H ubert Heilbronn has always been a bibliophile. He purchased his first book in 1944, a beautiful 19th-century edition of Les Trois Mousquetaires, when he was just 13 years old.
He acquired his first "real book", Une saison en enfer, in the early 1960s. That copy has been in his possession ever since, and many other books have joined it in the intervening years.
An avid reader, Hubert Heilbronn is also a fine connoisseur of the literary world in which his favourite authors evolved. Reading these inscriptions about friendship, romance or of literary nature, we see the history of literature unfolding: friendships and rivalries between romantics or surrealists authors; a world that revolved around such figures as Stendhal and Apollinaire; the admiration that Proust had for Henri de Régnier, etc.
Several works from the collection stand out for their prestigious provenance. Royal, princely or imperial coats of arms are the most striking marks of provenance; but sometimes even simple signatures - such as that of the mayor of Strasbourg on a copy of the Constitution on vellum, or of Edmond de Goncourt on a work by Daudet – add prestige to particular texts.
Several works preserved "as issued" stand side by side with copies in contemporary bindings, such as the edition of Sade in its binding of black calf, a Stendhal in its original cardboard cover, and several others that were Japanese-inspired. A man of his time, Hubert Heilbronn also commissioned masterful bindings to contemporary bookbinders such as Jean de Gonet, Philippe Fié, Sün Evrard and Alain Taral.
While manuscripts refer to handwritten works of the writers, letters allow us to enter the intimacy of their daily lives: some are political, such as the letters from Hugo to Schoelcher; some amorous, such as those to Juliette Drouet, Apollinaire to Lou, or Marie Dorval to Vigny; some are fragments of the correspondence between friends, such as those from Mérimée to Stendhal, or of literary nature, such as the letters from Proust to his editors and critics.