Printed Books including Modern First Editions

On 19th July Bloomsbury Auctions (24 Maddox St London W1S 1PP) is holding one of its major summer books’ sales, Printed Books including Modern First Editions.

There are two particularly interesting and unusual items which will capture the imagination and set collectors’ hearts racing. The first is an exceptionally scarce first edition, presentation copy of The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe by CS Lewis which must rank amongst the definitive children’s books of the last century. The copy offered for sale at Bloomsbury Auctions has a charming background story; it is signed ‘Jack Lewis’ a name CS Lewis reserved for family and close friends. It is inscribed to ‘Nicholas Hardie’, the young son of a friend and colleague, Colin Graham Hardie (1906-98), a scholar of Classics who was appointed fellow and tutor in Classics at Magdelen College, Oxford, partly coinciding with C.S.Lewis's own teaching career there. They became close friends and apparently spent many a happy evening prior to the Second World War, reading aloud to each other from Dante. Both were also members of Oxford’s informal literary discussion group, The Inklings which met at the local pub the Eagle and Child ('Bird and Baby') in St Giles. CS Lewis presented Nicholas Hardie, then a little boy, with an inscribed copy of each of the first four books in the Narnia series, and the fourth, 'The Silver Chair', was dedicated to Nicholas. This very rare first edition is estimated £8,000-12,000.

Norman Mailer, a twice Pulizer prize winner and one of the pillars of American 20th century literature, is not known for his drawing capabilities. Bloomsbury Auctions is delighted to offer an unlikely group of 42 original pencil sketches which he made for the film adaptation of his first published novel, The Naked and the Dead, which established his reputation internationally and has sold more copies than any of his other books.

Drawn on headed paper for the pent house suite of the Hotel St. Moritz Central Park, New York, they date from about 1955 and are the product of a possibly slightly inebriated nascent collaboration between Norman Mailer and Charles Laughton, the renowned English actor/director. Set on an island in the Pacific where an American platoon is endeavouring to drive out the Japanese, The Naked and the Dead questions the competence and motives of the high-ranking officers, their integrity, character flaws and the inner conflict between officers and regulars. 9 of the drawings relate to scenes in the novel, including views of the island from the invasion fleet, views of the pass, the structure of the rapids traversed by two leading characters Croft and Wilson and a scene from Croft's 'time machine', one of a series of flash-backs that populate the novel. The remaining sketches are of some of the characters in the novel as imagined by Mailer and Laughton, including the 'outer' and 'inner' appearance, for example Dalleson is referred to as the actor 'Wallace Beery the younger' and one of Wilson's sketches has the comment 'should be more handsome'.

The screen rights for The Naked and the Dead were sold by Mailer for a virtually unprecedented sum of $250,000 to an independent production company owned by Charles Laughton, with the idea that Laughton would direct. Even though he had no control over the screenplay, Mailer was called in to help on the adaptation. Sadly, in part due to critics’ panning of The Night of the Hunter, Laughton dropped out of the project and Raoul Walsh ultimately took over as director (today this film is regarded as one of the Hollywood ‘greats’).

As Mailer, told Gerald Peary in an interview: 'Charles Laughton was to do it, and we spent a week together in New York at Laughton’s St. Moritz Hotel penthouse. He had a great dedication to the novel, and he was coming off The Night of the Hunter, which he thought would do extraordinarily. It didn’t. Laughton was not a young man, and it took everything out of him. He never directed again.'

Fortunately Mailer did not pursue a career as an artist, which makes these sketches (many of which are signed) all the more desirable and they are expected to fetch £20,000-30,000.

Bloomsbury Auctions’ sale of Books and Modern First Editions on 19th July can be viewed on line at www.bloomsburyauctions.com and there is free online bidding at www.the-saleroom.com

For further press information please contact: Vanessa Clewes Salmon, Tel: 020 8458 3288, Email: Vanessa.wildwood@gmail.com

For general information about the sale please contact: Max Hasler, Tel: 020 495 9494, Email: mhasler@bloomsburyauctions.com

Bloomsbury Auctions - 03 July 2012