Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Penthesilea by Heinrich von Kleist, pictures by Maurice Sendak.

Penthesilea by Heinrich von Kleist, pictures by Maurice Sendak, translated by Joel Agee.  Hardcover published 1998 (first edition).

Sometimes I stumble on something that I think is VERY special...  “Heinrich Von Kleist was virtually forgotten until the beginning of ” the 20th century, “when Rilke, Kafka and Thomas Mann hailed him as a master of German prose and European dramatic literature”… but lets be honest, what is really interesting about this book is not the author, it’s the illustrator.  Maurice Sendak is well known… ok maybe “super” well known, for his illustrations and the writing of childrens books.  I didn’t even realize that he had done any adult illustration, but here they are in all their glory.  This is the sort of book that catches the eye and interest as its something a little out of the ordinary.

Its value isn’t enormous, $15 to $30 on Abe, which is still a nice price.  Anyway I was getting this book ready for sale and began writing a description.  I like to be detailed in my descriptions (I think I’ve written about this before), as I don’t want any buyer to be disappointed with some undeclared wear, so everything I notice gets mentioned…. creases, marks, gift inscriptions, signed copies…. What?  Its signed?  Maurice Sendak signed this book? Yes. First thing I do is check one of the many signature/autograph websites to confirm that it is his signature and yep it’s him. 

I was (am) truly flabbergasted.  The guy who created Max signed this book.  So I go back to Abe and check the value of a signed copy.  If the translator had of signed it, it would be worth $44 (no hard feelings buddy, but you aint Maurice)… Maurice signs it and its listed at $250.  I need to stumble more often.


  1. Paul Perry at AllSorts BooksDecember 5, 2010 at 5:08 PM

    Those knees! To mix a metaphor, the knee is the Archilles' heel of many illustrators. On this evidence, I think Mr Sendak wins over Norman Lindsay, for example.

  2. Hello I just came upon this blog and wanted to put in some information. On page 52, picture side, of the man holding the spear. My husband was Maurice Sendak's "tree guy". He took care of all of the properties trees from spraying to pruning. My husband is a "Paul Bunyan" type of guy and Maurice was having trouble getting the arms "just right" for the man with the spear, so he asked John to hold a mop or a rake (can't remember which it was) and he sketched his arm. No, the buttocks is NOT my husband's. :) :) The book is personalized "To John Whelton, With Pleasure! Maurice Sendak January '99." I have no idea what that would be worth, but it's a treasure for sure. We also have a personalized book of Where the Wild Things Are and a personalized 16 x 20 poster that he drew for Sundance. He was a great man, author and illustrator. Glad you have one of his treasures!

    1. It is a treasure. Sounds like he was a nice man.
      All the best and thanks for the comment

  3. On page 52, the illustration by Maurice Sendak was done using my husband's arm as a basis for the muscles in the man throwing the spear. My husband was Maurice's "tree guy" taking care of all the trees on the property. Maurice was having a difficult time getting the arm just right so he had my husband hold a mop or a broom (don't remember what it was) and he sketched the arm. No, the buttocks is not my husbands! ha ha But he did personalize the book "To John Whelton With Pleasure! Maurice Sendak Jan '99" I have no idea the worth of that, but it's a treasure! We also have 2 personalize Where The Wild Things Are and a personalized illustrated 16x 20 poster for Sundance that Maurice did. He was a true artist and author! Glad you found a treasure!! Enjoy