Expert Voices: Jean-Baptiste de Proyart on The Ortiz Collection

Paris | 14 December 2022

Brilliant diplomat serving his country, Bolivia, Jorge Ortiz Linares was ambassador in Paris. He married Graciela Patino (1895-1980), third child of Simon Patino (1860-1947), the famous "king of tin". His long embassy in Paris left its mark on the elegant circles of the capital. Their mansion at 34 Avenue Foch was one of the centers of artistic and social life. Jorge Ortiz Linares, a collector with a passion for rare books and manuscripts since his youth, organized his library around two axes: his original Spanish-South American world with rare copies of Cervantes and Goya, and French literature with rare editions of Guillaume de Lorris, Corneille, Descartes, Pascal, Racine, Molière and La Rochefoucauld. These precious books, which have disappeared for so long, are appearing again on the market for the great pleasure of bibliophiles and amateurs.

Jean-Baptiste de Proyart, bookseller and expert: "There are days that in the history of a life are marked with a golden line. On December 21, 1936, Jorge Ortiz Linares bought some mythical books from Maggs, three Cervantes: the two parts of Don Quixote printed by Juan de la Cuesta, in uniform English bindings of the eighteenth century, and the extraordinarily rare Novelas in their first edition of 1613, bound for the Abbé Bignon - no less than the Director of the Library of Louis XIV."

These books may only look like "old" books, a bit shriveled. But the editions are so rare that collectors, amateurs, experts and booksellers know that these copies will only pass through their hands once in a lifetime. These texts belong to what Goethe called in 1827 the Weltliteratur, i.e. works that everyone knows, that everyone lives, that everyone has heard of. It is known, for example, that shipments of Cervantes arrived in South America in the first months of 1605.

According to his son George Ortiz, Jorge Ortiz Linares, at the age of 40, entered the famous Maggs bookstore in London where the experts were in their jackets. He met one of them. Jorge said to him: "I would like to buy great copies of Don Quixote". The expert, with his English phlegm, said to him: "these are very rare books, Sir, we sold a copy some years ago", referring to those in the Spanish catalog.

A few years later, the phone rang in the huge mansion at 34 Avenue Foch. It was Maggs, and the same voice according to George Ortiz's account - who knew how to add to it. His father picked up the phone: "We have a copy for you, Sir." Jorge Ortiz Linares flew across the Channel and bought the books on December 21, 1936. A great collection was born, to our great joy today.

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