It was once the most censored book in American schools and libraries. Now, the only version of The keeper in the rye That author J.D. Salinger signed his childhood nickname, Sony, is up for sale for £225,000.
Salinger was said to have been upset with friends and family who had profited from the success of his 1951 novel, as a result of which the signed copies did not make their way to the book market – the first engraved version of The keeper in the rye It was only auctioned after his death, in 2010.
The author engraved this version on friends of the family on the free front paper: “To Charles Curtis With All the Best Wishes from J.D. Salinger (Additional Greetings to Ada and Victor from Sonny Salinger) New York 10/18/56.”
It is being sold by Peter Harrington Books as part of Firsts: The Rare Book Fair in London, which takes place at the Saatchi Gallery from September 15-18. It is described as a record-breaking item and one of the toughest titles in 20th century American fiction.
“It is perhaps the most elusive prize in twentieth century literature,” said Bohm Harrington, owner Peter Harrington Books, president of the Antique Booksellers Association and president of the First Book Fair. “Auction records show only one appearance of the first engraved edition – owning an engraved copy would be a standout for any literary collection Serious modern American.
The reasons for this owe a lot to the infamous J.D. Salinger dribble. Salinger was very private and avoided publicity in any way, particularly the use of any biographical material to promote his work.”
The exhibition has the theme of “Forbidden Books” and The keeper in the rye. Salinger’s first novel, depicting a disaffected youthful Holden Caulfield—originally published in serial form—was the subject of ongoing controversy in the United States. In 1960 a teacher in Tulsa was fired, although later reinstated, for teaching in class. In the two decades until 1982 it was the most censored book in American schools and libraries.
Harrington added: “This copy was one of the first two engraved prints Salinger gave to Anne Agus, engraved on her grandson Charles and William. Anne, whose plaque he wrote is on the front facing down, and her husband Sam, live in the same apartment house of Salinger’s parents, at 1182, Park Avenue, New York City Salinger was childhood friends with their children—the mother of this book’s recipient, Ada, and her brother Victor, also referenced in the inscription.
“The signature, ‘Sonny,’ was Salinger’s nickname by his parents when he was born. This is the only known transcribed copy of the book signed by Salinger using this surname.”
In 2010, a signed copy of the first edition was auctioned off and fetched $65,000 (£56,000). This was considered a low price, due to its poor condition and the expectation that after the death of Salinger, in January of that year, there would be a flood of engraved copies on the market, which did not materialize.
Narrated in a disjointed, almost stream-of-consciousness style by 17-year-old Holden Caulfield at the end of World War II, The keeper in the rye It follows the protagonist as he is about to get out of a California sanatorium where he was treated for depression. Her depictions of sex, drinking, drug use, and teenage rebellion made her an instant classic and despised. Mark Chapman was arrested with a copy of the book in his possession after the assassination of John Lennon.
Other items for sale in the gallery include letters between George Orwell and his publisher, Victor Gollancz, detailing the police raid on the writer’s home where they seized his copy from Henry Miller. Tropic of CancerAnd a first copy of Nicholas Copernicus’ book De Revolutionibus Orbium Coelestium (On the revolutions of the celestial spheres), which the Catholic Church considers a heresy to put the Sun at the center of our solar system, which costs £2 million.