CHRISTIE'S TO SELL ONE OF THE FINEST COLLECTIONS OF CHARLES DICKENS IN PRIVATE HANDS On April 2, Christie’s New York will offer the first portion of the William E. Self Family Collection: The Kenyon Starling Library of Charles Dickens.
News-Antique.com - Feb 21,2008 - New York – On April 2, Christie’s New York will offer the first portion
of The William E. Self Family Collection: The Kenyon Starling Library of Charles
Dickens. This superb Dickens library was gifted to Self’s daughter,
Barbara Self Malone, upon Starling’s death in 1983–a remarkable act of
generosity from a fellow-collector (and one-time collecting rival), who
coincidentally also hailed from Dayton, Ohio. The sale offers remarkable
manuscripts, presentation copies, playbills, and original drawings
including Oliver Twist (illustrated left). The collection is expected to realize
in excess of $2,000,000.
Bill Self moved to Hollywood in 1944, and appeared in numerous films, including The Thing, I Was a
Male War Bride, Story of G.I. Joe, Red River and Sands of Iwo Jima. He developed many close Hollywood
friendships, among them Charlie Chaplin, Fred Astaire, Katharine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy.
Following Tracy’s advice that "unless you were a star, acting was a lousy job," Self changed career
paths and became a highly successful producer for both television and motion pictures. As
President of Twentieth Century-Fox Television Division he was responsible for some of the most
memorable television of the 1960s-70s, among them Peyton Place, Twelve O’Clock High, Batman, Lost in
Space, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, M*A*S*H and many others. He also produced many films,
including The Shootist (1976), John Wayne’s last film.
On a quest for a first edition to give his daughter Barbara, Bill entered the world of rare books and
was quickly consumed by it. Over the next forty years he formed one of the most important
collections of English and American literature in private hands. He attended or participated in the
most important auctions, often accompanied by his late wife Peggy, and represented by the preeminent
New York bookseller, John F. Fleming.
In 1971 Bill and his wife Peggy traveled to London for the historic sale of Comte Alain de
Suzannet’s library, then one of the two finest privately owned collections of Dickensiana (the other,
the Richard Gimbel Collection, is now at Yale University Library). To their frustration they were
repeatedly outbid by the agent for an unknown bidder. They later discovered that it was Kenyon
Starling (born in 1905), a fellow native of Dayton, Ohio. Fleming arranged a conversation between
the two rivals, which quickly led to visits to see their respective collections, and a lasting friendship
was soon born. On their mutual quest for Dickens they traveled the world, attending the important
auctions, visiting the major bookshops, or following in Dickens’s footsteps. Without heirs, and with
most of his other collections of English and American literature going to Stanford University–where
he received his bachelor of arts degree in 1927–Starling left his Dickens collection to Bill’s family
because of their mutual background, shared collecting interest and friendship.
The Kenyon Starling Library of Charles Dickens is among the finest in private hands, both in terms
of its depth, breadth and quality. It includes many books from the legendary Dickens libraries
formed over the last century. Starling