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Charlie Watts’ First Editions Treasure Trove The Legendary Drummer’s Legacy Beyond Music

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Charlie Watts, renowned as the heartbeat of The Rolling Stones with his iconic drum beats, also nurtured a less-known passion – his fervent love for books. With the imminent sale of his personal library collection by Christie’s, fans are set to discover a new dimension of the celebrated musician.

Christie’s, the world-renowned auction house, is orchestrating the sale of Watts’ cherished first editions, a testament to his dual identity as both a ‘completist’ and an ‘eclecticist’ collector. Watts wasn’t just interested in the run-of-the-mill first editions; he sought books with unique stories, treasures with personal inscriptions and intriguing histories. The main sale takes place on the 28th September 2023.

The Maltese Falcon Dashiell Hammett 1930 First Edition
The Maltese Falcon, Dashiell Hammett, 1930. The first edition in the iconic dust-jacket of one of the most influential detective novels of all time. Estimate: £30,000-50,000. Offered in Charlie Watts: Literature and Jazz Part I on 28 September 2023 at Christie’s in London

A highlight is his copy of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s “The Great Gatsby” inscribed to Harold Goldman, whom Fitzgerald joked about as the story’s original “Gatsby”. The rich history between the writer and Goldman, contextualized with Fitzgerald’s coded jests about the MGM lot where they worked, reflects the kind of depth and narrative Watts revered in his collection.

Furthermore, echoing Watts’s dedication to the rhythms of jazz, his library is replete with English crime novels from the Jazz Age’s parallel timeline, the golden years of detective fiction. This includes rare editions by the likes of Agatha Christie, Eric Ambler, and Dashiell Hammett.

The Thirteen Problems Agatha Christie 193. Rare first edition with dust-jacket
The Thirteen Problems, Agatha Christie, 1932. Rare first edition with dust-jacket of the first published appearance of Miss Marple. Estimate: £40,000-60,000. Offered in Charlie Watts: Literature and Jazz Part I on 28 September 2023 at Christie’s in London

Two ensemble novels, Ask a Policeman and The Floating Admiral, penned by various authors including Christie herself, represent an unusual practice in the literary world, akin to the collaboration seen in rock and jazz bands. These novels, with chapters written in relay, symbolize a harmonious blend of distinct voices, much like the art form Watts devoted his life to.

Watts’ appreciation for design is palpable in his collection. Many of these first editions retain their original dust-jackets, presenting them as art objects, a nod to his background in graphic design from Harrow Art School.

The Hound of the Baskervilles Arthur Conan Doyle 1902 Presentation copy of the first edition inscribed by the author
The Hound of the Baskervilles, Arthur Conan Doyle, 1902. Presentation copy of the first edition, inscribed by the author on the title page: ‘I perambulated Dartmoor before I wrote this book, A Conan Doyle’. Estimate: £70,000-100,000. Offered in Charlie Watts: Literature and Jazz Part I on 28 September 2023 at Christie’s in London

Of special note is a signed copy of “The Hound of the Baskervilles” by Arthur Conan Doyle, wherein Doyle humorously remarks on his research travels, connecting with Watts’s own extensive life on tour.

Another intimate gem in the collection is Dylan Thomas’s “18 Poems”, a carousel of romantic gestures. Thomas’s annotations and inscriptions, dedicated at different times to two separate love interests, offer a glimpse into his turbulent love life.

Yet, as Christie’s Books and Manuscripts specialist Mark Wiltshire points out, the real charm lies not just in the immaculate condition, but in the personal touch: the inscriptions. It’s the mark of the artist, a silent whisper of a bygone era.

But perhaps the most touching aspect of the collection is the reflection of Charlie Watts himself. These books, touched and read by Watts, offer insights into the man behind the drum kit. Friends and acquaintances recall his characteristic English gentility, an attribute mirrored in his literary choices from Wodehouse’s wit to Orwell’s steely resolve.

In essence, Charlie Watts’s library paints a vivid picture of 20th-century England, showcasing a side of the legendary drummer hitherto unseen by the world. As the gavel falls on each of these books, bidders won’t just be acquiring a rare edition; they’ll be owning a piece of Charlie’s soul.

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