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John Lennon book art, poems going to auction

NEW YORK -- Whimsical drawings, poems and prose created by John Lennon for his acclaimed books “In His Own Write” and “A Spaniard in the Works” are coming to auction.

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 Lennon's work to come to the market, the auction house said.

Among the 89-piece collection's highlights 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' release “Free as a Bird,” written by Lennon in 1977. Twenty-five years after the group's breakup and 15 years after Lennon's death, the song was released as a single with additional instrumentation and vocals from the other three band members. The cartoon has a pre-sale estimate of US$12,000 to US$15,000.

A nine-page manuscript, a Sherlock Holmes parody titled “The Singularge Experience of Miss Anne Duffield,” is estimated to bring US$50,000 to US$70,000.

“The Fat Budgie,” a beloved nonsense poem, could fetch between US$25,000 and US$35,000.

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

Maschler, who worked with Lennon on the two books while literary director at Jonathan Cape publishers, called the late singer a man of “extraordinary talent and imagination.” But he said in a statement that Lennon's art has been underrated and he hoped that the auction “will redress the balance.”

Maschler has worked with other famous authors, including Tom Wolfe, Edward Albee, Philip Roth and Salman Rushdie.

“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.”

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