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Rimbaud, Verlaine, Mallarmé & Their Friends at Sotheby's Sale of Books, Manuscripts & Precious Documents
There are also various examples of the period's enthusiasm for japonisme, with a score of rare 20 bindings decorated with Japanese-style motifs. Photo: Sotheby's.

PARIS.- Sotheby's announce the sale in Paris on December 15 of an exceptional 180-lot collection of books, manuscripts, photographs and prints. The ensemble majors on three iconic poets – Arthur Rimbaud, Paul Verlaine and Stéphane Mallarmé – and also features a number of their literary contemporaries, including Tristan Corbière, Alfred Jarry, Villiers de L'Isle-Adam and Oscar Wilde.

This library, assembled over a forty-year period, comprises works chosen with the utmost care, from books with original bindings and handwritten dedications to manuscripts, vintage photographs and drawings.

This extremely coherent ensemble tellingly portrays an era. The catalogue reads like a parallel history of late 19th century French literature; the links between writers are highlighted by an interplay of inscriptions, correspondence and provenance, including books once owned by Huÿsmans, Jules Renard, Mallarmé and Oscar Wilde.

The collection also takes us to the heart of the legendary scandals involving Rimbaud & Verlaine and Oscar Wilde & Alfred Douglas.

After his stormy meeting with Rimbaud in Stuttgart in 1875, Verlaine wrote to his friend Ernest Delahaye, evoking the rupture and regretting his "culpable folly of not so long ago, of wanting to live only through him" – before predicting that the man with whom he had been passionately in love would be "a nasty vulgar bourgeois by the age of 30…" This celebrated letter is offered with an estimate of €60,000-80,000.

Oscar Wilde's letter to his lover Alfred Douglas, sensationally produced by the latter's father at Wilde's trial, was translated into French by Pierre Louÿs: the copy of the first edition of this translation (published in Oxford by Alfred Douglas) is offered here, complete with the translator's handwritten inscription pour Oscar Wilde, affectueusement (est. €20,000-25,000).

Painters and musicians also feature prominently. There are books illustrated by Gustav Klimt, Edouard Manet, Maurice Denis, Pierre Bonnard and Paul Signac – not forgetting Le Douanier Rousseau's only known love-letter to his future wife, accompanied by a signed photo of him in his studio (est. €15,000-20,000).

The sale's most valuable musical item is undoubtedly a score of Tristan und Isolde inscribed by Wagner to the French composer Charles Gounod on the day of Tannhäuser's second performance in Paris – much acclaimed by Baudelaire (est. €50,000-60,000).

There are also various examples of the period's enthusiasm for japonisme, with a score of rare 20 bindings decorated with Japanese-style motifs.

Forgotten literary figures are also brought to light by this astonishing collection. Take the poet Charles Cros, author of Le Fleuve, the first book to be illustrated by Manet (with eight etchings); the copy here also contains a ninth, unpublished print (est. €35,000-40,000). Cros was also a scientific genius – the inventor of the phonograph, and a pioneer of colour photography. Another intriguing offering is an unpublished handwritten notebook mixing his poetry with scientific notes (est. €8,000-10,000).

Friday 10 December 10am – 6pm
Saturday 11 December 10am – 6pm
Monday 13 December 10am – 6pm
Tuesday 14 December 10am – 6pm

Sotheby's | Tristan Corbière | Alfred Jarry | Villiers de L'Isle-Adam | Oscar Wilde |

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