Livres et Manuscrits is Sotheby’s Paris’ upcoming sale on February 8, 2017 that features a healthy mix of material. From rare autograph documents by French poet Arthur Rimbaud, to medical manuscripts, to a collection of artists’ letters, the sale, though varied in topics it covers, has a distinctly French air about it. The catalog is also only available in French, so having some ability to comprehend the language is recommended, though Google Translate works in a pinch [note: some names in Latin such as Paracelsus are written in French, i.e. Paracelsus is labelled Paracelse]. Livres et Manuscrits takes place at 2:30 pm CET and contains 148 lots.
Beginning with medical manuscripts from the library of Jean Blondelet that includes rare first editions of Ambroise Paré, Girolamo Fabrici, Paracelsus, and Girolamo Cardan, early medicine, anatomy, and surgery are well represented in the sale. The selections available would be equally at home as the foundation of a new medical collection or as additions to an existing one. In addition to the manuscripts, a selection of illustrated scientific books from the 16th to 18th centuries, botanic and zoological works, 18th-century literature and Napoleonica are also being offered.
Undoubtedly the biggestdeal of the sale is material by Arthur Rimbaud, the poet recognized for his influence on modern literature and arts as well as his contributions to Symbolism. Two unique items headline the high estimates. Material of Rimbaud’s particularly scarce, as his creative period lasted a mere five years and ended at the unripe age of twenty-one. Lot 88 is an autograph manuscript of La Rivere de Cassis that belonged to Paul Verlaine, another very famous French poet, with whom Rimbaud was romantically involved. The document being auctioned is also the only autograph manuscript copy of the poem in private hands. After a long and complicated history, it’s and only appearance for sale was in 1996. It’s availability on February 8th marks the second time it will be on the public market. As one might expect, rarity of this magnitude does not come cheaply. Lot 88 carries an estimate of 200,000 – 300,000€.
Two lots preceding (lot 86) is another work done in Rimbaud’s own hand, this time a set of seven drawings on two pages done at the age of ten in 1865, being a comic entitled Plaisirs du Jeune Âge [Pleasures of Youth] representing the universe of a child his age. These two pages originate from a notebook later called Cahier de dix ans, of which eight pages survive today. These drawings have been sold twice, once in 1992 to the Musée-bibliothèque Arthur-Rimbaud de Charleville-Mézières, and in 2007 to Pierre Bergé. Lot 86 is estimated at 100,000 – 150,000€.
The auction also features letters by well known artists such as Ensor, Jaguer, Jorn, Pissarro, Redon, and Signac; original drawings by Picasso, Bellmer, and Saint-Exupéry; manuscripts by musicians like Berlioz and Liszt. Finally, a selection of illustrated books and drawings by Louise Bourgeois, Buren, Dubuffet, Klimt, Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Miró, Staël, and Vieira da Silva close out the sale.
Livres et Manuscrits strikes a nice balance of scientific, literary, and artistic material. The entire catalog is viewable online on Sotheby’s website. Bidding will be available in expected formats: live, absentee, telephone, and online. Registration with Sotheby’s is required.
Exhibition times in Paris are as follows:
Fri, 03 Feb 17 | 10:00 am - 06:00 pm CET
Sat, 04 Feb 17 | 02:00 pm - 06:00 pm CET
Mon, 06 Feb 17 | 10:00 am - 06:00 pm CET
Tue, 07 Feb 17 | 10:00 a - 06:00 pm CET