PARIS - On 28th of this month, Sotheby’s will join with French auctioneers Binoche et Giquello, for the sale of the Library of R. & B.L.

Journalist and art historian, Gilles Kraemer quizzed the legendary Parisian bookseller, Yves Lebouc and Anne Heibronn of Sotheby’s, about the modern illustrated books from this magnificent collection.

Gilles Kraemer: Who’s behind this library?

Yves Lebouc: A family of book enthusiasts, from whose collection of modern illustrated volumes we will offer 189 works, including a notebook of drawings by Matisse from 1930.

Anne Heilbronn: All these works were acquired with love and passion; that’s the charm of this collection. Each book has its particularity, a drawing, an envoi, a series or a binding.

Above: Yves Lebouc, Anne Heilbronn & Gilles Kraemer holding La Prose du Transsibérien.


Which artist dominates the sale?

A.H.: Picasso with 32 works, then Bonnard, Braque, Chagall, Delaunay. Dubuffet, Giacometti, Laurencin, Léger, Maillol, Masson, Matisse, Miró and Wols.

Y.L.: The sale has the first book that Picasso illustrated: Poèmes by André Salmon, 1905, one of 25 copies with the very rare dry point engraving “Les Deux Saltimbanques.” The author dedicated it to “Alfred, his cousin and his second cousins.”

Signatures can be said to give the book its soul. Which dedications are outstanding?

Y.L.: Certainly Le Chef d’Oeuvre Inconnu by Balzac, 1931, with etchings by Picasso. It has a full-page drawing and signature dated June 1944 from Picasso to Raymond Goulier, a token of his gratitude for winters in Paris. He sold the artist his coal!

A.H.: I would add Pablo Picasso et son oeuvre by Pierre Reverdy from1924. It’s full of reproductions of drawings and paintings by the artist, but also has a full-page drawing and the amazing note “drawn in the car for G. Hugnet, Picasso.” I love imagining him sketching in the car.

Gilles Kraemer contributes to Art & Métiers du Livre and Nouvelles de l’Estampe. He is the author of the Catalogue Raisonné de l’oeuvre gravé et lithographié de Armand Guillaumin.