Sunday, June 20, 2010

Twain and Fitzgerald sell at Sotheby's

On Friday, June 18th Sotheby New York's second offering of rare books and manuscripts including the Mark Twain Collection was conducted. Led by Samuel Langhorne Clemens’ unpublished autobiographical manuscript A Family Sketch, which achieved $242,500, a world auction record for an autograph manuscript by Twain** (est. $120/160,000*) the collection brought $936,012.

Encompassing almost two hundred original letters, manuscripts and photographs, The Mark Twain Collection shed light on the wit, pathos, and tragedy of the acclaimed author of the Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Samuel Langhorne Clemens. The top lot of the collection was Clemens’ unpublished manuscript, “A Family Sketch,” his most intimate and introspective memoir of his family and his own boyhood days and the missing chapter of his autobiography. The manuscript sold to a member of the trade bidding in the saleroom for $242,500 after competition from at least four collectors, setting a world auction record for an autograph manuscript by Mark Twain at auction (est. $120/160,000*). Clemens’ notion of autobiography took a discursive approach, with his recollections of his youth, sketches of people he had met, and essays on various subjects cobbled together in rambling fashion. What initially began as a tribute to his late – and undisputed favorite – daughter Susy thus devolved into a narrative that encompasses the whole of this family and friends as well as glimpses of incidents of his own childhood.

Other highlights of The Mark Twain Collection included the Clemens’ autograph manuscript of Chapter 8 from The Gilded Age, which achieved $68,500 (est. $30/50,000) and an original manuscript chapter from A Tramp Abroad, which sold for $59,375 (est. $30/50,000).

Friday's offerings also included an autograph transcription of the final two paragraphs from F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby, including the iconic concluding sentence, ‘So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past,’ which sold for $98,500, far exceeding presale expectations of $25/35,000.

Images shown (in order of appearance):
Clemens, Samuel L. Autograph manuscript of the Unpublished “Family Sketch" ca 1896-97. Estimate $120,000 - 160,000. Sold for: $242,500 (£165,348)
Fitzgerald, F. Scott. Literary Portrait and autograph manuscript of the final four sentences of The Great Gatsby, late 1920’s. Estimate: $25,000 - 35,000. Sold for: $98,500 (£67,162).

*estimates do not include buyer’s premium **The previous record was set by Sotheby’s New York on June 18, 1987, when lot 27, the autograph manuscript story, ‘The $30,000 Bequest’, 1903, sold for $110,000.

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