Rare Book Monthly

Articles - January - 2016 Issue

A Very Special Edition of a Very Special Book Offered

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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

  • <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. <i>On the Origin of Species.</i> Presentation Copy. Sold for $500,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Darwin, Charles. Autograph Letter Signed, 3 pp, negotiating the 2nd American edition with Appleton. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Hemingway, Ernest. Autograph Letter Signed, 8 pp, Paris, 1924, to his father discussing Bullfighting, Stories, and his new baby. Sold for $25,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Corialanus.</i> London, 1623. 1st printing [Extracted from the First Folio]. Sold for $50,075.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Swift, Jonathan. <i>Gulliver's Travels.</i> London, 1726. 1st edition, Teerink's A edition, fine, large copy. Sold for $21,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Fitzroy, Robert. Autograph Letter Signed to agent Thomas Stilwell, informing him of the progress of H.M.S. Beagle. Sold for $17,575.
    <center><b>Bonhams<br> Property from the Collection of Nicole and William R. Keck II</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Shakespeare, William. <i>Sonnets.</i> 1901. 2 volumes. Printed on vellum and illuminated by Ross Turner, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet. Sold for $13,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Beardsley, Aubrey. <i>The Birth, Life, and Acts of King Arthur.</i> 1893-94. 2 volumes. Contemporary painted vellum gilt by Chivers. Sold for $5,325.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Assisi, St. Francis. <i>The Canticle of Brother Sun.</i> Illuminated on vellum, for the Grolier Society. Sold for $7,575.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Rackham, Arthur. <i>Peter Pan in Kensington Gardens.</i> 1/500 copies signed by Rackham. Sold for $4,825.
    <b>Bonhams, Jun 13 results:</b> Proust, Marcel. <i>Du coté de chez Swann.</i> 1st edition, 1st issue. Inscribed by Proust. Sold for $8,825.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ian Fleming, <i>Goldfinger,</i> first edition, inscribed to Sir Henry Cotton, MBE, London, 1959. Sold for $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Joseph Brant, Mohawk Chief, ALS, writing after pledging support to King George III against American rebels, 1776. Sold for a record $35,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Sonia Delaunay, <i>Ses Peintures</i> . . ., 20 pochoir plates, Paris, 1925. Sold for a record $13,750.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Diana, Princess of Wales, 6 autograph letters signed to British <i>Vogue</i> editor, 1989-92. Sold for $10,400.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alexander Hamilton, ALS, as Secretary of the Treasury covering costs of the new U.S. Mint, 1793. Sold for $12,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Benjamin Graham & David L. Dodd, <i>Security Analysis,</i> first edition, inscribed by Graham to a Wall Street trader, NY, 1934. Sold for $20,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> George Barbier & François-Louis Schmied, <i>Personnages de Comédie,</i> Paris, 1922. Sold for $9,375.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Alphonse Mucha, <i>Ilsée, Princesse de Tripoli,</i> Paris, 1897. Sold for a record $13,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries:</b> Ralph Waldo Emerson, <i>The Dial,</i> first edition of the reconstituted issue, Emerson’s copy with inscriptions, Cincinnati, 1860. Sold for a record $3,250.

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