With a total of €1.7 million, the sale of books and manuscripts staged by Sotheby’s in Paris was a resounding success, as witness the percentage of lots sold: 80 % by number of lots and 87 % by value – a record rate for the book market in France, stalwartly maintained by Sotheby’s in an ultra-competitive market.
The five events most eagerly awaited in this unique sale concerned Proust, Sade, Piranesi, Les Droits de l’Homme (Declaration of the Rights of Man) of 1793 and Saint-Exupéry, which inspired some impressive bidding battles in a packed room.
The first event was the sale of one of five very rare copies of Marcel Proust's Du côté de chez Swann (Swann’s Way) on Japanese paper. Leading bibliophiles fought for this Proustian Holy Grail all the way up to over half a million euros (lot 151, €535,500).
From incunabula to avant-garde artist books, this sale includes 15th and 16th-century French and Italian books (Boccaccio, Ameto, 1479; Bruto, Contra Judeos, 1489; Platea, the first book about money lending, in 1472, the Suidas encyclopedia of 1499, the first Parisian edition of Montaigne’s Essays, 1587…), scientific rarities (Archimedes 1565, Euler 1736, Fourier 1808…) and 18th-century neo-classical French and English bindings in perfect condition. The Modern lots feature books by Picasso and Miró, unpublished manuscripts by Sade, as well as rare books by Marcel Broodthaers.
Three masterpieces offered for sale are a unique monumental poster of the Déclaration des droits de l’homme printed in 1793, an exceptional copy of Piranesi’s Vedute di Roma, bound before 1780, with 107 plates – most of them first state impressions, and Louis Brun’s extraordinary editor copy of Du côté de chez Swann, one of 5 copies on Japan paper, inscribed to him by Proust, with letters and manuscripts.