NEW YORK (Reuters) – Original manuscripts and autographed drawings for two acclaimed books produced by former Beatle John Lennon in the mid-1960s will be sold at auction next week in New York, Sotheby’s said on Thursday.
Eighty nine lots, ranging in price from $500 to $70,000, produced for the 1964 book “In His Own Write” and “A Spaniard in the Works,” published in 1965, will go under the hammer.
The event coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Beatles’ first appearance in America on the Ed Sullivan show.
“This is the most substantial collection of original artwork and manuscript and typescript material by John Lennon that has ever come up for auction,” said Gabriel Heaton, a specialist in the book and manuscript department of Sotheby’s in London.
“It is one of the largest bodies of non-musical work he ever produced,” Heaton said in a telephone interview. Lennon was 40 when he was shot in 1980 in the courtyard of his New York home.
The collection, which is expected to bring a total of $850,000 to $1.8 million, is on view to the public at Sotheby’s ahead of the June 4 sale.
Other works featured in the auction include an introduction Paul McCartney wrote for “In His Own Write” and a sketch of a guitar player in front of a music stand.
“These items are produced right at the height of Beatlemania,” said Heaton, adding that the text for the first book was submitted before The Beatles trip to America and published on their return to England.
Heaton described the manuscripts as short pieces, some in verse and some in prose, that are comic and written in a strange language of puns and word play.
“No word is ever quite what it seemed,” he explained. “It is heavily influenced by the nonsense tradition of English literature.”
Texts include Lennon giving his own brief biography and McCartney remembering the first meeting with Lennon.
“You’ve got several pieces that are quite revealing, in an indirect way, of his state of mind at the time, which is not as quite straightforwardly happy as you might expect of a young man who has just conquered the world, pretty much,” said Heaton about Lennon.
The illustrations are distinctive, amusing and sometimes powerful line drawings by Lennon, who in addition to his musical talents was a trained artist. Some of the sketches accompany the verse and others are stand-alone art works.
“It is a sale with a large number of wonderful pieces,” said Heaton. “This is an unusual chance to acquire significant and substantial manuscript material by one of the great creative forces of the post-war period.”
The collection is being sold by Lennon’s British publisher Tom Maschler, who persuaded him to write the books.
(Reporting by Patricia Reaney; Editing by Piya Sinha-Roy and Gunna Dickson)