Jonathan GoodwinIn 1977-78 Sotheby Parke Bernet Inc., held 3 auction events with the titles Important Modern First Editions and Fine Modern First Editions.  They included the rare book collection of Jonathan Goodwin, one of the greatest collectors of the 20th century. The 865 lot sale was broken in Part One Sale, (March 29, 1977), Part Two Sale, (October 25, 1977) and Part Three Sale, (April 7, 1978).  His Old Lyme, Connecticut collection included unique inscriptions, presentations, and association copies of the heavy hitters of American literature and achieved the first million-dollar sale in Modern First Edition events.

A chance to make a scientific analysis of the market came in 2004, during the sale of the collection of West Coast book dealer and collector Maurice Neville.  The Maurice F. Neville Collection of Modern Literature, took place at Sotheby’s in New York with Part One Sale, (13 April 2004, 263 lots), Part Two, (16 November 2004, 299 lots) and Part Three, (24 April 2017, 102 lots).  Neville’s collection is certainly the greatest group of Modern Firsts to be sold at auction since Goodwin, and not surprising many of the same titles appear in each. The similarity of the material in these Sotheby’s events, make the comparison a particularly apt one. Both high profile sets, ensured that several predominately active bidders competed in earnest for the same books, (something that does not always happen at auction). Both were staged during periods in which the economy was strong and the mood of the market optimistic.

The following table contains some of the original Goodwin auctioned items that were re-sold during similar events sometime later. Of the 40 titles listed below, 16 were in the Neville sale in 2004. These are the identical copies with the exact same inscriptions. And, unless in some way mishandled, present in the same condition as they appeared 27 years earlier during the Goodwin auctions. The aggregate estimate/actual price for these 16 items at the Goodwin sale was $26,425, (the equivalent of $81,537 inflation adjusted for the periods compared), while at the Neville sale, the hammer price including the buyer’s premium soared to $1,235,350. The rest of titles auctioned at different events held in different years, are showing similar gains. Such multiples may seem abnormal, but they are actually quite ordinary when compared to art, antiques and real estate. Across the sample these average out, even though many of the items fall above a tenfold increase, especially in the case of the more attractive rarities. The focus on high spots is undeniable, with big money being paid for the most desirable books.

Jonathan Goodwin collection sales

In the world of averages and the Rare Book Sales Monitor (RBSM), the Modern First Editions category had quite a strong 1st Quarter in 2018. It was fueled by some impressive price increases in signed editions by some of the up-and-coming or recently discovered authors such as Michael Shaara, John Williams, Evelyn Waugh and G. K. Chesterton, to name a few. Such deceased authors’ works are often the kind of material that collectors see a value in through some new development. Take for example John Williams’ 1965 novel Stoner. Although the book was not a popular novel when it was first published, selling fewer than 2,000 copies, it was not before French novelist Anna Gavalda, translated Stoner into French, in 2011 that it became Waterstones’ Book of the Year in Britain in 2012, and saw sales to distributors triple. Just at the end of last year it was announced that Joe Wright was set to direct Andrew Bovell’s adapted screenplay, staring Oscar winner Casey Affleck, in the title role of William Stoner.

When collector Jonathan Goodwin picked up the copy of Hemingway’s, presentation copy to Sylvia Beach, entitled, In our time, do you think he had any idea that another collector would be willing to spend $320,600 to own it? Probably not. He did, however, have the vision to identify value when an opportunity presented itself. In 1968, which was after Hemingway’s death, Goodwin bid the winning bids for the uniquely inscribed books presented to Sylvia Beach, the owner of Shakespeare and Company, chief book distributor of the time. An investor by profession and a book collector by hobby, Mr. Goodwin was 63 years old when he decided to sell his collection at the auctions because of illness, and the need to establish a retirement fund. “I am doing better in the book market than the stock market,” he once said. If his health did not deteriorate and had he been able to hold on to his collection for a few more decades, his retirement fund would have been at least ten times bigger.


RBSM 2018-Q1 Genre

RBSM 2018-Q1 Authr

RBSM 2018-Q1 Artist




Agatha Christie's Murder on the Orient ExpressDuring the golden age of detective fiction, when classic murder mystery novels were at the peak of popularity, Sir Godfrey Collins, started the Collins Crime Club (1930–94), as an imprint of British book publishers William Collins & Sons.  Until then, the Scottish printing and publishing company found success as a printer of Bibles and other religious and educational books. Collins also published all but the first six of Agatha Christie’s novels; the British editions of Rex Stout’s Nero Wolfe; Ngaio Marsh’s books starting with Overture to Death; John Rhode, Freeman Wills Crofts, and, Hulbert Footner, among others. When the Club was brought to an end in April of 1994, it had issued a total of 2,025 first editions of crime novels with the highest standard of quality.

Three new crime books were published, by the publisher, on the first Monday of every month, with the exception of the years after World War II, at which time the number of new books being issued dropped dramatically to an all-time low. In 1946, Collins released a mere 16 new books. Orders came through the subscriber newsletter that was sent out every three months, listing the latest books which had been or were in the process of being issued.  After the first few years, the subscriber count reached 20,000 according to Collins, enabling the publication count to remain close to 5,000 per title on average.

Collins early first editions from the 1930’s and 1940’s are quite scarce. Despite the large production volumes and large demand for high quality crime novels during the golden age of detective fiction (predominately the 1920’s and 1930’s), collectors picked up most of what survived in good condition. As a result, the market availability of the Collins Crime Club pre-war first editions in dust-wrappers is now extremely limited. A number of dealers are also eagerly seeking first state copies with the following characteristics:

  • Red/orange cloth boards with black lettering
  • Always dated, with the exception of “A Policeman at the Door” by Carol Carnac which is not dated.
  • Dust-wrappers carry a price of 7/6 or more (second state published with 3/6)
  • Exception are the dust-wrappers without a price which are “Colonial First Editions” made available for sale to a number of British colonies during that time.


The following list broken up by author includes the majority of the titles issued prior to 1940 that are in hot pursuit:

Miles Burton : The Hardway Diamonds Mystery (1930), The Secret of High Eldersham (1930), The Three Crimes (1931), The Menace on the Downs (1931), Death of Mr. Gantley (1932), Murder at the Moorings (1932), Fate at the Fair (1933), Tragedy at the Thirteenth Hole (1933), Death at the Crossroads (1933), The Charabanc Mystery (1934), To Catch a Thief (1934), The Devereux Court Mystery (1935), The Milk Churn Murder (1935), Death in the Tunnel (1936), Murder of a Chemist (1936), Where is Barbara Prentice? (1936), Death at the Club (1937),  Murder in Crown Passage (1937),  Death at Low Tide (1938), The Platinum Cat (1938), Death Leaves no Card (1939), Mr. Babbacombe Dies (1939).

Alice Campbell : The Click of the Gate (1932), The Murder of Caroline Bundy (1933), Desire to Kill (1934), Keep Away from the Water! (1935), Death Framed in Silver (1937), Flying Blind (1938), A Door Closed Softly (1939).

Agatha Christie : Murder at the Vicarage (1930), The Sittaford Mystery (1931), Peril at End House (1932), The Thirteen Problems (1932), Lord Edgeware Dies (1933),  Murder on the Orient Express (1934), The Listerdale Mystery (1934), Why didn’t they Ask Evans? (1934), Parker Pyne Investigates (1934), Three Act Tragedy (1935), Death in the Clouds (1935), The ABC Murders (1936), The Hound of Death (1936),  Murder in Mesopotamia (1936), Cards on the Table (1937), Murder in the Mews (1937), Dumb Witness (1937), Death on the Nile (1937), Appointment with Death (1938), Hercule Poirot’s Christmas (1939), Murder is Easy (1939), Then Little Niggers (1939).

Roger East : Murder Rehersal (1933), Candidate for Lillies (1934), The Bell is Answered (1934), Twenty-Five Sanitary Inspectors (1935), Detectives in Gum Boots (1936).

Jefferson Farjeon : The Mystery on the Moor (1930), The House Opposite (1931), Murderer’sTrail (1931), The “Z” Murders (1932), Trunk Call (1932), Ben Sees it Through (1932), The Mystery of the Creek (1933), Dead Man’s Heath (1933), Old Man Mystery (1933), The Windmill Mystery (1934), Sinister Inn (1934), Detective Ben (1936), Holiday at Half Mast (1937), Mystery in White (1937), Darl Lady (1938), End of an Author (1938), Seven Dead (1939), Exit John Horton (1939).

John Ferguson :  Death Comes to Perigord (1931), Night in Glengyle (1933),  The Grouse Moor Mystery (1934), Death of Mr. Dodsley (1937).

Fielding : The Craig Poisoning Mystery (1930), The Wedding Chest Mystery (1930), The Unfold Farm Mystery (1931), Death of John Tate (1932), The Westwood Mystery (1932), The Tall House Mystery (1933), The Cautley Conundrum (1934), The Paper-Chase (1934), Tragedy at Beechcroft (1935), The Case of the Missing Diary (1935), The Case of the Two Pearl Necklaces (1936), Mystery at the Rectory (1936), Scarecrow (1937), BlackCats are Lucky (1937), Murder in Suffolk (1938).

Hulbert Footner : The Viper (1930), The Folded Paper Mystery (1930), Easy to Kill (1931), The Casual Murderer (1932), Dead Man’s Hat (1933), The Ring of Eyes (1933), The Almost Perfect Murder (1933), Murder Runs in the Family (1934), Dangerous Cargo (1934), The New Made Grave (1935), Murder of a Bad Man (1935), The Kidnapping of Madame Storey (1936), The Dark Ships (1937), Tortuous Trails (1937), Murder in the Sun (1938), Death of a Celebrity (1938), The Nation’s Missing Guest (1939), The Murder that had Everything (1939)

Anthony Gilbert : The Case Against Andrew Fane (1931), The Body on the Beam (1932), The Long Shadow (1932), Death in Fancy Dress (1933), The Musical Comedy Crime (1933), An Old Lady Dies (1934), The Man in Button Boots (1934), The Man who was too Clever (1935), Courtier to Death (1936), Murder by Experts (1936), The Man who wasn’t There (1937), Murder has no Tongue (1937), Treason in my Breast (1938), The Clock in the Hatbox (1939), The Bell of Death (1939).

Henry Holt : The Scarlet Messenger (1933), Calling All Cars (1934), Murder at the Bookstall (1934), Tiger of Mayfair (1935), Unknown Terror (1935), There has been Murder (1936), Wanted for Murder (1938), The Whispering Man (1938), The Mystery of the Smiling Doll (1939).

Dale King : Obelists En Route (1934), The Curious Mr. Tarrant (1935), Obelists Fly High (1935), Careless Corpse (1937), Arrogant Alibi (1938).

Vernon Loder : The Essex Murders (1930), Death of an Editor (1931), Red Stain (1931), Death in the Thicket (1932), Death at the Wheel (1933), Suspicion (1933), Murder from Three Angles (1934), Two Dead (1934), Death at the Horse Show (1935), The Case of the Dead Doctor (1935), Ship of Secrets (1936), The Deaf-Mute Murders (1936), The Little Man Murders (1936), Chose your Weapon (1937), The Men with the Double Faces (1937), The Button in the Plate (1938), A Wolf in the Fold (1938), Kill in the Ring (1938).

Philip Macdonald :  The Link (1930), The Noose (1930),  Murder Gone Mad (1931), The Choice (1931),  Mystery at Friar’s Pardon (1931), The Maze an Exercise in Detection (1932).

Virgil Markham : Shock! (1930), The Devil Drives Us (1932), Song of Doom (1932), Inspector Rusby’s Finale (1933), The Dead are Prowling (1934), The Deadly Jest (1935),  Snatch (1936).

John Rhode :  Tragedy on the Line (1931), The Hanging Woman (1931), Mystery at Greycombe Farm (1932), Dead Men at the Folly (1932), The Motor Rally Mystery (1933), The Claverton Mystery (1933), The Venner Crime (1933), The Robthorne Mystery (1934), Poison for One (1934),  Shot at Dawn (1934), The Corpse in the Car (1935), Hendon’s First Case (1935), Mystery at Olympia (1935), Death at Breakfast (1936), In the Face of the Verdict (1936), Death in the Hopfields (1937), Death on the Board (1937), Proceed with Caution (1937), Invisible Weapons (1938), The Bloody Tower (1938), Drop to his Death (1939), Death Pays a Dividend (1939), Death on Sunday (1939).

John Stephen : The Strange Fig (1931), Murder Game (1931), The Chinese Jar Mystery (1934), For the Hangman (1935), The Bell in the Fog (1937), The Corpse and the Lady (1938), Rope Enough (1939).

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Provenance through Bookplates or Book Labels

February 27, 2018
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Bookplates or Book Labels1 are nearly as old as printed books themselves. Going as far back as 500 years ago, bookplates, tell us interesting stories that provenance marks in historical books about books and their owners.  The earliest known examples of printed bookplates are German, and date from the 15th century.  Hand-colored woodcuts, pasted into […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 4th Quarter, 2017

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Historically, the 4th quarter of the year is undoubtedly the strongest in sales of rare books. 2017 was no exception. We have come to realize through the years, that there are some aspects of the rare book trade that have been unlikely to drastically change. Thank human nature for that! On average, the October-December period has treated book […]

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Apollinaire’s Poetry is Art

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November 2018, will mark the Centennial Anniversary of the end of the Great War. In April, 1918, French poet, writer, critic and theoretician of art, Guillaume Apollinaire, published his work subtitled “Poems of Peace and War 1913-1916” under the title Calligrammes. This collection of poems is very special and unique for a number of reasons: […]

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Toys for the collector

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More than 100 years before the invention of educational gaming software, there were “novel and game,” educational board games which came complete with game pieces and instruction booklets, and were often accompanied by the novels which provided the basis of such creations.  Educational resources that combine gaming and education into one can be very effective […]

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Introducing the Rare Book Sale Monitor – Artist Breakdown

October 27, 2017
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The Rare Book Sale Monitor has given collectors new ways to structure their search for new additions to their collections using market trend indicators. Our view is that genre and author strategies can complement one another, and, that additional breakdowns can improve visibility and help structure collections to produce the desired results. In the case […]

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Feminist author led women’s movement with works in multiple genres

September 30, 2017
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Charlotte Perkins Gilman, (also known as Charlotte Perkins Stetson), was born in New England, in 1860; a descendant of the prominent and influential Beecher family. Her mother, Mary Fitch Westcott, had married a second cousin, the well-known librarian and bibliophile, Frederic Beecher Perkins, grandson of Lyman Beecher, nephew of Henry Ward Beecher and Harriet Beecher […]

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Highsmith, Hitchcock and Homosexuality

August 28, 2017
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There is no doubt that 20th-century genre novels which inspire unforgettable film productions, are on collectors’ target lists. And there is no better group of novelists that continue to inspire an endless procession of films than the ones that include Stephen King, J.G. Ballard, Phillip K. Dick, Elmore Leonard, and of course, the ringer of […]

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Rare Book Sale Monitor update – 2nd Quarter, 2017

August 11, 2017
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Factsheet: Rare Books as an alternative investment: Tangible assets, such as Rare Books, are by nature, illiquid. Collectible books of interest have shown value appreciation over the years. Many more collectible books of less interest have not appreciated or have declined in value. Supply outstrips demand for all but the rarest books. Tangible alternative investments […]

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