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15 September 2014
Auction News
Christopher Proudlove reporting.



Dylan Thomas celebrated in centenary sale

A sale at leading South Wales auctioneers Rogers Jones Co, marking the 100th birthday of the great Welsh poet Dylan Thomas drew huge international interest and spirited bidding. It raised a total of £36,000 for the various owners who consigned a total of 60 lots, a huge 80 per cent of which sold. The Swansea-born poet died in New York in 1953, aged just 39.

Most wanted proved to be an exceptionally rare and desirable manuscript final draft of Dylan Thomas`s last completed poem, “Author`s Prologue”. It was written in the poet`s best handwriting in black ink on stiff white card, probably from a shoe box or shirt packaging, which was one of his chosen mediums throughout his life. It sold for £7,000.

The work is an acrostic poem in which Thomas chose to rhyme the first line with the very last line, the second with the second to last and so on, continuing inward to a middle couplet. It was composed for Collected Poems, 1934-52. The autographed rendition of this remarkable poem was given to the American poet Archibald MacLeish, probably in 1951 during Thomas’s first American trip and was purchased by a regular buyer in the Welsh Sale.

The sale included a number of rare first edition books featuring Thomas’s work, most wanted among which was the only signed limited edition of a British Dylan Thomas book. The rare deluxe limited edition copy of “Collected Poems” was number 37 of only 65 copies released by the publisher J. M. Dent, only 60 of which were made available for purchase. It was bound in full crushed dark blue Morocco leather with the poet’s autograph appearing on the title page. It sold to an online bidder for £2,600.

Close behind at £2,200 was a fine inscribed first edition of “Deaths and Entrances”, published by Dent in 1946. An inscription to the front-end-paper read: “Dylan Thomas, July 1948 to Michael Seward Snow and the Ulysses Club”. With the book was a one-page autograph letter, tipped on the front paste-down. Written from Whitney, Oxford on the same date as the inscription, the letter was a charming and warm supportive note to Snow as a young schoolboy, Thomas agreeing to be President of the Ulysses Club, which Snow had established as a literary society at Rugby, the boy’s school. The letter ends: “...and here is my stamp-sized book”.

On a more amusing note, the rusty and twisted garden gate to the iconic Laugharne Boathouse where Dylan Thomas spent the last four years of his tragically short life, sold for an above estimate £900.

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