The forthcoming sale of Books & Manuscripts at Sothebys
Paris on 29 May will give special importance to manuscripts from the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The 149 lots include documents and historic manuscripts of exceptional interest, among them the journal of the Duguay-Trouin expedition to Rio de Janeiro in 1711; the letter written by the imprisoned Alfred Dreyfus to the French Interior Minister; moving expressions of love from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to the woman who inspired the main character of La Nouvelle Héloïse; Voltaires description of his everyday life during the last 23 years of his life; and the manuscript of four chapters of Chateaubriands Les Mémoires dOutre-Tombe, unpublished for over a century.
The sale begins with a very rare historic document: the logbook of the five naval campaigns of Chevalier de Parcevaux (1708-20), including the Duguay-Trouin expedition to Rio de Janeiro, illustrated with watercolours, notably a very rare view of Rio de Janeiro from the ship and a superb view of the fleets entrance to the bay. Sixty pages cover the Rio de Janeiro campaign to avenge Le Clerc, held prisoner in Rio, and plunder the citys gold. Chevalier de Parcevauxs unpublished records had remained in the hands of his descendants until now. Only two other accounts exist of this looting operation which yielded over the two tons of gold, including the official one (est. 60,000-90,000 / $78.600-117.900*).
The section also includes two lots offering valuable insight into the lives of Voltaire and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.
First comes an exceptional ensemble of 61 handwritten letters by Voltaire to his friend and advisor President de Ruffey, a bibliophile, collector and member of the Académie Française, covering the last 23 years of Voltaires life (1754-77). The correspondence paints a lively picture of the daily life of Voltaire and Madame Denis in their successive homes in Prangins, Les Délices, and Ferney (est. 100,000-150,000 / $131.000-196.500).
Then comes a moving ensemble of letters from Jean-Jacques Rousseau to Saint-Lambert and Madame dHoudetot, written between October 1757 and April 1758 when Rousseau was staying with Madame dEpinay. This correspondence with the love of his life, who inspired the character of Julie in La Nouvelle Héloïse, shows Rousseau as a man of integrity, refusing the social whirl and leading an increasingly solitary existence. The letters remained in the private collection of Madame dHoudetots descendant, Comte Foy (est. 250,000-350,000 / $377.500-458.500).
THE MOST DRAMATIC DREYFUS AFFAIR DOCUMENT STILL IN PRIVATE HANDS
One of the highlights of the sale is the letter written from prison by Alfred Dreyfus to the Minister of the Interior on 26 January 1895, one month after his conviction and three weeks after he was stripped of his military rank. It shows Dreyfus in a state of utter despair: I was condemned for the most infamous crime a soldier may commit, and I am innocent
. I seek neither your grace nor pity, Monsieur le Ministre, only justice.
This document of vital historic interest comes from the Dreyfus family, and contains all the elements of the Dreyfusards future struggle: the quest for justice, truth and the real culprit, and a request for access to the evidence the infamous bordereau containing French military secrets which he claims to be a fake. The letter reflects the distress of a man who toyed with then rejected the idea of suicide to fight to save his honour. It was returned to Dreyfus by prison authorities in 1900. During the German invasion of 1940, his grandson lodged it with the Bibliothèque Nationale to make sure it did not fall into Nazi hands; it was returned to the Dreyfus family after the war (est. 100,000-150,000 / 131.000-196.500).
19TH CENTURY FIRST EDITIONS & MANUSCRIPTS
The section devoted to the 19th century includes an ensemble of first editions and handwritten documents by such major authors as Paul Verlaine, with Les Mémoires dun Veuf (est. 8,000-12,000 / $10.500-15.700); Emile Zola, with the corrected proofs of Paris (est. 6,000-8,000 / $7.800-10.500); and two original drawings by Prosper Mérimée (est. 3,000-5,000 / $ 3.900-6.550 and 1,500-2,000 / $1.965-2.620).
The most eagerly awaited works, however, are likely to be four lots connected to François-René de Chateaubriand, two of them linked to his mythical Mémoires dOutre-Tombe: four unpublished chapters (est. 80,000-120,000 / $104.800-157.200); and the first contract for publishing the work (est. 20,000-30,000 / $26.200-39.300).
Manuscripts from the second half of the 19th century including the magnificent working manuscript (1870) for Le Bonheur dans le Crime, the third volume of Les Diaboliques, by Jules Barbey dAurevilly one of just three still in private hands (est. 60,000-80,000 / $78.600-104.800); and a letter of biting irony from Charles Baudelaire to Auguste Poulet-Malassis, publisher of Les Fleurs du Mal (est. 25,000-35,000 / $32.750-45.850).
MINKA & KARL-HANS STRAUSS COLLECTION
The sale also includes some 40 manuscripts from the Minka & Karl-Hans Strauss Collection, including letters from Claude Monet, Camille Pissarro, Paul Signac, Jean Cocteau, Raoul Dufy, Auguste Renoir and Auguste Rodin.
Minka & Karl-Hans Strauss were eclectic collectors with a passionate interest in theatre and music. Many musicians, writers, sculptors and artists visited the Strauss home at 22 Place Vendôme, invariably leaving a memento.
20TH CENTURY BOOKS & MANUSCRIPTS
One of the few copies on papier japon of La Prose du Transsibérien et la Petite Jehanne de France was offered by Blaise Cendrars to his childhood friend, the Swiss sculptor August Suter. La Prose du Transsibérien is today considered the most innovative and dazzling book of the 20th century: a modernist icon and pure work of art, combining poetry and painting. This perfect copy, with its original leather cover painted by Sonia Delaunay, is of remarkable freshness (est. 100,000-150,000 / $131.000-196.500).
Paul Eluards own copy of the album A Toute Epreuve published in 1930, containing expressive poems in his hallmark style, in a both magnificent and subtle Surrealist binding by Paul Bonet (est. 40,000-60,000 / $52.400-78.600). The sale also features the first illustrated edition of A Toute Epreuve (1958) with 80 engravings by Joan Miró, further enriched with a large original drawing (est. 60,000-80,000 / $78.600-104.800); and Fureur et Mystère (1948) complete with eleven handwritten poems by René Char (est. 30,000-50,000 / $39.300-65.500).
The sales illustrated modern books include Pierre de Ronsards Florilège des Amours, one of the initial print-run of twenty copies with 128 original lithographs by Henri Matisse, clad in a Paul Bonet binding (est. 45,000-50,000 / $58.950-65.500).