T.S. Eliot poem hand set by Virginia Woolf fetches £4,500 at auction.
August 29, 2013 § Leave a comment
A rare UK first edition of T.S. Eliot’s poem The Waste Land, hand-set by Virginia Woolf– who “had difficulty with the typography” – has been bought at auction by the University of St Andrews for £4,500 after being donated to Oxfam.
Woolf put out 460 copies of the poem in 1923 through Hogarth Press, the publisher that she and her husband Leonard had created to publish her writing.
“Eliot was part of the Bloomsbury circle – he and Woolf were friends and contemporaries. Woolf had difficulty with the typography because of the way Eliot would write, the rhythm and space used in his poems, and she had a bit of trouble getting the typeface right. In the end, Eliot was quoted as saying he was very happy with it. It’s generally considered a success by Hogarth.”
She added that the “tactile nature” of the book and Woolf’s close association added to the “uniqueness” of the publication. The price fetched at auction was above the £2,000 to £3,000 expected.
Oxfam holds an annual sale of rare books; this year’s lot included first editions of Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy, an edition of Coleridge’s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner, and a 20-volume set of the works of Joseph Conrad, one of 780 signed by the author, which “did not get as much as expected”. Last year’s auction included a first edition of Samuel Beckett’s debut novel Murphy that went for £12,000.
John MacColl, University of St Andrews director of library services, said “handling a rare first edition with such strong literary associations takes the reader back into the world in which the poem was written. The Waste Land represented a new moment in English poetry, which this wonderful purchase helps to recreate for the reader.”
Eliot, whose work includes Four Quartets, The Love Song of J Alfred Prufrock, and Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats, received an honorary degree from St Andrews in 1953.
The T.S. Eliot estate described the auction of The Waste Land as “an almost perfect story”, one “whereby everybody wins”.