In 1914, Ezra Pound, the foreign editor of Poetry Magazine, urged its editor, Harriet Monroe, to include a poem by a young, unknown poet: “I was jolly well right about [him]. He has sent in the best poem I have yet had or seen from an American. Pray God it be not a single and unique success.He has taken it back to get it ready for the press and you shall have it in a few days… He is the only American I know of who has made what I can call adequate preparation for writing. He has actually trained himself and modernized himself on his own.” About a year later, on June 1, 1915, Monroe published Poetry Magazine, Volume VI, Number III (costing a mere 15 cents; a one year subscription cost $1.50) printed in Chicago by Seymour, Daughaday and Company. The magazine contained 10 poems — one of them being one of the most famous poems in modern literature: The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock by T. S. Eliot.
A first edition of the poem is valued at $5,000. Even more valuable, is a first edition of the poem printed by the Egoist Press Ltd. of London in 1917, valued at $25,000. What makes this small book of poems, titled Prufrock and Other Observations, so valuable is that only 500 were printed. The book is about 6.5 by 9.25 inches, black ink printed on heavy buff wrappers, and 4o pages long (making each page worth $6,250!). A first edition signed by Eliot is worth about $35,000.
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For further reading: www.theatlantic.com/past/docs/unbound/poetry/prufrock.htm
George Washington’s annotated copy of the Constitution and Bill of Rights (1789) sold for $9.8 million dollars at an auction held at Christie’s New York on June 22, making this book the most expensive American book sold at auction. Despite its age — 223 years — the book, printed by Francis Childs and John Swaine, is in remarkable condition and highly coveted since it contains not only Washington’s extensive margin notes but also his signature and armorial bookplate. The book had been originally purchased at auction by collector H. Richard Dietrich, Jr. in 1964. Prior to that, the book had been owned by the Heritage Foundation that bought the book at auction back in 1876 from its original home, the Mount Vernon library.
The bidding for the book began at $1.3 million and within four minutes the hammer came down on an astonishingly high bid by the Mount Vernon Ladies’ Association of the Union, a nonprofit educational organization that owns and operates George Washington’s home and museum. Apparently, these ladies really know how to shop — and price was no object since they paid $6 million more than the book’s original estimated price of $2-3 million.
The second highest price for an American book or document was $3.4 million paid in February 2009 for an autograph manuscript of Abraham Lincoln’s 1864 victory speech. Next on the list is $3.2 million paid in December 2009 for an autograph letter regarding the ratification of the Constitution written by George Washington in 1787 to his nephew, Bushrod Washington.
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For further reading: http://www.christies.com/lotfinder/books-manuscripts/washington-george-president-united-5584777-details.aspx?pos=1&intObjectID=5584777&sid=&page=1?intObjectID=5584777.