Friday, March 17, 2017

Collectible typewriters

Last week somebody from Texas paid $37,500 for two typewriters. What made these typewriters worth that kind of money? That they belonged to author Larry McMurtry is only half of the answer. The other half is that these are the typewriters McMurtry used to write his Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Lonesome Dove (1985).

In those days McMurtry divided his time between his home in Archer, Texas, and his used book business in Washington, D.C. He kept a Hermes 3000 typewriter at each location so he could work on his novel, and presumably other books and screenplays, at either location.

The writer commented that since he owns 15 typewriters, he no longer needed these two and decided to sell them through a New York auction house. The opening bid was set at $10,000, and the winning bidder chose to remain anonymous. That the bidding went as high as it did suggests others were interested in the typewriters, as well, for their literary importance and perhaps for their importance to Texas history.

The sale of McMurtry's typewriters reminds us that literary collectibles include more than just first editions of important books. Almost anything owned or signed by a great writer can be valuable to a collector. One of my own prized possessions is a letter I received from novelist Michael Shaara asking for my permission to use a quotation from my review of The Killer Angels as a blurb on the paperback. That line was carried on paperback editions for many years. A book dealer told me that when I am ready to sell my first edition of that novel, the letter will enhance its value.

The homes of many writers, including the likes of Ernest Hemingway, Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings and Thomas Wolfe, are now open to the public. These are the best places for objects once owned by writers, and we can hope that the typewriters once owned by Larry McMurtry, now 80, will eventually find their way back to Archer, Texas, and back to the home of this notable Texas writer.

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