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.
“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.
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.
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.”