Art/Design, Living

Christie’s is auctioning off famous first editions of Books

Books are, in fact, important works of art.

words by: Sahar Khraibani
Jun 21, 2022

The London-based auction house, Christie’s, is auctioning off famous first editions of books in “The Art of Literature” exhibition which is currently on view.


In their press release, the auction house shares: “The histories of art and literature are inextricably linked: an ancient epic poem inspires an Old Master picture; a contemporary artist takes flight from a Shakespearean phrase; a medieval illuminated manuscript combines text and painting in a single beautiful object.”


This event is significant because it presents books as artifacts that are given the same importance as artworks. Auction houses have been recently more focused on NFT sales as the new market is expanding for them, but the fact that Christie’s is making space for a nostalgic throwback makes this exhibition and auction one of a kind.


The exhibition is offering a really exciting look into works by notable writers such as William Shakespeare, Joan Mitchell, Peter Paul Rubens, Marlene Dumas and James Joyce. They continued to share: “The Art of Literature: Loan and Selling Exhibition (6 June – 14 July), […] brings together an extraordinary selection of masterpieces embodying this most productive of creative partnerships. At times direct and at other times subtly allusive, the connections between art and literature explored across this exhibition offer exciting insights into the works of important artists and writers.”


Among these is an original copy of the very first installment of the Harry Potter series—however, to receive entry to the private event where this will be auctioned off, Christie’s is accepting offers starting from $250,000 USD. The rare book comes with J.K. Rowling’s signature and a number of small mistakes. Apparently, several elements went wrong in the first book production. One example of this is a typo on the back cover where “philosophers” (a very important keyword) is misspelled, where the second “o” is missing. In addition, there are several typos in the text, as well as repeated sentences.


Only 500 copies of the book, which was first pressed in 1997, were printed. 300 of these books were sent off to libraries, and the copy that is being auctioned off is one of the 200 leftover. But what makes this copy really desirable is that it’s a physical manifestation of a memory that is extremely special and precious for so many people.


In other related reading, Christie’s sold NFTs worth $150 Million USD in 2021 and the auction house is now also accepting payment in the form of cryptocurrency.


Photo via Henry Nicholls/Reuters