Jun 18, 2024 10:00 EST

The Collection of Stephen Sondheim

  Lot 257


A work of experimental poetry in a dust jacket by Duchamp

Estate / Collection: The Collection of Stephen Sondheim


WILLIAMS, EMMETT. Sweethearts. New York: Something Else Press, 1967. First edition. Publisher's cloth in jacket by Duchamp, the edges stained blue. Minor wear to jacket but fine overall; Together with WILLIAMS, EMMETT (editor). The Anthology of Concrete Poetry. New York: Something Else Press, 1967. First edition. Publisher's cloth. Edges toned. The lot two volumes.

Sold for $640
Estimated at $200 - $300

Includes Buyer's Premium


Estate / Collection: The Collection of Stephen Sondheim


WILLIAMS, EMMETT. Sweethearts. New York: Something Else Press, 1967. First edition. Publisher's cloth in jacket by Duchamp, the edges stained blue. Minor wear to jacket but fine overall; Together with WILLIAMS, EMMETT (editor). The Anthology of Concrete Poetry. New York: Something Else Press, 1967. First edition. Publisher's cloth. Edges toned. The lot two volumes.

Auction: The Collection of Stephen Sondheim, Jun 18, 2024

  • Auction of the Collection of Stephen Sondheim on June 18, 2024 Soars Beyond Expectations!

  • Competitive Bidding from Fans and Collectors Around the World Sent the Sale Total Over $1.5 Million

  • Landmark Auction was a "White Glove Sale" -- All 454 Lots Offered Were Sold!

  • Lyricist and Composer of West Side Story, Gypsy, Company, Follies, Sweeney Todd, Sunday in the Park with George, Into the Woods, and Many Others

  • Memorabilia, Furnishings, Antique Puzzles and More from his Manhattan Townhouse and Connecticut Country Home

NEW YORK, NY -- Doyle's landmark auction of the Collection of Stephen Sondheim on June 18, 2024 drew a worldwide audience of fans and collectors who sent prices soaring throughout the sale, and all 454 lots offered were sold. Enthusiastic bidders competing in the crowded saleroom, via the telephones, and on the Internet vied for memorabilia, furnishings, antique puzzles and more from Mr. Sondheim’s Manhattan townhouse and his country home in Roxbury, Connecticut.

Gold Records for West Side Story
Highlighting the memorabilia in the sale were Stephen Sondheim’s two Gold Records for his work as lyricist on West Side Story. Determined bidders drove his Gold Record for the soundtrack of the 1961 film adaptation of West Side Story to an exceptional $44,800. His Gold Record for the 1957 original Broadway cast recording realized a strong $28,800.

Sondheim’s Collection of Thesauruses
Two lots of thesauruses drew loud gasps from the audience as the first lot of four volumes soared in a few bids to a staggering $25,600. The second lot of thesauruses, dictionaries and crossword books drew equal gasps when it sold for $25,600 to the opening bid.

Manuscript Musical Quotations
Three manuscript musical quotations signed by Sondheim far surpassed their estimates. A quotation from Into the Woods with the poignant lyric, "Careful the things you say, Children will listen..." sold for $25,600. Another with the lyric, "Into the woods, it's time to go/I hate to leave, I have to, though...” realized $16,640. From Passion, a quotation with the touching lyric "Loving you is not a choice, it's who I am..." fetched $14,080.

Stationery & Pencils
A stack of Stephen Sondheim's personalized Crane’s stationery together with a signed spiral notebook sold for a startling $15,360. Drawing gasps of disbelief from the audience was a lot of three boxes of Sondheim’s beloved Blackwing pencils, circa 1940s-50s, that sold for a staggering $6,400. In a 2005 interview, Sondheim stated, “I use Blackwing pencils. Blackwings. They don’t make ’em anymore, and luckily, I bought a lot of boxes of ’em. They’re very soft lead. They’re not round, so they don’t fall off the table, and they have removable erasers, which unfortunately dry out."

Scroll down to view a selection of auction highlights. All prices include the Buyer's Premium.


Stephen Sondheim

Stephen Sondheim is celebrated as the most innovative and influential composer and lyricist in modern musical theater. His musical compositions broke new ground in terms of complexity, structure and thematic depth, challenging the traditional conventions of the genre. He had a remarkable ability to craft lyrics that not only advanced the plot, but also revealed profound insights into the characters' motivations and inner conflicts. And he generously mentored countless composers, lyricists and performers, passing on his knowledge and passion for musical theater to future generations.

Early Years
Stephen Joshua Sondheim was born in New York in 1930, the only child of dress manufacturer Herbert Sondheim and his wife, Etta Janet Fox. He spent his early years on Manhattan’s Upper West Side and, following his parents’ divorce when he was ten, on a farm in Bucks County, Pennsylvania. He graduated from George School, a private Quaker prep school in Bucks County, and went on to study music at Williams College, where he graduated magna cum laude and was awarded the Hutchinson Prize for Composition.

Around the time of his parents’ divorce, Sondheim formed a close friendship with James Hammerstein, son of lyricist and playwright Oscar Hammerstein II, whose family were neighbors in Bucks County. Oscar Hammerstein became Sondheim's surrogate father and lifelong mentor, influencing him profoundly and developing his love of musical theater. Sondheim once asked Hammerstein to evaluate a musical that Sondheim wrote while at George School, By George. They spent the rest of the day critiquing the musical. Sondheim later said, "In that afternoon I learned more about songwriting and the musical theater than most people learn in a lifetime."

West Side Story
Sondheim's big career break came at the young age of 26 writing lyrics for the 1957 Broadway musical, West Side Story, working with composer Leonard Bernstein. Despite his desire to write both music and lyrics, he accepted the position as lyricist after Hammerstein counseled him, "Look, you have a chance to work with very gifted professionals on a show that sounds interesting, and you could always write your own music eventually. My advice would be to take the job." Directed and choreographed by Jerome Robbins, with a book by Arthur Laurents, West Side Story ran for 732 performances and garnered six Tony Award nominations. The 1961 film adaptation won ten Academy Awards.

In 1959, Laurents and Robbins approached Sondheim for Gypsy, a musical version of Gypsy Rose Lee's memoir, starring Ethel Merman. Sondheim was again disappointed about being solely a lyricist, but Hammerstein urged him to embrace the opportunity, highlighting the valuable experience crafting a vehicle for a star. With music by Jule Styne and a book by Arthur Laurents, Gypsy ran for 702 performances and has been described by numerous critics as America’s greatest musical.

Music & Lyrics by Sondheim
The first Broadway production for which Sondheim wrote the music and lyrics was A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, which opened in 1962 and ran for 964 performances, the longest Broadway run of any show for which Sondheim wrote both music and lyrics. It was followed by an array of iconic works, including Anyone Can Whistle (1964), Company (1970), Follies (1971), A Little Night Music (1973), The Frogs (1974), Pacific Overtures (1976), Sweeney Todd (1979), Merrily We Roll Along (1981), Sunday in the Park with George (1984), Into the Woods (1987), Assassins (1990) and Passion (1994). His film music credits include Stavisky (1974), Reds (1981) and Dick Tracy (1990). With Anthony Perkins, he co-wrote the film The Last of Sheila (1973).

Awards & Honors
Over the course of his prolific career, Stephen Sondheim was recognized with numerous awards and honors, including a Pulitzer Prize for Drama (Sunday in the Park with George), an Academy Award for Best Song, eight Tony Awards including a 2008 Lifetime Achievement Award, eight Grammys, fifteen Drama Desk Awards, and five Laurence Olivier Awards, including a 2011 Olivier Special Award. In 1993, Sondheim received the Kennedy Center Honors for Lifetime Achievement, and in 2015 he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, our nation’s highest civilian honor. In 2010, Broadway’s Henry Miller’s Theater was renamed in his honor.

Stephen Sondheim served on the Council of the Dramatists Guild, the National Association of Playwrights, Composers and Lyricists, and was its president from 1973 to 1981. In 1983, he was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and in 1990, he became the first visiting professor of Contemporary Theater at Oxford University.

Puzzle Enthusiast
Stephen Sondheim is also revered among word puzzle enthusiasts for introducing Americans to British-style cryptic crosswords, which are more a “test of wits” than a mere display of “tirelessly esoteric knowledge,” as he wrote in 1968. His crossword puzzles for New York magazine in 1968 and 1969 were influential in popularizing the cryptic genre in this country. He credited his love of both puzzles and musicals to Hammerstein’s early mentorship. Introduced by Hammerstein to “Puns & Anagrams” in The New York Times as a young teen, Sondheim created his own and submitted it to the Times. “They sent it back saying, ‘We’re very impressed, it’s very perspicacious,’ which was a word I had to look up,” he recalled.

Stephen Sondheim's influence on the trajectory of musical theater cannot be overstated. He leaves a legacy defined by his pioneering spirit, lyrical brilliance and dedication to the advancement of the form. His works have become enduring classics, inspiring the next generation of composers and lyricists to explore new creative possibilities and push the boundaries of musical theater.

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Top image: © The Al Hirschfeld Foundation. www.AlHirschfeldFoundation.org

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