Top 10 Most Expensive Sales on AbeBooks in April 2012
Die Verwandlung, or The Metamorphosis, was published by Franz Kafka in 1915 and it is considered one of the 20th century’s key works of fiction. Kafka’s novella sees a traveling salesman, Gregor Samsa, wake one morning to find he has been changed into a giant insect.
The work was completed by Kafka in 1912 and published by Kurt Wolff Verlag in November 1915. Die Verwandlung first appeared in German in the Berlin journal, Die Weissen Blatter, and a second edition was published by Wolff in 1918. This German edition is quite scarce according to Joachim Unseld in Kafka: A Writer’s Life, it is estimated that no more than a thousand copies were originally published, all of which sold quickly. It should also be noted that an English language edition didn't appear until 1937.
Born in Prague to German-speaking Jewish parents, Kafka is an intriguing literary figure. He died in 1924 and most of his work was published posthumously. Kafka wrote in German and translators have struggled with his work as he used very long sentences.
The Americans is a historic collection of photographs taken by Robert Frank, beginning in 1955, during several road trips across the United States. He visited numerous cities with the intention of capturing all levels of society. Frank took more than 28,000 photographs but only used 83 for the book. Frank met Jack Kerouac at a party and, after seeing the photos, Kerouac agreed to write the book’s introduction. The book was not an immediate success; Frank’s unusual focus and low lighting techniques were contrary to popular styles of the time. Frank struggled to find an American publisher so the book was first published in France in 1958, before Grove Press printed the first US edition a year later. The Americans is one of the most collectible of all photography books.
April's Top 10 Most Expensive Sales1. Die Verwandlung by Franz Kafka - $30,000
First edition, published 1915 by Kurt Wolff, this famous novella contains 73 pages plus five additional pages of advertisements at the rear.
2. The Americans by Robert Frank - $11,745
First American edition, 1959, signed by Frank to a fellow photographer on the half-title page.
3. Breakfast at Tiffany’s by Truman Capote - $7,500
First edition, price clipped but in near fine condition and signed by Capote.
4. The Works of Shakespeare by William Shakespeare - $6,215
Sir Thomas Hanmer (1677 - 1746), Speaker of the House of Commons, produced this edition of Shakespeare in his retirement in 1744. This edition contains six volumes in total, with 36 full-page engraved plates (one for each play) plus an engraved portrait of Shakespeare as frontispiece.
5. De West-Indische Gids by H.D. Benjamins - $5,265
33 volumes of the West Indian Guide series (lacks volumes 35, 36, 38 and 39) written by Surinamese mathematician and physicist Herman Daniël Benjamins.
6. The History of the Rise, Progress, and Accomplishment of the Abolition of the African Slave-Trade by the British Parliament by Thomas Clarkson - $5,068
First edition, in two volumes, published in 1808 complete with plates, two folding, including the famous illustration of the layout of human cargo on a slave ship.
7. The Worst Journey in the World by Apsley Cherry-Garrard - $4,950
The story of the 1910-1913 Antarctic expedition – a first edition in two volumes, including 73 panoramas, maps and illustrations, including the 10 original folding plates issued only in the first edition, by Dr. Edward A. Wilson and other members of the expedition.
8. Memoirs of the Life of John Constable, Esq. R.A. composed chiefly of his letters by C.R. Leslie, et al - $4,887
First edition of the first book printed on the English romantic painter, one of 186 copies. The work set a new standard for an artist biography written in English, demonstrating Constable's neglected genius to a previously uninterested public through his own words.
9. View of the Hebrews by Ethan Smith - $4,200
This first edition, published in 1823, argues that native Americans were descended from the Hebrews. Numerous commentators on Mormon doctrine, from LDS Church general authority B. H. Roberts to biographer Fawn M. Brodie, have discussed the possibility that View of the Hebrews may have provided source material for the Book of Mormon, although it should be noted that Ethan is of no relation to Joseph Smith.
10. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell - $3,975
A signed first edition, first printing of this dystopian classic, with a maroon dust wrapper, published by Secker and Warburgh in 1949, and twice signed by Sir John Hurt (the actor who starred in the film adaptation with Richard Burton) on the title page as himself, as well as his character ‘Winston Smith’.