Sarah Montague, Senior Producer, Selected Shorts
Sarah Montague is in her seventeenth year as producer of the fiction series Selected Shorts for WNYC.
A rare first edition of Maurice Sendak’s “Where the Wild Things Are” will be auctioned on Thursday, January 24, by Swann Galleries on East 25thStreet as part of a sale of 20th century illustration including original art and books. The sale will showcase a collection of works by the late children’s book author and illustrator owned by the late bookseller Reed Orenstein.
The volume being auctioned is in what sellers call “good” condition, meaning that the dust jacket is intact and there is no significant wear and tear. But what makes the book special, and potentially worth its $10,000-$15,000 reserve, is that it is personally inscribed to Orenstein, with the message “It certainly looks like a first edition. It has all the wrong colors in all the right places” written in the mouth of a “wild thing” especially drawn on the half title page.
The message is a private joke about the printing, says Christine von der Linn, one of two specialists who put the sale together. Like many first printings, the colors were not quite correct in the first run. The errors were corrected later, but, says von der Linn, collectors relish the opportunity to get hold of rarities like this.
Its sweet clawed monsters, dozing and dancing through Sendak’s vivid saffron landscape, are so much a part of our collective culture it’s surprising to hear that the book was controversial when it was first published in 1963.
“There was so much backlash about that book,” says von der Linn. “Parents thought it was a very dark tale, but children responded, because it was a story that really spoke to them.”
Swann book specialist John Larson, the other curator of the sale, says Sendak’s work combines personal and cultural significance:
“Something that happily proved to be important to a lot of people, so you sort of involve yourself in a community at the same time that you’re buying something that’s pretty well darn scarce.”
When Maurice Sendak died this past May at age eighty-three, the New York Times described him as “the author of splendid nightmares.” On Thursday, some lucky buyer will get to take this particular one home to bed.