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The value of annotated manuscripts

happy-days-beckettYesterday Britain’s University of Reading bought an annotated manuscript copy of Samuel Beckett’s Murphy for 962,500 pounds ($1.4 million) at a Sotheby’s auction. As the Associated Press reports the manuscript spreads over six exercise books and contains notes, doodles, sketches and heavy reworking of the text. The manuscript provides amazing insight into Beckett’s creative process, which is why I personally think that manuscripts like this are the zenith of literary collectibles.

This sale reminds me of the “First Edition, Second Thoughts” charity auction held by PEN this past May; in it 50 authors were given fine first edition copies of key works and asked to take the reader back to what they were thinking as they were writing these books; the star of this show was a first edition Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone which sold for  £439,200 (or about 3/4 of a million dollars).

This isn’t to say that you have to take out a mortgage just to add an annotated book or manuscript to your library (although sometimes it may feel that way); while very few of us could afford $1.4 million I did find a very nice typed and annotated manuscript for Beckett’s play Happy Days available for a much more affordable price (approximately $5000).  There are also a number of other annotated editions and manuscripts by Samuel Beckett available if you do a bit of searching.

If you are interested in Manuscripts and annotated editions that are not written by Samuel Beckett you just have to start looking for yourself.




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