Epic manuscript sold for pounds 276,000

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The original handwritten manuscript of Erich M Remarque's celebrated anti-war novel, All Quiet on the Western Front, was sold for pounds 276,500 at Sotheby's yesterday.

The document had only recently come to light after remaining for decades in the possession of the author's first wife. It has copious deletions and revisions and includes a previously unknown episode initially written for the opening of the novel, which caused a sensation when it was first published in 1929.

The manuscript was bought by Julia Rosenthal, an international dealer acting on behalf of a German buyer in Osnabruck, - Remarque's birthplace.

Ms Rosenthal, who is based in Oxford, said after the sale: "This is a key work of the 20th century and it is particularly fitting that it should have come to light in a year when attention is so focused on war. The appearance of this manuscript will enable the definitive text of the novel to be established. It is a dream of a manuscript."

Dr Susan Wharton, Sotheby's expert in continental manuscripts, said: "The existence of this text was unsuspected until very recently.

"Its appearance is a literary event of major importance and we are very pleased with the price it realised."

The novel recounts the experiences of a young private in the trenches in the First World War, and depicts the horrors in a stark, realistic style. It was one of the books burnt publicly by the Nazis in Berlin in 1933, and Remarque himself remained persona non grata in Germany for another 50 years. It has been translated into 45 languages and sold an estimated 50 million copies world-wide.

t Giuseppe Verdi's working manuscript for Otello fetched pounds 188,500 at the same auction.