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Sotheby's to offer previously unknown manuscript notebook of poems and songs by Rabindranath Tagore
Rabindranath Tagore, the first Asian Nobel Laureate, is seen in a handout photo from Sotheby's. REUTERS/Sotheby's.

NEW YORK, N.Y.- Sotheby’s announces the sale of an Unknown Manuscript Notebook by celebrated Bengali poet and artist, Rabindranath Tagore on 13 December 2011 in New York. Dating to the fall of 1928, the notebook contains twelve poems and lyrics for twelve songs in Bengali, some being heavily amended drafts of subsequently published works. Tagore presented this extraordinary work to a family friend and early patron in the mid-1930s, and through whose family it has descended. The notebook is estimated to fetch $150/250,000.*

Born in Calcutta in 1861, Rabindranath Tagore is widely recognized as one of the world’s most profound writers. An astonishingly prolific author who produced a strikingly diverse output that spanned numerous literary genres, Tagore is seen as one of the great literary giants of his time. He was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913, becoming the first Asian Nobel Laureate.

Tagore once predicted that he would be best remembered for his songs, and the notebook contains many examples, along with his stunning poetry. Among a range of influences were Bengali folk tunes, Indian classical music as well as Western music particularly Irish, Scottish and British tunes. Two of the song lyrics in the notebook were later included in the dance drama Chitranggada, first performed in 1892 and then modified and extended in 1936. Three other song lyrics were included in Tagore’s three-volume song collection entitled Gitabitan (Garden of Songs), published in 1931. Heavily emended and containing Tagore's inimitable artistic deletions, one of these songs, "Mon je bale chini chini," is of particular significance.

Tagore wrote thousands of poems from his early childhood until his death in 1941, many of which were inspired by nature and the simple life of pastoral people he met on his extensive travels in India and around the Eastern and Western worlds. Each of the poems in the notebook is a draft version of piece that would later be published. Twelve of the poems went on to be included in a collection entitled Mohua in 1929. Mohua is a tree with flowers of the same name containing intoxicating nectar, and Tagore's poems included in this collection celebrate nature, love and life.

The friendship between the Tagore family and that of the present owner of the notebook can be traced back to the mid-1800s. The notebook was presented by poet and artist in the mid-1930s and brought to North America in the 1950s. It has been consigned by a descendant of the original owner.

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