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Tipping the Velvet included in Christie’s First Editions, Second Thoughts: An Auction in Support of English PEN



Christie’s and English PEN are launching First Editions, Second Thoughts: An Auction to Benefit English PEN, a landmark literary auction taking place online from 28 June – 12 July comprising First Edition books and works of art from contemporary artists and authors, each of which has been uniquely annotated, illustrated or added to by their creator.


Included is a first edition of Sarah Waters’ debut novel Tipping the Velvet published in 1995, annotated by hand with close to 1000 words. Named one of the best books of the year by the New York Times in 1998 and subsequently adapted for the screen and stage, Tipping the Velvet charts the coming-of-age of Nan King, a working class oyster girl turned music-hall performer and ‘cross-dressed Piccadilly prostitute’. In this captivating first edition, annotated by Sarah Waters in black ink, the author provides unique insights into everything from Victorian colloquialisms to her writing process to reveal precisely what makes Tipping the Velvet her ‘happiest writing experience’ to date. Combining wry humour with a researcher’s meticulous attention to detail, Waters refers extensively to the history of lesbian relationships in nineteenth-century England as well as works by queer authors who inspired her work. Nan’s relationship to the city echoes Waters’ own ‘happy, romantic years’ living in London in the 1990s. Looking back in August 2020, Waters playfully reflects upon exactly what makes her characters ‘tick’, and why her protagonist ‘needs a good kick up the arse.’


Click here to view Tipping the Velvet as a lot in the auction


Sarah Waters will be taking part in a free event to help promote the auction on Sunday 3rd July at 10:30am. You can attend both in person and on-line and tickets are available here.


First Editions, Second Thoughts (FEST) will raise much needed funds to support English PEN’s work to defend free expression and campaign for writers who are at risk. The sale comprises more than 80 annotated First Edition books by internationally renowned writers.


A selection of lots from First Editions, Second Thoughts will be on view from 6 – 15 June within The Art of Literature: Auction Highlights Exhibition taking place at Christie’s headquarters in St James’s, London. A full exhibition of all lots will be on show from 8–12 July.


Other highlights include heavily annotated first editions by Margaret Atwood, Hilary Mantel, Julian Barnes, Monica Ali and Ian McEwan, extra-illustrated books by Quentin Blake, Mark Haddon and Max Porter, a poignant commentary by John le Carré, and extraordinary artworks by Ai Weiwei, Tracey Emin, Anthony Gormley and Anish Kapoor.


Click here to find out more about the auction.