BOOK HIT: It was a success for the rare book auction sale that ended at Paris’ auction house Hôtel Drouot Friday night, as the first of Pierre Bergé’s private library’s series of sales brought the total to 11.7 million euros, or $12.8 million at current exchange. The estimate was that it would raise about 8 million euros, or $8.8 million.
The next sale — dedicated to 19th-century literature — is set to take place on June 16. Five subsequent sales are to follow.
The room was packed with about 250 people including book dealers, collectors, television reporters and gawkers, dozens of whom were standing in the back as well as watching on screens outside the room during the three-hour-long sale.
Applause was heard when a drawing by Victor Hugo was sold for 470,000 euros, or $515,971, almost 10 times its original estimate, and when André Breton’s “L’Air de l’eau” featuring sketches by Alberto Giacometti, went for 340,000 euros, or $373,255.
The sale, which was organized by Pierre Bergé & Associés in association with Sotheby’s, had 188 lots spanning 600 years, including works in their original languages by Leo Tolstoy, Fyodor Dostoyevsky, William Shakespeare, James Joyce, Franz Kafka and Gertrude Stein.
Six lots were withdrawn from the auction, including André Breton’s “Nadja,” which was acquired by Bibliothèque Nationale de France; Chamfort’s “Maxims” that belonged to the 19th-century French writer known as Stendhal and that Bergé gave to a public library, and “Requiem” by Jean Cocteau, containing a personal dedication to Bergé. Bergé decided to keep it for himself.
“Vive Baudelaire!” exclaimed Jean-Claude Vrain, a rare books dealer on Rue Saint-Sulpice in Paris, after he snatched the poet’s collection “Les Fleurs du Mal,” following a long bid.
“It’s a historic sale. Results are historic. It’s a nice tribute to Pierre Bergé’s choices who has been collecting books with passion and discernment,” said Benoît Puttemans, Sotheby’s deputy director after the auction.
Puttemans confided that he had never seen such a turnout for a book auction. “But the collection is extraordinary,” he added.
“I am very moved,” said Jean-Baptiste de Proyart, a book dealer who bought Louise Labbé’s “Euvres,” dating to 1555 for 430,000 euros, or $472,058. “It’s extremely rare, a vellum copy, plus it has the ex libris of Pierre Bergé,” Proyart said.
“It was fun. There was a good ambience,” said auctioneer Antoine Godeau. “Everybody was here. All the big collectors were here.”
Bergé wasn’t in the room during the sale, but came after it ended. He greeted experts and buyers.
“If you ever want to sell ‘Madame Bovary,’ I’ll buy it back from you,” Bergé told Vrain with a smile, referring to the original edition of his favorite author, Gustave Flaubert’s, novel. Vrain acquired it for 368,000 euros, or $403,994
“It’s worth much more,” Bergé told WWD. “Overall, it was a success. I am very pleased.”