To commemorate the 60th anniversary of the publication of one of the most important American novels of the 20th century, To Kill a Mockingbird, Raptis Rare Books is currently holding an exhibition of rare signed first editions, letters and original drawings by Harper Lee. To Kill a Mockingbird was first published by J.B. Lippincott Company on July 11th, 1960.
In light of several recent tragic events which have brought systemic racism in the United States to the forefront of the American consciousness, the work, which explores racism in America from the perspective of a young girl growing up in Monroeville, Alabama in the early 20th century, is increasingly relevant.
Based on Lee’s own experiences growing up in the Deep South, the primary themes of the novel involve racial injustice and the destruction of innocence with Atticus Finch, the narrator’s father, serving as a moral hero for many readers and as a model of integrity for lawyers. The story, told by the six-year-old Jean Louise “Scout” Finch, takes place between 1933 and 1935 and follows the story of a local black man, Tom Robinson, who has been accused of raping a young white woman. Appointed to defend him, Atticus Finch establishes Robinson’s innocence and a devious plot to convict him by a local white couple. Despite her editors’ warnings that the book might not sell well, it quickly became a sensation, bringing acclaim to Lee in literary circles, in her hometown of Monroeville, and throughout Alabama.
“To Kill A Mockingbird: the Great American Novel” will be open to the public on Wednesday, July 8, featuring a variety of of rare signed first editions, letters and original drawings by Harper Lee. Highlights of the exhibition include:
A first edition, first printing of To Kill a Mockingbird inscribed by Harper Lee to close University of Alabama college friend, Charles Weldon Carruth, “To my dear friend Charles, with love always — Harper Lee.” In the fall term of 1945, Lee and Carruth both enrolled in a Shakespeare course taught by one of the University of Alabama’s most famous faculty members, Hudson Strode, who directed the school’s theatre troupe and taught several courses in theatre and creative-writing.
An exceptionally rare archive of pencil and ink drawings sketched by Lee of Carruth, caricatures drawn by her while attending Strode’s Shakespeare courses, an original acrylic portrait by Lee of Carruth inscribed by her on the verso “From Nelle Lee, Dec 25, 1952”, and three letters written by Lee to Carruth regarding her thoughts on her hometown of Monroeville, Alabama.
Measuring 8 inches by 10 inches on ruled sheets of paper, the 11 drawings, four of which are signed by Lee “NLee”, include 5 realist studies of Carruth in various poses and six captioned caricatures in ink depicting him as Shakespearean leads.
Showcasing not only the depth, but also the length of Lee and Carruth’s friendship, the three letters include a letter written by Lee to Carruth in 1991 regarding his retirement as well as a letter sent in 1993 in which she despairs the changes occurring in her hometown and remarks that she “nearly had a fit” after seeing a billboard featuring a mockingbird, describing it as “in indescribable taste” and “a fraud on the public”. “[They] say they are doing this to honor me. What they are doing … [is] embarrassing me beyond endurance…”
A first edition of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by both Harper Lee and Truman Capote. Truman Capote’s friendship with Harper Lee began in the summer of 1929 when the two became next door neighbors in Monroeville, Alabama; both were the age of five. Lee drew on their friendship as inspiration for the characters Lee and Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird.
A first book club edition of To Kill a Mockingbird signed by Harper Lee and inscribed by Robert Duvall who played Arthur “Boo” Radley in the classic 1962 American film adaptation, To Kill a Mockingbird, directed by Robert Mulligan.
A first trade edition of the sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird, Go Set A Watchman; signed by Harper Lee. This copy was a gift from Lee’s attorney Tonja Brooks Carter to a clerk of the court in Monroeville, Alabama. Brooks Carter was responsible for rediscovering the manuscript of this novel and instrumental to its publication. The last signed copy at auction brought 12,000. While signed limited editions are available, signed trade editions are decidedly scarce and with noted provenance.
“To Kill A Mockingbird: the Great American Novel” will be open to the public on Wednesday, July 8th 2020 and run through August 1st 2020. View all of the fine Harper Lee first editions, letters, and drawings currently in our collection here.