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Fashion mogul Berge’s radical chic library goes on sale

/ 07:19 PM December 13, 2018

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Revolutionary tomes by Karl Marx and the Russian anarchist Mikhail Bakunin from the library of one of richest men in fashion go under the hammer Friday in Paris.

The fourth part of the sale of the late style mogul Pierre Berge’s collection of rare books — one of the richest in private hands — is expected to make several million euros.

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It includes the first edition of Bakunin’s seminal “Statism and Anarchy” which was secretly printed in Switzerland in 1873, the only one of his books published during his lifetime. It will be sold alongside a proof of his old rival Karl Marx’s “Das Kapital” which includes the communist thinker’s corrections.

The publisher’s contract for the work and letters between Marx and his French editor, his friend Friedrich Engels and the French proto-anarchist Pierre-Joseph Proudhon went for 1.7 million euros ($1.9 million) at a separate sale by auctioneers Ader Nordmann’s in Paris on Tuesday.

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The star lot in the Berge sale is likely to be the very first numbered print of a rare luxury edition of Marcel Proust’s “Swann’s Way,” the first volume of his masterpiece, “Remembrance of Things Past”.

Proust, Plutarch, Montaigne

With an asking price of between 600,000 and 800,000 euros, it leads what auctioneers deemed a treasure trove of French literature bookended by a rare first edition of Jean Genet’s sexually explicit “Funeral Rites” from 1953.

Other expensive tomes in the Berge sale are likely to be a series of Renaissance masterpieces led by the first French translation of Plutarch’s “Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans” from 1508. Printed on parchment with 54 large painted illustrations, it is expected to make up to 600,000 euros.

Bidding for a 1580 first edition of French philosopher’s Michel de Montaigne’s “Essays” could go to around half a million euros. A 1542 copy of the landmark illustrated botanical work “Notable Commentaries on the History of Plants” by the Swiss naturalist Leonhart Fuchs has a similar estimate.

“This fourth sale of his books reflects the Pierre Berge that we knew and loved,” said antiquarian books expert Benoit Forgeot, who put the sale together with Sotheby’s.

“It is the man interested by a thousand things — obviously literature his main passion — but also mythology, botany, gardens and politics,” he told AFP.

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Berge, who founded the Yves Saint Laurent fashion house with the eponymous designer, his longtime lover, was a supporter of left-wing causes and gay rights. He died in September 2017 after making sure that his and Yves Saint Laurent’s fortune would go to their philanthropic foundation.

The vast art collection the couple put together was sold off in what was dubbed “the sale of the century” in 2009 for 340 million euros ($409 million at the time). KM

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TAGS: Books, Collection, fashion, library, Pierre Berge, tycoon
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