Charlie Watts library of first editions to sell

The library of modern first edition books that belonged to Charlie Watts, the late drummer of the Rolling Stones, will be sold in a two-part auction at Christies.

Charlie Watts: Gentleman, Collector, Rolling Stone – Literature and Jazz will offer the finest and highest value collection of its kind to come to auction in over twenty years, together with an extensive collection of jazz memorabilia amassed by the legendary musician and Rolling Stones’ drummer.

Copyright Rolling Stones

The auction will take place at Christie’s headquarters in London on September 28 (Part I), alongside an online sale (Part II) which will be open for bidding from September 15 to 29.

Over 500 lots will be offered, with estimates ranging from £800 to £300,000. Highlight lots will tour to Los Angeles from July 25 to 29 and New York from September 5 to 8, ahead of the public pre-sale exhibition in London from September 20 to 27.

The renowned drummer of the Rolling Stones who provided the backbeat to some of the most iconic tracks of our time, Charlie’s love of music ran alongside a passion for the greatest works of twentieth-century literature.

Leading the live sale will be an important inscribed copy of The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, a book which continues to define the Jazz age, inscribed inside the front cover to ‘the original Gatsby’, Harold Goldman, screenwriter at MGM. It carries an estimate of £200,000-£300,000.

The collection also boasts exciting presentation inscriptions and the rarest obtainable editions of books by authors including George Orwell to Agatha Christie, and from Arthur Conan Doyle to James Joyce, with estimates ranging from £800 to £300,000.

Charlie Watts’ love of jazz underpinned his life. Having formed his own jazz group, The Charlie Watts Quintet, whose performances at Ronnie Scott’s were a highlight of his multifaceted career, this musical passion also became a dominant force in his collecting, underpinned by his love of the jazz greats including Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington and Benny Goodman.

The collection also includes a particular focus on his favourite saxophonist, Charlie Parker, one of the most important figures in the development of jazz, including Parker’s Associated Musicians Membership Card, his contracts for the Alto Break sessions and a pair of Down Beat awards from 1952, estimated at £10,000-15,000. An annotated printed score for Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin will also be showcased with a £10,000-15,000 estimate.

Presenting collectors and fans with further opportunities, the Online sale (Part II) will include lots by acclaimed 20th-century authors, such as Murder at the Vicarage by Agatha Christie, estimated at £4,000-£6,000 and Carry on Jeeves by P.G. Wodehouse, estimated at £4,000-£6,000.

Further Jazz lots feature two scores by Irving Berlin – Songs from Top Hat and Songs from Follow the Fleet – inscribed to Ginger Rogers, estimated at £4,000-£6,000 and two inscribed piano scores by the influential cornetist Leon ‘Bix’ Beiderbecke, estimated at £6,000-8,000.

Benedict Winter, Specialist, Private & Iconic Collections and Mark Wiltshire, Specialist, Books and Manuscripts at Christie’s, said: “Charlie Watts holds a unique position within music history and Christie’s is proud to pay tribute to his extraordinary achievements and multifaceted legacy. Charlie built his collection of modern literature and jazz with passion, intelligence and dedication, and this two-part auction celebrates his distinguished collecting taste. We invite the public to join us in this rare opportunity to glimpse the very private world of this extraordinary musical genius.”