An auction of unique first editions at Christie’s helped to bring in $1 million in support of the Pen American Center Tuesday in New York. The sale generated considerable interest for its inclusion of 75 first editions of famous books that were heavily annotated or otherwise made unique by their authors.
The biggest bids of the night went to books donated by Philip Roth and Don DeLillo, whose extensive marginalia produced highly unique copies of novels now considered to be contemporary classics. Roth’s American Pastoral and Portnoy’s Complaint earned the highest and third-highest bids of the night by bringing in $80,000 and $52,000 respectively. DeLillo’s heavily annotated copy of Underworld, about which auctioneer Tom Lecky said, “There’s a Ph.D. to be written on this book,” came in second with a $57,000 bid.
Other notable successes included Jennifer Egan’s A Visit From the Goon Squad and Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping, which garnered $24,000 each. Michael Cunningham’s The Hours earned $21,000, Junot Diaz’s A Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao netted $18,000, while Eric Carle’s The Very Hungry Caterpillar was no slouch at $16,000.
The evening’s $1 million haul was achieved with the help of sales of art texts donated by Ed Ruscha, Marina Abramovic and others, as well as an anonymous donation of more than $80,000. Last year, a similar auction brought in $690,000 at Sotheby’s in London, thanks in large part to J.K. Rowling, whose annotated copy of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone sold for more than $230,000, according to The New York Times.