The Library of Dr Rodney P. Swantko To Go On Auction

In June, the literary world will witness a significant event as Sotheby’s Book Week unveils The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko.

This remarkable collection stands as a testament to modern literature, housing rare exemplars of English and American literary treasures spanning over two centuries.

Scheduled for auction on the 26th of June, this event promises an extraordinary array of over forty rare books and manuscripts, including iconic works by literary giants such as Charles Dickens, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, Vladimir Nabokov, Edgar Allan Poe, John Steinbeck, and Walt Whitman.

Exploring the Literary Legacy: The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko

Among the highlights of the Swantko collection is an exceptional literary artwork, Sidney Paget’s original drawing for the illustration “The Death of Sherlock Holmes,” depicting a scene from the Conan Doyle short story “The Final Problem.”

Rodney Swantko, born in Indiana in 1940, rose to prominence as a specialist in oral and maxillofacial surgery. Despite maintaining a low profile in the literary realm, Swantko’s fervent passion for book collecting knew no bounds. He conducted his acquisitions predominantly via telephone bidding at major auctions, establishing himself as an exceptionally dedicated collector.

Notably, Swantko’s generosity extended beyond his personal pursuits, as he emerged as a benefactor to esteemed institutions like the Lilly Library at Indiana University and the Newberry Library in Chicago.

A Glimpse Into Literary History: Highlights from the Swantko Collection

The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko stands out for its remarkable assortment of presentation copies of literary first editions, offering a unique insight into the personal connections between authors and their contemporaries.

Among the notable treasures is an inscribed copy of “A Christmas Carol” from Dickens to Walter Savage Landor, his esteemed friend and fellow author.

Additionally, the collection boasts a presentation copy of “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” inscribed by L. Frank Baum to Elizabeth Hubbard, along with other captivating works by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Vladimir Nabokov, and Edgar Allan Poe.

Exploring the Literary Legacy: The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko

One particularly intriguing offering from the Swantko Collection is the manuscript of “The Sign of Four,” signed twice by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle himself. This manuscript, accompanied by a series of autograph letters exchanged between Doyle and J. M Stoddart, sheds light on the collaborative process involved in “Americanizing” the text for publication in the United States.

These letters offer invaluable insights into the evolution of the book, including discussions on the title and Doyle’s satisfaction with the printing process, particularly the illustrations.

The Significance of Sherlock: Delving into Doyle’s Manuscripts

The genesis of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. John Watson’s iconic partnership can be traced back to a fateful dinner in the late summer of 1889. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, then a practising physician in Southsea, Portsmouth, was approached by J. M Stoddart with the idea of penning a new Holmes novella for Lippincott’s Magazine.

In attendance at the dinner was another literary luminary, Oscar Wilde, who pledged to produce “The Picture of Dorian Gray.” Reflecting on the evening, Doyle remarked in a letter, “I am curious to see Oscar Wilde’s novel. I hope it turns out well. Clever it is sure to be, but the art of storytelling is something more than that.”

Elsewhere in the sale is the original drawing for the illustration “The Death of Sherlock Holmes” for the Conan Doyle short story “The Final Problem” by Sidney Paget, the creator whose image of Sherlock Holmes from the original publication of Conan Doyle’s stories in The Strand Magazine forms our view of the character to this day.

Preserving Literary Legacies: The Legacy of Edgar Allan Poe

Within the Swantko Collection lies a treasure trove of Edgar Allan Poe’s seminal works, including the notoriously rare “Tamerlane and Other Poems.” Published in 1827, this collection, born out of Poe’s admiration for Lord Byron, explores themes of love, death, and pride.

Exploring the Literary Legacy: The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko

Despite Poe’s attempt to retract the edition, citing a lack of readiness for public consumption, “Tamerlane” remains a testament to the early genius of the literary icon.

Poe was just 18 years old when this collection was published in July 1827 in an edition of about 50 copies. Inspired deeply by the works of Lord Byron, in particular the long title poem Tamerlane which delves into themes of love, death, and pride.

In the introduction, Poe states that the poems were never meant for the public eye, and he came to regret their publication. Poe attempted to destroy the edition, which accounts for its great rarity today.

Inscription as Art: The Personal Touch of Fitzgerald

Another noteworthy inclusion in the Swantko Collection is a presentation copy of “The Great Gatsby” inscribed by F. Scott Fitzgerald himself. This rare edition, dating back to 1925, bears a heartfelt inscription to Zelda Fitzgerald’s sister and her husband, Newman Smith, affectionately referred to as “Captain” by the author.

This remarkable first printing of The Great Gatsby from 1925 is an exceedingly rare presentation copy, containing an inscription from the author made out “with affection” to Zelda Fitzgerald’s sister and her husband, Newman Smith, whom Fitzgerald refers to by his nickname, “Captain.”

Embracing Literary Heritage: The Enduring Allure of Baum’s Oz

L. Frank Baum’s “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz” holds a special place in the Swantko Collection, not only as a literary masterpiece but also as a testament to personal connections. Inscribed to a close family friend, Miss Elizabeth Hubbard, Baum’s poetic gesture underscores the intimacy shared between the author and his audience.

Exploring the Literary Legacy: The Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko

This presentation copy of ‘The Wizard of Oz’ is a rare first edition, first issue, featuring a poetic inscription from the author L. Frank Baum to a close family friend, Miss Elizabeth Hubbard.

The inscription reads; “When in this book you take a look. My little sweethearth Beth Just think I writ the whole of it, And yet am yours ’til death — L. Frank Baum”, revealing the close connection between the Hubbard family and Baum. This copy bears a double association, having once belonged to the noted Oz author, illustrator, and bibliographer Dick Martin.

In conclusion, the Library of Dr. Rodney P. Swantko stands as a testament to the enduring legacy of literature, offering a glimpse into the rich tapestry of English and American literary history.

Through rare manuscripts, presentation copies, and literary artworks, this collection not only preserves the works of renowned authors but also highlights the personal connections and creative processes behind these masterpieces.

Dr. Swantko’s dedication to collecting and preserving these treasures underscores the profound impact of literature on our cultural heritage. As these remarkable works find new homes, they continue to inspire and enrich the lives of readers and collectors alike, ensuring that the legacy of literature remains vibrant and cherished for generations to come.

Images: Sotheby’s

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