Laurence Sterne rare books and memorabilia

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2015-06-26 11:08:45

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Laurence Sterne rare books and memorabilia

Laurence Sterne rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to novelist and Anglican clergyman Laurence Sterne (1713-1768). He is best known for his comic novels The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman, and A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy.

Brief History/biography

Laurence Sterne had a career in the clergy, until his failing health and inability to earn enough money through farming turned him to writing. The first two volumes of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman appeared in 1759, followed by volumes three and four in 1761, volumes five and six in 1762, volumes seven and eight in 1765, and volume 9 in 1767. This comic and bawdy fictional autobiography made Sterne’s name, and is considered a forerunner of the stream of consciousness style.

After the publication of Tristram Shandy, the work that made his name, Sterne travelled around the continent seeking a climate that would improve his health. These travels were fictionalised in Sterne’s A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy (1768). This novel was extremely popular, and is credited with establishing travel writing as a genre.

Other works include A Political Romance (1759), a publication of his Sermons, and Journal to Eliza (1767), published post-humously.

Types of rare books and memorabilia

Books

Bloomsbury Auctions

  • Tristram Shandy, 9 volumes complete, mixed early editions, some volumes signed by Sterne, sold for £2,000 in May 2011.
  • A Sentimental Journey… two volumes, first edition (1768), sold for £800 in March 2012.

Bonhams

  • Works (1783), 10 volumes uniformly bound in leather, sold for £2,125 in November 2011.

Christie’s

  • Tristram Shandy (1793), sold for 7,200 Euros in April 2006.
  • Tristram Shandy (1760-1767), first editions, some signed by Sterne, sold for $8,813 in October 2001.
  • A Sentimental Journey first edition, (1768), sold for $5,288 in October 2001.

Sothebys

  • Tristram Shandy (1760-1767), first editions, sold for $15,600 in December 2004.
  • A Sentimental Journey first edition (1768), sold for $5,100 in December 2004.

Documents, Autographs and Photographs

Bonhams

  • Autograph letter signed by Sterne, sold for £7,800 in March 2011.

Christie’s

  • Autobiographical memoir, autograph manuscript (1758), sold for £10,350 in June 1995.
  • Autograph letter signed by Sterne, c.1765, sold for £6,000 in July 2007.

Guide for collectors

Collecting all nine volumes of Tristram Shandy as they first appeared is a project to excite collectors of 18th century literature, especially as it was common for Sterne to sign certain volumes of this set. Often rebound in leather, if expertly done, these sets can make fine collections.

First editions of A Sentimental Journey through France and Italy are also sought-after. However his lesser-known works are more scarce, possibly making them a worthwhile investment. Manuscript and autograph pieces of his writing are very valuable, and particularly coming across his sermons in this form would be an extremely good find.

The Laurence Sterne trust: http://laurencesternetrust.org.uk, provide a vast amount of information on the writer and his works, very useful to interested collectors.

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