On 15 October 2015, Sotheby’s offered at auction the unique library of Stéphane Mallarmé, bequeathed to his beloved daughter in 1898. As Benoît Puttemans, specialist in the books and manuscripts department, explains: “this was an extraordinary library, and the results were extraordinary as well. The sale of this marvellous collection, which has remained in private hands for 120 years, and came from one of France’s greatest poets, was one of the most exciting literary events of the past few years.”
This immersion in the private world of a brilliant writer conquered many hearts from private collector Marcel Brient to the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the Paul Valéry Museum. Competition for the 283 lots drove the final result to €4,456,651 exceeding the pre-sale estimate of €1.9 to €2.8 million, with 89% of lots sold and 98% by value.
The sale’s top lots were the various stages of the manuscript and printed versions of Mallarmé’s legendary poem Un Coup de Dés jamais n’abolira le Hasard, from the first rough draft manuscript right through to the 1914 first edition. This group of five lots illustrating the poet’s fascinating creative process fetched €1,158,000. The autograph notes, sketches and drafts of Un coup de dés, published in 1897, were bought for €62,500 by the Bibliothèque Nationale de France and the autograph manuscript of the poem was bought by Marcel Brient for €963,000 to resounding applause after a lengthy bidding battle between collectors in the room.
Other lots were also highly sought-after. Such as Mallarmé’s exceptional and unique copy of Les Fleurs du Mal by Charles Baudelaire from 1861, which sold for €363,000, Edgar Allan Poe’s poem Le Corbeau (The Raven) translated by Mallarmé, illustrated by Manet and sold to the Bibliothèque nationale de France for €195,000, as well as his short poem written on a pebble found in Honfleur which soared to €77,400 , far above its estimate.
When Stéphane Mallarmé died in 1898, his library and archives stayed in the hands of his beloved daughter, Geneviève. This is the provenance of the books and manuscripts in this sale, an incredibly rich literary estate.
The auction presents a comprehensive synopsis of Mallarmé’s oeuvre: his most valuable works (Geneviève’s copy of L’Après-midi d’un faune on Japan; Mallarmé’s translation of Edgar Allan Poe’s The Raven illustrated with lithographs by Manet; the legendary magazine La Dernière Mode, entirely written by Mallarmé in 1874; and his Préface à Vathek), the letters he wrote (to Deman, Beardsley, Huysmans, Berthe Morisot and Verlaine) or received (Valery, Manet, Whistler and Wilde), photographs (including the famous portrait of Mallarmé and Renoir by Degas), many books his contemporaries sent him (Gide, Huysmans, Leconte de L'Isle, Louÿs, Schwob, Moréas, Verlaine, Zola) and some books from his personal library, such as Les Fleurs du Mal by Baudelaire, whose condemned poetry was recopied by Mallarmé in the 1861 edition.
The highlights of this collection are perhaps the manuscript of Un coup de dés jamais n’abolira le hasard (24 p.) and manuscripts from his youth, including a translation of Poe's poems.
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|14||Enveloppe manquante. Envelope missing.|
|36||Couverture manquante. Cover missing.|
|46||Les deux gravures sont vendues sans leur cadre. The two prints are sold without their frame.|
|104||Les pages 121-128, manquantes, ont été calligraphiées par Henry Charpentier. Nouvelle estimation : 600 à 800 euros. Pages 121 - 128 are missing and have been calligraphed by Henry Charpentier. New estimate : 600 to 800 euros.|
|111||L'ex-libris n'est pas aquarellé. The book plate is not watercolored.|
|113||Petite déchirure marginale de 2 cm dans l'angle supérieur droit du premier plat de la couverture. Tear (2 cm) to the margin in the top right corner of the cover.|
|130||Billet cartonné manquant. Nouvelle estimation : 400/600 euros Letter missing. New estimate : 400/600 euros.|
|152||Très riche tirage avec oxydation surtout sur les bords (35 mm sur les 3 parties inferieures et 25 mm sur le haut), avec petits manques superficiels d'environ 5 mm chacun dans l'angle inférieur droit, dans l'angle supérieur gauche et dans le quart supérieur gauche. The print is very rich and has a matte surface. With silvering along at c. 3,5 cm along the edges; with small losses of the gelatin layer in the lower right corner and in the upper left quadrant.The card with light foxing mainly on the reverse. In its orginal mount and frame.|
|160||Une demande de "Certificat pour bien culturel" a été déposée pour ce lot. Cette demande sera examinée en Commission Consultative des Trésors Nationaux le 21 octobre 2015. S'il est classé "Trésor National", ce lot devra rester en France. An application for a french certificate has been submitted for this lot. This application will be reviewed by the French Consultative Commission on National Treasures on the 21th of October 2015. Should this lot be classified as a "National Treasure", it will have to remain in France.|
|163||Une demande de "Certificat pour bien culturel" a été déposée pour ce lot. Cette demande sera examinée en Commission Consultative des Trésors Nationaux le 21 octobre 2015. S'il est classé "Trésor National", ce lot devra rester en France. An application for a french certificate has been submitted for this lot. This application will be reviewed by the French Consultative Commission on National Treasures on the 21th of October 2015. Should this lot be classified as a "National Tresory", it will have to remain in France.|
|186||Ce lot comprend 6 éditions illustrées modernes et non pas 7.Le livre de Charpentier "Gloses" n'est pas dans ce lot mais fait partie du lot 189. This lot comprises 6 modern illustrated editions and not 7. Charpenbtier "gloses" is not included in this lot but in lot 189.|
|249||This Lot has been withdrawn from the sale.|