If Pierre Bergé could be summed up in a word "loyalty" would immediately spring to mind: loyalty to his friends; loyalty to his passions; loyalty, in short, to the young man from l’Ile d’Oléron who “went up to the capital” when he was eighteen. Likewise, loyalty to the arts he ardently venerated throughout his life – a mixture of music, painting and literature. His love of books is an integral part of this singular history. Having started out as an antiquarian book dealer, Pierre Bergé adopted the opinion of Montaigne (one of his favourite authors) about books: “They are the best ammunition I have found for this human journey.”
Since 2015, Pierre Bergé & associés, is association with Sotheby’s, have held 3 auctions dedicated to literature - among which, one was dedicated to the 19th Century and music.
Unrestricted by any specific category or time period, the fourth sale of Pierre Bergé's library perfectly demonstrates his eclectic taste. While the lion's share naturally goes to literature, other lots reflect his interest in botany, philosophy and politics. There are several major illustrated books – a surprising taste for this disciple of Flaubert, who refused any illustrations for his novels – and books linked with the places he remembered, printed in La Rochelle and Aix-en-Provence. His friends Jean Cocteau, Jean Giono and Bernard Buffet rub shoulders with companions from his personal adventures, like L'Encyclopédie anarchiste by Sébastien Faure, whose widow gave it to the young man before he left for Paris.
Through its variety and open-mindedness, this sale provides a journey through the history of books, where official and alternative thinkers, gardeners and novelists, militants and poets all mingle together. Le Propriétaire des choses, an illustrated mediaeval encyclopaedia printed in Lyon in the 15th century, is seen alongside a copy (still in its original vellum) of the first edition of Montaigne's Essais, and the ultra-famous copy of Du côté de chez Swann, the first ever printed on Japan paper, given by Marcel Proust to Lucien Daudet. The great Chroniques de France by Monstrelet printed on vellum and illuminated in the period prior to the seminal book on modern botany by Leonhart Fuchs published in 1542 (of which the coloured copy here once belonged to a friend of Montaigne, Jacques-Auguste de Thou), or two famous examples on fine paper of works by Flaubert: Madame Bovary (1857), with a dedication to Lamartine, and Salammbô (1863), offered as a gift to Berlioz. And there is a collection of autograph letters from Édouard Manet to his friend and first champion, Émile Zola, the autograph manuscript of Jean Genet's Pompes funèbres and a copy of the Grand Meaulnes given by Alain-Fournier to Charles Péguy a few months before the two friends were killed at the front.
A faithful companion who was overshadowed, however, by creators like Bernard Buffet, Yves Saint Laurent and Madison Cox, here Pierre Bergé gives shape to his own collection: exactly sixty years after the Trapèze collection that established Yves Saint Laurent, he invites the reader to a show that promises to be truly memorable.
The sale in association with Pierre Bergé & Associés will take place at Hôtel Drouot on 14 December.
Exhibition at Hôtel Drouot on 12 et 13 December
New York : 15-20 October
London : 9-12 November