The Catcher in the Rye, signed by J.D. Salinger
The Catcher in the Rye
Signed by J.D. Salinger

Books are always good but signed books are better. Signed books are plentiful in the modern world of publishing and bookselling thanks to author tours and busy promotional schedules that span the world. Major authors like Salman Rushdie and Ken Follett pride themselves on the massive number of books they sign at public appearances.

But authors are not always completely obliging. When Robert Heinlein appeared at the World Science Fiction Convention in Kansas City in 1976, he refused to sign any books unless the book's owner presented their blood donor card. J.K. Rowling's signing events decreased as her fame increased.

There can be pleasant surprises. Stephen King was once spotted browsing shelves in a bookstore where he picked up several of his own books, signed them and placed them back on the shelf for an unsuspecting buyer to find. Some authors will add a personal message when signing a book. Some will add a drawing or doodle if they have artistic skills. Don’t forget the signature of the illustrator can add immense value when we’re talking about people like Pablo Picasso or Francis Bacon.

When buying signed books, it's important to know a couple things about bookseller terminology:

  • The term "inscribed" means that the author has written a short note in addition to their signature;
  • The term "flat signed" means the author has written their name and nothing else on the page;
  • The term "autographed" does not mean signed but means that the document in question has been hand-written. So an "autographed manuscript" is a manuscript hand-written by the author.

Enjoy our list of most expensive signed books ever sold via AbeBooks. It includes two presidents, a prime minister, two photographers, a "relatively" famous scientist, the founder of psychoanalysis, a Beatle and many legendary writers.

 

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$25,000 for a Signed First Edition of Where the Wild Things Are Play Video



The Most Expensive Signed Books

Moby-Dick or, The Whale by Herman Melville - published by The Arion Press. This edition printed in 1981.
1. Moby-Dick or, The Whale
by Herman Melville
$28,900

Arion Press 1979 edition, signed by illustrator Barry Moser & includes 200 engravings and 10 drawings.
Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - $25,000
2= Where the Wild Things Are
by Maurice Sendak
$25,000

Published in 1963, this signed first edition came with its first state dust jacket in fine condition.
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - $25,000
2= To Kill a Mockingbird
by Harper Lee
$25,000

A signed first edition of Lee’s debut and only novel, signed “with best wishes Harper Lee”.
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway – $17,500
4. A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
$17,500

The limited edition of Hemingway's second novel - one of 510 numbered copies signed by the author.
Les Horribles et Espovantables Faictz et Prouesses by François Rabelais - $17,000
5. Les Horribles et Espovantables Faictz et Prouesses
by François Rabelais
$17,000

Signed by the illustrator André Derain with 142 hand-painted woodcuts.
Set of Harry Potter Novels by J.K. Rowling - $16,219
6. Set of Harry Potter Novels
by J.K. Rowling
$16,219

Deluxe edition copies of the first six Potter books – all signed by Rowling.
Mime of Mick Nick and the Maggies. A Fragment by James Joyce - $15,000
7= Mime of Mick Nick and the Maggies. A Fragment
by James Joyce
$15,000

Complete with a fine condition dust jacket and signed by the author and his daughter Lucia.
The Hellbound Heart by Clive Barker - $15,000
7= The Hellbound Heart
by Clive Barker
$15,000

The original manuscript for Barker’s novella that inspired the Hellraiser films. Signed by Barker.
Francis Bacon by Michel Leiris - $15,000
7= Francis Bacon
by Michel Leiris
$15,000

First edition signed by Bacon.
The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - $14,500
10= The Day of the Triffids
by John Wyndham
$14,500

First impression of the first British edition published in 1951.
Dr. No by Ian Fleming - $14,500
10=Dr. No
by Ian Fleming
$14,500

Published in 1958 by Jonathan Cape, this true first edition was signed by Fleming.
The Dark Tower Series by Stephen King - $14,000
12. The Dark Tower Series
by Stephen King
$14,000

First edition copies of all seven volumes of the series, signed and numbered in a slipcase.

13. The Works
by Joseph Conrad
$13,823

Published by Doubleday in 1920 over 24 volumes and signed by the author.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban by J.K. Rowling
14. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
by J.K. Rowling
$12,874

First edition signed by Rowling and cover artist Cliff Wright.
Relativity: The Special And General Theory by Albert Einstein – $12,500
15=Relativity: The Special And General Theory
by Albert Einstein
$12,500

First American edition from 1920. Translated by Robert W. Lawson. Signed “A. Einstein. 46.”
Dreams From My Father by Barack Obama - $12,500
15= Dreams From My Father
by Barack Obama
$12,500

True first edition of this memoir signed by Obama on the title page.
Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick - $12,500
15= Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
by Philip K. Dick
$12,500

First edition of the book that inspired Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, published in 1968 and signed by Dick.
The Curse of Lono by Hunter S Thompson - $12,500
15=The Curse of Lono
by Hunter S Thompson
$12,500

Printer’s proof copy. Signed by Thompson, Steadman and also Kurt Vonnegut.
Set of Harry Potter Novels by J.K. Rowling - $11,791
19. Set of Harry Potter Novels
by J.K. Rowling
$11,791

Complete set of deluxe edition Harry Potter novels, signed by Rowling ‘To Hugh’.
A Farewell to Arms by Ernest Hemingway - $11,000
20. A Farewell to Arms
by Ernest Hemingway
$11,000

1929 first edition, first printing of Hemingway’s classic signed by the author on a laid in signature.
I Me Mine by George Harrison - $10,897
21. I Me Mine
by George Harrison
$10,897

Genesis Publications first edition from 1980. Limited to 2000 leather-bound copies & signed by Harrison.
Sumo by Helmut Newton – $10,867
22. Sumo
by Helmut Newton
$10,867

Massive book of photography – one of 10,000 copies signed by Newton.
Die Zukunft Einer Illusion by Sigmund Freud - $10,625
23. Die Zukunft Einer Illusion
by Sigmund Freud
$10,625

Second German edition from 1928 and signed by the author on the front free endpaper.
40 Dessins de Picasso en Marge du Buffon by Pablo Picasso - $10,500
24. 40 Dessins de Picasso en Marge du Buffon
by Pablo Picasso
$10,500

This 1957 edition was limited to 226 copies (this is No. 148) and signed by Picasso in green crayon.
Marlborough: His Life and Times by Winston S. Churchill - $10,469
25. Marlborough: His Life and Times
by Winston S. Churchill
$10,469

Published between 1933-38, this signed set was limited to 155 copies (this being No. 111)
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint Exupery - $14,450
26. The Little Prince
by Antoine de Saint Exupery
$14,450

This copy was #476 of 525 numbered copies signed by the author on the tipped-in limitation page.
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell - $9,762
27. Gone With the Wind
by Margaret Mitchell
$9,762

A rare first edition from 1936 with Mitchell’s signature. The book has a unique ‘Southern Cross’ binding.
The Moon is a Harsh Mistress by Robert Heinlein – $9,730
28. The Moon is a Harsh Mistress
by Robert Heinlein
$9,730

Signed by Heinlein above his name on title page and Virginia Heinlein signed below his name.
No Easy Walk To Freedom by Nelson Mandela - $9,500
29. No Easy Walk To Freedom
by Nelson Mandela
$9,500

Signed first edition of Mandela's account of the battle against apartheid.
Flower is…. by Robert Frank
30. Flower is….
by Robert Frank
$9,000

Collection of 81 photos only published in Japan. Limited to 500 copies. Signed and dated by Frank.

 

$25,000 for a Signed First Edition of Where the Wild Things Are:



 

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