The book art of NC Wyeth
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    Auction Finds

    Reader asks about books illustrated by N.C. Wyeth

    Friday at Auction Finds is readers’ questions day. I try to guide readers to resources for them to determine the value of their items. I’m not able to appraise their treasures, but I can do some preliminary research to get them started. So, these are market values based on prices I find on the web, not appraisal for insurance purposes that I suggest for items that have been determined to be of great value.

    Today’s question is about juvenile books illustrated by noted artist N.C. Wyeth.

    wyeth1

    A group of juvenile books illustrated by N.C. Wyeth that I bought several years ago at auction.

    Question:

    I have inherited 48 books, all illustrated by N.C. Wyeth, and have no place for them. I wish to find someone who collects them as my father did. They have value as a group. Please advise if they may have value to you.

    Answer:

    The reader emailed me after coming across a blog post I wrote three years ago about several children’s books I bought at auction that were illustrated by artist N.C. Wyeth. I bought them during a time when I was collecting children’s books illustrated by artists, especially African American artists.

    I have books illustrated by African American artists Jacob Lawrence, Lois Mailou Jones, Earl Lewis, Faith Ringgold, Romare Bearden and Elizabeth Catlett. I have several autographed by illustrator Jerry Pinkney. I also have a 1937 “Moby Dick” illustrated by Rockwell Kent that I purchased at a library book sale.

    wyethjonesbook1

    The jacket and cover of a children’s book with illustrations by Lois Mailou Jones.

    I have six books illustrated by Wyeth, three of them classics by Robert Louis Stevenson. None, however, are first editions. One is a 1933 edition of “Treasure Island,” which Wyeth first illustrated using 17 canvases in 1911. The illustrations are considered some of his best work.

    Wyeth was 21 years of age when he sold his first illustration to the Saturday Evening Post in 1903. “Treasure Island” was his first paid book illustration, which he created for Charles Scribner’s Sons. The relationship spawned a genre of what one site described as “boys adventure books” encompassing more than two dozen titles. They were a series of juvenile novels called Scribner’s Illustrated Classics that became immensely popular. 

    Wyeth illustrated 112 books, including “The Yearling” by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings, “Robinson Crusoe” by Daniel Defoe and “The Mysterious Island” by Jules Vernes. He also did illustrations for such magazines as Harper’s Monthly, Ladies Home Journal, Century, Scribner’s and McClure’s.

    wyeth2

    Inside front pages of “Treasure Island” featuring an illustration by N.C. Wyeth.

    By the 1930s, he was said to have strayed away from book illustrations to devote more time to paintings and murals.

    The reader didn’t mention the titles of any of the books that his father collected. I responded to his email by asking if any of the books were first editions (or signed), but never heard back from him. I’d prefer he keep the books himself and determine their value.

    I offer sessions urging people not to give away their family treasures and showing them how to research and assess their value. When they know what they have, then they can decide whether to sell the items, keep them or donate them. So I figured it would be a good idea for the reader to sell the books himself and make a few dollars – either to keep or to donate.

    I advised the reader to determine if any of the books were first editions. I did a cursory search on eBay and found that several books illustrated by Wyeth were selling in that giant marketplace – although a lot of them at ridiculously high prices were not.

    wyeth4

    An N.C. Wyeth illustration from “Treasure Island.”

    Selling on eBay, though, isn’t easy. It’s time-consuming and most folks don’t have that kind of time. The reader must first catalog the books, research them, take photos, write descriptions, list them individually or in lots, and hope someone will buy them. Then he has to pay eBay and Paypal, which eBay owns, for the service of selling them. Still, he could end up with a few bucks.

    Here are some sold prices I found on eBay (the asking price for signed copies of some of Wyeth’s illustrated books were much much higher on retail online sites):

    Set of 14 leather-bound books published by Easton Press, $1,125.99.

    Set of 9 Easton Press books, $580.

    First edition of “David Balfour,” $150.

    First edition of “The Mysterious Stranger,” $149.95.

    Easton Press’ “The Deer Slayer,” $139.99.

    Copy of “Treasure Island,” $135 (most in the high prices did not sell, however).

    First edition of “Treasure Island,” $125 and $100.

    First edition of “Drums,” $125.

    First edition of “Rip Van Winkle,” $100.

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