Larry McMurtry auction to include 14 typewriters, animal skulls, his personal book copies

Edward Settle
Edward Settle

DALLAS — It’s an auction of just about 400 of legendary Texas author Larry McMurtry’s personal belongings from Archer City and it promises to be no ordinary estate sale.

Fans can bid on one or more of McMurtry’s 14 typewriters, a large collection of animal skulls, a Steinway grand piano, a four-poster bed, his writing desk and chair, a 1901 Colt .45 pistol, Hollywood memorabilia and two pairs of cowboy boots, including one patched with electrical tape.

Vogt Auction Galleries in San Antonio is planning the auction for 1 p.m. on May 29 with bids to be accepted in person and through an online simulcast. Thousands are expected to either bid or check out McMurtry’s eclectic collections.

“This has been the most exciting thing that’s happened to Vogt Auction,” said Rob Vogt, its director. “Certainly, it’s an incredible honor to be aligned with such an iconic Texas personality and voice.

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“It does build on our 48 years of working with other prominent Texas estates. But nothing like this.”

McMurtry, the Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist, essayist and screenwriter, died at 84 in March 2021. He wrote 46 books, including the novels “The Last Picture Show” and “Terms of Endearment,” which became Academy Award-winning movies, in addition to “Brokeback Mountain,” for which McMurtry and Diana Ossana won Oscars for best-adapted screenplay. McMurtry’s most celebrated novel, “Lonesome Dove,” captured the 1986 Pulitzer Prize for fiction.

McMurtry also reveled in collecting books. Archer City, his hometown, became the headquarters of his renowned collection, which at one time occupied multiple storefronts and numbered close to half a million titles.

Chip Gaines, best known as the costar of the home renovation show “Fixer Upper,” bought the sprawling store, Booked Up, in November.

It’s not the first auction of McMurtry treasures. In 2017, Dallas-based Heritage House Auctions sold two typewriters that McMurtry used to write “Lonesome Dove” for $37,500.

Vogt’s auction house was selected after an appraiser introduced Vogt to McMurtry’s son, James, a musician and actor. Vogt said the appraiser was hired to value the collection of books left at McMurtry’s bookstores in Archer City.

The auction house will produce a 60-page catalog with photos and estimated prices on May 5. No minimums will be set and everything must sell, regardless of the bid, Vogt said.

In an interview, Vogt discussed some of the more eye-catching items on the auction manifest.

Q: Surely, those Swiss-made Hermes 3000 portable typewriters are the showcase items, right?

A: The typewriters have been probably the most outstanding object of interest, as you might expect. After all, a brush is to an artist what a typewriter is to Larry McMurtry. And I should clarify, we actually have 14 typewriters, about half of which are in good shape and about half of which are probably just for parts. Mr. McMurtry would buy them whenever he would come across them.

They’re out of his house, off of his writing desk. But if I’m being totally honest, I can’t say ”Hey, this is the typewriter that ‘Lonesome Dove’ was written on,” if you know what I mean.

Q: What’s the next most sought-after item?

A: We have, uniquely, of course, the books — his famous works right off of the shelves of his master bedroom. These are his personal copies of his famous works with his [personal] bookplate [a line drawing of a stirrup] inside, and there’s only one of each. A lot of the books from Booked Up have gone to [Powell’s City of Books] in Portland, Ore., as part of a bulk deal. It did not include a lot of the things that were in Larry’s house in Archer City. The books we have are from his home.

Q: Outside of McMurtry’s literary work, did Vogt catalog any other unique items?

A: Larry had a penchant for animal skulls. He had a huge collection of animal skulls all over his place as well as his [studio] behind the house. We have something on the order of 200 skulls. We’re not going to sell them individually, but it’s the wide, almost museum-like, collection of skulls. We have, for example, a rhinoceros skull, and a horse skull that’s attached to a vertebra. And these were pieces of decoration around his home. We’ve had lots of curious onlookers on that.

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