Why this signed copy of The Catcher in the Rye is ‘elusive and quite special’

How it happens6:37Why this autographed copy of The Catcher in the Rye is ‘elusive and very special’

An annotated copy of JD Salinger That Catcher in the Rye is a rare commodity among antiquarian book collectors.

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But if you are looking for a signed copy of the classic from 1951, you can be happy: A signed first edition is up for auction in London.

The copy is being sold by Peter Harrington Books at an event called Firsts: London’s rare book fair for £225,000 (approx. CAD$340,000).

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The inscription, written to family friends of Salinger’s, reads, “To Charles Kirtz with every good wish from JD Salinger (Extra Greetings to Ada and Victor from Sonny Salinger) New York 10/18/56,” on the first page of the Book blank page.

A black and white portrait of a smiling short haired man wearing a tweed suit and tie.
JD Salinger was the famously reclusive author of The Catcher in the Rye. (Little, Brown & Co./The Associated Press)

Pom Harrington, owner of Peter Harrington Books, says he has edited many important works of literature and first editions, but has never owned an annotated first edition The catcher in the rye.

“It’s a book I’ve always wanted to deal with as a dealer,” said Harrington How it happens Host Nil Koksal. “It’s very elusive and very special.”

The catcher in the rye tells the coming-of-age story of the protagonist Holden Caulfield. It examines his youthful rebellion and inner struggle against growing up, juxtaposing the innocence of childhood with the realities of adulthood.

Today it is one of the most remarkable novels in American literary history.

“Signing his own books was a favour”

The difficulty in tracking down signed first editions of Salinger’s works usually lies in the author’s reclusiveness.

“He was very shy and hid himself. He hasn’t annotated many books — let alone first editions,” Harrington said.

A slightly disheveled hardcover edition of The Catcher In The Rye.  The book cover is red and white, with a yellow title.  The red forms a rough sketch of a horse from a carousel.  Below is a black sketch of park benches in front of a cityscape.
The front cover of a first edition of Salinger’s famous book. (Peter HarringtonLondon)

The catcher in the RyWe made Salinger a renowned author of 20th-century American fiction. But he lived a reclusive life, and signing his own books was a favor he did “to very close friends or associates,” Harrington said. “If asked.”

Another big reason was that Salinger wasn’t interested in people making money off his fortune.

“He would get very upset if people sold letters. Letters are quite valuable even in his lifetime. He certainly frowned upon it,” Harrington said.

Signed books were few and far between, so not many came onto the market.

“When it came out, they were usually sold discreetly,” he said.

Relevance several decades later

So who were the Kirtzes as inscribed inside the book?

Family friends, Harrington said, who lived in the same apartment building as Salinger and his parents.

Salinger grew up with the recipient’s mother and brother, Ada and Victor, who were referenced in the signature.

His rare signature as “Sonny” is a childhood nickname of the author and possibly the only one known copy of the book signed with this name.

“I’ve never come across it,” Harrington said, adding that it shows how close the friendship between the two families must have been.

Harrington says he read the book when he was younger, possibly in his 20s. He says that today, as in the past, it still has a relevant understanding of teenagers.

“It does such a great job of describing a teenager’s feelings and what they must have experienced,” he said. “It was clearly quite shocking for 1950s America.”

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