Rare first edition books are like well-kept vintage cars, restored to perfection in all their glory, almost begging for ownership by an enthusiastic collector. Great books are, after all, a life-long investment into endless hours of intellectual pleasure and unforgettable memories. In honor of keeping the tradition alive, here’s our top 10 picks of the most valuable and sought after First Edition books of the 20th century:
1. F. Scott Fitzgerald – The Great Gatsby – £246,636
Considered undeniably among the best 1920s American literary works, The Great Gatsby was written at an era known as the “Jazz Age”, according to the author. While writing the book, Fitzgerald saw it as a living mirror image of society at the time – a society ripe with, most notably, spiritual chaos and materialism.
2. J.R.R.Tolkien – The Hobbit – £64,420
The Hobbit, which has seen a widely successful movie adaptation showcasing the book’s timelessness, was discovered recently by a traveler on the luxurious Greek island of Santorini. It happened to be an original leather-bound copy from 1937. The story remains a highly creative work of speculative fiction even to this day.
3. James Joyce – Ulysses – £24,557
Ulysses draws multiple parallels with the unforgettable poem by Homer, Odyssey – Ulysses is Latin for Odysseus. Two decades ago, Ulysses was ranked as being among the top 100 English novels of the 20th century.
4. Ian Fleming – Casino Royale – £24,180
Fleming, best known for his work revolving around the iconic super-agent 007, unveiled the Casino Royale story for the first time in 1953. Since publication, the story has been celebrated as a comic strip in “The Daily Express” and a motion picture, confirming to the decades-long tradition of bringing nearly every Bond story to the big screen.
5. Ernest Hemingway – In Our Time – £22,079
In Our Time is hailed as one of the most original collections of short stories, even praised by the likes of fellow authors such as F. Scott Fitzgerald. This story is considered by many avid collectors as the gateway to Hemingway’s later works.
6. J.R.R.Tolkien – The Lord of the Rings – £20,000
To this day, the Lord of the Rings trilogy remains easily one of the most influential literary gems of this century. The trilogy has enjoyed epic sales and has greatly changed the course in literary tastes of an everyday collector. Tolkien sold film rights to the trilogy for £10,000 in 1969.
7. T.S.Eliot – Prufrock and Other Observations – £17,500
Many scholars regard this work as being culturally very important, as it forms a prominent part of civilization as we know it today. Ezra Pound, a poet, critic and prominent figure in the early modernist movement, was so impressed by Eliot’s work that he became Eliot’s mentor while the latter was still in the early stages of his career.
8. A.A.Milne – The Christopher Robin Book – £13,084
Milne’s long praised, best-selling books have largely revolved around Winnie-the-Pooh, the bear, and his humanistic friends. Milne has brought Winnie at Harrods, the teddy bear behind the inspiration for Winnie-the-Pooh.
9. F.Scott Fitzgerald – Tender is the Night – £10,370
Nine years after the raving success enjoyed by The Great Gatsby in 1925, Fitzgerald product his final work which was based on the events of his wife’s hospitalization and his own alcoholism. The title was originally “borrowed” by a John Keats poem titled “Ode to a Nightingale”.
10. Evelyn Waugh – Decline and Fall – £9,364
Waugh’s first piece of writing sees his signature dark humour attempting to capture the multitude of features that formed 1920s British society. Before Decline and Fall was published, it was originally known as The Temple at Thatch; unfortunately, Waugh ended up completely destroying the manuscript before starting afresh.