May 2016 | Rebecca Rego Barry

Remarkable Proust Archive at Auction

The auction of the collection of Marcel Proust's great-grandniece, Patricia Mante-Proust, is, to quote Sotheby's, "a real literary event," and that's not publicity blather. Going to auction at Sotheby's Paris on May 31 is an exceptional archive of very personal material, including family photos and love letters to and from Proust, heretofore censored by the family. More than 120 items (lots 116-241) will be offered.

Screen Shot 2016-05-24 at 2.19.42 PM.pngThe one that caught my eye, perhaps because of the scrawled writing across its title page, is this first edition of Du côté de chez Swann (Paris, 1913), inscribed to his American friend Walter Van Rensselaer Berry. The lengthy French inscription, written in July 1916 not long after they met, runs on three pages including the title page as seen here. It reads, in part, "Sir, you probably think, as I do, that the wisest, most poetic and best people are not those who put all their poetry, goodness and knowledge into their work, but those who, with a skilful and prodigal hand, also put a little into their lives." The estimate is ??20,000-30,000 ($22,698-34,047).

The two became friends--Berry had several literary friends, particularly Edith Wharton and Henry James--when Berry sent Proust a fine, eighteenth-century volume in an armorial binding earlier that year. Proust writes about the volume in a June 1916 letter to his lover, Lucien Daudet, and that letter will be offered in the same sale next week, lot 208. It is estimated at ??12,000-15,000 ($13,619-17,024).

To read more about this sale, go here.

Image via Sotheby's.