An Oklahoma oil baron's personal collection of literary erotica is featured on AbeBooks' list of the most expensive sales in July, August and September. This remarkable collection features almost 1,200 typescript pages of literature, containing a combination of 82 original and already published pieces of writing including stories, poems, songs, and jokes assembled by Roy Melisander Johnson (1881-1960).
Johnson, who became wealthy after founding the Healdton Petroleum Company, was a lifelong collector of erotic writing and part of the collection was assembled via an 'erotica on demand' system. He hired agents to enlist writers to provide stories for him. The pages are not signed so exact attribution is often difficult. However, the list of writers are believed to have included Henry Miller, author of Tropic of Cancer, Anaïs Nin, Miller's lover and author of Delta of Venus, Lawrence Durrell, author of the Alexandria Quartet of novels, English poet George Barker, and painter Robert DeNiro, Sr, father of the actor.
Nin apparently tired of Johnson's relentless requests for romanceless erotica and recruited friends and colleagues to assist. Novelist and TV writer Bernard Wolfe detailed his work for Johnson in his 1972 autobiography, Memoirs of a Not Altogether Shy Pornographer.
The collection, consisting of loose pages bound in a large binder, was sourced from author and bookseller Larry McMurtry, who detailed the oil man's private passion in a letter included with the binder. McMurty, whose Booked Up bookstore was located in Archer City, Texas, just 100 miles from Johnson's home of Ardmore, Oklahoma, describes the oil man as having an "insatiable need for literary erotica."
As well as stories, the collection includes bawdy songs and poems, and two pages of dirty jokes. Johnson was a pillar of the community in Ardmore. He began life as a linotype operator and established the Ardmore Statesman newspaper before switching to oil. His company tapped into the Healdton oil field, Oklahoma's largest oil reserve. He also served deacon of the First Presbyterian Church of Ardmore while quietly building his enormous collection of erotica.
Our list also includes two books illustrated by Salvador Dali, a science fiction novel, a pioneering book on cocktails, and the most famous works by Harper Lee and Jane Austen.
1. Songes Drolatiques de Pantagruel - $16,840
The Pantagruel Dreams are a series of 120 engravings published by Richard Breton in 1565 under the name of François Rabelais. They depict monstrous and grotesque figures. Published in 1973, Dali adapted 25 of the images and printed them as lithographs, limited to 250 copies printed on Japan paper, complete with a red presentation case.
2. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - $13,844
A 1951 UK first edition of this classic science fiction novel featuring killer plants wreaking havoc, published by Michael Joseph and in near fine condition complete with its dust jacket. Inscribed by Wyndham. The book belonged to Jim Burch was a science fiction fan and co-organizer of the 1951 Science Fiction Convention in London.
3=. Oxford Night Caps Being a Collection of Receipts for Making Various Beverages Used in The University by Richard Cook - $10,000
A pioneering book for all drinkers and bartenders. First printing of the first known cocktail book to be published in the English language from 1827. Designed to help students at Oxford University mix beverages for their busy social life. Just 38 pages. Very scarce. You will find another copy in Oxford's Bodleian Library.
3=. A Discourse and Discovery of Newfoundland by Richard Whitbourne - $10,000
Published in 1622, this is a second edition, revised and enlarged from the 1620 first edition. Whitbourne (1579-1628) is known as the father of Newfoundland and this book helped to promote colonization of this region. He first traveled to Newfoundland in 1579 to hunt whales and trade with the natives. His voyages continued throughout the next 40 years. Similar to John Smith in New England, Whitbourne was an early advocate for colonization. Contains the armorial bookplate of Edward Chappell, an English naval officer and author, who served in the Napoleonic wars.
5. A Collection of Letters from Hubert Lyautey - $9,659
Correspondence between 'le Maréchal' Lyautey and his editor Max Leclerc. Lyautey was the first French Resident-General in Morocco from 1912 to 1925. From 1921 he was a Marshal of France and nicknamed the Maker of Morocco. Time Magazine put him on its cover in 1931 and called him an empire builder.
6. A Collection of 82 Typescript Pages of Erotica - $9,500
Nearly 1200 typescript pages of erotica, containing 82 original and classic stories, poems, songs, and jokes assembled by Oklahoma oil man, Roy Melisander Johnson. The loose pages are contained in an enormous post-bound quarter leather and cloth binder.
7. Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll - $8,800
The 1969 edition illustrated by Salvador Dali. Limited to 2500 copies, this is # 2,386. Twelve surreal illustrations with original woodcuts and an original etching by Dali. Copies of this prized book regularly appear on this list. We recommend Princeton's 2015 reprint if you don't have thousands to spare.
8. Leviathan, or, the Matter, Form, and Power of a Common-Wealth Ecclesiastical and Civil by Thomas Hobbes - $8,577
Commonly known as Leviathan, this is an important work on how nations work in terms of structure and society. Written during the English Civil War (1642-1651), Leviathan argues for a social contract and rule by an absolute sovereign. Hobbes wrote that a strong, undivided government would solve England's unrest. First edition, third state of this famous 17th century book.
9. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - $8,500
A 1960 first edition signed by Lee on a bookplate. Fine condition.
10. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen - $7,821
The scarce second edition from 1813. Three volumes, bound in contemporary green calf with embossed details, and raised bands.