Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak

The sad death of the author and illustrator Maurice Sendak on May 8 sparked demand for rare copies of his classic children’s picture book, Where the Wild Things Are. The interest culminated with the sale of a $25,000 signed first edition of the book – a record for any Sendak book on AbeBooks.
The other notable Sendak sales in May included a signed copy of Where the Wild Things Are from 1964 (complete with a Wild Thing sketch) that sold for $4,195 and also five more copies of the book that each sold for more than $500.

However, the $25,000 Wild Things book wasn’t the most expensive sale in May – a bumper month for collectible books on AbeBooks. A rare 1603 atlas of the stars sold for a huge $47,729 to take the top spot.

Where the Wild Things Are has captivated multiple generations of readers and listeners since its publication in 1963. It tells the story of a young boy named Max who is sent to bed without supper as punishment for making mischief around his home in a wolf costume.  A mysterious land grows out of his imagination and Max tames its wild beasts by “staring into all their yellow eyes without blinking once” and then becomes king of the wild things.

The book has sold more than 19 million copies. Sendak won the Caldecott Medal in 1964 (awarded to the most distinguished picture book for children) and the book was turned into an opera in 1980, and a film in 2009. The $25,000 first edition sold last month was one of the most expensive children’s books ever sold on AbeBooks behind scarce first editions of The Hobbit and Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone.


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AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales in May 2012


1. Uranometria, Omnium Asterismorum Continens Schemata, Nova Methodo Delineata, Sereis Laminis Expressa by Johann Bayer - $47,729
A rare piece of astronomical history from 1603 – a first edition of the most famous celestial atlas of all with 48 lavishly illustrated tables portraying the constellations identified by the Greeks and a 49th table showing 12 newly discovered constellations. The book has the coat of arms of a Venetian family on both covers and a monastery stamp on its title page. The title translates as ‘Uranometria, containing charts of all the constellations, drawn by a new method and engraved on copper plates’ and ‘Uranometria’ comes from Urania, the muse of the heavens.

2. Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak - $25,000
Published in 1963, this first edition came with its first state dust jacket in fine condition. Sendak had signed the title page under his printed name.

3. Livre d’Heures (book of hours) - $24,680
A book of hours in Latin and French once owned by Etienne de Poncher, archbishop of Tours, in central France, from 1551-1552. The book, printed on parchment, has a velvet cover on wooden boards with two brass clasps from the 16th century. A book of hours is a devotional book, usually an illuminated manuscript, that contains prayers, hymns and psalms. This one featured many images of animals.

4. A Latin psalter - $23,446
A psalter is a book containing the Book of Psalms and usually other devotional material. This undated psalter is a well preserved Latin manuscript, printed on parchment, containing antiphones (responses to psalms) and songs.  It has a Gothic blind tooled binding with fillet embossing, diamond shaped fields with depiction of rosettes and an eagle, and a brass clasp decorated with letters.

5. Atlas Céleste (Star Atlas) de John Flamsteed - $12,254
John Flamsteed (1646-1719) was an English astronomer who discovered thousands of stars.  This 1776 copy (pictured at upper right) is a later French edition of his star atlas, an enlarged edition, with 30 double-page maps. The book also contains the discoveries of French astronomer Lalande. All maps are hand-colored.

Herefordshire Pomona, Containing Coloured Figures and Descriptions of the Most Esteemed Kinds of Apples and Pears by Robert Hogg
Herefordshire Pomona
by Robert Hogg
6. Marlborough: His Life and Times by Winston S. Churchill - $10,469
Published between 1933 and 1938, this signed set was limited to 155 copies (this being No. 111) and printed on thicker paper than the general trade edition.  Churchill wrote these books to refute claims about his famous ancestor John Churchill, 1st Duke of Marlborough (1650-1722). The Duke was a famous military man and statesman whose up-and-down career spanned the late 17th and early 18th centuries, and several monarchs.

7. Herefordshire Pomona, Containing Coloured Figures and Descriptions of the Most Esteemed Kinds of Apples and Pears by Robert Hogg - $8,500
One of the most famous books about fruit ever printed. A first edition published 1876 in two folio volumes.  It contains 77 chromolithographic plates with illustrations.

8. Der Ring des Nibelungen by Richard Wagner & illustrated by Arthur Rackham - $7,500
Loved by collectors for its illustrations, Arthur Rackham’s interpretation of Wagner’s classic cycle was published in two volumes in 1910 and 1911.  It contains 64 tipped in color plates, was limited to 100 copies, and signed by Rackham.

9. The Scented Garden of Abdullah the Satirist of Shiraz by Aleister Crowley - $7,386
Privately printed in London in 1910, this book of poetry is one of Crowley’s rarest works.  Only a small number of copies were printed and many were confiscated and destroyed in various customs seizures. The book is a mixture of homoerotic parody and mystical text.

10. Facile by Paul Eluard - $7,200
A first edition published in 1935 with a print run of just 1000 numbered copies, this is No. 674.  Eluard provided the poetry and Man Ray the photography. The book contains 12 heliogravure reproductions of Man Ray’s images on cream wove paper. It is an iconic French photo-book of the 1930s.

11. Manzuma -i Khatt Risala si by Yemini Hafiz Oglu Mehmed Dervis - $7,000
This booklet of poetic verse contains 18 handwritten leaves transcribed in Ottoman Turkish in the 16th century by Ibrahim al Halabi (a well-known scholar).  The original author - known as ‘Yemini Sultan’ -was an Ottoman scholar in the Sultan Suleyman dynasty. He was buried in Mostar in Bosnia in 1543.

12. Moby Dick or The Whale by Herman Melville - $6,895
Published in 1930 by Lakeside Press, this edition came in three volumes housed in an aluminum slipcase.  Rockwell Kent provided the illustrations and the artist also signed the book, which was limited to 1000 copies.

The Circus of Doctor Lao by Charles Grandison Finney
The Circus of Doctor Lao
by Charles Grandison Finney

13. Atlas to Accompany the Official Records of the Union and Confederate Armies by Calvin D. Cowles - $6,750
A first edition set, published in 1891, of three elephant folio volumes consisting of 175 plates.  The Atlas is a key piece of Civil War memorabilia. It is often referred to as the War of the Rebellion Atlas and was a companion to the Official Records of the American Civil War. The content was provided by both sides and included maps of battles and campaigns plus photography and technical drawings.

14= The Circus of Doctor Lao by Charles Grandison Finney - $5,000
Published in 1984 by Janus Press, this issue is considered one of the greatest fine press books of the late 20th century.  This edition was limited to 150 numbered copies each with relief etchings by Claire Van Vliet and each being signed by Vliet and Finney on the limitation leaf. The Circus of Doctor Lao won one of the inaugural National Book Awards in 1935 and Finney was a journalist from Arizona.

14= The Feynman Lectures on Physics: Quantum Mechanics by Richard P. Feynman - $5,000
A key text in the field of quantum mechanics written by one of the most decorated and renowned American physicists.   Inscribed by Feynman “To D John Pastine, Whose judgment I respect & admire. R. Feynman”


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