Monday, June 09, 2008

Letters From Beyond: Edison & F Scott Fitzgerald

There'll be people who'll tell you that they see these types of letters each and every day - I'm not one of them, although I am fascinated by such documents. Fascinated to the point where I'll happily spend a substantial amount of money just to purchase auction catalogues dating back to the 1960s, from Sothebys and Charles Hamilton and through to the lesser known sellers and auctioneers. All in all it's been a great weekend, what with the purchase of over 400 South Australian TV Guides and now this great lot. Can't complain.

To that end I thought it'd be a great idea to share some of the more interesting artifacts found within the pages of Charles Hamilton's catalogues.

This first letter was offered for sale on May 24, 1967 at the Waldorf Astoria in New York and was described as being '1 full page, small 8vo, Very slightly soiled, with signature slightly smudged, otherwise a fine example of (Thomas) Edison's holograph'. The text of the letter reads as such:

Bergmann
Do me a favor = Have one of your young men procure and send to me "priced" catalogues of enclosed forms most of them appear to be in Germany. I can find their address = I am having Zeiss catalogues sent me direct.
Yours
Edison
Orange June 1/07"

How much did it sell for? Hold onto the floor here - it sold for the princely sum of (drum roll) $65.00. I wonder how many zeros you could add to that today.

This letter is also a stunner. Offered in New York on September 28, 1967 is was described as an 'Amusing original Autograph Manuscript of eight lines, written in pencil (but signed and dated in ink), July 1933. On verso of an engraved wedding invitation. The text reads:

Don't expect me
I've gone fancy
I'm all set
With Bryan Dancy.
Scotty's Windbag
Michell's Berries
Back at midnight
Out with fairies.

In the left margin appears the signatures, in ink, of Jake Mitchell (with a small drawing) and Bryan, both mentioned in the poem. Two marginal tears (one just touching Fitzgerald's signature) repaired on verso with transparent paper, and the initial "F" of Fitzgerald's signature smudged, with a large ink blot, probably done by Fitzgerald himself while under the influence.

How much then for a little poem written by a presumed drunken F Scott Fitzgerald? The pre-auction estimate was a mere $150, thankfully, for me anyway, the realised price list is missing from this particular catalogue so I have no idea at the moment of knowing what it went for. What I do know is that I'd have bought it for $150 in a heartbeat. Hopefully someone did and is still holding onto it. To own something that Fitzgerald most likely wrote, pissed as a fart at a wedding, might not be romantic, but it is entirely keeping within the character of the man himself. Drunken, tortured and genius. These are the things that dreams are made of.

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