Beatles Sold! John Lennon Manuscripts Score $3 Million

The writings of the "smart Beatle" soar in value at Sotheby's.

The Beatles arrival in New York in 1964
The Beatles arrival in New York in 1964

In what is known in auction lingo as a “white-glove” sale, or 100 percent sold out, Sotheby’s sold out its entire offering of John Lennon manuscripts at its auction in New York today. It was another fitting tribute to the enduring popularity of the Fab Four on the 50th anniversary of Beatlemania in the US. In 1964 the four stepped off a plane at JFK airport, greeted by thousands of hysterical, screaming fans and gave their now-epic performance on The Ed Sullivan Show.

The Sotheby’s sale was titled “You Might Well Arsk,” a reference to one of Lennon’s quirky short stories. His writing was a well-respected though far lesser known aspect of his creative output. The sale realized $2.9 million, more than doubling the high $1.2 million presale estimate, and all 89 lots on offer found buyers.

The top lot was ‘The Singularge Experience of Miss Anne Duffield,” which sold for $209,000, far higher than the $50,000–70,000 asking price. The manuscript contains the bizarre and hilarious parody of Sherlock Holmes from Lennon’s book A Spaniard in the Works (1965).

The highest price for one of Lennon’s drawings today was for Untitled Illustration of a Four-Eyed Guitar Player, which sold for $109,375, on an estimate of $15–25,000.

John Lennon ‘The Singularge Experience of Miss Anne Duffield’, autograph manuscript Est. $50/70,000 Sold for $209,000. Photo: Courtesy the Estate of the late John Lennon

John Lennon, “The Singularge Experience of Miss Anne Duffield” sold for $209,000.
Photo: Courtesy the estate of the late John Lennon.

The results show that “Lennon’s nonsense verse, puns, wicked humour and comic drawings continue to resonate fifty years after the publication of In His Own Write and A Spaniard in the Works,” said Gabriel Heaton, Sotheby’s deputy director of books and manuscripts, in an official statement.

The works were consigned by Tom Maschler, who, as the literary director of publishing house Jonathan Cape in the 1960s, was responsible for bringing both books to fruition, in part by encouraging Lennon to write and produce drawings after having been captivated by his sketches in 1962. All the works were given to Maschler by Lennon.

Maschler has said of Lennon: “I knew he had the most extraordinary talent and imagination—in addition to his many other gifts that had made him world-famous—though I feared that being a Beatle might result in his not being taken seriously as a writer and artist. I was wrong.”

 


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