There is no There There: Gertrude Stein
For the amateur or beginner collector, you may be forgiven for thinking that collecting Gertrude Stein is perhaps as confusing as the title of this article – as her collectible works range in price from the many thousands of dollars, to the mere hundreds. One of her most valuable works (Portrait of Mabel Dodge at Villa Curonia) – a true first edition in excellent condition – was valued in 2007 as being worth 25,000 dollars!
So, what makes Gertrude Stein value vary so much?
The answer lies in her inimitable style. Gertrude Stein was born at the end of the nineteenth century, in eighteen seventy-four, and quickly associated herself with the most progressive, forward-thinking, and outlandish artistic phenomena of her time: Modernism. From her residence in France, she regularly held parties and evenings that saw such Modernist luminaries as Ernest Hemmingway, Ezra Pound, Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, and F. Scott Fitzgerald. But it wasn’t just her matronly sort of mothering of the art and literary movement that was her legacy, but also her own highly experimental style of writing, and the fearless courage of her convictions.
In a time when homosexuality (between men, anyway) was deemed illegal in most of the world, Gertrude Stein wrote the first lesbian, feminist, ‘coming out’ series of monologues and sketches in Q.E.D. Stein herself had a life-long partner in Alice B Toklas. Her literary style too, was unique for its day, similar perhaps more to Kerouac’s stream of consciousness writing. The title of this article, ‘there is no there there’ perhaps captures a little of her sometimes repetitive, immediately self-referential style. Stein believed not in understanding a work of art, but instead of interstanding it – of the play, book, poem or painting creating an image of a place or a feeling with the viewer/reader. As such, her work is of profound importance to both Modernism as well as postmodern and feminist movements, as it puts the subjective experience first, over any ‘dry’ interpretation.
All of the above are obviously, excellent reasons why Gertrude Stein is collectible, but also offers us a clue as to why some of her works are valuable, and others are not. Stein’s unusual style created as many enemies as it did friends, and still, to this day, Stein can be considered an outsider to established authors.
Arguably, this goes in the favour for the collector, who can still find true first edition works at very reasonable prices. Their eventual market value however, for the dealer or book trader, would be subject to her ‘outsider status’ being revoked by the traditional publishers. Consider these books to collect by Gertrude Stein, still at very reasonable prices: How To Write (1931), Geography and Plays (1922) and Three Lives (1915).
Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives. Grafton Press, New York (1909). “Stories of the Good Anna, Melanctha and the Gentle Lena.”; 1000 copies printed, 700 distributed in US, 300 in the UK
Stein, Gertrude. Portrait of Mabel Dodge at the Villa Curonia. Galileana, Florence (1912). Privately printed limited edition of 300 copies
Stein, Gertrude. Tender Buttons. Claire Marie, New York (1914). Objects Food Rooms'
Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives. John Lane, London (1915). “Stories of the Good Anna, Melanctha and the Gentle Lena”; 300 copies printed in America in 1909 distributed in UK
Stein, Gertrude. Have They Attacked Mary. Horace F. Temple, Pennsylvania (1917). “ He Giggled. (A Political Caricature)”; 200 numbered copies; originally printed in Vanity Fair missing 35 lines
Stein, Gertrude. Geography and Plays. The Four Seas Company, Boston (1922). Foreword by Sherwood Anderson
Stein, Gertrude. The Making of Americans. Three Mountains Press, Paris (1925). “being a History of a Family's Progress”; 500 copies printed, 100 distributed in US, plus 5 deluxe issues on Japanese Velum; printed by Maurice Darantiere
Stein, Gertrude. Composition As Explanation. Hogarth Press, London (1926). No 1 in the Second Series of Hogarth Essays
Stein, Gertrude. The Making of Americans. Albert and Charles Boni, New York (1926). “Being a History of a Family's Progress”; 100 copies produced using the French sheets; US edition
Stein, Gertrude. An Elucidation. Transition, Paris (1927). Introductory letter by Elliot Paul; “as printed in Transition, April, 1927”; corrected reprinting of article appearing in Transition
Stein, Gertrude. Three Lives. John Rodker, London (1927). “Stories of the Good Anna, Malanctha, and the Gentle Lena”; 3rd UK edition, 2nd to be printed in the UK
Jolas, Eugene. Transition. Transition, Paris (1927). Co-editor Elliot Paul; Includes works from authors: James Joyce, Gertrude Stein, Max Ernst, Andre Gide, William Carlos Williams, Paul Eluard, Malcolm Cowley, Paul Bowles, Andre Masson, Kafka, Picasso, Hemmingway, Hart Crane, Laura Riding et al
Stein, Gertrude. A Village Are You Ready Yet Not Yet. Editions de la Galerie Simon, Pairs (1928). Illustrated with lithographs by Elie Lascaux; “a play in four acts”; total edition of 102 copies, 90 numbered copies, 10 deluxe copies
Stein, Gertrude. An Acquaintance With Description. Seizin Press, London (1929). Limited edition of 225 numbered copies signed by Stein; No 2 in the Seizin Press series of contemporary writers
Stein, Gertrude. Morceaux Choisis de La Fabrication des Americains. Editions de Mantagne, Paris (1929). Translation into French and preface by Georges Hugnet; first 100 copies contain portrait of the author by Christian Berard; “The Making of Americans: Story of the Progress of a Family”; Limited edition of 302 numbered copies; 85 copies on verge Bouffant, 10 copies on Van Gelder both signed by Stein and Berard, 200 copies on Alfa
Stein, Gertrude. Dix Portraits. Editions de la Montagne, Paris (1930). Illustrated by Picasso, Tchelitchef, Berard Tonny, and E. Berman; French translation by George Hugnet and Virgil Thomson; Preface (in French) by Pierre de Massot; “10 Portraits”; English text followed by French; Total edition of 502 copies:Limited edition of 100 numbered copies with illustrations signed by author and translators; unillustrated trade edition of 400 numbered copies (numbered 101 to 500)
Stein, Gertrude. Lucy Church Amiably. Imprimerie Union, Paris (1930). “A Novel of Romantic beauty and nature and which Looks Like and Engraving.”; Limited edition of 1000 copies, published by Stein and Toklas 'Plain Edition Press'
Stein, Gertrude. Before the Flowers of Friendship Faded Friendship Faded. Plain Edition, Paris (1931). “written on a poem by Georges Hugnet”; total edition of 120 copies, 18 numbered in Roman numerals for author
Stein, Gertrude. How to Write. Plain Edition, Paris (1931). 1000 copies printed by Darantiere Press, Dijon
Stein, Gertrude. Matisse Picasso and Gertrude Stein. Plain Edition, Paris (1932). “with Two Shorter Stories”; Limited edition of 500 copies; printed for Plain Edition by Darantiere, Dijon
Stein, Gertrude. Operas and Plays. Plain Edition, Paris (1932). Limited edition of 500 copies; Includes 18 plays and 2 operas'; printed for Plain Edition by Darantiere, Dijon
Stein, Gertrude. Americains D'Amerique. Librairie Stock, Paris (1933). Translated by Baroness J. Seilliere and Bernard Fay; Preface by Bernard Fay; French edition of 'Americans of America: A Story of an American Family'; 2000 numbered copies; signed by Stein and Bernard Fay
Stein, Gertrude. Matisse Picasso and Gertrude Stein. Plain Edition, Paris (1933). “With Two Shorter Stories”; 500 copies, printed by Darantiere, Dijon
Stein, Gertrude. The Autobiography of Alice B Toklas. Harcourt Brace, New York (1933). Originally serialized in 4 issues of the Atlantic, May-August
Stein, Gertrude. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. The Literary Guild (1933). Stated first edition; Originally serialized in 4 issues of the Atlantic, May-August
Stein, Gertrude. The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas. John Lane, London (1933). Originally serialized in 4 issues of the Atlantic, May-August
Stein, Gertrude. Four Saints in Three Acts. Random House, New York (1934). Introduction by Carl van Vechten; “An Opera to be Sung”; 4000 copies printed; Words by Gertrude Stein, Music by Virgil Thomson, Scenario by Maurice Grosser. Performed at the Avery Memorial Theatre, Hartford Connecticut for the first time Wednesday evening February 7, 1934
Stein, Gertrude. Portraits and Prayers. Random House, New York (1934). 1800 copies; Photo of Stein by Carl Van Vechten; portraits of Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso, Edith Sitwell, Apillinaire, T.S. Elliot, Cocteau, Van Vetchen, Hemingway, and others
Stein, Gertrude. The Making of Americans. Harcourt, Brace, and Co., New York (1934). Preface by Bernard Fay; “The Hersland Family”; First abridged edition
Stein, Gertrude. Narration. University of Chicago Press, Chicago (1935). Introduction by Thorton Wilder; “Four Lectures”; Limited edition of 120 numbered copies signed by Stein and Wilder
Stein, Gertrude. Geographical History of America. Random House, New York (1936). Introduction by Thornton Wilder; “or the Relation of Human Nature to the Human Mind.”; Edition of 1000 copies, 200 sold, 800 pulped
Stein, Gertrude. Everybody's Autobiography. Randon House, New York (1937). Illustrated with photographs by Carl Van Vechten; sequel to 'The Autobiography of Alice B. Toklas'; 3000 copies printed
Stein, Gertrude. Picasso. Librarie Floury, Paris (1938). 8 colour plates and 63 full-page illustrations; text in French
Stein, Gertrude. Picasso. Charles Scribners Sons, New York (1939). English text, US edition; UK edition by B. T. Batsford Ltd., London
Stein, Gertrude. The World is Round. William R. Scott, New York (1939). Illustrated by Clement Hurd; limited edition of 350 unnumbered copies signed by author and illustrator
Stein, Gertrude. Paris France. B. T. Batsford Ltd., London (1940). UK edition; 8 plates, 3 in colour
Stein, Gertrude. Paris France. Charles Scribner's Sons, New York (1940). US edition; 2nd edition, 8 illustrations from UK edition
Stein, Gertrude. What Are Masterpieces. Conference Press, Los Angeles (1940). Foreword by Robert Barlett Hass; Portrait by Francis Picabia; 3 lectures given in 1926: Composition as Explanation; An American and France; and What Are Masterpieces--and Why Are There So Few Of Them; Also inludes: Preciosilla, a Poem; Pen-Portraits Jean Cocteau and Sitwell Edith Sitwell, a play A Stain in Seven, and second play Identity; Limited edition of 50 copies plus unknown number of out-of-series copies, also numbered, signed by Stein
Stein, Gertrude, et al. L'Arbalete. Chez Marc Barbezat, Lyon (1944). Literature Review, 6 months; French text; Limited edition of 2150 numbered copies; contributions by Gertrude Stein; Dorothy Baker; Erskine Caldwell; Donald Henderson Clarke; Frank Tarbeaux; Peter Cheney; Ernest Hemingway; Horace McCoy; Walter Dumaux Edmonds; William Faulkner; Zora Neale Hurston; Henry Miller; Damon Runyon; William Saroyan; Nathanael West; Thomas Wolfe; Richard Wright and Paul Robeson.
Stein, Gertrude. Wars I Have Seen. B.T. Batsford, London (1945). Photograph of author by Cecil Beaton; UK edition
Stein, Gertrude. Four in America. Yale University Press, New Haven (1947). Introduction by Thornton Wilder; 3000 copies printed
Stein, Gertrude. Mother of Us All. Music Press, New York (1947). Text by Stein; Music composed by Virgil Thomson; scenario by Maurice Grosser; Music Score; 1000 copies, 55 numbered copies specially bound and signed by Thomson with 3 original photos by Carl Van Vechten
Stein, Gertrude. Blood on the Dining Room Floor. Banyan Press, Vermont (1948). Foreword by Donald Gallip; Limited edition of 600 numbered copies, total edition of 626
Stein, Gertrude. Two (hitherto unpublished) Poems. The Gotham Book Mart, New York (1948). Limited edition of 415 numbered copies
Stein, Gertrude. Things As They Are. Banyan Press, Vermont (1950). a novel in 3 parts'; Total edition of 516 copies, 490 numbered copies, 26 lettered copies
Stein, Gertrude. Lucretia Borgia. Albondocani Press, New York (1968). A play; Total edition of 176 copies, 150 numbered copies
Stein, Gertrude. A Primer for the Gradual Understanding of Gertrude Stein. Black Sparrow, Los Angeles (1973). Edited by Robert Bartlett Haas; Limited edition of 60 numbered copies
Stein, Gertrude. Money. Black Sparrow, Los Angeles (1973). Foreword by John Martin, Barbara Martin, and Seamus Cooney; 100 numbered copies, 26 lettered copies
Stein, Gertrude. Reflection on the Atomic Bomb. Black Sparrow Press, Los Angeles (1973). Edited by Robert Bartlett Haas; “How Writing Is Written”; 'The Previously Uncollected Writings of Gertrude Stein; 2 volumes; each volume an edition of 50 numbered copies handbound by Earle Grey
Stein, Gertrude. Why Are There Whites to Console, A Portrait of Janet.. Aloe Editions, New York (1973). Total edition of 100 copies, 74 numbered, 26 lettered
Stein, Gertrude. The World is Round. Arion Press, San Francisco (1986). Companion volume “The World is Not Flat” by Edith Thacher Hurd, Illustrated by Clement Hurd; Limited edition of 400 copies; 2 volumes
Stein, Gertrude. Paris France. Yolla Bolly Press, Covelo, CA (2000). A Memoir'; Illustrated by Ward Schumaker; Afterword by George Plimpton; Limited edition of 200 copies signed by Schumaker and Plimmpton