Results of the Bloomsbury Auction

My instant post-game analysis of today’s auction of 22 Nabokov lots at Bloomsbury Auctions in London: Ho-hum.

Twelve of the lots were sold, ten were passed on. The first lot, a battered Mashen’ka, went for the minimum expected, £1500 (plus the buyer’s premium of 24%). Three rebound Russian novels (Kamera obskura, Otchaianie, and Priglashenie na kazn’) were passed on. One rebound novel, Zashchita Luzhina, sold at £320, above the high estimate. I think that’s due to the difficulty of finding any copy of ZL and this copy’s relatively low price.

Some Russian novels in wrappers didn’t sell (Dar, Sogliadatai, and Podvig). Most of the English language lots sold: a 1936 John Long Camera Obscura without dust jacket at £1400; a 1959 Putnam Invitation to a Beheading with a tipped in letter from Véra Nabokov at £180; an Olympia Press Lolita, second issue, at £1700; a Bend Sinister, inscribed and lepidopterized, at £3800, the most expensive lot sold; an inscribed Pnin at £2200; a Putnam Lolita, ninth impression, inscribed and lepidopterized, at £3500.

The lot of 30 letters from 1958–1981, two with butterflies, to Nabokov’s cousins, the de Petersons, didn’t sell (estimated at £8–12,000). Nor did the most delightful piece, an inscribed and 8X-lepidopterized copy of Stikhotvoreniia: 1929–1951, estimated at £6–8000. You have your good days and you have your so-so days. One could say that that’s how the ball bounces.

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  1. James O'Sullivan’s avatar

    Thanks for the report. I was surprised at the almost total lack of interest in the Russian-language titles. I was underbidder on the inscribed Pnin. Surprised to see them describe the 2nd issue Lolita as “with the scarce label altering the price to that of the second issue” – I thought that was more common?

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    1. Michael Juliar’s avatar

      Russian-language titles don’t sell very well in the US. It will be interesting to see how all the Russian items—Nabokovian and non-Nabokovian—do in the Bonhams auction in New York on Wednesday. And, yes, I agree with you that the statement about a “scarce label” on the second issue is odd. I find that of Olympia Press Lolita listings I come across, the ratio of first to second issues is roughly 50-50. But it is true that some second issues have a label and some just have the price crossed out and the new price inked in.

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    2. James O'Sullivan’s avatar

      These unsold books have been re-entered in their sale on 28th.

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