One For The Books: Inaugural Auction Featuring Selections From William Strutzs Library Realizes $5.65 Million FrankensteinScares Up $843,750

July 10, 2024

When Heritage Auctions closed the book onthe William A. Strutz Library, Part I, Rare Books Signature Auction on June 27, the total read $5,655,439. Inscribed inside the historic event were the signatures of the 730 bidders who participated worldwide, bought every single one of the 226 books, letters and manuscripts on the shelf and helped set numerous auction records. Chief among the events historic lots wasan extraordinary inscribed copy of F. Scott Fitzgeralds The Great Gatsbythat realized $425,000, now the worlds most valuable copy. Not far behind was what is nowthe most valuable Hobbitin the world, a presentation copy of J. R. R. Tolkiens novel that realized $300,000.Henry David Thoreaus Walden or Life in the Woods also set an auction record, selling for $275,000. Towering above them all wasa copy ofFrankensteinthat realized $843,750, befitting one of only three known first editions in the original pink boards (and the only one in private hands). This auction establishes Heritage as the premier destination for rare books and manuscripts, says Francis Wahlgren, Heritage Auctions International Director of Rare Books & Manuscripts. This was a single-owner sale 60 years in the making, and the results are a true testament to a great collector and a market that recognized the treasures assembled by William Strutz. Strutzs breathtaking library, built within his Bismarck, North Dakota, home, consisted of some 15,000 books, which the attorney began assembling while in college in the late 1950s. He focused on books of great literary significance, in superb original condition and with provenance, which accounted for the profusion of presentation and association copies found in this auction, the first of a series of auctions Heritage will hold throughout this year and next. Strutz, who said he collected because he was a reader, wanted more than just a copy of the book. He sought out copies held by their authors, books presented from one notable to another. As a result, Strutz assembled what Wahlgren calls one of the most important collections of English and American literature that has come on the market in decades. We want to thank Heritage, especially Francis and Executive Vice President Joe Maddalena, and the bidders who made this auction such a success, says Williams son, Colin Strutz. We so appreciate everyone who helped make this a record-setting day. This auction honored my fathers passion, and we look forward to working with Heritage as we continue to tell Dads story through the books he collected and loved. William Strutz acquiredhis first-edition copy of Mary Shelleys 1818 Frankenstein or The Modern Prometheusin 1975 and had the foresight to obtain the only known copy in the original pink boards in private hands. The other two known copies in pink boards reside in the Pforzheimer and Berg Collections at the New York Public Library. The tome opened live bidding at $300,000, then, almost instantly skyrocketed to its final price of $843,750. Said auctioneer Mike Sadler when introducing Strutzs Frankenstein, every signature sale has a signature lot. As it turned out, this one had many. No less extraordinary wasStrutzs copy of 1925s first printing of the first edition of The Great Gatsby, which boasts a superior dust jacket featuring perhaps the most famous book cover of all time: Francis Cugats painting Celestial Eyeshovering over an illuminated cityscape. Inside, the author wrote a note for its recipient: For D. L. Shelton / from his Sincerely / F Scott Fitzgerald / Feb 1927.Prior to the auction, no other copy of The Great Gatsbyhad ever broken the $400,000 barrier. Bidders also fought overafirst-edition presentation copy of Tolkiens 1937 The Hobbit, featuring a dust jacket, likewise the creation of Tolkien, so brilliant-bright its snow-capped mountains seem to burst out of its famously verdant landscape. Tolkien gifted this copy to dear friends, writing inside, Charles & Dorothy Moore / from. / J.R.R.T / with love / September 1937. There are but 2,000 copies of the first printing of the first edition ofThoreaus masterpiece 1854 Walden or Life in the Woods, but only one inscribed to the authors literary executor (and hiking companion) Harrison Gray Otis Blake. Hence its record-setting price of $275,000. For more information, visit


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