Going, going, gone for a world record £856k: Price for Frankenstein first edition stuns auctioneer Christie’s
A first edition copy of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein was among a string of rare books sold by auctioneers at Christie’s for a whopping £7.1million.
The gothic classic, published in 1818, sold for a record-breaking £856,000 – the highest price ever paid for a work by a female author. Auctioneers had expected the book to go for as much as £219,000.
It was the high point during a sale of the ‘exceptional’ literature collection of Theodore B Baum, an American former telecoms tycoon who died in August.
Rarity: A first-edition copy of Frankenstein by Mary Shelly (pictured) sold for a record-breaking £856,000 at Christie’s – the highest price ever paid for a work by a female author
Works by other famous writers were also under the hammer, with a first edition of James Joyce’s Dubliners and a second edition collection of Shakespeare’s plays going for £293,000 each.
A first edition of Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species went for £412,000, while a first edition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula fetched £201,000.
Heather Weintraub, a books and manuscripts specialist at Christie’s, said: ‘It was a privilege working with this exceptional library and we are delighted by the outstanding results.
‘The sale attracted bidders and buyers from around the world and showed that the market is strong for such fine examples of literary high spots.’
The auction comprised two sales that were held both online and in person, with bidders from 14 countries.
Horror classic: Theodore Baum’s copy of Shelley’s Frankenstein was one of just 500 printed in 1818. Christie’s said the book was ‘exceptionally rare’
Baum’s collection was described as ‘among the finest ever assembled’, with works by English and American authors such as Jane Austen, Charlotte Bronte, Charles Dickens, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Joseph Conrad and others.
The tycoon was the former boss of Helicon Cable Communications. He died last month, aged 86, in Florida.
His copy of Shelley’s Frankenstein was one of just 500 printed in 1818. Christie’s said the book was ‘exceptionally rare’, with the last one put under the hammer in 1985.
‘The first edition in its original boards is incredibly fragile and as a result very scarce, so a copy like this, particularly in fine condition, is highly desirable to collectors,’ a spokesman added. ‘Overall, it’s a very strong market and we are seeing increased demand for fine examples of literary high spots.’
Like other works of art, rare books are seen as an alternative asset class by many investors.
Some of the most important factors in a book’s value are its condition, rarity and desirability.
First editions are typically the most prized, as the print run is often small.
For example, only 500 first-edition hardback copies of JK Rowling’s Harry Potter And The Philosopher’s Stone were originally printed in 1997.
Twenty years later, an inscribed copy fetched £106,250 at a Bonhams auction.