In this seventh section, the R. and B. L. Library reveals its final splendours –in terms of books, at least, because they will be followed by various series of autograph letters from painters and musicians.
This part, the logical follow-up to the previous sale on 7 October 2017 devoted to first editions from the first half of the 19th century, presents writers from the second half of the century.
Based on the same principle as the previous sales mingling books and autograph documents, this one will lift the veil on outstanding volumes and highly precious autographs in a firework display of mutual envois, taking us into the very lives of writers and their elective affinities.
For example, Barbey d’Aurevilly gave his own copy, bound in his taste, to Louise Read; Baudelaire sent his Fleurs du mal to several journalist friends and Émile Augier, his Théophile Gautier to Leconte de l’Isle and his Wagner to Bracquemond. Meanwhile, Flaubert, of all his major works printed on fine paper, sent a copy of Salammbô to Théophile Gautier, another to Feydeau, and one of L’Éducation sentimentale to Jules Janin.
A firm eulogist of naturalism, Huysmans dedicated his À rebours on Holland paper to Célestin Borely, Marthe to Edmond de Goncourt and Certains to Léon Hennique. Maupassant dedicated Des vers to Émile Zola, and, among some of the rarest printed versions of his books, a named copy on Japan paper of Pierre et Jean to Marie Kahn, while Villiers de L’Isle-Adam gave his Ève future to Verlaine, and Mirbeau his Abbé Jules to Mallarmé.
We now jump to the end of the century, when poets were inspired by Symbolism.
And here we should pause before an extraordinary collection of Mallarmé's books, letters and photograph poems. These include Le Corbeau illustrated by Manet, L’Après-midi d’un faune given "to the wild, book-loving" Gauguin, photolithographs of Les Poésies, his talk on Villiers de L’Isle-Adam sent to Huysmans, another copy given to Berthe Morisot and Eugène Manet, and the autograph manuscript of the famous Tombeau d’Edgar Poe.
The "accursed poets" are just as brilliantly represented. Verlaine dedicated his Poèmes saturniens to Villiers de L’Isle-Adam and Alexandre Dumas, La Bonne chanson to Jean Moréas; also noteworthy are Les Fêtes galantes on China paper, La Bonne chanson on Holland paper in a mosaic binding by Noulhac, Les Amies with five autograph poems, the manuscripts of erotic poems published in Femmes and Parallèlement (one with drawings by the poet), and lastly that of the very famous poem on Rimbaud, Laeti et errabundi… Rimbaud himself, apart from his Illuminations on Japan paper, describes the physical and mental suffering caused by his amputation in five letters full of pathos to his sister Isabelle.
But in my view, four pieces stand out even more from this stunning collection: Les Amours jaunes by Tristan Corbière on daffodil-yellow paper; the "black diamond" of Isidore Ducasse, Comte de Lautréamont: the legendary Maldoror of 1869; Edmond de Goncourt's precious anthology devoted to obituaries of his brother Jules, containing letters of condolence from Hugo, Michelet, George Sand, Flaubert and others, and the extraordinary relic of Gérard de Nerval: the fragment of Aurélia found on the poet's body after he hung himself in Rue de la Vieille Lanterne.
In this way, this magisterial collection touches on the very lives of great creators of the late 19th century's rich and varied literature.