10 April, 2015

A Tribute to Holly Golightly and Capote's Breakfast at Tiffany's

Reading copy from Folio Society, Hirschfeld's signed limited lithography of the movie's classic opening scene, first edition copy, Audrey Hepburn who personified Holly, and the solander box for the first edition.
--- 'Never love a wild thing, Mr Bell,' Holly advised him...'You'll end up looking at the sky.'

Breakfast at Tiffany's and Audrey Hepburn were both before my time. It was not until my early twenties when a serendipitous stumble upon Henry Macini's Moon River led me to the eponymous movie. The opening scene, of Hepburn emerging from a yellow cab outside Tiffany's on 5th Avenue with Moon River playing in the background, mesmerized. The tranquil of 5th avenue in the morning, Hepburn's casual charm with her breakfast, and her little black Givenchy dress all took my breath away, and I was a convert. The movie led me to the book that, interestingly, is quite different. I guess it is a little like The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, which is really an extensive extrapolation of Fitzgerald's original short story.

During a sabbatical spent gallery hopping in New York CIty, I saw Al Hirschfeld's rendition of that magical opening scene at the Margo Feiden Galleries, and I  knew a copy of that limited edition lithography had to make a long journey. I got the first edition of Capote's book as well, but reading from it would be sacrilegious, so I got a reading copy from the Folio Society. As it turned out, the Folio Society's copy is an absolute delight with its typesetting quality, and Karen Klassen's illustrations for the book captured Holly Golightly's vulnerability and confidence with visceral effectiveness. To remind myself of Audrey Hepburn's timeless rendition of Holly, I got the beautiful Taschen book. In July 2015, we acquired the second of Hirschfeld's three Tiffany's signed lithography. And they all seem to come together nicely as a themed collection.


Beautiful cover of Folio Society's recent publication rendered by Karen Klassen. Love how Holly stays on top of and conquers nyc.
Selected illustration: "On days when the sun was strong, she would wash her hair, and together with the cat, a red tiger-striped Tom, sit out on the fire escape thumbing a guitar while her hair dried."
Selected illustration: "As they sang they took turns spin-dancing a girl over the cobbles under the El; and the girl, Miss Golightly, to be sure, floated around in their arms light as a scarf."

Selected illustration and here's my favorite quote from Holly: "'Never love a wild thing, Mr Bell,' Holly advised him...'You'll end up looking at the sky.'"
The front of the dust jacket for the first edition. First edition collecting has an obsession with dust jacket. This single piece of printed sheet usually comprises 80-90% of the total book value, so first edition without the dust jacket can usually be gotten at a deep discount. A great example is Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby: a copy with the beautifully melancholic blue dust jacket sold for USD377,000 on April's Fool Day 2014, while one without can be gotten at around USD2,000-5,000 depending on condition and where you bought it.
A sketch of the author, Truman Capote, who Norman Mailer praised as the most perfect writer but described as "tart as a grand aunt", on the back of the dust jacket. Norman Mailer is a rather colorful character who seemed to be suffering from Napoleon Complex based on his obituary: "This relentless machismo seemed out of place in a man who was actually quite small – though perhaps that was where the aggression originated.

The title page. Breakfast at Tiffany's first appeared in its book-form in this Random House publication, but its publication history was checkered, and the true first printing seems to be in November 1958 copy of the Esquire magazine. I wonder if a copy of the magazine is available for sale...
Here's the copyright page that gives a hint of the checkered publication history. Apparently, Capote first sale the story to Harper's Bazaar, but it was never published due to a combination of staff change at the Bazaar and concerns over the story's subject matter that might offend Tiffany's, a major advertiser. Capote then sold the story to Esquire who did publish it, and likely made a small fortune after sales of that issue skyrocketed on the back of glowing review for the book form published shortly after.

And here's the beginning of the story, which is somewhat different from the movie. The movie is only loosely based on Capote's work, and he felt betrayed when Paramount cast Hepburn instead of Monroe, who was Capote's undisputed choice. To be clear, Monroe was approached first but rejected the role for fear that it might taint her image. Hepburn was cast instead and the rest is history, but it is interesting to consider what would have happened had Monroe reprised the role.


It is interesting to note that the novella sold for just $3.50 in 1958. Today, the book, which is highly collectable, sells for at least 200 times that if in very good or fine condition. Not bad for an investment.


The clamshell or solander box in burnt orange cloth & brown cloth with an off-centered silhouette of Hepburn's Holly sculpted on the front I got from TBCL. Clamshell boxes are used to protect books against light, humidity, and dust damages, and add to the aesthetics of the collection.

We end with Hirschfeld's beautiful lithography, numbered 32/175 at the lower left and signed by Hirschfeld at the lower right, that is professionally framed to archival standard by Merlin Frame Maker. This is Hirschfeld's rendition of the now famous opening scene of the movie, where Holly emerged from a cab in front of Tiffany's on Fifth Avenue with croissant and coffee. I love how the shawl flows from Holly's left forearm and that little black Givenchy dress made famous by Hepburn/Holly/the movie.

Here's a second Hirschfeld signed and numbered lithograph that we acquired in July 2015. Looking out for the elusive third and final one.


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