Sunday, April 14, 2013

Rare Poetry Manuscripts Fetch Record Prices

Though poetry often seems undervalued, it seems fitting that poetry month should be highlighted by a sale that sets record-breaking prices for some rare examples of work by well-known authors.

The sale was held in three parts by Bonhams in London and represents a lifetime of collecting by poet and scholar Roy Davids. Bonhams says it was the finest “collection of poetry ever to come to auction. In Mr David’s own words, ‘it would now be impossible for the present collection to be even approximately replicated.’”

The Charlotte Brontë manuscript we wrote about last week fetched more than double its pre-sale estimate of £40,000-45,000, or roughly $61,000-68,000 US. When the hammer fell, the poem written by a 13-year-old Charlotte Brontë had fetched £92,450 ($142133.).

The poem, “I’ve Been Wandering the Greenwoods,” was hand-written in the tiny script the Brontë children are known to have used in an effort to save paper.

The sale represents a world record for a work by Charlotte Brontë, because even though she wrote around 200 poems, most of her work is already held by institutions and thus seldom comes on the block, making this offering quite rare.

The same sale also brought a record price for the last known manuscript poem by John Keats. That manuscript was from the draft of his well known early poem, “I Stood Tiptoe on a Little Hill.” The manuscript consists of 33 lines from the work scribbled on both front and back showing how the poet revised his thoughts as he wrote. Estimated at £40,000-45,000, it sold for a world record £181,250 ($278,654.).

Nor were these record breakers the only sharp prices in the sale. W. H. Auden’s “Stop All the Clocks” sold for £23,750 ($36,513), Robert Burns’ “Afton Braes’ sold for £39,650 ($60,958) and Lord Byron’s “Sun of the Sleepless” was purchased for £26,250 ($40,356).



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