Charlie Watts’s Collection of Waughiana to be Auctioned

Christie’s has announced the sale of the book collection of Charlie Watts, late drummer of the Rolling Stones. Watts was not an ordinary book collector but, as described in Christie’s announcement, had a “deeply thoughtful” taste. This is well defined in the announcement which is available at this link. It concludes with this:

…all these books bear Charlie Watts’s fingerprints. Everyone who met him in life agrees that he was a truly likeable man — self-effacing and gentlemanly in a very English way. Strands of a specifically English genius run through the authors that he favoured most: the wit and wordsmithery of Wodehouse; the steely common sense of George Orwell; Graham Greene’s gift for ambiguity and uncertainty; Waugh’s prickly class-awareness.

It’s all there. You could get a good sense of what it meant to be a 20th-century Englishman by reading the first editions in Charlie Watts’s wonderful library.

In Waugh’s case he was interested in a complete collection and seems to have mostly succeeded. Christies has divided the sale between two auctions. The first contains books that are all inscribed to those friends of Waugh considered important such as Graham Greene and Robert Laycock. These often included comments with the inscription which are duly noted in Christies’s catalogue.  These will be sold in Part 1 of the auction. Here’s a summary of the select list (these are London first editions unless otherwise notes):

Decline and Fall: copy inscribed to Vyvyan Holland (Oscar Wilde’s son) who had invited Waugh and his first wife to a party.

Vile Bodies: Copy of Frederick K Adams a director of the J P Morgan Library. Not original dw.

Black Mischief: Graham Greene’s copy with inscription. Not original dw.

A Handful of Dust. No inscription. Original dw.

Brideshead Revisited: Page proof ed of which 50 printed as Xmas presents 1944; this was Robert Laycock’s copy inscribed by Waugh. Although  not noted, that inscription must have been added later as the book was printed and distributed while Waugh was stationed in Yugoslavia. There was no dw.

The Loved One: Graham Greene’s large paper, prepublication edition limited to 250 copies; signed by Waugh and artist. There was no dw.

War Trilogy: Men at Arms, Officers and Gentlemen, Unconditional Surrender: All copies inscribed to Robert Laycock. Original dust wrappers.

Officers and Gentlemen: Specially bound edition inscribed and gifted to Laycock, to whom the book was dedicated. This had no dw.

The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold: One of 50 specially printed copies, inscribed to Laycock. No dw.

The books listed above are sold individually in lots 106-115 of Part 1 of the sale. The other books appear individually and as groups in lots 410 thru 414 of Part 2 of the auction. They are mostly first editions with dustwrappers. There are duplicates of some books in the more select list such as Brideshead Revisited and The Ordeal of Gilbert Pinfold (1st C&H published editions). Some are inscribed but not to anyone of particular note or importance to Waugh or his career. The only books missing from the collection so far as I was able to tell are The Holy Places, the Life of Ronald Knox and A Little Learning. There was also no copy of P R B. An Essay on the Pre Raphaelite Brotherhood, although one can argue that that was not formally “published” until it was reprinted in 1982. Nor was there a copy of the post war collection of stories published in the UK as Work Suspended and Other Stories Written before World War Two (London 1948), although there is a copy of Work Suspended: Two Chapters of an Unfinished Novel (limited edition, London 1942). The only US publication in the collection is Tactical Excercise (Boston 1954) which included both pre- and post war stories.

One would have to conclude that Charlie was a fairly ambitious and studious collector of Waughiana. It is a shame to see his efforts at completeness and quality dispersed in an auction sale, but to be fair, this is not the sort of collection that appeals to academic libraries.

The select books described in detail above will be sold at auction at Christies/London on 28 September. This sale is called Charlie Watts: Literature and Jazz, Part 1. See this link. The other books from the collection will be sold in an online auction (Charlie Watts: Literature and Jazz, Part 2) starting September 15 at 10am and ending on 29 September at 11am (I assume those are London times). Here’s a link.

NOTICE (9 September 2023): A Little Learning was added to the list of books missing from Charlie Watts’s collection (or at least from those now being auctioned).



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