First Edition First State Copies of Adventures of Tom Sawyer and Great Expectations do well in Ahlers & Ogletree Auction

A copy of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer sold for $22,990; a letter signed by Washington and Jefferson brought $21,780; and a three-volume set of Dickens’s Great Expectations hit $16,940.

Atlanta, GA, USA, February 19, 2024 --
A first edition, first state copy of Mark Twain’s classic book Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876) sold for $22,990; a letter from 1793 signed by both George Washington and Thomas Jefferson brought $21,780; and a first edition, first state three-volume set of Charles Dickens’ novel Great Expectations realized $16,940 in three days of sales held February 7th-9th by Ahlers & Ogletree.

The event, held online and in Ahlers & Ogletree’s Atlanta gallery, comprised the lifetime collection of important historical books and documents from the estate of Fred Bentley, Sr. – over 900 lots in all. Mr. Bentley gave generously to his community in support of his passion for books and reading by founding the rare book rooms at a college and a university, both in Georgia.

Session 1, on Wednesday, February 7th, featured Dickens, Shakespeare, Incunabula and early documents. The star lot of the day was Dickens’s three-volume set of Great Expectations, published in 1861 by Chapman and Hall. The books were finely bound in tan calf with raised bands on the spine and there was gilt tilting and decoration on the spine. The pages were clean.

Session 2, on Thursday February 8th, contained historical books and documents from the Revolutionary War through the 19th century. The star lot that day was the exceedingly rare sea letter signed by Washington (as President) and Jefferson (as Secretary of State). The four-language cut ship document, dated July 9, 1793, was signed three times by Hodijah Baylies, the collector of customs, for the schooner Rebecca, to the ship’s commander, Samuel Swasey.

Session 3, on February 9th, showcased important works of fiction and poetry from a host of literary superstars, but especially Samuel Clemens (aka Mark Twain, American, 1835-1910). The top achiever was the first edition copy of Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published by American Publishing Co., bound in the publisher’s three-quarter Morocco binding, one of 200 copies offered in leather. The book came with a custom leather clamshell case with gilt tilting.

Following are additional highlights from the auction. Internet bidding was facilitated by Ahlers & Ogletree’s platform -- -- plus and About 15 people attended the sale in person in the Atlanta gallery located at 1788 Ellsworth Industrial Boulevard and 38 phone and absentee bids were counted. Prices include a 21 percent buyer’s premium.

An 1818 copperplate engraving on paper broadside of The Declaration of Independence by Benjamin Owen Tyler (1789-1855), published by Peter Maverick (1780-1831), changed hands for $13,310. The facsimile, 29 inches by 20 ¼ inches (paper, less frame), had a dedication to Thomas Jefferson at the upper margin and an endorsement to Secretary of State Richard Rush.

A very rare, fully illustrated copy of Albrecht Durer’s first Latin edition of Clarissimi Pictoris et Geometrae de Symetria Partium in Rectis Formis, a masterpiece on anatomy, published 1532 and printed by D. Caroli, Noremberger, gaveled for $10,890. It was the personal copy of Johann Georg Bergmiller, Director of the Augsburg Academy. The 79-page book was bound with paper boards.

A President Abraham Lincoln signed document dated March 21, 1861 for the appointment of Calvin Hudson of New York to be the Commissioner of the United States for which to advocate claims of U.S. citizens over Costa Rica, making him the first-ever consulate there appointed by Lincoln, commanded $9,075. The document was framed, with a large illustration of Lincoln.

A Plan of the New Constitution for the United States of America, Agreed Upon in a Convention of the States, with A Preface by the Editor, published 1787 by J. Debrett (London), was the first separate English edition of the U.S. Constitution. The 30-page volume, having a contemporary quarter tan leather binding with gray boards, was 8 ½ inches by 5 ½ inches and rose to $9,680.

A 19th century sketchbook of the Scottish painter David Roberts (1796-1864), consisting of five sketches, three of them signed by Roberts, knocked down for $9,075. The sketches were of two boats with a background of a large mountain; a-two-page pencil drawing of Naples Italy; a study of cows and a donkey, signed. a two-page pencil drawing of Florence, Italy; and unknown buildings.

A first edition, first state copy of A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens, published 1859 by Chapman and Hall, with illustrations by H.K. Browne, made $8,470. The book was bound in the original cloth. The front and back covers were stamped with one thick and two thin line borders.

A copy of Imitatione Christi by Thomas a Kempis, printed in 1489 by Johannes Gerson, an early printing of Kempis’s most famous work, went to a determined bidder for $7,260. It was printed in early Gutenberg type with letters printed in red and black and had a 19th century leather binding.

A copy of the 184-page Sonetti e Canzoni di messer Francesco Petrarcha in vita di madonna Laura by Frencesco Petrarca, printed 1514 by the Aldus Manutius and bound in a highly decorated hand cut double-sided Venetian window design, using mother of pearl as the background canvas and hand painting within each of the 21 compartments located on each of its sides, changed hands for $6,655.

In addition to Adventures of Tom Sawyer, other offerings from Mark Twain included the following:

- A first edition, first state copy of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn in the rare blue cloth boards, published in 1885 by Charles L. Webster. Contained all first edition first state error points listed in Johnson (43-50). Gilt decoration adorned on the book’s front ($7,260).

- Bound copies of The Carpet-Bag Weekly, For the Amusement of the Reader, from 1852, the nation’s first humor magazine and the very first national appearance of the writing of Twain, only as Samuel Longhorne Clemens, published when Twain was just 15 years old ($6,655).

- Another first edition, first state copy of Adventures of Tom Sawyer, published 1876 by American Publishing Company. Ads in back dated December 1876. Bound in publisher's blue cloth with black and gilt decoration. Wear to boards, particularly at the spine ($4,538).

Next up for Ahlers & Ogletree is a Friday, February 23rd auction dedicated to Art Deco to Post Modern Art & Design, followed by a Wednesday-Thursday Spring Estates Auction March 27th-28th and a Fine Jewelry & Timepieces Auction on Friday, April 26th. Watch the website for details as dates draw near.

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About Ahlers & Ogletree:
Ahlers & Ogletree is a multi-faceted, family-owned business that spans the antiques, estate sale, wholesale, liquidation, auction and related industries. Ahlers & Ogletree is always seeking quality consignments for future auctions. To consign a single item, an estate or a collection, you may call them directly at 404-869-2478; or, you can send them an e-mail, at To learn more about Ahlers & Ogletree, visit Updates are posted often. You can follow Ahlers & Ogletree via social media on Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and Facebook.

Media Contact:
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Ahlers & Ogletree
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