A remarkable collection of books, letters, and manuscripts by that quintessential American writer, Jack London, “The Author with the Sales,” is bound for the auction block at PBA Galleries on September 18th, 2008. A rugged outdoorsman, adventurer, and self-proclaimed socialist, Jack London packed more into his forty years of life than most do in twice the span. He wrote constantly, his stories appearing in countless magazines and newspapers across the globe, and translated into many languages. His writings produced some fifty major books, both novels and compilations of stories, and his popularity was such that he was acclaimed for being the first author with sales of $1,000,000 during his lifetime.

Jack London: A Private Collection is not simply a gathering if his books, however, though there are those, many in the rare original dust jackets. Key to the importance of the collection are the many inscribed association copies, connecting members of his “Bohemian” circle. Fifteen original letters from Jack London, including six to his new love and future wife Charmian Kittredge, offer rare insight into both his personal and professional life. The most sublime component of the collection, however, is a small, unassuming notebook from London’s geometry studies.

The 57-leaf notebook, dated 1896, is filled with geometric equations in ink by London, and would be of great interest even if that was all it contained. But London has turned this ordinary exercise book into an extraordinary key to the development of his writing technique. In it he has pasted numerous typed notes containing lists of different vernacular words or phrases; names (including odd European given and surnames, Hawaiian and Japanese names); several typed lists of curses of all kinds; topics for conversation; quotes from other writers; for stories, essays, etc. Additionally, several pages have Jack London’s autograph notes, with story and character ideas; many of these pages are also covered with typed notes. This notebook, created early in London’s writing career as he was developing his own unique style, is crucial to understanding his ideas and use of language. It is estimated at $50,000/80,000.

The six letters from Jack London to Charmian Kittredge are captivating for the emotions revealed, and offer rare insight into Jack’s state of mind as he was creating some of his most memorable works. The earliest of the letters is dated July 15, 1903, just one month after Jack and Charmian fell in love. It is addressed to “Armes,” evidently a disguise of Charmian’s name – Jack was married to Bessie, and their affair had to remain secret. It is rare for him to use either his name or hers in their correspondence before Jack’s divorce from Bessie was finalized. The other letters from Jack to Charmian are dated August 9, 1903; August 14, 1903; September 2, 1903; and November 17, 1905, the very day his divorce was finalized, though he did not know it when he wrote the letter. The estimates on Jack’s letters to Charmian range from $2,000/3,000 to $5,000/8,000. Other letters from Jack London include a missive to the editor of Century Magazine, September 5, 1904, proposing to send him a story (at a rate of 8 to 10 cents a word); a letter to a Cora Walker, November 29, 1905, about an upcoming lecture; a letter and documents relating to his contribution to King Albert’s Book, 1914; three letters, 1911-1913, to John A. Browne, the commodore of the yacht club where Jack kept his boat “Roamer”; and more.

The books in the auction are a choice selection, and include some great rarities. Among them, White Fang, first edition, in the very rare original dust jacket, only a few copies of which are known to exist, estimated at $20,000/30,000; the exceptionally rare first issue of The Sea-Wolf, one of apparently two known copies, with uncorrected copyright notice dated 1904 only on the integral title-page, at $10,000/15,000; first edition of The Call of the Wild, inscribed to London’s longtime friend and fellow Oakland resident Frederick Irons Bamford, dated July 23, 1903, just days after publication, with an estimate of $10,000/15,000; A Son of the Wolf, Jack London’s first book, the first edition, first printing, in rare dust jacket featuring the “belt-buckle” design of the front cover, $6,000/9,000; A Son of the Sun, 1912, a collection of his South Sea stories, a beautiful copy in the rare original dust jacket, $5,000/8,000; The Game inscribed by Jack London to good friend George Wharton James, prolific author of books on California and the West, and American Indian arts and crafts, with an estimate of $5,000/8,000; rare publisher’s pre-publication issue of The Game, issued for copyright purposes only, in original printed wrappers, with a presale estimate of $5,000/8,000; and many more.

The full catalogue may be viewed at the PBA website, www.pbagalleries.com. All items are pictured in the online catalogue, but high-resolution images for each of the lots described in this article, suitable for publication, may be received via email. Contact [email protected]

For information about consigning material to future auctions at PBA Galleries, please contact Bruce MacMakin [email protected]

About PBA Galleries
PBA Galleries is the only specialist auction house in the West devoted to rare books, manuscripts, and maps. Focused primarily on personal collections and exceptional books, recent offerings have included the Sal Noto collection of Jack London; maps and atlases from the Ernst W. Gerber collection; the library of Ford Mitchell: Early Americana, Texas & the West; John Dunlap’s collection from the estate of William Randolph Hearst; and many more. PBA Galleries provides clients the benefits of its staff of appraisers, online and printed catalogues, and biweekly gallery auctions where clients can bid in person, email, and in real time from their computer.