Gaston Leroux’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ makes a very real result at Swann auction

Very rare first US edition of Gaston Leroux’s 'The Phantom of the Opera' sold by Swann for $10,000 (£7750).

Sporting a torn and defective but rarely seen dust jacket, a 1911, first American printing of Gaston Leroux’s ‘The Phantom of the Opera’ sold for $10,000 (£7750) in a recent New York sale.

Extracted from Antiques Trade Gazette | Ian McKay

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Offered in a Swann (25/20/12% buyer’s premium) sale of May 14, this copy sports a jacket in which the phantom is seen descending stairs rather than on a bell tower – a version that is known on only three or four copies.

In a November 2015 sale Swann did sell a copy in that alternative bell tower jacket – which they described as the presumed first variant. It made $28,000 (then £18,460).

Following publication in September 1909 in a French daily newspaper, Le Gaulois, the first French book edition had followed in 1910 and a fine, entirely unrestored copy in original wrappers sold at $6000 (£3970) in that same Swann sale of 2015.

Both were part of a lifetime collection of mystery, detective and Sci-Fi works formed by an American collector, Lawrence Solomon.

Signed by the author and in a good, unrestored dust jacket, the curiously titled Ralph 124C 41+ (meaning ‘One to foresee for one another’) is regarded as “one of the foundational texts in the science fiction pantheon”.

The annual Hugo awards for works in this field are named in honour of its author, Hugo Gernsback, who was also the founder of Amazing Stories magazine.

Initially serialised in monthly parts in Modern Electrics magazine, which Gersnback edited, the work subtitled ‘A Romance of the year 2660’ was first published in book form in 1925. This copy sold at $6250 (£4845) – just short of a record sum.

A preview piece in ATG No 2391 featured a group of Ian Fleming’s James Bond novels and illustrated a 1959 first of Goldfinger that he inscribed for the golfer Henry Cotton. That one sold at $20,000 (£15,505), while a 1961 copy of Thunderball inscribed for Charles D Jackson, a journalist and later publisher of Life magazine, sold at $13,000 (£10,080).

The two men had met while working in the British and US intelligence services during the Second World War, but it was only after his death in 1964 that it was revealed that Jackson had also been a CIA agent.

Apparently showing no signs of ever having been read, a fine first issue example of John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces of 1980 sold well at $3000 (£2325).