modern books and literature
1864-1898 The Pursuit of Herodias
2016 SOLD for € 590K including premium
In 1864 he is a young poet aged 22 who admires Baudelaire. In his mind, poetry transcends words to reach emotion. His primary target is the theater, that spoken literature that allows the juxtaposition of rhythms and sounds.
Two projects are conceived simultaneously. Hérodiade is the myth of an ancient clash of civilizations. L'Après Midi d'un Faune is the pretext for an ode to the nymphs. When he starts Hérodiade a few months before working on the Faune, he already appreciates that perfection is impossible but he definitely desires to reach it.
The refusal of the Faune by the Théâtre Français is logical in its time and should still be understandable now. Mallarmé is too abstract to convince that his literary work is actually an absolute art. He soon abandoned the idea of theater for poetry but maintained a three-act structure of his Hérodiade.
His metaphysical doubts come in the next years. Inspired by reading Hegel, he becomes materialistic. The poet now expresses the nothingness. The power is provided to the verb. Mallarmé should be a hermetic poet if only his text had a meaning.
Mallarmé worked his Hérodiade from 1864 to 1866 and then in 1887. In May 1898 he restarts with an extended title : 'Les Noces d'Hérodiade. Mystère'. Once again it is in vain : Herodias remains eternally unfinished by the death of her poet on September 9, 1898.
The autograph manuscripts of the successive versions of Hérodiade were bound in one volume although the sizes of the pages are dissimilar. This book prophetic for a new trend in French poetry is estimated € 400K for sale by Pierre Bergé et Associés in collaboration with Sotheby's on November 9 in Paris (Drouot), lot 466.
1869 The Hermit of Croisset
2015 SOLD for € 590K including premium
A set of 52 folios illustrates the creative process of L'Education Sentimentale. This collection of autograph manuscripts has been bound by a connoisseur. It is estimated € 400K for sale by Pierre Bergé et Associés in collaboration with Sotheby's France inParis (Hôtel Drouot) on December 11, lot 91.
Same as before for Madame Bovary and Salammbô, the meticulous work spread over five years. The drafting started in 1864 and was completed in May 1869. The novel was published in November 1869. It had no reason to raise the bourgeois disapproval as did Madame Bovary, but it proposes an equally pessimistic gradual fall between the hope of youth and the insipid reality of life.
Chance is the enemy of the writer and everything must be under control : the logics of the script, the truth in the events contemporary to the action, the attitudes and the words of everyday language that vary for each social class or group. His unfinished novel Bouvard et Pécuchet will be the ultimate desire of the author to exploit the encyclopaedic range of his working notes. This romantic writer opens the path to Zola's naturalism.
Flaubert throws his ideas on large paper sheets in a form that gradually becomes inconsistent through the abundance of erasures and margin notes. He comments how he wants the reader to understand an idea or a story. Some of these notes were definitely intended for opening critical discussions with his friend and collaborator Louis Bouilhet.
The construction of the novel is visible throughout this set of documents. The first scenes are drafted very early in that process and come together to form the plan, the list of chapters and also to freeze the names of the characters.
1872 FOR ALICE, THE MOME RATHS OUTGRABED
2009 SOLD 115 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
The story that began in 1862 by a rowing trip revolutionized literature. Children were bored in the boat, and Alice Liddell, age 10, asked Charles Dodgson to tell a story.
The idea is good, and Charles is projecting Alice in a dreamlike world. Everything seems logical, but happens in reverse (Dodgson suffered from being left-handed). He published the story three years later, under his pen name,Lewis Carroll and the title Alice in Wonderland.
Therefore, Lewis Carroll is a victim of his own magic, and continually explores all possibilities of playing with words. Deforming them while still providing a meaning, or not, is the extraordinary innovation developed in Through the Looking-Glass, dated 1872. The copy that the author dedicated to Alice Liddell is estimated $ 100K, at Profiles in History in Calabasas Hills, California on December 16. Here is the link to the catalog shared by two online hosting providers, LiveAuctioneers and iCollector.
This book includes the poem Jabberwocky, on the web in English by Wikipedia and in French by Google Livres in the translation of Henri Parisot.
In the same book, the character Humpty Dumpty teaches to Alice that these words that jostle and contract can have several meanings which are not always known. In real life, aged 40, Dodgson finally sublimated his terrible weakness, that stutter that had ruined his life. The literature had won a masterpiece.
POST SALE COMMENT
Nobody wanted it at $ 100K.
In the same sale, the personal copy of Beatrix Potter's book The Tale of Peter Rabbit has been sold exactly at its low estimate, $ 80 K hammer price.
Good news, told on Thursday by the auction house to Reuters: Alice's book was sold 115 K$ including premium. It deserved it, and the buyer made a good choice.
It was registered as unsold in the auction room. This is probably an after-sale result.
1875 JULES AND JULES, VERNE AND HETZEL
2009 SOLD 82 K€ INCLUDING PREMIUM
Jules Hetzel was an editor of children's books, which was a rare specialization at his time. Jules Verne wrote didactic novels, where the adventures of the characters were a pretext to teach geography and history with fancy, and imagine the future. Their meeting was inevitable, and generated one of the greatest achievements of the popular literature of the nineteenth century. The hors texte illustration, abundant, closely followed the adventures and strengthened their naive and passionate qualities.
Under the generic title "les Voyages Extraordinaires", the first Verne-Hetzel title, "Cinq Semaines en Ballon" was published in 1863. Hetzel thereafter provided an infinite number of patterns, images and colors for the cardboard covers of the "Voyages extraordinaires".
Today these books are subject to special sales, especially in Paris. Some collectors formed libraries dedicated to that single topic. Here, it is not the uncommon text which is sought, but the original binding.
Year after year, the prices go up for the most exceptional lots. In March 2005, Artcurial sold 19 K € before fees an edition of "l'Ile Mystérieuse", with a tan cover. In October 2006, "le Chancellor" reached 29 K € excluding costs, also at Artcurial, through a test cardboard considered as unique.
It is now expected 20 K € for another copy of "l'Ile Mystérieuse", this time in a green cardboard. It will be sold by Robert et Baille in Paris, salle Drouot, on April 4. This one also is an original edition (1875).
POST SALE COMMENT
Books of Jules Verne had never reached such prices.
Auctioned by Robert et Baille, the copy of L'Ile Mystérieuse has reached 82 K € fees included. Another high price, 46 K € including fees, was brought in a copy of Le Docteur Ox in a binder with fleurs de lys.
Two days later, also in Paris, ArtAuction (Pierre Cardin Remy Le Fur) sold 80 K € before fees another copy of the first edition of L'Ile Mystérieuse, in a very well illustrated test binding.
1887 THE SUPER HERO OF DR. DOYLE
The twentieth century is the time of super heroes. Superman and his many avatars, Tintin, Harry Potter and many others gained great favor from the public by tirelessly coming back in new stories, with invariant features and targeted supernatural powers.
They follow the fruitful path opened in 1887 by a young English physician, Arthur Conan Doyle. In his first novel, A Study in Scarlet, the heroes are already positioned. Sherlock Holmes is human, but his intelligence and wisdom are at the limit of the supernatural. Dr. Watson is his enthusiastic follower. Later, the impossibility to change these characters without confusing the public will heavily impact the career of their author.
Going back to 1887. The novelty of the subject makes it difficult to find a publisher for the Study in Scarlet. It is finally published as the main part of a yearly magazine named Beeton's Christmas Annual. The engraved cover is illustrated in the Wikipedia article on the Study in Scarlet.
From this low quantity issue which was quickly sold out, some thirty copies have survived. One of them has a unique feature: it has been signed and dated 1914 by Arthur Conan Doyle, under a handwritten text of four lines indicating that it was the first publication of any of his books.
With the added value brought by this inscription, this lot is estimated £ 250 K, for sale by Sotheby's in London on July 15.
1893 The Adventure of the greek Interpreter
2022 sold for $ 350K by Heritage
On July 21, 2020, Sotheby's listed the complete autograph manuscript of The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, which was published in 1893, was sold for $ 350K by Heritage on July 16, 2022, lot 42005.
The document is made of 34 pages torn from a notebook and has stains and some fingerprints. Two reverse pages were scribbled and doodled by a child, certainly one from the offspring of the author.
It is an early example of the creation of a story by Doyle. This original manuscript has been established by a flowing mind and the corrections or revisions within it do not significantly alter the first writing.
Interestingly, this complex story confronts three logicians.
Sherlock Holmes is the first superhero, intellectually overpowering but not foolproof. His elder brother is superior in his observations and deductions but impaired by idleness. Dr. Watson is intuitive. The solution of the mystery of the Greek interpreter is inspired to Sherlock Holmes by a common sense observation made by Watson.
One of the tweets below was issued before that lot passed at Bonhams on April 11, 2016.
#HERITAGELIVE □ Complete #ArthurConanDoyle manuscripts are few and far between: This autographed 34-page document marks the only remaining full manuscript from The Memoirs of #SherlockHolmes. Sold for $350,000! https://t.co/nSMhTDc0OL pic.twitter.com/xoJJN5hBJH— Heritage Auctions (@HeritageAuction) July 16, 2022
1896 CHAUCER REVISITED BY WILLIAM MORRIS
2011 SOLD 45 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
William Morris was a tireless activist of art, promoter of all kinds of techniques. Writer, artist, printer, publisher of textiles and tapestries, he was a leader of the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood and of the Arts and Crafts movement(English).
It is not surprising that this medieval enthusiast has republished the works of Chaucer.
Completed the year of the death of Morris, 1896, in 554 large folio pages 42 x 29 cm, it is illustrated by 87 woodcutsafter drawings by Burne-Jones. This unique edition was prepared with printing types and paper reminiscent of thoseused at the time of the incunabula.
A very nice copy, assembled in a rich morocco binding, is for sale on April 7 in New York by Heritage AuctionGalleries. It is estimated $ 60K.
POST SALE COMMENT
Sold: $ 45K including premium for this pre-Raphaelite book.
1899 The Importance of being Oscar's Friend
2012 SOLD for $ 360K including premium by Sotheby's
2015 SOLD for £ 197K including premium
Oscar Wilde wanted to have a flamboyant life while attacking literary taboos, with no restriction for verbal provocation. He succeeded. The Picture of Dorian Gray, his great novel published in 1890, brilliantly demonstrates that the opposition between aesthetics and ethics can be total. The writer, Balzac for example, does not copy life, he creates it.
Oscar had been raised as a girl by his mother but does not seem to be interested in an active homosexuality before 1886 when he meets Robert Ross. Ross deliberately violates the English law that prohibited this practice since the previous year. Their friendship will remain steadfast until the death of Oscar even when the writer falls madly in love with Alfred Douglas.
1895 marks a turning point in the life of Oscar Wilde. His play The Importance of being Earnest provides the best example of his wit and subtlety in a plot relying on real and fake identities of the characters, long before Pirandello. In the same year, he claims too loudly his right to homosexuality in the trials for immorality that are brought against him by Alfred's father.
The Importance of being Earnest is published in London in 1899 in quarto size. The author lives in exile in France after being released from the British jails. He warmly inscribes to Ross one of the twelve copies on Japanese vellum. This valuable book was sold for $ 360K including premium by Sotheby's on April 20, 2012. It is now estimated £ 160K for sale by Sotheby's in London on November 24, lot 132.
Robert Ross had a highly important role in preserving the work of Oscar Wilde during his last years and afterward as the executor of his will. The writer owes much to him for his posthumous rehabilitation. The scandal is off. In 1950, on the occasion of the fiftieth anniversary of Oscar's death, the ashes of Robert Ross are installed in the funerary sculpture commissioned by him and dedicated to the writer at the Père Lachaise cemetery in Paris.
1901 MEN AND SEA
Joseph Conrad had made a career in the merchant navy. Returning to London in 1894 at age 37, he became anovelist.
On July 10 in London, Sotheby's sells in a single lot the first autograph draft of Typhoon along with the typed textthat was provided to the printer. Both documents contain numerous handwritten revisions that attest to the creative process of the author.
Written from September 1900 to January 1901, soon after the Nigger of the Narcissus and Lord Jim, Typhoon is a short novel that shows men facing the sea.
It is also a work of transition between two centuries. The action is unlikely, just as the serialized novels of the nineteenth century. The ship is caught in a terrible storm but the coolies come to struggle for catching dollars escaped in the accidental opening of the chests.
Curiously, it is also a psychological study of the process of making decision under extreme conditions.
The captain likes to be considered as a stupid apathetic figure, an attitude that annoys some of his officers and enjoys others, but he is however the right man to go straight into the storm for avoiding a waste of time and to resist all adverse events until the successful completion of the trip.
This early example of a psychological narrative is an important document for the exegetes of Joseph Conrad. The lot is estimated £ 300K. Here is the link to the catalog.
1903 Secret Code for Sherlock Holmes
2018 SOLD for $ 310k including premium
Holmes pleases the public with his deductive feats. Doyle must find new situations and unprecedented paths of thought. In this phase, preparing new stories with a cadence acceptable to his readers was certainly not an easy task.
In early 1903 Doyle opens by chance a book that contains some drawings by two children, brother and sister, who communicate with each other by coded alphabets. The little girl had cleverly drawn musical staves to calibrate her stick figures in which the position of arms and legs transcribed the alphabet. Incredible, dear Watson : Sherlock Holmes, champion of intelligence, had never broken a cypher.
The idea is good and Doyle does not wait for preparing The Adventure of the Dancing Men. A young American woman married in England said nothing about her past to her husband but receives messages composed of alignment of innocent figures that terrorize her.
Solicited by the husband, Holmes is catching up by proclaiming himself an expert in cryptography and finds the key by the classical method of analyzing the frequency of the figures. The threats came from a lieutenant of a Chicago bandit. The young woman was the boss's daughter and had fled the bad America to change her life.
The final draft of the Dancing Men is a signed 53-page document in Doyle's clean and regular writing, including the coded drawings within the text. It will be sold by Heritage in Dallas on April 18, lot 47156.
This adventure was published in magazines a few months later and then integrated into the cycle The Return of Sherlock Holmes. Filling Doyle's void over the use of encryption, it was one of his preferred Holmes stories.
Please watch the video shared by Heritage :
1913 proust and the publishers
2017 sold for € 540k including premium
This unprecedented approach does not convince the publishers. In 1912 and 1913 Fasquelle, NRF and Ollendorff refuse to publish the first story titled Du Côté de chez Swann. Grasset pushed by its director Louis Brun agrees provided that all the expenses are paid by the author. The book is released in November 1913.
As agreed Proust ensures his own promotion by preparing typed letters for newspapers. He does not identify himself as the author of this marketing campaign which includes enthusiastic opinions about himself. He certainly believed in his own genius.
As early as January 1914 André Gide acting for the NRF and for Gallimard understands that his refusal from the previous year was a major strategic error. In March the NRF makes an offer to Proust to publish the remainder to come of the series. The offer will be accepted but Proust will remain very grateful to Brun for the initial agreement which had opened to himself the gates of fame.
The first edition of Du Côté de chez Swann includes five copies on very prestigious Japan paper which Proust offers and inscribes to his best friends. The number 1 presented to Léon Daudet was sold for € 600K including premium by Sotheby's on December 18, 2013 over a lower estimate of € 200K.
The number 5 offered to Louis Brun was truffled by his recipient with several precious autograph letters of the author about his relations with publishers and newspapers during that decisive period from March to May 1914. A bibliophile later bound them with the book. This volume has just resurfaced. It is estimated € 400K for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on October 30, lot 151.
1913 The Long Journey of Cendrars and Delaunay
2011 SOLD 290 K€ including premium
La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France by Cendrars and Delaunay is an artist's book designed in a one-off format in the new style of abstract art. The simultaneous rhythm of the poem and of the illustration is a tribute to motion pictures.
The copy dedicated to Madame et Monsieur Gance was sold for € 290K including premium by Sotheby's in Paris on November 9, 2011, lot 132. It is estimated € 200K for sale in the same auction room on November 18, lot 20.
I narrated it as follows before the 2011 sale.
We are in 1913. Blaise Cendrars is a pseudonym chosen by the author less than two years before. He just published the unique issue of a magazine with a title "Les Hommes Nouveaux" which tells a lot about the place that this young man desired to take in the literary world.
As for painting, abstract art is the new craze. Sonia Terk, married in 1910 with Robert Delaunay, conceives an art made of shapes, surfaces and bright colors.
La Prose du Transsibérien et de la Petite Jehanne de France is a bold attempt for a total art, combining poetry, abstract art, a daydream of travel, and more.
The rhythm of the simultaneous poem by Blaise Cendrars and of the swirls of the pochoir applied colors by Sonia Delaunay has a musical inspiration. The format of the unique page of four sheets assembled end to end for a total unfolded length of 2 meters is a challenge to the design of a classic book.
The rare copy on papier japon that comes for sale also marks a link with the movies. It is indeed inscribed to Abel Gance, one of the first directors who appreciated that the film was to be an art.
1913 PROUST IN A BINDING BY BONET
2009 SOLD 104 K€ INCLUDING PREMIUM
Here is a little book that has many qualities.
This is a first edition (printed in 1913) of "Du Côté de chez Swann", the first title of the series "A la recherche du temps perdu" which was the major work of Marcel Proust.
The copy is one of the first on luxury paper and includes a dedication in four lines of the author to a friend's daughter.
This book is dressed in a gilt and silvered binding made by Paul Bonet in 1960. The bindings of this artist are highly sought, quite rightly, for their luxury and for the elegance of the design. Bonet, inspired by the work to develop the drawing, provides here a nice set of leaves and flowers in delicate arabesques.
The sale takes place in Paris on April 29, through the coordination of three études of auctioneers operating in Drouot: Mathias, Baron-Ribeyre and Farrando-Lemoine. The estimate is 100 K €.
POST SALE COMMENT
A nice bid for this beautiful first edition, an interesting literary memory whose binding is an artwork : it was sold 104 K € fees included.
1921 the teenager corrupted by war
He is too young to go to war. In his challenging condition as an aimless teenager, he has an affair with the wife of a soldier who was at the war front. Becoming later a collaborator of newspapers, he comes into contact with the writers and artists of Montparnasse. After Alain-Fournier and Le Grand Meaulnes, Radiguet's novels are inspired by his teenage torrid emotions without being strictly autobiographical.
Radiguet wrote his novels on school notebooks. The first autograph draft of his great success, Le Diable au corps, has just been discovered. The first notebook is dated 20 August 1921. This manuscript is estimated € 500K for sale by Christie's in Paris on December 2, lot 65.
This manuscript includes 161 leaves, most of them written only on front side. With its many erasures and remorses, it is an irreplaceable witness of the literary process of the prodigy.
The young woman is named Alice after the wife of the soldier. By discretion, she will be Marthe in the final version for which another manuscript is known. In the earlier draft, the story stops when Alice becomes pregnant. The final version will extend the adventure.
Jean Cocteau was known as a great admirer of Radiguet. The surfacing manuscript has been written in four hands. In several places, Cocteau offered the benefit from his literary experience to Radiguet and corrected the inaccuracies in the text of his young protégé.
1922 Three Decades with Sherlock Holmes
2016 SOLD for $ 270K including premium
The literature of deduction existed before him, especially with Edgar Poe, but this highly innovative series anticipates in many ways the detective novels and the comic books. The stories are not strictly sequential, but a chronology of the fictitious career of Holmes can be established for which the Sherlockian aficionados collect the informations scattered throughout the series, as the Tintinophiles will later do.
Holmes is the first superhero, intellectually overpowering but not foolproof, especially in terms of morals. Dr. Watson is an efficient companion who helps focusing the attention onto the genius of the master.
On April 11 in New York, Bonhams sells several autograph manuscripts by Conan Doyle including two complete stories.
The Adventure of the Greek Interpreter, published in 1893, is a complicated story in which the solution is inspired to Holmes by a common sense observation made by Watson. The document is made of 34 pages torn from a notebook. Two reverse pages were scribbled by a child. It is estimated $ 380K, lot 12.
On the opposite, The Problem of Thor's Bridge, written in 1922, belongs to the later career of Doyle and Holmes. This short story in which the detective does not believe in the seemingly obvious guilt of a young woman has a strong social dimension.
This story had a Continuation. Both parts remained grouped to a total of 48 pages. This working document includes erasures revealing other names originally considered by the author for characters and places. The whole is estimated $ 250K, lot 17.
Thor's Bridge : SOLD for $ 270K including premium.
Greek Interpreter : unsold
1922 ULYSSES IN PARIS
Ulysses, James Joyce's novel, pushed all the traditions of literature. The author created a surprising unity of time, asingle day, of location, the streets of Dublin, of action, or better of non-action, the monologue of a man who does not want to go home.
Joyce finishes Ulysses in 1922 in Paris, where he is known in literary circles, but who will dare to publish such a workcompletely in opposition from the fashions and conventions?
Curiously, the editing venture was not carried out by a publishing house but by a Parisian bookshop under the banner of Shakespeare and Company led by an American bibliophile named Sylvia Beach. This is a thick volume of 24 x 20 cm, printed in 1000 copies. The first 100 copies were printed on Dutch handmade paper and signed by the author.
During the war, Mrs. Beach was interned by the Germans but a friend got her release by finding within the Vichy government another admirer of Joyce. The copy number 24 which had been kept by Mrs. Beach was dedicated to this friend as a token of her gratitude.
Estimated $ 450K, it is for sale by Sotheby's in New York on October 20. Here is the link to the page of the catalog.
1923 FOR WHOM GLORY TOLLS
2012 SOLD 68 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
Based in Paris since 1902, Gertrude Stein facilitated the work of avant-garde writers whose work was deemed obscenein her own country, including for reasons of female homosexuality. In defining the term 'lost generation' to describeher younger contemporaries, she however did not refer to morality but to the disastrous consequences of the First World War.
In 1923, Ernest Hemingway is a young American journalist who is passionate about writing. Jane Heap and MargaretAnderson had to exile for publishing their literary magazine. The year before, also in Paris, Sylvia Beach, the bookseller of Shakespeare and Company, had dared to publish the first edition of the Ulysses of the Irishman James Joyce.
In this literary microcosm, everyone meets and helps each other. One evening at dinner, Hemingway reads a text toMargaret and Jane. He is interesting and original, it is what they are looking for. They immediately wish to publish thisnew author.
Printed in 300 copies, Three Stories and Ten Poems is the first book by Hemingway. His effective style of short stories, so well fitted to brilliantly witness the pleasures and misfortunes of his time, is already present.
As usual, a few copies are offered to the author. In its newsletter, Heritage indicates that the copy dedicated to MissBeach was sold for $ 176K at auction in 2004.
Another one from the 300 original copies is for sale by Heritage in Beverly Hills on February 8. This one also isprestigious. It is dedicated to Jane and Margaret, as a gratitude of the author for this publication carried out by the two women.
This book is estimated $ 75K. The short-run editions of early works of great writers are often in high demand, and this estimate may seem conservative. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The result, $ 68K including premium, is below the estimate.
From 1923 The Green Ink of Pablo Neruda
2020 see below
There are in this set many autograph manuscripts, often in the green ink that the poet liked to use. Many documents are unpublished. Let us cite some of the most important or emotionally charged elements.
Neruda was a precocious erotic poet. Veinte poemas d'amor y una cancion desesperada is his second book of poems, published in 1924. The copy in the collection is from the first edition with an autograph dedication inscribed in 1971 to Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
His printed books are of course present, starting with Crepusculario, his first collection of poems published in 1923. España en el corazón was published in 1937 when Neruda had just been dismissed from his position of consul of Chile in Barcelona for his too visible commitment to the Spanish republicans.
A card addressed by Pablo to his muse is a fine expression of passion : "Olga de miel, Olga de fuego, Olga septiembre, Olga agua, Olga roja, Olga ardiendo, Olga sombra".
Among the documents by other hands, a letter written in 1938 by the Spanish martyr poet Miguel Hernandez evoking Neruda's "tierra triste y hermosa" appears as premonitory compared to the citation of the Nobel Prize for literature, rewarding Pablo Neruda in 1971 "for a poetry that brings alive a continent's destiny and dreams".
The collection also reflects Neruda's active and friendly support to Salvador Allende.
I invite the Hispanics to read the article by La Razon announcing the sale and to watch the video shared by Agencia EFE.
Sale postponed to October 8, 2020 and splitted into 200+ lots
1924 Invention of the Surréalisme
In 1924 Breton gathers 32 stories ('historiettes') that he had composed in automatic writing, leaving aside altogether the will, the coherence and even the beauty of the style. He chose the title of this collection : Poisson soluble.
In spite of his confidence in the literary and even social progress which will occur from his own genius, Breton knows that he has many detractors. He feels the need to explain his system in the form of a Préface for Poisson Soluble. He defines surrealism as pure psychic automatism. The preface is titled Manifeste du Surréalisme.
The major autograph manuscripts related to these works had been preserved by his first wife. They were sold on May 21, 2008 by Sotheby's, including among other documents the Manifeste for € 1.9M including premium and the final version of Poisson Soluble for € 900K including premium. This set bought by Aristophil was classified Trésor National in December 2017 with a period of thirty months for the French State to confirm its acquisition.
On July 3 in Paris, Christie's sells a document from another provenance, lot 140 estimated € 200K. It is the complete proofs of printing preparing the Manifeste and Poisson Soluble, including by the author's hand the required typographical corrections and the instructions for the model.
A poem in collage aligning end to end sentences extracted from newspapers was inserted by Breton in this file, to serve as an example of the new literary technique in the Préface-Manifeste. It will be included in the original edition after being slightly cut short by Breton.
1925 Gatsby's Jacket
2009 SOLD 182 K$ including premium
The Great Gatsby is a favorite novel of American literature of the twentieth century, and is contemporary of early jazz. Published in 1925, it is reflecting the unease of the author, F. Scott Fitzgerald, in the pursuit of wealth. The complicated story ends with the destruction of the characters and of their hopes. The glory of Fitzgerald was posthumous. Ravaged by alcohol, he died in 1940 aged 44 years.
The jacket of the original edition of Gatsby is a symbol of the revolt of his generation, or rather of the desire to live a life different from that of parents. Inspired by the Art Deco style, designed by Francis Cugat (of whom no other important work is known), it shows a young woman of whom we see only the eyes, mouth and a green tear. The iris of the eyes are home to a naked woman. The lower part of the drawing represents an illuminated amusement park.
Bonhams sell two copies of the original issue on June 10 in New York. The press release clearly indicates that the jacket drives the price. The copy that has kept it is estimated $ 80 K as lot 3252, and the copy without jacket looks for $ 1,500.
POST SALE COMMENT
This lot was greeted triumphantly: $ 150 K before fees.
This is the price of a bibliophile enthusiasm and not of speculation, because who can predict if a similar object in a better condition will not come tomorrow out of an anonymous library? On the photo, traces of wear were visible at the upper corners of the jacket.
The copy without jacket was sold out $ 3,000 before fees.
1926 L'Histoire de la Princesse Boudour, and other Tales
2008 SOLD 360 K€ including premium
The price of a book is not the easiest topic in an auction chronicle, because it depends upon many factors: condition, completeness, additions by the author or by the artist, inserted documents. Speaking of record prices would be meaningless in this category.
Fortunately, some auction houses, as Alde, put online detailed descriptions that provide a good idea of lots to be sold.
On June 3, Salle Rossini in Paris, Alde highlights Mardrus, writer inspired by the tales of Thousand and One Nights, Schmied, Art Deco illustrator, and the bookbinder Creuzevault.
At lot 33, we find L'Histoire de la Princesse Boudour, by Mardrus, illustrated by Schmied. The estimate, 150 K€, is justified by the fact that this copy is decorated with original gouaches by Schmied superseding usual gouached engravings. Binding by Schmied is decorated with a lacquer of Dunand.
Lot 34, estimated 60 K€, is one of 20 copies of the same book on Japanese paper, bound by Creuzevault and enriched with an original watercolor by Schmied.
Let us conclude this article with another lot, 32, featuring also Mardrus, Schmied and Creuzevault. This copy of L'Histoire charmante de l'adolescente Sucre d'Amour, enriched by a drawing by Schmied, is estimated 30 K €.
POST SALE COMMENT
The books that I had described were clearly exceptional items, and it is very gratifying to note that all three have doubled the low estimate.
Below are the hammer prices:
Lot 33: 300 K €.
Lot 34: 145 K €.
Lot 32: 60 K €.
1928 THE MODERN HUMANISM OF RABINDRANATH TAGORE
2011 SOLD 170 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
It is difficult to imagine a writer more complete than Rabindranath Tagore, rewarded as early as 1913 by the Nobel Prize for Literature. While Gandhi embodied the protest movement that culminated in the independence, Tagoresymbolized the cultural revival of Bengal and India.
This universal mind used all the means of expression. Poems and songs were his natural language, but he was also a novelist, playwright, painter.
An autograph notebook used by Tagore in 1928 enables to enter the creative process of the master. This small volume of 152 pages 20 x 13 cm includes poems and lyrics in Bengali language, with annotations and corrections, that werepublished in collections soon afterwards.
Tagore gave this book to one of his patrons, and this very rare document remained unknown until now. It is estimated$ 150K only, for sale by Sotheby's in New York on December 13. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The notebook was sold with no excessive excitement : $ 170K including premium.
1935-1936 Samuel Beckett
2013 SOLD for £ 960 K£ by Sotheby's
Formerly a collaborator of Joyce, Beckett came to London to undergo psychoanalysis. He disliked the city, where he locates this novel. All the action follows the mental confusion, or rather the mental disaster, of an idle character who finds a job as a male nurse in a psychiatric hospital.
Beckett already sees reality as a nonsense. A degree of freedom is obtained by the mind, but it is easily vanishing.
The first version of the novel was titled "Sasha Murphy." Murphy is often seen as a tribute to stricken chess genius Paul Morphy, the paranoid who wandered in the streets of New Orleans to talk to invisible interlocutors. I speculate that Sasha could designate Alekhine.
On July 10 in London, Sotheby's sells the complete draft of Sasha Murphy, written from August 1935 to June 1936 in 776 pages divided into six notebooks 20x16 cm. This manuscript is a dive into the creative act of one of the most complicated of twentieth century writers, with many small drawings.
Beckett wanted his novel to reach perfection according to his own criteria and ever doubted of the result, which explains the numerous author's remorses which he carefully dated.
Entitled simply Murphy, the final version will be rejected by forty publishers. Beckett was certainly pleased to have succeeded in writing a book understandable only by himself.
On the opposite, when the Nobel Committee awarded him the prize in 1969, he considered this honor as an intolerable insult to the hermeticity of his description of nothingness. However, unlike Sartre, he accepted.
The manuscript is estimated £ 800K. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The uniqueness of this manuscript had been properly announced. It was sold for £ 960K including premium.
1936 Crash in the Desert
2009 SOLD 310 K€ including premium
The crash and survival in the desert of the aviator Saint-Exupéry and his navigator was an intense experience. The autograph manuscript of his heart felt narration was sold for € 310K including premium by Sotheby's on June 17, 2009, lot 80.
It had been told at that time that the document had been retained by his heirs and was sold for the benefit of foundations in his memory.
It is now estimated € 180K for sale by OVA Aristophil operated by Artcurial in Paris Hôtel Drouot on June 16, lot 81.
I discussed it as follows in 2009 :
The pioneers of aviation were permanently facing death but they never stopped to carry on their great work of reducing travel time and conciliating the nations. One of them, Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, translated in his writings the exalted humanism and poetry of that life of useful adventure.
In 1935 he had already published two stories that met a great success, "Courrier Sud" (Southern Mail) and "Vol de Nuit" (Night Flight). With the mechanic Prévot, he is now trying to break the record of André Japy, author of a Paris-Saigon in three days and fifteen hours.
Their plane crashed in the Libyan desert. Alone and without food for four days, they were rescued by a Bedouin, just in time as they had already begun to suffer hallucinations.
A few weeks later, from 30 January to 4 February 1936, the Parisian daily newspaper L'Intransigeant published the story of this adventure by Saint-Exupéry as "le Vol brisé - Prison de sable" (Shattered Flight - Prison of Sand).
The manuscript for sale which is titled Au centre du désert is the final draft for L'Intransigeant. It consists of 57 folios handwritten on one side and abundantly revised and corrected.
This text is highly important in the literary work of Saint-Exupéry : after rework it went to be the central chapter of his "Terre des Hommes" (Wind, Sand and Stars) (1939). His terrible experience in the desert later inspired him "Le Petit Prince" (The Little Prince) (1943).
1941 A LABYRINTH INSIDE BORGES'S MIND
The universe is complex, the truth does not exist, all solutions are possible in time and space.
Jorge Luis Borges might be a philosopher but he preferred to express through short stories. On June 23 in New York, Bloomsbury is selling the autograph manuscript of El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths). These twelve pages, 21 x 16 cm, in fairly good condition, are estimated $ 200K.
The plot is based on a dark tale of espionage and murder, an excuse to expose the double project of an intellectual who wanted to develop a metaphysical book and a labyrinth. The hero discovers that the book and the labyrinth are actually the same thing.
Written in 1941, this story was the first text of Borges to be translated into English (1948). Historians of modern literature are considering the complexity of this work and its multiple possible interpretations as a precursor for the hypertext thinking, that actual labyrinth with no beginning and no end of the contemporary world.
1942 THE ACTIVIST SILENCE OF THE EDITIONS DE MINUIT
2009 SOLD 17.5 K€ INCLUDING PREMIUM
2013 SOLD 11 K€ BEFORE FEES
Sotheby's sold in 2009 a little book which is one of the most interesting witnesses of French Resistance to theGermans during the Second World War. Here is my previous discussion :
War is everywhere in France in October 1941. The German occupation of France is beginning, and also the French Resistance. Jean Bruller and Pierre de Lescure create an underground publishing house : les Editions de Minuit.
20 February 1942 is the real starting date of this operation with the edition in 350 copies of a short novel by Jean Bruller under the pseudonym Vercors : "Le Silence de la Mer ".
This encouraging story is about the installation of a cultivated German officer in the house of a French intellectual. The German, francophile, wishes to communicate, but the Frenchman only replies by the silence. The German eventually doubts the merits of his own values.
Emmanuel d'Astier de la Vigerie is one of the first founders of the Resistance networks. On 8 April 2009 in Paris, Sotheby's sells his copy of the first edition of le Silence de la Mer, which had been kept by his son. This copy contains the leaflet announcing the creation of the Editions de Minuit.
This rare complete witness in perfect condition of a significant event in modern literature was sold € 17.5 K including premium.
Now coming from a collection, the same piece is estimated € 12K, for sale by Alde in Paris on May 31. Here is the link to the catalog.
POST SALE COMMENT
The price, € 11K before fees, is much below the previous result.
1947 THE SCULPTED COLORS OF JAZZ
2009 SOLD 215 K€ INCLUDING PREMIUM
Henri Matisse was very ill. His creativity was still strong but the graphic techniques that he could still use were limited. He tried flat gouache with pure and bright colors, shaped by cuttings. He said he was a sculptor of colors.
In 1943, the publisher Tériade persuaded the artist to prepare a collection of images to be performed with this technique. The project lasted four years and led in 1947 to one of the most important artist books of the century, entitled "Jazz", composed of 20 in-folio plates including 15 in double page. It was published in 250 copies, plus 100 portfolios of unfolded plates that are in high demand.
Graphic and literary design, consisting of images facing texts written by Matisse from his hand, is entirely up to the artist. But the print quality is due to the obstinacy of Tériade to find a technique that renders faithfully the beautiful colors of Matisse. A special process of pochoir (stencil) printing was developed for this purpose.
The art market pays tribute to this book when it comes, relatively often, in auctions. The copy 204 is estimated 180 K € by Sotheby's, for sale in Paris on June 17.
POST SALE DISCUSSION
There was no surprise to expect from this good example of a prestigious book. The result, 215 K € premium included, is consistent with the low estimate.
1947-1951 Desire from Stage to Screen
2015 SOLD for $ 406K including premium
Elia Kazan is one of the first experimenters of this revival of theater and cinema. He is the producer of the drama by Tennessee Williams, A Streetcar Named Desire, from December 1947. A new tone is set in the shows. Revealed by the play, the very young Marlon Brando already brings his refusal of conventions and his brute force.
In 1949, the same triumphant welcome rewards another theatrical realization of Kazan, Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller. In 1951, Kazan is adapting the Streetcar of Williams for the cinema.
Tennessee Williams brought his personal torments in A Streetcar Named Desire. He is homosexual and his beloved sister is insane. He comes as close as possible to the expression of lust while maintaining the restrictions necessitated by the risk of censorship. The public understands and is enthusiastic.
On December 14 in New York, Sotheby's sells a set of working papers by Tennessee Williams for the Streetcar, from the writing of the play and the stage instructions up to his support for the scenario of the film.
This lot consists of typescripts with manuscript notes and also includes some correspondence and photos. It is estimated $ 300K,lot 108.
1950 The Stories of the Road
2017 SOLD for $ 206K including premium
The first of them, lot 45378, is a letter from Cassady to Kerouac often referred as the Joan Anderson letter. I discussed it as follows before it passed at Christie's on June 16, 2016 from a very expensive reserve price.
Crises and wars provoke some reactions of social rejection that generate a literary and artistic creativity. This is the case of the Beat Generation, a term coined by Jack Kerouac in 1948 with the meaning of "lost generation".
These first Beats repeat somehow the choice of Achilles : they want above all that their life will be intense. They are attracted by all the taboos and have a liberated sexual life, both heterosexual and homosexual, while indulging in drugs. These asocials are the precursors of the sexual revolution of the 1960s.
Neal Cassady is in the group. His letter to Kerouac dated December 17, 1950 is the trigger for the literary dimension of the Beats : with Kerouac of course but also with Ginsberg and Burroughs. For Kerouac, Cassady was the typical Beat, born in wheels on the road.
Cassady's letter is confessional with the names of the real people. He was soaked with amphetamines after a visit to a girlfriend who just missed her suicide. In 18 tightly typed pages with autograph supplements, Cassady rolls an unrestrained writing widely mingled with slang.
Kerouac is amazed by the unprecedented style of his friend, altogether frenetic and spontaneous. Between 2 and 22 April 1951, he types a similar story. The result is a paper scroll 36 meters long that will be On the road. This draft was sold for $ 2.43M including premium by Christie's on May 22, 2001.
Neal's letter to Jack was circulating among the Beats and was lost during an attempt of submission to publishers. It has been said that one of them had thrown it overboard from his boat but the reality is less poetic : another editor had placed it in a stack of documents to read, where it remained unnoticed until an archive dusting was made sixty years later.
The other document for sale at Heritage, lot 45379, is a typescript by Kerouac himself for The Dharma Bums.
On the Road had been rejected by all publishers in 1952. It nevertheless was a huge success when it was released in 1957. Kerouac immediately prepared a sequel, The Dharma Bums, on the same scroll format as he did for On the road. That original typescript is currently not located. The document for sale is a copy typed by the author on 200 usual 8 1/2 x 11 inch pages in January 1958 for preparing the edition.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM
Cassady's letter to Kerouac $ 206K
Dharma Bums typed draft $ 137K
1953 JAMES BOND WAS A COUSIN OF DRACULA
2009 SOLD 50 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
The gestation period of James Bond was rather long when compared to the characteristics of our species. Designed on January 15, 1952 at 9 o'clock, Jamaican time (as told by Wikipedia), he saw the day light on April 13, 1953, date of publication of the first Ian Fleming novel, Casino Royale.
A copy of the first edition, with its dust jacket in good condition, is available for sale at Dallas by Heritage on October 16. It is improved with an enigmatic and humorous dedication by Ian to "M", which was the fictional intelligence chief in the novel. This lot is estimated 40 K$.
Fleming's success came a few years later, with adaptations of his novels for film and television. James Bond had the right profile at the right time. The public was tired of too serious distractions, the humor was invited to second the action.
I commend you two examples from the same years. In 1956, Showcase magazine seeks successors to Superman and Batman, whose stiff attitude starts to be considered as retarded. I did an article about this new trend in the Comics group. And in 1958, Christopher Lee brings his elegance to the movie character of Dracula.
Did you know? In real life, Fleming and Lee were cousins!
Here is the link to the catalog page, shared by Heritage. This page includes a video presentation of this lot.
POST SALE COMMENT
This first edition was sold 50 K$ including premium. The result is consistent with estimates.
1957 WHY THE CAT WENT IN THE HAT
Let us name this author as Dr. Seuss, since that is the pseudonym he coined for his some sixty books for children.
His first book, The Cat in the Hat (1957), was above all an experience of exceptional intelligence. Seuss was interested in a journal article that linked illiteracy to the lack of interest in the books that were presented to young children. He limited the vocabulary to just over 200 words, all expressing simple concepts and almost all being monosyllabic and sound (cat, hat). Illustrating his text with clever anthropomorphic drawings, he led into the road of reading and culture more than a generation of young Americans.
On January 7 in San Francisco, PBA Galleries is selling a fine collection of books and drawings by Dr. Seuss. One of them, estimated $ 5K, will not be for a Christmas tree but rather for the pleasure of a bibliophile: it is The Cat in the Hat, a first edition in perfect condition with its original dust jacket . The catalog page with the image of that lot is shared by the auction house. The site also includes a video showing the top three books in this collection.
1957-1978 THE ZERVOS
2011 SOLD 52 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
An art lover will not separate from his Zervos, and this book is quite rare on the market. This is the best known andmost prestigious of the catalogues raisonnés of artists: Picasso's.
Do not look for a translation from the French word "catalogue raisonné": this wording went into the international language. It indicates an attempt by an art critic to comment with scientific rigor and to illustrate all the work of anartist. When published, the catalog, which is indeed a real thesis, becomes the reference for appreciating the artist.
Founder of the magazine Cahiers d'Art, Christian Zervos was particularly interested in Picasso from 1926 and began his monumental systematic study in 1932. The 33rd and final volume was published in 1978, eight years after thedeath of the author and five years after the artist's death. This is an exceptional editorial achievement worthy of the great illustrated books of the eighteenth century whose publication could extend over several decades.
Printed from 1957 to 1978, the copy for sale by Christie's on September 20 in New York is complete in 34 volumes (one of the first volumes was separated into two parts). it is estimated $ 40K.
POST SALE COMMENT
This book is one of the best specialized documentations. The price, $ 52K including premium, is in line with expectations.
1958 Typescript at Tiffany's
2020 SOLD for £ 380K including premium
The condition of women begins to change radically in the 1950s. It is interesting to compare the Cabiria from Fellini's film, released in 1957, with the main character in Breakfast at Tiffany's published by Capote in 1958. Both women are very young, not far from mean reds, and flirting with illegality. Their ephemeral activity is made up of extravagance and fluttering.
Capote's novel includes a full description of that society girl, with her black dress, dark glasses, pearl necklace and rosy cheeks. Her incarnation in cinema by Audrey Hepburn in 1961, with her famous dress by Hubert de Givenchy, is a perfect illustration of it. Her social ambition is illustrated by her practice of eating her croissant while coveting diamonds in Tiffany's storefront.
The final version provided to the editor is a typescript of 84 pages of letter size 21 x 27 cm. It includes many autograph revisions, including the change of the name of the young woman who becomes Holly Golightly, a both carefree and prickly identification. It was sold for $ 307K including premium by RR Auction on April 25, 2013 and is estimated £ 120K for sale online by Sotheby's in London on August 4, lot 68.
1976 VLADIMIR NABOKOV, THE LAST ORIGINAL
2010 SOLD 78 K£ INCLUDING PREMIUM
I republish the article on a lot already discussed which remained unsold in 2009. I only changed the identification of the sale and the estimate (which became reasonable).
Vladimir Nabokov was an unusual man, with a great intelligence. Competent entomologist and illustrator of butterflies, chess player, aesthetic mystic, nor fully Russian nor fully American, not just only a poet nor a prose writer, he handled the languages with a high dexterity.
He won international attention in 1955 with the novel Lolita, was able to catch for his fame the scandal generated by this passionate book, and continued to feed his works with his favorite topics on forbidden love, death, life after death.
In August 2008, his son reveals the existence of an unpublished manuscript, the latest novel by Nabokov. A romantic mystery is created around this announcement about the alleged intention of the author that this text was to be destroyed if it was not completed.
The set entitled "The Original of Laura" consists of 138 pages written on cardboard in 1976, which Christie's is selling on November 23 in London. Outstanding manuscripts by Nabokov are kept in public libraries, and this set is the only one available on the market. The auction house estimates it at £ 100K.
Rather consider that the price is unpredictable, but note however that the sale of a work of art or an original literary manuscript does not transfer the copyright.
This work is another example of the complexity of the literary conception of Nabokov: the order of cards is changeable. Let me just mention another great writer whose novels are also multidimensional: Kafka.
POST SALE COMMENTS
Nabokov's manuscript is now in the list of sold lots. It was probably sold after the auction. At £ 78K including premium, it is far below the lower estimate.
1997 HARRY POTTER, THE WIZARD OF AUCTIONS
2009 SOLD 19 K$ INCLUDING PREMIUM
There is a social phenomenon called Harry Potter. Here is a new demonstration.
Heritage includes in its sale of March 6 in Dallas a copy of the first edition of Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone. It was published in 1997 in 500 copies, i.e. 300 in hardcover and 200 in softcover with illustrated stiff wrappers.
One of the latter, having retained its original wrappers, comes in this new sale. Heritage tells us that they already sold a similar copy $ 10.7 K costs included last October, and their catalog announcement carefully estimates 8 to 12 K $.
Yes but ...
There is a small difference. Wonder of wonders, this new one includes a card signed by JK Rowling featuring the front cover illustration. And today, when I write, twelve days before the close out of the Internet bidding, the high estimate is already exceeded!
Buyers are willing to damn to own a first edition of Harry Potter. To what price?
POST SALE COMMENT
Interest in Harry Potter is unwavering!
Nice result for this lot: $ 19 K premium included.
2007 The Special Edition of Beedle the Bard
2016 SOLD for £ 370K including premium
In seven books, Harry Potter reaches an unprecedented popular success with 450 million copies sold. J.K. Rowling uses much of her immense wealth for charities.
The author has learned to maintain the excitement through the media. In 2007, the final volume of Harry Potter is published. A character in this book reads a fictitious collection of fantastic stories entitled The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
J.K. decides to give a reality to this fictitious book. She writes five stories which she collects and prepares in seven autograph copies, illustrated by herself. The first six are sent by mail on December 12, 2007 in gratitude to friends who had helped her to publish the Harry Potter books.
The next day the seventh manuscript was sold by her at Sotheby's for The Children's Voice charity after an intense media buzz. Estimated between £ 30K and 50K and offered without buyer's fees, it is acquired by a broker acting for Amazon for £ 1.95M. The public is excited and frustrated by this book which is not accessible to them. J.K. authorizes Amazon to use their copy for preparing an edition which becomes a new best seller as soon as it is released.
One of the six presentation manuscripts of The Tales of Beedle the Bard is estimated above £ 300K for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 13, lot 319. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.