pierre berge
Books & Manuscripts

Pierre Bergé's Literary Legacy, from Proust to Jean Cocteau

By Sotheby's

I f one had to define Pierre Bergé in a word, loyalty would naturally suit: loyalty to his friends as well as to his commitments, loyalty to his passions, loyalty, in essence, to the young man from Oléron who left for the big city at the age of 18; a loyalty also to the arts, a passion to which he devoted himself throughout his life – a blend of music, painting and literature.

pierre berge
Pierre Bergé © Pascal Chevalier

It is here that the singular story of the bibliophile has its roots. Starting out as a rare book scout, Pierre Bergé adopted his motto from one of his favourite authors, Montaigne: "It is the best viaticum I have yet found out for this human journey."

Since December 2015, three auctions have already been held, organised by Pierre Bergé & Associés, in association with Sotheby’s. These were devoted to literature of the 19th century, and music. Free of any particular specialism or chronological order, part IV of the sale of the Pierre Bergé library offers an exceptional selection of books that echo the many facets of the collector’s passions. If the lion’s share of this stunning array is comprised of literature, other domains recall the collector’s love for botany and gardens, philosophy, or of his tireless activism.

Also here, are several important illustrated books – a somewhat surprising penchant for this disciple of Flaubert, who had always refused that his novels be illustrated – as well as works related to places of personal history; printed in La Rochelle or in Aix-en-Provence. His friends – Jean Cocteau, Jean Giono and Bernard Buffet stand alongside those who bear witness to his personal journey, such as L’Encyclopédie anarchiste by Sébastien Faure, whose widow gifted it to the young man before his departure to Paris.

In its diversity and open-mindedness, this sale is a call to embark on a journey through the history of books where one discovers, side by side, representatives of the establishment and anti-establishment, gardeners and novelists, activists and poets. Le Propriétaire des Choses, an illustrated medieval encyclopaedia printed in Lyon in the 15th century, sits next to a superb copy preserved in its original vellum binding of the first edition of Montaigne’s Essais (1580); or, the most renowned copy among all others of the first edition of Du côté de chez Swann, the number 1 on Japan paper which Marcel Proust gifted to his close friend and former lover Lucien Daudet.

Also included is an illuminated copy of the Chroniques by Monstrelet, printed on parchment, which predates the founding book of modern botany by Leonhart Fuchs published in 1542: the remarkable hand-coloured copy of the latter belonged to Jacques-Auguste de Thou, a friend of Montaigne.

Further to behold, two celebrated novels by Flaubert, both on large paper: Madame Bovary (1857) inscribed to the poet Lamartine and Salammbô (1863) gifted to the composer Hector Berlioz, and a collection of autograph letters by Édouard Manet addressed to his friend and first champion Émile Zola.

Loyal companion in the shadow of creators – of Bernard Buffet, Yves Saint Laurent or of Madison Cox, here, Pierre Bergé has produced his own show on paper: precisely sixty years after the Trapèze collection which would launch Yves Saint Laurent’s career, Bergé the committed and loyal bibliophile invites fellow book lovers to his own parade.

Auction in association with Pierre Bergé & Associés.

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