AbeBooks' Most Expensive Sales of 2017

Literary icon J.D. Salinger wears the crown as AbeBooks's most expensive sale of the year. The American author scores extra points for appearing again at number 11. A signed poster - not a book - comes in at number two. Notable sales also included Dali and Picasso, three helpings of wizards and orcs, some vicious plants causing mayhem, ruins in the Middle East, a catcher (and not the baseball variety), and a book containing the first mention of 'I think, therefore I am'. It was another great year for collectors.

The Top 20

1. Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger - $22,500
A unique edition of Salinger's second work, this was Little Brown & Company's only file copy. The publisher's penciled word count calculations (61,823) and pasted label stating 'Sample - return to manufacturing department' can be seen on the rear free endpaper.

Publisher's file copy of Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger

2. Warhol vs Basquiat Exhibition Poster - $20,700
The sale of Jean-Michel Basquiat's 1982 abstract painting of a skull for $110.5 million in May 2017 shocked the art world. Only 10 other artworks have sold for more than $100 million. The record-breaking Basquiat auction sale immediately sparked the sale of this remarkable poster on AbeBooks featuring Basquiat and pop artist Andy Warhol.

Warhol vs Basquiat Exhibition Poster

In the Fall of 1985, the two artists staged a joint exhibition at the Tony Shafrazi Gallery in New York and a color poster was created to promote the event. Both Warhol and Basquiat donned boxing gloves and posed for boxing bout-style photographs. This particular one was signed by both artists, which turned it from being simply special into exceptional. Unsigned copies are priced up to $5,000. Sadly, Basquiat died of a heroin overdose at the age of 27 in 1988. His art is now worth millions and his signature is worth thousands. Warhol died in 1987, and his art and books (especially the cat-related ones) remain highly desirable.

Basquiat started in graffiti art in the late 1970s. At the time, he was regarded as the 'enfant terrible' of the New York art scene for his artistic interpretations of wealth, class and race in 1980s. The show displayed collaborative paintings that Warhol and Basquiat worked on from 1984 to 1985.

3. A Voyage Round Great Britain, Undertaken in the Summer of the Year 1813, and Commencing from the Land's-End, Cornwall by Richard Ayton & William Daniell - $19,300
Eight volumes, published in 1814, with an autograph letter by Daniell to painter and printmaker William Hogarth tipped in to front free endpaper of volume one. This book is famous for its engravings of the British coastline - for some, this is the most important color copperplate book on British topography.

4. Speculum Historiale by Vincent of Beauvais - $18,900
Published in 1473, this was a major encyclopedia during the Middle Ages, written by a Dominican friar Vincent of Beauvais (ca.1190 - ca.1264). The "Speculum Maius" (Great Mirror) was composed of three parts: "Speculum Naturale" (Mirror of Nature), covering natural history; "Speculum Doctrinale" (Mirror of Doctrine), dealing with the arts and sciences; and "Speculum Historiale," containing the history of the world up to Vincent's time.

5. Les Passions de L'ame by Rene Descartes - $17,500
Published in 1649, this first edition in bound in full vellum. This book (The Passions of the Soul) was the last work published during Descartes' lifetime and offers a brief psychological treatise on human nature. The first edition was written in French, printed in the Netherlands, and distributed simultaneously in Paris and Amsterdam. Descartes examines the relationship between the consciousness of the soul and the mechanism of the body, and makes important observations on how this duality effects the nature of voluntary and involuntary actions. This book contains the first description of the reflex function.

6. Songes Drolatiques de Pantagruel by Salvador Dali - $16,840
The Pantagruel Dreams are a series of 120 engravings published by Richard Breton in 1565 under the name of François Rabelais. They depict monstrous and grotesque figures. Published in 1973, Dali adapted 25 of the images and printed them as lithographs, limited to 250 copies printed on Japan paper, complete with a red presentation case.

Songes Drolatiques de Pantagruel

7. Quadragesimale Aureum by Leonardo de Utino - $16,016
A collection of 42 sermons published in 1471, printed in Venice.

8. Ueber die vierfache Wurzel des Satzes vom zureichenden Grunde. Ein philosophische Abhandlung by Arthur Schopenhauer - $15,000
The German title translates as 'On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason. A Philosophical Dissertation'. This is a first edition from 1813 of Schopenhauer's first philosophy book. Only 500 copies were printed and most were pulped after going unsold.

9. Lord of the Rings Trilogy by JRR Tolkien - $14,546
First editions of The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers and The Return of the King.

10. Principia Philosophiae + Specimina Philosophiae by Rene Descartes - $14,535
Two books bound in one volume. Published in Amsterdam in 1644 and bound in vellum, this is a rare first edition of Descartes' main work on physics, the seminal "Principles of Philosophy". It is in this groundbreaking work that the "Cogito ergo sum" ("I think, therefore I am") appears for the first time in the form in which we know it today.

11. The Catcher in the Rye by JD Salinger - $14,000
A 1951 first edition first printing of Salinger's famous novel.

Catcher in the Rye (item pictured not exact item sold)

12. The Day of the Triffids by John Wyndham - $13,844
A 1951 UK first edition of this classic science fiction novel featuring killer plants wreaking havoc, published by Michael Joseph and in near fine condition complete with its dust jacket. Inscribed by Wyndham. The book belonged to Jim Burch who was a science fiction fan and co-organizer of the 1951 Science Fiction Convention in London.

13. Actes and Monuments (Foxe's Book of Martyrs) by John Foxe - $13,000
Two volumes bound in one, printed in 1753. This is the sixth overall edition of Foxe's Protestant history first published in 1563. Outside the bible, no other book influenced Protestant life more than this one. It's famous for depicting scenes of martyrdom at the hands of Catholics.

14. The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor, in the Desart Robert Wood & James Dawkins - $12,926
A rare first edition showing the ruins of the ancient Syrian city of Palmyra in 1753. The book features numerous illustrations, including a stunning folding panoramic plate offering a dramatic view of the ruined city in the 18th century. It contained valuable historic information even before Islamic State forces destroyed sections of Palmyra in 2015. One plate oddly shows Wood and Dawkins arriving at the ancient site dressed in togas - the Romans were one of the later civilizations to take control of Palmyra. There are three full-page engravings of inscriptions in text and 57 full-page engraved plates. This copy once belonged to the Marquis of Stafford and contains his bookplate. There are many images of this gorgeous book to see on the AbeBooks Flickr account.

The Ruins of Palmyra, otherwise Tedmor, in the Desart

15. Carmen des Carmen by Prosper Merimée & Louis Aragon, illustrated by Pablo Picasso - $12,650
Five original plates by Picasso, three aquatint etchings, one drypoint etching and one colored lithograph all numbered in pencil. Aragon was a French poet and one of the leading voices of France's surrealist movement.

Carmen des Carmen

16= To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee - $12,500
A first edition first printing in fine condition of this novel that seems to appear every year on our most expensive lists.

16= Sword of Honour Trilogy by Evelyn Waugh - $12,500
Waugh's outstanding trilogy is Men at Arms; Officers and Gentlemen, and Unconditional Surrender. These are all first editions and Men at Arms is inscribed by Waugh to fellow author, J.F. Powers. The trilogy is largely about World War II and based on the author's own experiences as an army officer.

18. Chocky by John Wyndham - $11,443
A science fiction story about an alien, first published as a novella in 1963 in Amazing Stories. This copy was a scarce 1968 signed first edition of the book format published by Michael Joseph, and in near fine condition. The BBC adapted Wyndham's story for radio in 1967. Chocky was Wyndham's last published story during his lifetime - he died in March 1969. British author Wyndham is best known for his novels, The Day of the Triffids (see no. 11) and The Chrysalids.

19. Collected Works by Samuel Beckett - $11,485
The scarce second edition. Three volumes, bound in contemporary green calf with embossed details, and raised bands.

20. The Whole Works of Homer - $11,437
Privately printed in London for Nathaniell Butler circa 1616, translated from Greek by Geo Chapman.

More Notable Sales

An original drawing by Franz von Bayros - $11,485
Franz von Bayros (1866-1924) was an Austrian artist, best known for his controversial erotic drawings. Part of the Decadent Movement sweeping through Europe at this time, von Bayros' book Tales at the Dressing Table was explicit enough to have him arrested. This particular drawing is pretty tame compared to some of the artist's other work.

An original drawing by Franz von Bayros

Oxford Night Caps Being a Collection of Receipts for Making Various Beverages Used in The University by Richard Cook - $10,000
A pioneering book for all drinkers and bartenders. First printing of the first known cocktail book to be published in the English language from 1827. Designed to help students at Oxford University mix beverages for their busy social life. Just 38 pages. Very scarce. You will find another copy in Oxford's Bodleian Library.

The High Window by Raymond Chandler - $10,000
First edition, first printing of the author's third Philip Marlowe mystery. One of 6,500 copies.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens - $9,500
Published by Chapman & Hall in 1843, a first edition second issue of the book that turned Christmas into the holiday we know today.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens (item pictured not exact item sold)

Signed Etching of Albert Einstein - $9,500
Engraved bust portrait by Emil Orlik. Inscribed by Einstein in German, "To Alice sending it to her as a remembrance Albert."

Hitchcock by Francois Truffaut - $7,500
A fine 1967 first edition in a fine dust jacket, signed by Alfred Hitchcock with a large self-portrait and inscribed by Truffault.

Ornamental Map of the US and Mexico - $7,000
A lithograph map from 1848, issued as a broadside in the wake of the American victory over her neighbor during the Mexican-American war.

The Magic Pudding by Norman Lindsay - $5,900
Australia's most famous children's book. A first edition from 1918, this copy belonged to poet Dorothea Mackellar, who wrote 'I love a Sunburnt County.'

The Phone Book 1998-2002 by Martin Parr - $5,000
The Phone Book reflects the world's relationship with mobile phones (in the early years of mobile before smartphones took off), and mimics a real phone book. It's printed on newsprint with six stiff card dividers that fold out to cascading tabs. The tabs organize the book according to region: Europe, Hong Kong, Japan, United Kingdom, United States, and Rest of the World. A signed deluxe edition that includes a set of 12 signed photos.

The Phone Book 1998-2002 (item pictured not exact item sold)

Which item on this list would you love to own?