Charlotte Bronte and Harry Potter headline Sotheby's English literature sale

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Charlotte Bronte and Harry Potter headline Sotheby's English literature sale
Harry Potter cover. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- Sotheby's London, 29th November, 2011, announces the sale of a selection of exceptional works in its English Literature, History Private Press, Children’s Books & Illustrations on Thursday, 15 December 2011. The sale, which comprises 163 lots, is expected to raise in excess of £1.5 million. The headline lot is an autograph manuscript of the previously unknown The Young Men’s Magazine, Number 2, written by a 14-year-old Charlotte Brontė, in miniature format. Estimated at £200,000-300,000, it is one of only a handful of such manuscripts remaining in private hands. Also featured is a first deluxe edition of Harry Potter and The Philosopher’s Stone which includes 10 full-colour, specially commissioned illustrations by Thomas Taylor, the first artist to give shape to the boy wizard. The sale has several works of international significance, including an archive of literary manuscripts by Naguib Mahfouz, probably the most significant Egyptian novelist of the 20th Century.

Peter Selley, Sotheby‟s Senior Director and Senior Specialist in the Books and Manuscripts Department said: “This is a wonderfully diverse sale, which offers historic collecting opportunities, including the most important Brontė manuscript to be offered at auction for a generation. Previously unknown to scholars and of huge literary significance, it sheds new light on Charlotte Brontė’s inspirations and the fantasy worlds inhabited by the Brontė siblings. Another imaginary realm which has captivated millions of readers is that of J.K. Rowling, and the sale features perhaps the ultimate bespoke Harry Potter novel. The unique copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher‟s Stone includes 10 wonderfully fresh illustrations, offered with the original watercolours, by Thomas Taylor, who created the first ever depiction of the young wizard.”

The unpublished manuscript by Charlotte Brontė, The Young Men’s Magazine, Number 2, reveals a plot line which is a precursor to one of the most famous scenes in Jane Eyre. Estimated at £200,000-300,000, it is the most important Brontė manuscript to have appeared at auction in more than thirty years and has never before been seen by scholars. Set in „Glass Town‟, the earliest fictional world that the four Brontė siblings created, and written by a fourteen-year-old Charlotte in miniature magazine format, the manuscript is dated August 1830 – 17 years before the celebrated author wrote Jane Eyre.

Offered for sale for the first time, a unique copy of the first 1999 deluxe edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone by J.K. Rowling, is estimated at £30,000-50,000. The bespoke, extra-illustrated edition is not only signed by the author but also includes 10 specially commissioned full-colour plates by the original Harry Potter illustrator, Thomas Taylor. The consignor asked Taylor to create the images in 2002 for his own library. The scenes were chosen for their significance and to provide an even spread of illustrations throughout the narrative. They were originally intended to be bound into a copy of the book, but proving too thick, were instead reproduced on fine wove paper and sumptuously bound by Asprey. Thomas Taylor provided the first-ever depiction of Harry Potter for the cover of Rowling‟s debut novel in 1997. After it was published the image achieved world-wide fame and Taylor‟s original watercolour was sold at Sotheby‟s London in July 2001 for £85,750.

A highly significant archive of literary manuscripts by Naguib Mahfouz, probably the most significant Egyptian novelist of the 20th Century, is estimated at £50,000-70,000.

Best known for his 1950s works the Cairo Trilogy and the Children of Gebelawi, in 1988, Mahfouz became the only Arab writer to win the Nobel Prize for Literature. Mahfouz‟s style developed throughout his career and those changes are reflected in this rich and diverse group of literary manuscripts which includes material from both the beginning of his career in the 1930s, to his death in 2006. To Sotheby‟s best knowledge this is the first manuscript material by Mahfouz to appear at auction.

A unique edition of Queen Victoria’s biography by Agnes Strickland, Queen Victoria from Her Birth to Her Bridal (Henry Colburn, 1840), inscribed with notes in the Queen‟s hand, is estimated at £10,000-£15,000. Queen Victoria was deeply unimpressed with the biography by the well-known Victorian author of Lives of the Queens of England. When a copy of the overtly effusive and sentimental work was presented to her, the Queen made her true feelings known. She made caustic marginal comments on 120 pages of the book, then had it returned to the author. In many cases Queen Victoria marked specific paragraphs with a vertical line and added a terse “not true”, “quite false”, and even “not one word of truth” in the margin. In others she made specific factual corrections to names, dates and places. Strickland, appalled at the royal response, made every effort to halt further distribution of the book, and to buy any remaining copies in bookstores and destroy them. This book is offered for sale for the first time, by Agnes Strickland‟s direct descendants. In 1932 the family (then living in Canada) received a request from King George V to see the book. It was duly despatched to England and is offered for sale in the brown paper wrapping in which it was posted back to the family from Windsor Castle.

A collection of books and effects, formerly the property of Yvonne Cloetta, the long-time companion of Graham Greene, is estimated to reach a total in excess of £40,000. Mme Cloetta was Greene‟s last great love and the centre of his emotional life for his last three decades. The author moved to Antibes in the early 1960s to be near her home in Juan Les Pins. He never formally divorced his wife Vivien, and Yvonne never left her husband, but the extent of the collection and the tenderness of its inscriptions, reveals the depth of their relationship: “If I were to live my life again, there is only one thing I would want unchanged: meeting you, knowing you, and loving you,” Graham Greene wrote to Yvonne in 1978. The collection, comprising correspondence, inscribed first editions of Greene‟s novels, a portrait of the author and his camera, will be sold in 16 separate lots.

The very rare first separate English edition of one of the best-loved poems in the English language, Rudyard Kipling’s IF, is estimated at £8,000-£12,000. The work, which is consistently voted as “The Nation‟s Favourite Poem”, was first published in 1910, but it was the appearance of this first edition in the month of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, which brought it to the attention of a wider public. There is believed to be only one copy recorded in any institution worldwide: that in the collection of one of Kipling‟s early biographers the Canadian barrister and industrialist James McG. Stewart, who bequeathed it to Dalhousie University Library in Halifax, Nova Scotia.

A charming original ink drawing of Piglet, stranded in a tree during a flood, by E.H. Shepard is estimated at £30,000-50,000. The work, which here has Shepard‟s minor gouache corrections, was reproduced as a full-page illustration in Chapter IX of A.A. Milne‟s Winnie the Pooh, published in 1926. Shepard entitled the drawing “Rescue of Piglet” before quoting Milne‟s text: “It is a little anxious… to be a very small animal entirely surrounded by water.”

Another famous literary pig to feature in the sale is the beloved Wilbur. Maggie Kneen’s complete set of 21 fine pencil and watercolour drawings for Some Pig! by Charlotte’s Web author E. B. White, is estimated to fetch £4,000-£6,000.

A unique leather-bound boxed set of Stieg Larsson’s internationally bestselling and award-winning Millennium Trilogy comprises The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Girl Who Played with Fire and The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest, along with the original letter of rejection sent to a young Larsson in 1972 by the Joint Committee of Colleges of Journalism. Larsson kept this letter among his personal possessions until his death, and it reveals an original pencil portrait by the author himself. Stieg Larsson‟s drawing skills are well documented, but his drawings have not previously been published. The document has been donated by the author's family specifically to be included with the boxed set estimated at £10,000-12,000. The sale will benefit Expo, the anti-discrimination foundation set up in 1995 by Larsson and his peers. Larsson served as president of the foundation as well as editor-in-chief of Expo magazine until his death in 2004.

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