When he was alive, Glenn Goldman would have been proud to be judged by his book collection, acquired during his three decades as the proprietor of the legendary Book Soup in West Hollywood, Calif., before his untimely death in January 2009.
The crowd that gathered on Sunday, August 22, on the sales floor of fine arts auction house Bonhams and Butterfields in Los Angeles, located just a few miles east of where Goldman’s bookstore still operates, might not have known the bookseller personally, but they were certainly aware of the value of his eclectic library and bid on the books accordingly in a fast-paced auction that fetched a total of $72,400. Organized in 100 separate lots, some of which included dozens of books and others a scant few by the same author or artist, the Goldman offerings included such rarities as art and photography books signed by Sam Francis, Edward Ruscha, Robert Mapplethorpe, Ralph Steadman, Helen Levitt, Andy Warhol, and Herb Ritts. These lots generated the most frenzied bidding, particularly along the row of phone banks through which off-site collectors kept pace with those on the bidding floor at Bonhams.
Besides his interest in collectible art books, Goldman’s other area of expertise was 20th century literature. First editions by Dorothy Parker, Aldous Huxley, William Styron, Richard Wright, Hunter S. Thompson, Kingsley Amis, Truman Capote, H.G. Wells, and Jerzy Kosinski among others, many of them signed, were also auctioned. Because of Glenn’s long-time association with the celebrity cache of Book Soup, other lots in the auction featured books by rock stars and counter-culture icons such as Ken Kesey and Abbie Hoffman, most of whom either shopped at the store or had book signings there over the decades that Goldman was at its helm.
Although no one from Book Soup attended the auction, the majority of the local book dealers and collectors in attendance were familiar with Goldman and his bookstore. Catherine Williamson, Bonhams’ director of fine books and manuscripts and Sunday’s auctioneer, was pleased with the prices that Goldman’s books sold for. “The sale exceeded my expectations,” she said. “We set conservative estimates because I wanted the bidding to be active, and the bids came in tremendously high. Glenn was a collector independently of the bookstore, and he had wonderful taste.” Williamson also noted that the books were in excellent condition, and for Angelenos the inscriptions to Goldman made the majority of the books more valuable because his name remains meaningful to the local book community. “This was a great L.A.-centric sale,” Williamson added.
An earlier Bonhams auction of the Goldman library took place in New York in June. It featured books that Goldman purchased as a collector and had no association with his acquisitions via Book Soup. A larger offering than the one held on Sunday, the New York auction fetched over $73,200. Proceeds from both sales will benefit Goldman’s trust and his two sons, Joseph and Samuel.