Literature and Writers
Chronology : 1460-1479 1620-1629 1946 2007
1315-1323 The Illuminated Graal
2010 SOLD 2.4 M£ inluding premium
But the Saint Graal (Holy Grail) is still better than any other secular theme. This search for truth brings into action the kings, the knights, with the morals of that time that included the courtly love. The strength of this first real novel in Western literature is precisely the fact that without contradicting the Bible it does not imitate it in any way.
The manuscript in French bound in three volumes which is for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 7 has been copied and illuminated in Flanders or Artois between 1315 and 1323. This specimen is known as the Rochefoucauld Grail assuming that it was done at the request of the head of this very ancient aristocratic family.
Well studied by medievalists, this beautiful book is illustrated with more than 100 miniatures and nearly 100 large initials. One of its miniatures adorns the press release shared by Artdaily. It is in large format, 405 x 295 mm. Somebody calculated that it took 200 cows to supply its 450 vellum leaves. It is estimated £ 1.5 M.
POST SALE COMMENT
Ancient manuscripts are sometimes difficult to sell. We therefore welcome the success of this one at £ 2.4 million including premium, in the region of the higher estimate.
1464 The Romance of the Bigamist Knight
2012 SOLD 3.85 M£ including premium
At the end of the Hundred Years' War, the Duke of Burgundy Philip the Good maintains a prestigious court and is a patron of arts and literature. The prose novel Gillion de Trazegnies, composed at that time by an anonymous writer, is an amazing example of the revival of the courtly romance, with all the features of this literary genre.
The Trazegnies family actually existed in Hainaut, and the legend of the bigamist knight was told a long time before the writing of the novel. The reader is made weeping with this story of a pilgrim to the Holy Land who becomes a prisoner, believes that his wife is dead, becomes unintentionally a bigamist and is released of this accidental sin by his chevaleresque attitude.
This novel was published last year by the medievalist Stéphanie Vincent, who had access to the five copies in illuminated manuscripts of the original edition, all made for the Duke and his entourage.
Louis de Gruuthuse, stadtholder of Holland and Zeeland, was one of the five privileged who received such a copy, illuminated in 1464 with 8 large and 44 small images. Then it belonged to Francis I king of France and to the Dukes of Devonshire. It is estimated £ 3M, for sale by Sotheby's in London on December 5.
The illuminated page where you see the narrator discovering the heart of Gillion between the graves of his two wives is shown in the press release shared by Artdaily.
POST SALE COMMENT
This outstanding manuscript illuminated in Antwerp or Bruges was sold £ 3.85M including premium.
I invite you to play the video shared by Sotheby's introducing both this romance and the Mystère de la Vengeance already discussed in this group :
1477 The Canterbury Tales printed by Caxton
1998 SOLD for £ 4.6M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
He is a very important promoter of English literature, himself making numerous translations of secular texts. He understands the cultural incentive of the printing press during a visit to Cologne in 1471. He immediately transfers a printing press to Bruges. Translated from French by Caxton and printed in Flanders in 1473, the Recuyell of the Historyes of Troye is the very first incunabula in the English language. A copy was sold for £ 1.08M including premium by Sotheby's on July 15, 2014.
When Caxton returned to London in 1476, his new expertise was eagerly awaited. He instals a printing press in Westminster, the first of its kind in England.
His passion for English literature is heightened by this possibility of dissemination. He is a great admirer of Chaucer, which he publishes without resorting to sponsors. Chaucer's masterpiece, The Canterbury Tales, becomes in 1477 the first masterpiece of English printing. This achievement is all the more meritorious as Caxton later complained of the poor literary quality of the manuscript at his disposal.
About ten copies of this original edition have survived, plus three important fragments. The only complete copy, which had belonged to King George III, is in the British Library. The illuminated copy kept in Oxford has been completed.
On 8 July 1998 at lot 2, Christie's sold for £ 4.6M including premium the only copy in private hands, which is also one of the most complete with only 4 lacking leaves.
1623 Malone on Shakespeare
2020 SOLD for $ 10M including premium
Shakespeare is the greatest success in English literature and editions are multiplying. Garrick puts Shakespeare still higher in fashion and Edmond Malone devotes his life to the study of his work. Malone proposes in 1778 a chronology of the plays, observes the literary greatness of the First Folio and has a new edition published in 1790.
The production run of the First Folio is estimated at around 750 copies, of which less than one third survive today. 56 copies complete of their 454 leaves are known, of which only 5 are in private hands. One of them was sold for $ 6.2M including premium by Christie's on October 8, 2001.
On October 14 in New York, Christie's sells another complete copy, lot 12 estimated $ 4M.
In 1809 its owner had submitted it to Malone's appreciation just before having it bound. The expert's autograph letter is joined to the volume. Malone found it to be a fine, genuine copy of the First Folio. A few small repairs will be carried out according to his recommendations. This copy has retained the cleanliness observed by Malone more than 200 years ago.
Only five complete copies of the 'First Folio' remain in private hands, and on 24 April in #NewYork, Christie’s will offer the first complete copy to come on the market in almost two decades during our #ExceptionalSale. https://t.co/orNUeX30H0 pic.twitter.com/k90SszIXD0— Christie's (@ChristiesInc) February 25, 2020
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2001 SOLD for $ 6.2M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
John Heminges and Henry Condell, who own overall half of the shares of the Globe Theatre, judiciously decide to reconstruct with the best possible accuracy the whole of Shakespeare's dramatic work. They know 36 plays of which 18 had never been published. They will have to buy back the publishing rights to some plays and to find the partial manuscripts that had been entrusted to the actors to perform their own role.
The print is luxurious, in relation to the literary magnificence of the work. What would later be called the First Folio is a superb volume of 454 leaves 32 x 21 cm, printed in 1623 by Jaggard and Blount.
On October 8, 2001, Christie's sold a copy of the First Folio for $ 6.2M including premium, lot 100. It is complete and is considered in the catalog as one of the two finest copies in private hands.
1623 Shakespeare's First Folio
2006 SOLD for £ 2.8M including premium by Sotheby's
1623 The Quadricentennial of Shakespeare's Death
2016 SOLD for £ 1.87M including premium
The First Folio, published in 1623, is of utmost importance in the history of literature since it is the first edition for 18 of the 36 collected plays. It is a beautiful edition 30 x 20 cm for which the texts have been prepared with great care. A complete copy in splendid condition was sold for $ 6.2 million including premium by Christie's on 8 October 2001 over a lower estimate of $ 2M.
The example offered in the next sale was not yet known to scholars. It is resurfacing from the descendance of a prominent bibliophile who was also a scientist of the Enlightenment. Untouched for two centuries, the book has kept a remarkably fresh condition but the nine preamble leaves are missing and several repairs are announced in the catalog. It is estimated £ 800K, lot 101.
The Second Folio, published for the first time in 1632, is very close to the First Folio with respect to the Shakespearean corpus and the bibliophile had perhaps not desired to own it. The copy for sale atlot 102, printed circa 1641, comes from another source. It is estimated £ 180K.
The other two books were in the same collection as lot 101. The Third Folio was published in 1664. This copy in an exceptionally fresh preservation is estimated £ 300K, lot 103. This edition is very rare. At lot 104 the Fourth Folio, dated 1685, is estimated £ 15K.
RESULTS INCLUDING PREMIUM :
First Folio : £ 1.87M
Second Folio : £ 195K
Third Folio : £ 360K
Fourth Folio : £ 47K
I invite you to watch the video shared by Christie's to introduce the First Folio of the next sale:
1924 Automatic Writing
2008 SOLD for € 1.9M including premium by Sotheby's
Automatic writing becomes a literary genre in 1919 with Breton, Soupault and their friends. It is a matter of recording in high speed the words released by the subconscious. A half-sleep or a hypnotic condition favors the process by erasing logics, will and purpose.
These young experimenters create the magazine Littérature and highlight their precursors : Dostoevski, Lautréamont. Their common point is the rejection of classical literature and especially of the novel. For the rest, despite Breton's ambition, the group's cohesion is an illusion. Have they ever questioned why readers outside their small circle could be interested in the irrational text from their subconscious ?
They had been close to Dada that vanished for the same reason. They do not have the monopoly of publishing : when Joyce's Ulysses is released in Paris in 1922, this use of the stream of consciousness in the production of a novel baffles Breton. To avoid being for or against, he does not read it.
In the spring of 1924 Breton is seized with a frenzy of automatic writing. He prepares about a hundred "historiettes" on school notebooks and plans to put together a selection in a book titled Poisson Soluble. At that point Breton finally considers that a theoretical introduction will restrain the hostile comments of the critics. During the summer he prepares a Préface for Poisson Soluble under the aggressive title Manifeste du Surréalisme. He finishes in September the copying of the 31 stories of the Poisson Soluble.
The desire for a cohesion remains ineffective. The Manifeste is a theoretical text but the subconscious had contributed and Breton does not want to rework it. In 1929 he prepares the Second Manifeste du Surréalisme.
The most important autograph manuscripts on Poisson Soluble and the Manifeste of 1924 had been preserved by Simone Collinet, the first wife of Breton, and were sold in nine lots by Sotheby's on May 21, 2008. Acquired by Aristophil, they are for sale in three lots by Aguttes in Paris (Hôtel Drouot) on December 20. Purchased by Aristophil from another source, the autograph manuscript of the Second Manifeste is listed in the same auction. The four lots will be sold separately and then followed by an option of global bidding.
The Manifeste of 1924, sold for € 1.9M including premium in 2008, is estimated € 600K, lot 53. The final manuscript of Poisson Soluble, sold for € 900K including premium in 2008, is estimated € 900K, lot 54. The seven automatic notebooks from the Collinet collection, which do not constitute a complete set, were sold individually in 2008 for a total of € 820K including premium and are now grouped in lot 55 estimated € 2M. The Second Manifeste accompanied by printing proofs corrected by the author is estimated € 1M, lot 56.
Please watch the video shared by Aguttes.
1946 The Tragic Face of Antonin Artaud
2012 SOLD 2.15 M€ including premium
He had friends who managed to make him leave the psychiatric hospital after eight years of confinement, in May 1946. He is not cured but a new life begins for him with an intense creative activity interspersed with morbid public happenings.
He draws some portraits. His most famous graphic work is certainly the self-portrait dated December 17, 1946, 60 x 45 cm. Estimated € 500K, it is for sale by Sotheby's in Paris on April 5. Here is the link to the catalog.
He is an elderly man 50 years old, worn out by life. He is aware of his decline but wants to display himself as he is, just like he sees himself in the mirror with his exacerbated eyes. This is both a terrible image of one of the leading intellectuals of French theater and an inexhaustible subject of study for psychiatrists.
A month later, on the occasion of an exhibition, Artaud discovers the self-portraits of Van Gogh. He is conquered. He lives the pain of Van Gogh as if it were his own and understands that he himself is also a great artist. He still has just over one year to live.
POST SALE COMMENT
This extraordinary self-portrait is a unique link between French art and literature. It deserved a price rarely achieved by a drawing of the twentieth century: € 2.15 million including premium.
1951 On the Road by Kerouac
2001 SOLD for $ 2.43M including premium by Christie's
narrated in 2020
His bulimia of reading turns into a frenzy of autobiographical writing, with which he stages under pseudonyms his companions of travels, drugs, alcohol and homosexual or heterosexual relationships. In 1948 he coins a title for his "travel notes": On the Road.
In December 1950 Neal Cassady sends him the Joan Anderson letter, an exaggerated story triggered by the suicide attempt of a girlfriend. Cassady typed 16,000 words in a total of 18 pages, in a row, without punctuation, without chapters, fulfilling Breton's old dream of a spontaneous prose fueled by feelings.
The final version of On the Road is inspired for style by the Anderson letter, with much more emphasis. It is written on semi-translucent paper of which we will know much later that Kerouac recovered it after the suicide of a friend. He glues the pages end to end as if to form an endless road that unwinds in his typewriter, without punctuation and without paragraphs.
Kerouac worked continuously from April 2 to 22, 1951 on this unprecedented novel. The result is a document 36.50 m long and 23 cm wide, with many handwritten revisions. The format can be compared to the 12.10 m x 11.3 cm autograph roll of the 120 Journées de Sodome by Sade.
The On the Road typescript was sold for $ 2.43M including premium by Christie's on May 22, 2001, lot 307. The final segment is missing because it was chewed by a friend's dog, as reported in an autograph inscription by the author. A photo of an exhibition in 2012 in Paris is shared by Wikimedia with attribution.
Kerouac has never been phased with his own time. His Beat friends reproach him for his refusal to commit in politics, which indeed seems to contradict his rejection of society. On the Road was refused by publishers until 1957. Discouraged by such an incomprehension, Kerouac was even more unseated by the recognition. He died of cirrhosis in 1969, becoming forever the symbol of this modern nomadism that he had launched in his pathetic breakthrough.
2007 Manuscript of Beedle the Bard by JK Rowling
2007 SOLD for £ 1.95M in charity sale without fees by Sotheby's
narrated in 2016 before the auction on another manuscript copy by Sotheby's (see below)
In seven books, Harry Potter reaches an unprecedented popular success with 450 million copies sold. J.K. Rowling uses much of her immense wealth for charities.
The author has learned to maintain the excitement through the media. In 2007, the final volume of Harry Potter is published. A character in this book reads a fictitious collection of fantastic stories entitled The Tales of Beedle the Bard.
J.K. decides to give a reality to this fictitious book. She writes five stories which she collects and prepares in seven autograph copies, illustrated by herself. The first six are sent by mail on December 12, 2007 in gratitude to friends who had helped her to publish the Harry Potter books.
The next day the seventh manuscript was sold by her at Sotheby's for The Children's Voice charity after an intense media buzz. Estimated between £ 30K and 50K and offered without buyer's fees, it is acquired by a broker acting for Amazon for £ 1.95M. See report in Wikipedia page dedicated to the title. The public is excited and frustrated by this book which is not accessible to them. J.K. authorizes Amazon to use their copy for preparing an edition which becomes a new best seller as soon as it is released.
One of the six presentation manuscripts of The Tales of Beedle the Bard was sold for £ 370K including premium by Sotheby's in London on December 13, 2016, lot 319. Please watch the video shared by Sotheby's.