and if not quite as reclusive as J. D. Salinger, she still spent most of her last 55 years keeping to herself.

 

The timing also raised questions. For most of her adult life, Lee was represented by her older sister, Alice Lee, who was also an attorney. As unofficial gatekeeper, Alice guarded her sister's privacy resolutely for all those years, but on reaching the age of 100, she retired. Alice died last fall at the age of 103. Then we find that around the same time, this long lost novel is suddenly discovered. The finder, according to HarperCollins, was Alice's successor as Harper Lee's legal representative, Tonja Carter. While Carter has served in this capacity since Alice retired, Alice was still around to observe how her sister was represented until last fall.

 

Meanwhile, after years of denying any reason to write another novel, in HarperCollins' statement, Ms. Lee said she was “delighted” by the find by Tonja Carter, whom she describes as her “dear friend.” It all seems so contrary to her personality. Now 88 years old and living in assisted care, Ms. Lee is said to be nearly blind and deaf. She suffered a stroke eight years ago. In 2011, Alice wrote a letter to a (unauthorized) biographer saying, “Poor Nelle Harper can't see and can't hear and will sign anything put before her by anyone in whom she has confidence.” The announcement came solely through HarperCollins, and Harper Lee has not met with anyone to confirm their account, and apparently has no intention of doing so.

 

Naturally, the new book is expected to be an enormous success. HarperCollins plans to publish the book in July in a print run of two million copies, which matches first runs for the most popular of authors. Those who loved Mockingbird long hoped she would write another book, but having a sequel to Mockingbird is even better. The sales almost certainly will be enormous, though it is not clear what the author would do with so much money at this stage of life, or why she is so delighted after all these years of reticence to see another book published under her name.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Francis Scott Key, <i>Star Spangled Banner,</i> first printing, c. 1814-16. $8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> William Sydney Porter, a.k.a. “O. Henry,” archive of drawings made to illustrate a lost mining memoir, c. 1883-84. $30,000 to $40,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> [Bay Psalm Book], printed for Hezekiah Usher of Boston, Cambridge, c. 1648-65. $50,000 to $75,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Book of Mormon, first edition, Palmyra, 1830. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Noticia estraordinario,</i> probable first announcement in Mexico City of the fall of the Alamo, 1836. $40,000 to $60,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Patrick Gass, first edition of earliest first-hand account of the Lewis and Clarke expedition, Pittsburgh, 1807. $6,000 to $9,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Diploma from the Princeton Class of 1783, commencement attended by Washington & Continental Congress. $10,000 to $15,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>Sprague Light Cavalry!</i> color-printed broadside, NY, 1863. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> <i>The Lincoln & Johnson Union Campaign Songster,</i> Philadelphia, 1864. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Lucy Parsons, labor organizer, albumen cabinet card, New York, 1886. $800 to $1,200.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Daniel L.F. Swift, journal as third mate on a Pacific Whaling voyage, 1848-1850. $3,000 to $4,0000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Mar 10:</b> Two photos of Thomas Moran, Grand Canyon, silver prints, 1901. $1,500 to $2,500.
  • <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.
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 6:</b> CESALPINO, ANDREA. <i>Peripateticarum Quaestionum Libri Quinque.</i> Venice: 1571. $30,000 to $40,000.
  • <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Leon TOLSTOÏ. <i>Anna Karenina.</i> Moscou, 1878. First and full edition of the Russian novel, in the author’s language.<br>Est. 3 000 / 4 000 €
    <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 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Karen BLIXEN. <i>Out of Africa.</i> Londres, 1937. First edition in the UK, before Danish translation and American release.<br>Est. 1 500 / 2 000 €
    <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 €
    <b>ALDE, Feb. 26:</b> Franz KAFKA. 8 novels in German first edition, published in München, Leipzig and Berlin 1916-1931. Est. from 300 / 400 to 2 000 / 3 000 €
    <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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