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Sotheby's announces an extraordinary auction of 50 contemporary first edition books
Quentin Blake-Roald Dahl. Matilda. London: Jonathan Cape, 1988. 8vo, first edition. Extra- illustrated by Quentin Blake. Photo: Sotheby's.

LONDON.- English PEN and Sotheby’s announced First Editions, Second Thoughts (FEST), a ground-breaking auction in which 50 of the UK and Commonwealth’s most outstanding contemporary writers have annotated, commented on and illustrated a first edition copy of one of their works. Authors including Margaret Atwood, Julian Barnes, Alan Bennett, William Boyd, Margaret Drabble, Helen Fielding, Nadine Gordimer, David Hare, Seamus Heaney, Kazuo Ishiguro, Howard Jacobson, Ian McEwan, Michael Morpurgo, J.K. Rowling, Lionel Shriver, Ralph Steadman, Tom Stoppard and Jeanette Winterson have generously contributed to the sale. Their unique personalised books, with extensive authorial annotations, offer a fascinating insight into each author’s creative process and the genesis and nature of their work. The auction will be held on 21st May at Sotheby’s in London. Proceeds will benefit writers’ association English PEN to defend the freedom to write and the freedom to read in the UK and across the world.

Rick Gekoski, Trustee of English PEN and curator of FEST, said: “In 40 years in the rare book trade I have never seen a collection of books to compare with those in this sale. The selfscrutiny of the authors is highly considered - crafted, thoughtful and thought provoking. And like works of literature themselves, their annotations give a peek into the soul of their maker. In many cases, the commentaries will affect how the book is to be read and understood in the future.”

Philip Errington, Director of Printed Books & Manuscripts at Sotheby’s, said: Sotheby’s is delighted to support this charity sale to benefit English PEN. The authors’ annotations are as unique as the authors themselves and each book reflects an author’s highly individual response to the task of annotation. As a result, many of these books are, quite simply, the finest copies of these highly collectable first editions.

Gillian Slovo, President of English PEN, said: ‘We are grateful to all the writers who have contributed such goodwill to this project. Their generosity to English PEN is hugely appreciated.

The auction contains works by a remarkable list of major novelists, playwrights, poets, memoirists and writers of non-fiction, including many winners of the great literary prizes including the Nobel Prize for Literature, the Man Booker and Orange prizes. They were asked to: “Feel free to scribble second thoughts, marginalia or drawings throughout the work in whatever fashion moves you, thus singling out this particular first edition and making it even more desirable for a reader or collector to want to own”.

The results are astonishing and highly individual. Some writers made copious amendments, others chose to jot comments on endpapers and blanks; some excised or corrected text and several illustrated their works.

Highlights of the 50 works to be auctioned on 21st May include:

• Julian Barnes: Metroland
• Nadine Gordimer: The Conservationist
• Seamus Heaney: Death of a Naturalist
• Kazuo Ishiguro: The Remains of the Day
• Ian McEwan: Amsterdam
• Yann Martel: Life of Pi
• Michael Morpurgo: War Horse
• Philip Pullman: Northern Lights
• JK Rowling: Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
• Lionel Shriver: We Need to Talk About Kevin
• Ralph Steadman: Fear & Loathing in Las Vegas
• Tom Stoppard: Rosencrantz & Guildenstern are Dead
• Edmund de Waal: The Hare with Amber Eyes
• Jeanette Winterson: Oranges are Not the Only Fruit

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