T. S. Eliot rare books and memorabilia

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wikicollecting

2015-06-26 10:30:06

T. S. Eliot rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to Modernist poet, publisher, playwright and critic T. S. (Thomas Stearns) Eliot (1888-1965).

 

Brief History/biography

Although born an American, Eliot moved to Britain in 1914 aged 25, and was made a British subject in 1927 aged 39. He wrote from a young age, his name made by the poem he published in 1915, The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock. This poem is considered a Modernist masterpiece, and paved the way for several more for which Eliot is famed, including The Waste Land (1922) and The Hollow Men (1925). Eliot also wrote plays, such as Murder in the Cathedral. Eliot was also considered one of the greatest 20th century literary critics. His colleagues, friends, and acquaintances numbered among the most revered literary and social figures of the age, including Virginia Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, James Joyce, Ezra Pound, Geoffrey Faber, John Hayward and Ian Fleming, to name but a few. Eliot was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1948.

Types of T. S. Eliot rare books and memorabilia

Books

Bloomsbury Auctions

  • A Dialogue on Poetic Drama (1928), presentation copy of first edition, signed to Virginia Woolf by T. S. Eliot, sold for $45,000 in June 2008.
  • Prufrock and Other Observations (1917), first edition, one of 500 copies, sold for $17,000 in June 2008.
  • Ash-Wednesday (1930), first trade edition, inscribed by Eliot to John Cournos and his wife, sold for $7,000 in June 2008.
  • Poems (1910) First edition, sold for $7,000 in June 2008.
  • Ash-Wednesday (1930), first edition and signed by Eliot, sold for $5,500 In June 2008.
  • The Waste Land (1922) first edition, sold for $5000.

Bonhams

  • The Waste Land (1923), first English edition, inscribed by the author. Sold for £27,000 in September 2005.
  • Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats (1939), first edition, sold for £15,000 in September 2005.

Christie’s

  • The Waste Land (1923), first English edition, inscribed to the poet Paul Valéry by Eliot, sold for $101,575 in October 2002.
  • Four Quartets (1943), corrected page proofs of the first English edition, inscribed by Eliot, sold for $23,900 in October 2002.

Sothebys

  • The Waste Land (1923), first English edition, inscribed by the author. Sold for £91,250 in November 2001.
  • Triumphal March (1931), first edition, no. 35 of The Ariel Poems, inscribed by Eliot to James Joyce. Sold for £24,000 in July 2006.
  • The Waste Land printed in the Criterion Quarterly (1922), first appearance of the poem in print, with an inscription by the author to Desmond Hawkins. Sold for £12,000 in July 2003.

Swann Auction Galleries

  • The Waste Land (1922), first edition, with original dust jacket, sold for $13,000 in November 2004.

Documents, Autographs and Photographs

Bonhams

  • Series of 84 typed and autograph letters signed by Eliot. Sold for £46,000 in September 2005.
  • Series of nearly 50 typed letters signed by Eliot to his first godson Thomas Erle Faber, son of publisher Geoffrey Faber. Sold for £38,000 in September 2005.
  • Carbon Typescript of early unpublished version of Little Gidding, marked by Eliot in pencil and annotated by Geoffrey Faber, sold for £10,000 in September 2005.

Christie’s

  • Series of 74 typed letters and two autograph letters signed by Eliot, sold for £16,250 in June 2010.
  • Eleven letters signed, including autograph, postcard and typed, with two envelopes with comic verses by Eliot. Sold for £8,400 in July 2007.

Sothebys

  • An autograph quotation signed by Eliot alongside an autograph remark signed by Ezra Pound, 1934, sold for $14,400 in April 2004.

Guide for collectors

Like most collectible works by a famous author, the books jump hugely in value when inscribed by the author with a signature. Due to the circles that Eliot moved in, and the significance of the Modernist literary movement of which he was a part, the inscriptions being directed to such eminent other artists, writers and friends, such as James Joyce, mean that these inscriptions are yet more valuable. Similarly, when one finds Eliot’s signature next to that of Ezra Pound or others, these items become not just memorabilia, but the relics of a literary age, sought-after not just by investors, but also by the most fervent of bibliophiles.

The first editions of the Wasteland are often more valuable if they were one of the first 500 copies, with an error in the spelling of ‘mountain’, and with flexible boards rather than the stiff ones with a dust jacket.

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