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Rock Legend’ Literary Collection to be Auctioned

by | Jul 13, 2023 | Articles and Reports, News

Rare books owned by the Rolling Stones drummer – including first editions of The Great Gatsby and The Hound of the Baskervilles – will be auctioned this autumn

Dylan Thomas’ personal copy of his first book of poems will be auctioned as part of the late Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts’ literature collection.

The auction – which includes many rare first editions – comes two years after Watts’ death.

Thomas’ 18 Poems is expected to fetch up to £10,000 when it goes under the hammer in September.

The book includes messages from the poet to two of his love interests.

The collection of poems was first published in December 1934 – a month after Thomas’ 20th birthday.

It includes the piece that is said to have made Thomas famous – The Force that Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower – written when he was just 19.

An inscription written by Thomas in ink inside the book’s cover is crossed out, but refers to his first serious girlfriend – the writer, Pamela Hansford Johnson, who he almost married at one stage.

“To Pamela who knows very well the things I’ll suggest if she’s going to write on the front of this pawky book,” it reads. Another inscription, in pencil, reads “My Own Copy”, before a final note – “Given to Emily in 1937” – suggests he presented it to another romance, the American writer, Emily Homes Coleman.

Watts, who died in 2021, amassed the works of mostly 20th-century authors including James Joyce, Virginia Woolf, Graham Greene, George Orwell and Ernest Hemingway. The titles, which will be auctioned by Christie’s, reflect “an incredibly sensitive curiosity about the very best of literature,” said Mark Wiltshire, a books and manuscripts specialist at Christie’s.

The collection also includes a first edition of The Great Gatsby by F Scott Fitzgerald, inscribed inside the front cover to “the original Gatsby”, Harold Goldman, a screenwriter friend of Fitzgerald’s in the 1930s. The volume is expected to fetch between £200,000 and £300,000.

The two-part auction of more than 500 lots will take place at Christie’s in London on 28 September, and an online sale will be open for bidding from 15 to 29 September. Jazz memorabilia, such as an annotated printed score for George Gershwin’s Porgy and Bess, will be on sale alongside the books.

Watts was the “heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for nearly 60 years,” said band members Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood in a joint statement. The drummer, who joined the Stones in 1963, was “devoted to jazz and literature from boyhood,” they added.

Watts’ curiosity “announces itself in his love for detective fiction”, said Wiltshire, which constitutes a “major part” of the collection. Titles include Agatha Christie’s The Thirteen Problems and Murder at the Vicarage, estimated to sell at £40,000-60,000 and £4,000-6,000 respectively.

The collection also includes a first edition of Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Baskervilles with an inscription reading “I perambulated Dartmoor before I wrote this book.” Conan Doyle’s inscriptions are “often very formulaic,” said Wiltshire, so this is “really quite special”.

Highlight lots will be on display before a pre-sale exhibition in London between 20 and 27 September. The exhibits will be free of charge and open to the public.

 

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