Tuesday, February 20, 2007

A Lesson in Irony: Depression Era Classic Sells for $47,800

First edition of "Grapes of Wrath" sells for $47,800
Associated Press

LOS ANGELES - A rare edition of "The Grapes of Wrath," John Steinbeck's epic 1939 tale of Depression-era poverty, sold at auction for $47,800.

A number of other first-edition copies of Steinbeck works were sold Sunday at an auction held by Bonhams & Butterfields. A copy of "Of Mice and Men" sold for $7,768, "East of Eden" for $8,365 and "In Dubious Battle" for $11,353.

The books were owned by the author's sister, Elizabeth Steinbeck Ainsworth, who died in 1992. The Steinbeck family chose to sell the books to finance renovation of a Pacific Grove, Calif., bungalow where Steinbeck wrote some of his books, said Catherine Williamson, director of fine books and manuscripts for Bonhams.

The collection sold for more than $200,000.

Five of the Steinbeck titles were bought by Jim Dourgarian, a Bay Area antiquarian bookseller who specializes in Steinbeck's work. His purchases included "Cup of Gold," which he called a relative bargain at $21,510.

"The fact that this was probably the last close family copy that is not in an institution made it highly desirable," Dourgarian said. He said it also is valuable because Steinbeck inscribed it, and it is wrapped in a brightly colored dust jacket showing a buccaneer.

Bonhams believes the $47,800 price for the Pulitzer Prize-winning "Grapes of Wrath" is the world record for an at-auction sale for a Steinbeck novel, Williamson said.

I've always loved this book and have always felt inspired to collect antique books.


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