The auction of the fourth part of the R. & B.L. Library, a unique collection of 222 lots, reached a total of €3.5 million, making it one of the most important sales in the category. The highest bid was for an icon of the 20th century, LaProse du Transsibérien from Blaise Cendrars, illustrated by Sonia Delaunay in 1913, which reached a total of €253,500.
One of the most prestigious authors was Marcel Proust, who provided no fewer than eighteen exceptional lots. The most coveted of these was a valuable manuscript of the famous preface to Paul Morand‘s Tender Shoots dated 1920, which sold for €211,500. Finally, thirty-five lots from Guillaume Apollinaire were almost all sold; among them, Le Médaillon toujours fermé, consisting of seven handwritten poems bound by Paul Bonet, achieved €97,500.
After Antiquarian Books, Illustrated Modern Books and Art Nouveau/Art Deco Books, the fourth instalment of the Library of R. & B. L. will be devoted to the 20th century, and focus purely on literature: the works themselves, rid of all seductive accoutrements.
Illustrations, bindings, prologues – however brilliant – are deemed of secondary importance, if not superfluous, as the authors stride centre stage. The truth about their loves and friendships is evoked by the creative process – through letters, manuscripts and first editions… whether in de luxe format, embellished with apposite dedications, or bearing corrections revealing a work’s endless evolution.
The sale, in association with Binoche & Giquello, takes us on a 20th-century journey marked by writers of genius, from Apollinaire – indeed from Jarry – to Céline via Joyce, Proust, Gracq, Malraux and Cohen, ending with Sartre and Les Mots.
Dreamers and poets bequeath the trace of their versatile talents. Cocteau, Max Jacob, Larbaud, Prévert, Radiguet, Reverdy and Saint-John Perse parade beneath the unrivalled brilliance of Cendrars and his Transsibérien.
A new, exuberant spirit is encountered in short-lived literary reviews-cum-manifestos.
A whole world is opened up by words and drawings – by Cocteau, Oscar Dominguez, Malraux, Proust, Saint-Exupéry – and by the watercolours and calligrammes of Apollinaire. There are stimulating juxtapositions: Jarry with Gustave Kahn; Apollinaire with Marie Laurencin and Lou; Proust with Fernand Gregh, Anna de Noailles and Paul Morand; Saint-Exupéry with Consuelo; Cocteau with Stravinsky, Eluard, Hugnet and Soupault… Inter-connected destinies are brought to life by the slow waltz of dedications and the secrets enclosed in unpublished manuscripts.
From Apollinaire’s Alcools to the opium evoked by Ségalen, an “artificial paradise” spangles the lives of several generations of literary rebels.
The impeccable bindings of Paul Bonet, Martin or Miguet are by no means neglected, but do not overshadow their rare, luxuriously printed contents or the dedications which enhance them.