new auction season got off to a triumphant start as the sale of a unique 189-lot collection, staged in association with Binoche & Giquello, yielded 4.5 million ($6 million) against a total pre-sale estimate of 2.4-3.4 million ($3.3-4.6 million), making it one of the most successful sales of Books & Manuscripts ever held by Sothebys Paris.
The results of this magnificent sale, featuring many of the 20th centurys greatest artists, including Picasso, Matisse and Sonia and Robert Delaunay, underlined the collectors exceptional connoisseurship and taste.
In the words of sale expert Yves Lebouc of Bouquinerie de l'Institut: This library, with all its carefully chosen volumes, exceptional bindings and dedications from authors and great artists, is without doubt one of the finest collections of illustrated modern books to have appeared on the market in the last five years.
Auctioneer Alexandre Giquello declared it a real pleasure to direct a sale of such quality, uniting for the first time five of the earliest books ever illustrated by Picasso.
And Anne Heilbronn, Vice-President of Sothebys France and Head of the Books & Manuscripts Department, was thrilled by the record price for a unique copy of La Prose du Transsibérien, whose fresh colours and magical binding aroused tremendous enthusiasm among collectors.
It was indeed La Prose du Transsibérien de Blaise Cendrars (1913) which aroused the sales highest price of 312,750 /$418.234 (lot 38, estimate 40,000-60,000). This icon of 20th century publishing, illustrated by Sonia Delaunay, accompanied by its feuillet dannonce, and with a magnificent mosaic binding by Paul Bonet, exceeded the price obtained in November 2011 by Sothebys Paris for a rare copy on Japon dedicated to Abel Gance (288,750).
The market again confirmed the incredible appeal of Picasso to bibliophiles. The artist was at the heart of the collection with 32 books illustrated between 1905 and 1960. The most fiercely contested was Honoré de Balzacs Le Chef-duvre Inconnu (1931), containing 13 Picasso etchings and an extraordinary original ink drawing from 1944, signed by the artist. The copy also came with a handwritten dedication, signed and dated the same day, Pour Raymond Goulier son ami Picasso. Paris 26 juin 1944. Bidding surged past the 150,000 top-estimate to 186,750 / $249.737 (lot 143).
The collection included Les Poèmes by André Salmon, the book containing Picassos first book illustration in 1905, with a very rare initial proof for his etching Les 2 Saltimbanques. The copy offered for sale was one of just 25 copies (n°22), in large format, and on Hollande, with the authors monogram in ink, and one of the very few with a superb, original dry-point etching by Picasso on Japon of which only a dozen copies are known. Bidding soared to 168,750 / $225.666 (lot 131, est. 80,000-120,000).
Max Jacobs Le Cornet à Dés, published in 1917, containing the remarkable engraving LArlequin included solely in the first 14 copies, cleared its 120,000 top estimate on 156,750 / $209.619 (lot 134).
Other 20th century masters in the sale included Henri Matisse, with a moving album of preparatory drawings charting his creative process (1930), which climbed to 105,750 / $140.615 (est. 50,000-70,000); and Robert Delaunay, with his magnificent personal copy of Apollinaires Les Fenêtres (1912), with authors dedication and an original Robert Delaunay gouache (1925), that sold for 144,750 / $193.571 (lot 34, est. 40,000-60,000).
Illustration was not the only appeal of the collection. There were many wonderful bindings: Max Ernsts masterpiece Maximiliana (1964) in an elegant binding by Pierre-Lucien Martin, realized 84,750 / $113.334. This splendid edition is illustrated with 34 original coloured etchings by Max Ernst, six of them double-page plates (lot 59, est. 50,000-70,000).
Apollinaires Les Calligrammes, with a sumptuous black, grey and white boxwood binding designed by Leroux in 1988, fetched 82,350 /$110.125 (lot 31, est. 50,000-70,000). The book was illustrated by De Chirico in 1930, and this particular copy comes embellished with an original, signed drawing by him. Merchers sparkling 1960 black morocco binding for A Toute Epreuve by Paul Eluard, with alternating mosaic-work of different types of rare wood, and illustrated by 80 original coloured wood engravings by Joan Miró in 1958, yielded the sales second-highest price of 228,750 / $305.903 (lot 121, est. 40,000-60,000).