Bibliophiles, pay heed.

A weekend sale at a midcoast auction house offers book lovers a chance to round out their libraries with several signed first editions by Robert Frost; first editions from London of the tales of Sherlock Holmes by Arthur Conan Doyle; and an unusual first edition of “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain.

This copy of Robert Frost’s “North of Boston” is inscribed and signed on the title page: “To Warren Ariail, my thanks for being permitted to put my name in this interesting old first edition of my first book in America, Robert Frost.” Contributed photo

There’s a signed copy of E.B. White’s “Here is New York” and a limited-edition copy of Edgar Allan Poe’s “Tales of Mystery & Imagination,” illustrated and signed by the artist, Arthur Rackham.

The books are part of a three-day auction that begins Friday at Thomaston Place Auction Galleries in Thomaston.

“We get into houses all the time that have one or two good books, and some may be rare, but many are not rare or valuable or unique. But this house was different,” said John Bottero, vice president of Thomaston Place. “This gentleman collector, a lawyer out of New York with a house in Maine, had a real passion for rare books and drilled in on Robert Frost. Many are signed, many are first editions and many are in the best condition possible. It takes a lifetime to build a collection like this.”

At the family’s request, Thomaston Place declined to name the collector or say where his house was located.


The books will be offered in multiple lots over the course of the day on Friday, and the auction continues through the weekend with rare documents and maps, fine art, furniture and antiquities collected from homes across Maine.

Frost’s “West-Running Brook,” with woodcuts by J.J. Lankes, contains one of Frost’s greatest poems, “Acquainted with the Night.” Contributed photo

There are a total of 18 first editions by Frost, several of them signed and most in “the best condition possible,” Bottero said. One lot has three first editions of “North of Boston,” published in 1914, including one signed. That lot has an estimated value of $6,000 to $8,000. A signed copy of Frost’s first book, “A Boy’s Will,” published in London in 1913, is expected to sell for between $800 and $1,200. There are four editions of “New Hampshire” in one lot, including two that are signed.

Frost, who won four Pulitzer Prizes, lived in New Hampshire and is associated with rural New England life. “North of Boston” includes his well-known poems “Mending Wall” and “After Apple-Picking.”

The Sherlock Holmes books include a first edition of “His Last Bow,” a rare volume of “The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes” from 1892 and a first edition of “The Memoirs of Sherlock Holmes” from 1894 with illustrations by Sidney Paget, who illustrated the stories for Doyle when they originally appeared in a London magazine.

The Huck Finn volume is a first edition from Charles L. Wester & Co., a New York publisher, in 1885. In addition to its first-edition status and good condition, a distinguishing element is the double fore-edge painting showing two scenes from the book. An old art form, fore-edge painting refers to a scene painted on the edges of a book’s pages. When the book is fanned, the illustration appears. In this case, because it’s a double fore-edge painting, it shows one scene when the pages are fanned in one direction, and a second scene when fanned in the other direction. The book has a pre-auction estimate of $2,500 to $3,500, and Bottero said he wouldn’t be shocked if it sold for $10,000 or more.

The E.B. White book also is a little gem. It’s a 1949 first edition, published by Harper & Brothers, and inscribed and dated by White, “Merry Christmas from the Whites, Dec 1949.” The value of the 54-page book is estimated to be between $3,000 and $4,000.


John Merrill, owner of Merrill’s Bookshop in Hallowell and a rare-book specialist, said signed first editions by Frost “are not that unusual, especially here in New England. And E.B. White, you see them showing up.” Their value will be determined by their condition, he said. “It depends entirely on the condition of the book and the condition of the dust jacket. That can determine value more than a signature,” Merrill said. A personal inscription adds value.

“New Hampshire” is one of Frost’s most notable books and winner of his first Pulitzer Prize. It contains such poems as “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” and “Fire and Ice.” Contributed photo

If the Sherlock Holmes books were signed by Conan Doyle, that would be a truly unusual find, he added. “I would love to bid on a signed Conan Doyle,” he said.

The sale also includes notable works on paper by many of Maine’s best-known visual artists. There’s a signed print by the late artist Robert Indiana, a drawing by Winslow Homer and photographs by Berenice Abbott, as well as a woodblock print by Rockwell Kent.

The Indiana prints consist of a pencil-signed 2010 silkscreen of the artist’s “HOPE” design, with an estimated value of $1,000 to $1,500, and a self-adhesive vinyl poster of his “LOVE” design, adapted for an anti-violence campaign in 2000. The estimated value of that piece is between $2,000 and $3,000. Bottero expects more Indiana artwork will come on the market with the first anniversary of his death approaching in May. “He’s pretty hot right now, given that he just passed. There’s a lot of Robert Indiana art in Maine homes, and the public interest seems to be a little bit more right now,” Bottero said.

Similarly, this auction also includes the oil painting “Encounter” by the late painter Dahlov Ipcar, who died early in 2017 at age 99. In it, she depicts two cats sizing up one another. It has an estimated value of between $6,000 and $9,000.

The Homer piece is an undated and signed pencil drawing, “Portrait of John Murray Brown,” from the collection of artist Joseph Imhoff. Brown was a partner at the Boston publishers Little, Brown and Co. Imhoff became known for his portraits of American Indians of the Southwest, and also collected portraits. The estimated value of the Homer drawing is between $10,000 and $20,000.


The Kent engraving, “The Bather” from 1931, is signed “Rockwell to Tatyana,” whom auctioneers speculate is Kent’s art colleague Tatyana Grosman. The print, with a small tear and tape stain, has an estimated value of $600 to $800.

This sale also continues the dispersement of a large volume of paintings by the late Maine painter Waldo Peirce, said Thomaston Place owner Kaja Veilleux. The gallery acquired a trove of Peirce paintings after the recent death of a collector and is selling a few at a time with each seasonal auction. For this sale, among the Peirce paintings being offered is “Nude in the Hay” from 1944, which the actor Burgess Meredith gave to his wife. It is, as its title implies, a painting of a female nude reclining in a hay barn while reading a book.

Apparently, Peirce deemed the subject too racy for Mainers.

According to the Thomaston Place website, “The artist has long cherished an ambition to paint a nude reclining in the hay in his Maine barn but being fearful of his neighbor’s unfavorable reaction to such an enterprise, felt obliged to execute the canvas in his New York studio employing a professional model.”

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Bob Keyes can be contacted at 791-6457 or at:

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Twitter: pphbkeyes

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