Charlie Chaplin archive at Bonhams

An extensive archive of Charlie Chaplin assembled by the distinguished publisher, Max Reinhardt, publisher of Chaplin’s autobiography and great friend of the legendary comic and performer, will be offered at auction for the first time in the Fine Books, Maps & Manuscripts Sale from 7-20 June at Bonhams.

The archive is being sold by Max Reinhardt’s daughter (to whom Chaplin was godfather) and is offered with an estimate of £30,000-50,000.

A photograph of Charlie Chaplin

Max Reinhardt was a British publisher who published the work of many great writers including George Bernard Shaw, Graham Greene and Alistair Cooke under his publishing house, The Bodley Head. In 1964 he published Charlie Chaplin’s autobiography.

The extensive archive, created ahead of the publication of Chaplin’s autobiography entitled, My Autobiography, is being sold with the proceeds from the sale benefitting MaxLiteracy, a charity and educational initiative set up in memory of Max Reinhardt and his authors to stimulate literacy through the visual arts in partnership with museums, galleries and writers.

The archive features numerous sets of annotated proofs, contracts, photographs and letters including correspondence between Charlie Chaplin and Max Reinhardt and a telegram sent to Chaplin by the author Graham Greene.

Additional Chaplin lots from the collection of Max Reinhardt include a very rare playbill from 1903, which lists Charlie Chaplin as ‘Billy’ in Sherlock Holmes at the Grand Theatre, Wolverhampton. One of the earliest survivals of his name in print, the playbill is being offered with an estimate of £600-800.Also offered are three magnificent photographs of Charlie Chaplin by American photographer, Edward Steichen, a key figure in twentieth century photography, dating from 1925 and 1931. Both are significant years for Chaplin, as 1925 was the year of his film, The Gold Rush and 1931 was the year of City Lights.  The photographs have an estimate of £2,000-4,000.  A total of eight lots related to the Chaplin collection feature in the 274-lot sale.

CHAPLIN (CHARLIE) Playbill for 'Sherlock Holmes', Wolverhampton, Whitehead Bros, Theatrical Printers, [1903]

Other highlights of the sale include:

Edward III licence – Yorkshire, richly illuminated Royal Licence, bearing the great seal and witnessed by the King himself at Westminster, granting David de Wollore property and rents in order to render divine service every day at the altar of St Andrew in Ripon minster, with other property assigned for the maintenance of the church. The document has been in the same family for over 650 years. On vellum, Westminster, dated 15 November 1368. Estimate: £20,000-30,000.

Tolkien (J.R.R.) The Hobbit or There and Back Again, first edition, first impression, author’s presentation copy, George Allen and Unwin, inscribed on half-title “Margaret [Wiseman] from Ronald/J.R.R. Tolkien 1937”. Margaret Wiseman was a Benedictine nun at Oulton Abbey and the sister of Tolkien’s friend Christopher Wiseman. She clearly exerted some influence over the author, who favoured her with presentation copies of his books over a long period, all signed with his rare “Ronald Tolkien” signature, reserved for close friends. Estimate: £20,000-40,000.

TOLKIEN (J.R.R.) The Hobbit or There and Back Again, FIRST EDITION, FIRST IMPRESSION, AUTHOR'S PRESENTATION COPY, George Allen and Unwin, 1937

Beethoven (Ludwig van) autograph letter signed twice (“Beethoven”), 3 May 1825,  to music critic Ludwig Rellstab (1799-1860), in German, including a canon of three bars based on Friedrich von Matthisson’s Opferlied (“…Das Schöne zu dem Guten, Das…”) inscribed (in translation “…Although recovering, I am still extremely weak, so please be satisfied with this little sign of remembrance of your friend…”); the letter apologising for not being able to see him the previous day as he was making preparations to move to the countryside. The letter has remained in the Rellstab family until now. Estimate: £20,000-40,000

Matthew Haley, Bonhams Knightsbridge Managing Director, and Head of UK Books & Manuscripts commented, “This unique archive offers a rare insight into Chaplin’s creative processes, something he was very reluctant to share. Chaplin’s perfectionism and exacting nature come to the fore in the extensive revisions and corrections he made to the many sets of proofs of his autobiography. It is a remarkable and important collection and all the more special that it is being sold to support such a fantastic cause.”