William Makepeace Thackeray rare books and memorabilia



2015-06-26 10:35:27

William Makepeace Thackeray rare books and memorabilia are collectible items relating to the 19th century English novelist William Makepeace Thackeray (1811-1863). He was most famed for his humorist satirical writing, in particular his novel Vanity Fair.

Brief History/biography

Thackeray was born in India but returned to England when he was five years old. He received an inheritance in his early 20s, and gambled much of it away, using the rest to fund two unsuccessful newspapers. However, after marrying he dedicated himself to writing in order to support his family. He wrote pieces for the witty Fraser’s Magazine and reviewed books for The Times. Through a friendship with brilliant illustrator John Leech, he began writing for Punch magazine, for which he received recognition. The work that really established his reputation, for which he was hailed as an equal of Dickens, was the novel Vanity Fair, first published in serial instalments from January 1847. Other of his renowned novels are Pendennis and The Newcomes.

Types of rare books and memorabilia


Bloomsbury Auctions

  • Vanity Fair, first edition in book form (1848), sold for £1000 in October 2004.
  • Christmas Books, six volumes, first editions (1847-55), sold for £800 in August 2008.
  • The Adventures of Philip, (1862) first edition, three volumes, sold for £480 in November 2005.
  • The Virginians, first edition in original 24 parts (1857-59), sold for £460 in December 2007.
  • Vanity Fair (c1913), illustrated by Lewis Baumer and signed by the artist, sold for £300 in April 2007.


  • Vanity Fair first edition in original 20 parts complete (1847-1848) sold for $27,500 in October 2011.
  • Notes of a Journey from Cornhill to Grand Cairo (1846), first edition with original pencil drawings by Thackeray bound in, sold for $3,125 in October 2011.
  • The History of Pendennis (1850), first American edition in 8 parts, sold for $3,000 in October 2011.
  • Vanity Fair (1848) first edition, in a Cosway Style binding, sold for $2,987 in February 2007.
  • Vanity Fair (c1850), little known edition, pastiche printing. Sold for $2,250 in October 2011.


  • Vanity Fair (1848), first edition in book form, rare presentation copy inscribed by Thackeray. Sold for $32,900 in April 2000.
  • Vanity Fair (1847-8), first edition in 20 original parts, sold for $17,500 in December 2009.
  • Vanity Fair (1848), first edition in book form, with Cosway style binding. Sold for £5,640 in July 2000.
  • The Newcomes (1854-1855), first edition in book form plus two fragments of Thackeray’s original manuscript, sold for £4,541 in March 2004.


  • Vanity Fair (1848), first edition in book form, sold for £5,000 in October 2010.

Documents, Autographs and Other

Bloomsbury Auctions

  • Collection of sketches, ephemera and other items relating to Thackeray including sketches by Thackeray and numerous other items, sold for £13,000 in November 2006.


  • Autograph manuscript with sketches for Thackeray’s first novel. Sold for $5,625 in October 2011.


  • Original memorandum of the agreement for the publication of Vanity Fair, between Thackeray and publishers Bradbury and Evans. Sold for $11,500 in October 1994.


  • Album of drawings by Thackeray, sold for $15,000 in June 2011.

Guide for collectors

So many editions of Thackeray’s well-known works have been published that it is important to determine exactly which version is which. Nor are the earlier ones often the most valuable: if illustrated by a particular artist, or in a particular binding, a later edition can often be worth more.

However, if the work can be found complete as published in its original parts when serialised, that is definitely a remarkable collection, and very desirable.

His books are often sold together as a collected works, and, if part of a collected set, are better to keep together than to isolate as individual volumes. Various collected sets of his works can fetch from several hundred, to several thousand pounds.


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