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Tagore’s signed copy & Beatles book are top draws at rare first-editions auction

By November 17, 2017No Comments

Source : Times of India

In a curious contest in the realm of arts, the bard of Bengal Rabindranath Tagoremanaged to defeat Spanish modernist painter Pablo Picasso but both artistes were vanquished by the Liverpool lads as The Beatles emerged on top during a first of-its-kind auction in the country this week, where booklovers could bid on a collection of rare first editions, including signed and limited edition copies of classics in Indian and world literature.


For bibliophiles, if there’s something that could perhaps exceed the pleasure of owning a great book, it is if it became an object of art in itself. And sometimes it takes the price of that to reflect it too. ‘A Day in the Life’ by award-winning photo-journalist Michael Ward that records rare photographs of The Beatles spanning 24 hours of their life on February 19, 1963 – the day they hit the number one spot in UK for the first time — fetched the highest hammer price of Rs7,51,680.

The virtual bid, starting at 8pm on Tuesday and ending 24 hours later on Wednesday, saw a fierce battle of bids with 90% of buyers from India and the rest from across the world, especially the Middle East. Despite some of their frayed edges, the collection of more than 100 signed and first edition books spanning art, photography, design, music, travel and sports together fetched over Rs56 lakh for the 44 lots out of 74 that were sold.

“It all started with the recognition of our early archival material on artworks and books related to that. We thought we should do a sale with books on Indian art last year, which was very successful. We want to create a market for this in India – those who appreciate great works of art that is thought provoking and timeless in appeal. This was an encouraging first step towards that and seems to have sparked the imagination of different kinds of art collectors,” said Hugo Weihe, CEO of Saffronart, an online auction house headquartered in Prabhadevi that organised and curated the sale.

Four Bids

Tagore’s signed copy of ‘Gitanjali and Fruit-Gathering’ that fetched the second highest price Rs4,20,000 was the first combined edition of Tagore’s Nobel-winning book of poetry and ‘Fruit Gathering’ that was published by Macmillan in 1918 and comes with a tipped in page with two lines of poetry handwritten by Tagore along with his original signature and illustrations by Nandalal Bose, a pioneer of Indian modern art.

A rare edition of Lysistrata, an ancient Greek comedy with six of Pablo Picasso‘s original etchings in black and 34 lithographs with his signature on the colophon or the last page published in 1934, fetched Rs4,03,200. The book belongs to a set of 1,500 copies that were printed for members of The Limited Editions Club of New York, famous for original illustrations by the best book illustrators and artists. Picasso’s artwork, specifically for this book, exhibited a classical style removed from his more abstract and avant-garde work and has now found pride of place with an anonymous buyer from Delhi.
Other highlights in the collection included a first edition copy of James Joyce‘s ‘Ulysses’ signed by the author; Russian-American novelist Vladimir Nabokov‘s banned edition of ‘Lolita’ and an Ian Fleming set of three first editions featuring James Bond.

For some of these artful tomes, their lush covers with poetic graphics make them equally effective as standalone works of art. If the portfolio of 37 hand-coloured caricatures by Emery Kelen from the first Indian Round Table Conferences in 1930 that fetched the fourth-highest bid of Rs3,81,696 is bound in artcloth with snake skin impression, a limited edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s ‘Canterbury Tales’ comes enca sed in a box made of Nigerian goatskin leather, while the book itself was blocked in 24-carat gold with a design featuring Eric Gill’s engravings.


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