The original Jaws resurfaces in Sligo

Just when you thought it was safe to go back in the auction house . . . A first edition of Jaws and a drawing by its author are snapped up

The Jaws first edition also included a drawing by the author, Peter Benchley. The book’s popularity was boosted by the film (bottom right)

The Jaws first edition also included a drawing by the author, Peter Benchley. The book’s popularity was boosted by the film (bottom right)

 

The auction of 20th-century first edition books, novels, poetry and drama, collected by Dr Philip Murray, was held at the Gresham Hotel in Dublin on Tuesday by Fonsie Mealy Auctioneers. There was keen bidding in the saleroom, on the telephone and online, and 85 per cent of lots sold, for a total of €275,000. The books had been collected by Murray, a retired GP in Sligo, over the past four decades and comprised the most comprehensive such collection ever assembled in Ireland.

Although no records were broken, top price was achieved for lot 383, a re-bound first edition of Ulysses by James Joyce, published in Paris in 1922 by Shakespeare & Co, which made €9,500, above the estimate of €6,000-€8,000. Auctioneer George F Mealy said afterwards that the market was buoyant and that many of the top lots had been bought by an unnamed private Irish buyer, but there had also been “strong bidding from London book dealers”, many of whom had travelled to Dublin for the auction.

Lot 106, a “very rare signed copy” of the first UK 1963 edition of To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee sold for €4,800 (€3,000-€4,000). Lot 71, a set of six books by Gabriel García Márquez sold for €3,800, below the estimate of €5,000-€6,000.

One of the most interesting items in the auction was lot 13, a copy of the first British edition of the novel Jaws by Peter Benchley which made €460, above the estimate of €250-€300.

Jaws was published in 1974 and, although the novelist was then virtually unknown, the story of a great white shark terrorising a fictional American seaside resort unexpectedly became a bestseller. It was filmed by Stephen Spielberg, and the film of the same name, released in 1975, became one of the most popular and successful ever made. The novel has sold an estimated 20 million copies worldwide. Benchley became a multimillionaire, but died aged 65 in 2006.

First edition copies of Jaws are popular with book collectors, not as a great literary work but because of its popularity, which was hugely boosted by the film. The original first edition was published in the US by DoubleDay of New York, and the first UK edition was published by André Deutsch. Murray had sent his copy to Benchley to sign it. Benchley did so, and also sent Dr Murray an ink drawing which was included in the book sold in the auction. Since Jaws is the most famous maritime creature in literature – along with Moby Dick and Jonah’s whale from the Old Testament – an image of the shark as depicted by its creator is likely to prove a very good long-term investment for the unnamed successful purchaser.

Among other highlights: lot 524, a copy of the infamous 1962 novel A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess (signed by him twice – once, intriguingly using the Russian Cyrillic version of his name) sold for €5,000, double the top estimate of €2,500. Lot 41, a copy of Live and Let Die by Ian Fleming, sold for €4,400 (€2,500-€3,500).

Lot 79, a copy of one of Graham Greene’s “scarcest titles”, The Name of the Action, published by Heinemann in 1930, sold for €4,600, way above the estimate (€1,750-€2,000).

Samuel Beckett’s most famous play, En Attendant Godot, was first published in French, in Paris, in 1952. Murray’s copy of the first UK edition of Waiting for Godot, lot 375 in the auction, sold for €3,200, four times the top estimate (€700-€800).

Lot 256 was a copy of the first UK edition of Death of a Salesman by American playwright Arthur Miller, along with a Dublin theatre programme for the first Irish staging of the play, which sold for €2,100, more than four times the top estimate (€400-€500).

Among books of particular Irish interest, lot 1, copies of John Banville’s first three novels: Long Lankin (1970); Nightspawn (1971) and Birchwood (1973) estimated at €800-€850, sold for €1,300.

Lot 214, Brooklyn by Colm Tóibín, number 43 of 75 numbered copies published by Tuskar Rock Press in 2009, made €450 (€200-€300). Lot 377, a signed copy of the 1925 novel The Informer by Liam O’Flaherty sold for €1,300 (€800-€1,200). Lot 508, The Ballroom of Romance & Other Stories, by William Trevor made €420 (€300-€400).

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