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Imagine all the artwork: Lennon trove at auction

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AP Photo/John Lennon

NEW YORK (AP) — Original drawings and poems created by John Lennon for his acclaimed books “In His Own Write” and “A Spaniard in the Works” will go on the auction block.

The books’ British publisher, Tom Maschler, has owned the material for a half century and is offering it for sale at Sotheby’s on Wednesday. It is the largest private collection of the Beatle’s work to come to the market, the auction house said, and prices range from $500 to $70,000.

Before becoming famous as a musician, Lennon trained as an artist at the Liverpool School of Art.

Maschler called Lennon a man of “extraordinary talent and imagination.” He said in a statement that Lennon’s art has been underrated and he hoped that the auction “will redress the balance.”

Among the highlights in the 89-piece collection is a cartoon of a boy with six birds that appeared in “A Spaniard in the Works,” published in 1965. The drawing was used 30 years later as the cover for the Beatles’ single “Free as a Bird.”

The song was written by Lennon in 1977. Twenty-five years after the group’s breakup and 15 years after Lennon’s death, it was released with additional instrumentation and vocals from the other three band members in 1995. The cartoon has a pre-sale estimate of $12,000 to $15,000.

A nine-page manuscript, a Sherlock Holmes parody titled “The Singularge Experience of Miss Anne Duffield,” is estimated to bring $50,000 to $70,000. “The Fat Budgie,” a beloved nonsense poem, could fetch between $25,000 and $35,000.

“In His Own Write” is a collection of 31 short stories and poems, full of puns and spelling errors, published in 1964. It was a big hit with reviewers, who compared Lennon to Lewis Carroll and Edward Lear.

A year later, “A Spaniard in the Works” was published, containing more humorous and nonsensical stories. The title is a pun on the British term “a spanner in the works,” similar to the American expression “a monkey wrench in the works.”

Lennon once told the BBC his stories were short because he typed slowly: “I couldn’t be bothered going on.”

Maschler, who worked with Lennon on the two books while literary director at Jonathan Cape publishers, has worked with other famous authors, including Tom Wolfe, Edward Albee, Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie.

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