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Communist Manifesto sold at auction

By AL WEBB

LONDON -- The Communist Manifesto was auctioned off Wednesday for $39,600 -- and that was with the front cover missing.

The document, described as 'insignificant-looking,' went on the block at Sotheby's auction house and was grabbed up by the Valmadonna Collection, a private British collection.

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The price was about double what Sotheby's had expected for the 8-by-5 inch book, the 19th century contribution of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels to 20th century politics.

The value of the document -- its proper title is 'A First Edition of the Manifesto of the Communist Party' -- is its rarity. Sotheby's said it is one of only 11 copies of the second issue of the first edition known to exist.

The German-language book was published in England in February of 1849, one year before Marx himself came to London. But many of the original 1,000 copies were promptly seized or destroyed when they reached Germany, and others probably were destroyed by the Nazis in World War II.

Despite the missing front cover, bidding for the book soared swiftly, and the price it fetched was more than double the $18,000 paid in 1979 in Paris for another copy of the first edition.

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Sotheby's said this particular volume once belonged to German socialist E. Wiss, one of Marx's contemporary critics, somehow survived the last world war and eventually found its way into the hands of an anonymous European owner who put it up for sale.

First edition copies of the Communist Manifesto are rare, but the document itself is not. Sotheby's said it has been published in every European, Asian and African language, through 736 editions -- exceeded only by the Holy Bible.

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