Rare 'Hamlet' edition fails to sell at auction

Posted: Thursday, April 15, 2004

NEW YORK (AP) A rare edition of William Shakespeare's ''Hamlet,'' valued at well over $1 million, failed to sell at auction when the bidding fell short of the seller's minimum.

The nearly 400-year-old book is one of 19 copies of the 1611 printing known to exist and is the only one remaining in private hands.

It was owned by Mary Hyde, Viscountess Eccles, a renowned New Jersey book collector and English literature scholar best known for her extensive Samuel Johnson collection, now at the Houghton Library at Harvard University.

Christie's auction house had estimated the copy's worth between $1.5 and $2 million.

But bidding began Wednesday at $900,000 and stalled at just $1.2 million, which was shy of what the seller had in mind for their confidential reserve, or minimum price.

Lady Eccles, who was among the first women admitted to the bibliophile Grolier Club in New York, was 91 when she died in August.

Her Samuel Johnson collection, and other books in her collection, were pledged to institutions, including Harvard; the remainder was auctioned Wednesday, with a portion of the proceeds benefiting her many philanthropic interests.

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