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Ensemble of historic documents, books, letters and poems featured at Sotheby's sale Books & Manuscripts
Guillaume Apollinaire: Books, Letters & Manuscripts dating from World War I. Photo: Sotheby's.

PARIS.- The 184-lot sale of Books & Manuscripts to be held at Sotheby’s Paris on 15 May 2012 includes an ensemble of historic documents, books, letters and poems concerning two great names of French poetry: Paul Verlaine and Guillaume Apollinaire. Other giants of French literature present in the auction include Montesquieu, Voltaire, Balzac, Baudelaire, Flaubert and Victor Hugo, alongside drawings (by Victor Hugo), photographs (a unicum of Verlaine by Carjat), or one the masters of world cinema (91 coloured drawings by Orson Welles).

Guillaume Apollinaire: Books, Letters & Manuscripts from World War I
46 signed letters to André Level, his parrain de guerre and a celebrated collector and patron, help chart the course of Apollinaire’s military career, and his changes of rank, prior to the moment when he was famously wounded in March 1916 (est. €150,000-250,000 / $195,000-325,000).

Another Apollinaire highlight is one of the 25 printed copies of Case d’Armons, an album of 21 poems he conceived and printed in aid of the gunners in his battery in May 1915. The 25 copies were printed to order on behalf of his friends, and only 20 are known today (est. €100,000-150,000 / $130,000-195,000).

There will also be offered two signed, autograph letters from Apollinaire to Lou (est. €10,000-15,000 / $13,000-19,500 each); and the autograph manuscript for La Ceinture, a poem written the day after his break-up with Lou – an event that precipitated his departure for the front (est. €3,000-4,000 / $4,000-6,000).

Other works by Apollinaire includes a first edition of Le Bestiaire ou Le Cortège d’Orphée illustrated by Raoul Dufy, inscribed to André Level (est. €25,000-35,000 / $35,000-45,000).

Paul Verlaine: Historic Documents, Letters & Poems
The sale also includes the only known original print of the photographic portrait of Verlaine taken by Carjat around 1870, and offered by Verlaine to his violinist friend Ernest Boutier. The portrait dates from just after Verlaine’s meeting with Rimbaud, and was formerly in the Henri Matarasso Collection (est. €20,000-30,000 /$25,000-40,000).

The dossier containing documents pertaining to Verlaine’s divorce from Mathilde Mauté reveals details about the tumultuous relationship between the poet and his wife. Verlaine, ravaged by drink, separated from Mathilde two years after their wedding, following Rimbaud’s arrival (est. €10,000-15,000 / $13,000-19,500).

Another fascinating document is the letter Verlaine received in December 1866 from Stéphane Mallarmé – then just as little-known as Verlaine himself – extolling his first printed collection of poems, Les Poèmes Saturniens (est. €12,000-18,000 / $15,000-24,000).

Manuscripts & Antiquarian Books
The sale contains a superb ensemble of manuscripts and magnificently bound antiquarian dating from the Ancien Régime and French Revolution – among them Theatrum Orbis Terrarum (1584) by Abraham Ortelius, a monumental work in terms of its scope and precision, and one of the most extraordinary documents in the history of map-making (est. €50,000-70,000 / 65,000-90,000).

The royal collection of prints was enriched between 1664 and 1689 with commissioned engravings, charting the reign of Louis XIV as it unfolded. Examples available here include a rare suite of engraved Poussin landscapes from Louis XIV’s sumptuous Cabinet du Roi (est. €12,000-18,000 / $15,000-24,000); and two volumes, with their original red morocco bindings, describing the festivities staged in Paris for the weddings of Louis XV’s children (est. €3,000-5,000 / $4,000-6,500 and €8,000-10,000 / $10,000-13,000).

Manuscripts include an annotated and corrected draft for La Description de l’Arabie au temps de Mahomet by Henri de Boulainvilliers (before 1730), a rare study text about Arabia in the time of Mohammed that would prove a valuable source of information for Enlightenment philosophers, notably inspiring Voltaire’s controversial Mahomet (est. €18,000-25,000 / $23,000-32,000). Linked to the same Turkish theme is one of the few known letters by Tournefort, written from Constantinople (est. €6,000-8,000 / $8,000-10,000).

A 1748 first edition of Montesquieu’s revolutionary work De l’Esprit des Lois comes with its original binding (est. €18,000-22,000 / $23,000-28,000); and a copy of Voltaire’s Complete Works (1785-89) has a superb green long-grain morocco binding (est. €18,000-25,000 / $23,000-32,000). Of great archival significance is a series of charts, maps and handwritten documents by Naval Inspector Duhamel du Monceau (c.1743-50), evoking the enlarging of the port of Le Havre and the building of new military ports along France’s Channel coast during the reign of Louis XV (est. €25,000-35,000 / $35,000-45,000).

Manuscripts dating from the French Revolution include a watercolour engraving of the ground-plan of the Bastille by Pierre-François Palloy, dedicated to Gilbert Romme (est. €3,000-5,000 / $4,000-6,500); an autograph letter from Manon Roland to Albert Gosse on the subject of English democracy (est. €5,000-7,000 / $6,500-9,000); and letters from La Fayette, Robespierre, Drouet, Abbé Grégoire and Rouget de Lisle.

19th & 20th Century Books & Manuscripts
A number of leading French 19th century authors will be represented, with highlights including: a copy of Balzac’s Etudes de Moeurs au XIXe Siècle, enriched with nine pages of proofs corrected in Balzac’s own hand (est. €15,000-20,000 / $20,000-26,000); an 1847 autograph letter from Charles Baudelaire to his mother (est. €8,000-12,000 / $10,000-15,000); a letter from Barbey d’Aurevilly, expressing his support for Baudelaire at the time of his Fleurs du Mal trial (est. €4,000-6,000 / $5,000-8,000); an autograph letter from Gustave Flaubert to Louise Colet about the publication of La Paysanne in 1853 (est. €12,000-18,000 / $15,000-24,000); and an original brown ink wash drawing of pyramids (c.1864-69) by Victor Hugo (est. €15,000-20,000 / $20,000-26,000).

Illustrated modern books include two autograph letters including 8 original drawings by Salvador and Gala Dali about the project of a ballet with the dancer Léonid Massine, c. 1941-1942 (est. €30,000-40,000 / $40,000-52,000) and the first catalogue of the works of Gustave Klimt published by the Imperial Printing House in 1918 (est. €20,000-30,000 / $26,000-40,000).

The sale concludes with an extraordinary folder containing notes and 91 coloured sketches by Orson Welles for his film The Trial – initial thoughts and ideas for the futuristic, innovative and at times nightmarish sets to serveas backcloths to scenes involving K. (Anthony Perkins), Leni (Romy Schneider) and the lawyer (Orson Welles himself). Welles presented the folder to his “good friend” Jean Mandaroux, “the very best of all cinema architects” (est. €30,000-50,000 / $40,000-65,000).

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