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September 13, 2023

Christie’s Charlie Watts Collections Auction Revealed

Rolling Stones drummer Charlie Watts' jazz and book collection is now available for online browsing at Christie's.

By Bea Isaacson

Christie’s auction of Charlie Watts collection of literature and music is now available for online browsing, before the flagship live auction of Part I takes place in London at Christie’s headquarters on September 28, with Part II being online only, running from September 15-29.

From a phenomenal library of first edition English and American literature to an outstanding collection of jazz, the legendary Rolling Stones drummer was a committed bibliophile whose love of jazz eclipsed that of the rock and roll he was so associated with.

“Christie’s is proud to pay tribute to his extraordinary achievements and multifaceted legacy,” commented Benedict Winter, specialist, Private & Iconic Collections and Mark Wiltshire, specialist, Books and Manuscripts, in a joint statement.

[See also: Rare 1929 Einstein Manuscript Offered by Christie’s Shanghai]

Charlie Watts in the Rolling Stones
Watts was the drummer of the Rolling Stones from 1963 to his death in 2021 / ©Rolling Stones

“Charlie built his collection of modern literature and jazz with passion, intelligence and dedication, and this two-part auction celebrates his distinguished collecting taste. We invite the public to join us in this rare opportunity to glimpse the very private world of this extraordinary musical genius.”

His book collection has been claimed by Christie’s as the “finest and highest value collection of its kind to come to auction in over twenty years”, with the musician, who passed on August 24, 2021 in London, possessing an extraordinary library that includes some of the rarest obtainable editions of books by authors including George Orwell, Agatha Christie, Arthur Conan Doyle and James Joyce.

Leading the auction will be Watts’ inscribed copy of the American classic The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald, inscribed inside the front cover to ‘the original Gatsby’, Harold Goldman, screenwriter at MGM. Up for sale at a price estimated from £200,000 to £300,000 ($250,000 to $375,000), it is the book that has come to define the Jazz Age, a fitting association for Watts who also formed his own jazz group, The Charlie Watts Quintet.

[See also: Tom Dixon Discusses Lights, Life, and His Latest Collection]

Annotated Great Gatsby
The annotated Great Gatsby copy, inscribed to Harold Goldman / ©Christie’s

And Watts’ love of jazz went beyond just playing: He amassed a collection of records that rival only his literary library. With a particular emphasis on Billie Holliday, Duke Ellington, and Benny Goodman, the collection also spotlights Watts’ favorite saxophonist, Charlie Parker.

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Continuing the drummer’s ability to source pieces for his collection that unites the deeply personal with the fascinatingly historic, highlights from the music collection include an annotated printed score for Porgy and Bess by George Gershwin, and two scores by Irving Berlin inscribed to Ginger Rogers.

“Charlie was the heartbeat of the Rolling Stones for nearly sixty years,” said Mick Jagger, Keith Richards and Ronnie Wood. “He was totally unique and devoted to jazz and literature from boyhood. He was the quintessential English gentleman, and his absence is a great loss for us all.”

christies.com

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