Rare Book Monthly

Articles - December - 2015 Issue

La Bibliothèque de Pierre Bergé: A Landmark Sale

Select items from the first sale of La Bibliothèque de Pierre Bergé

Pierre Bergé, the French industrialist and co-founder of Yves Saint Laurent Couture House, is auctioning his collection of rare books and manuscripts beginning this December. Assembled over the course of fifty years, 1,600 items known as La Bibliothèque de Pierre Bergé will be brought to auction between now and 2017, and these sales, conducted by Pierre Bergé & Associés in collaboration with Sotheby’s, will go down as some of the most important of the 21st century.

Collecting for Mr. Bergé has always been a highly personal affair, and being French with a passion for literature, his collection has a strong component of it from his country. As his wealth and means for collecting grew, so did his eye for special copies and connections. Many items are signed, belonged to important people, or possess other unique properties. As stated at the end of one of the video interviews available online, he believes that book collecting is like psychoanalysis—“for it to work, you must pay.” And pay he did. Estimates for the entire collection total nearly $30 million, making this one of the most valuable private collections ever assembled. This first sale focuses on items of literary interest, with future sales containing botany, gardening, music, philosophy, and politics.

Serious collectors of French literature are probably salivating at the prospect of obtaining some of the material. However, the collection has no borders, and his favorite authors were often sought in their native tongues. Much more than simply French literature is for sale, and all of it is superb. One such example is lot 79, being a copy of The Personal History of David Copperfield, and includes a signed letter from Dickens to the original owner. Mr. Bergé notes in the catalogue’s opening statement that this is the first “true” book he ever read. Other titans on offer include Dostoievski (lot 94), Robert Louis Stevenson (lot 100), Oscar Wilde (lot 108), and Robert Frost (lot 141).

The scale of this first auction is not huge—188 lots—yet it still spans six centuries, from lot 1, St. Augustine’s Confessions, printed in Strasbourg circa 1470, to lot 188, William Burroughs’ Scrap Book 3, published in New York in 1979. Four video conversations are available online between Mr. Bergé and several literary figures (authors, publishers, and professors), and I highly recommend viewing them; they will be linked at the end of this article. Mr. Bergé discusses his personal philosophy for collecting, as well as some of his favorite books and authors. He reveals in these conversations that very rarely was anything obtained by accident. That in these 188 lots, though they are spread over a large swath of time, each item meant something special to the purchaser and were sought out specifically.

This first sale of La Bibliothèque de Pierre Bergé takes place December 11, 2015 at 3:00 PM CET at Hôtel Drouot in Paris. The auction catalog can be viewed in its entirety here.

For the series of video conversations with Pierre Bergé, two are available through Sotheby's page for the sale, and two are available on the dedicated website's Video page.

Rare Book Monthly

  • Sotheby’s, July 11: Galileo, Document annotated and signed by Galileo, dated Padua, 1595. £500,000 to £700,000.
  • Bonhams, July 15-25: THE AUTOGRAPH COLLECTION OF ISRAEL WITKOWER. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: GEORGE WASHINGTON SIGNED DISCHARGE. June 9, 1783. $8,000 - $12,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: "Shhhhh!" A DAVID SHANNON ILLUSTRATION FROM DAVID GETS IN TROUBLE. $2,500 - $3,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: PICASSO, PABLO. Le Carmen des Carmen. Paris, 1964. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: RARE AUTOGRAPH OF AMERICAN NAVAL HERO CAPTAIN JAMES MUGFORD. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: KARA WALKER SILHOUETTES FOR TONI MORRISON'S FIVE POEMS. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FIRST APPEARANCE OF PINOCCHIO IN ENGLISH. COLLODI, CARLO.New York, 1892. $2,000 - $3,000
    Bonhams, July 15-25: BONAPARTE, JOSEPHINE. Autograph Note (unsigned) in French. $1,000 - $1,500
    Bonhams, July 15-25: FROST ON MATTHEW ARNOLD.Autograph Letter Signed to Adams, July 27, 1934. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: ELIAS BOUDINOT'S COPY OF BARLOW'S COLUMBIAN EPIC. $800 - $1,200
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A SIGNED HART CRANE BROOKLYN BRIDGE POSTCARD TO EDWARD DAHLBERG. $600 - $800
    Bonhams, July 15-25: A STOCK CERTIFICATE SIGNED BY THE "QUEEN OF WALL STREET," HETTY GREEN. $700 - $900
  • Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: U.S. / European Shipping Archive 1800-1814. The Widow Bermingham & Sons Collection. €7,000 to €10,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Bunreacht na hÉireann. Constitution of Ireland. An important copy of the First Printing of De Valera’s new Constitution, approved in 1938. Signed by the Constitution Cabinet. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: A Rare Complete Run of the Cuala Press Broadsides. €7,000 to €9,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Grose (Francis). The Antiquities of Ireland, 2vols. folio London (for S. Hooper) 1791. Magnificent Hand-Coloured Copy - Only 25 Copies. €3,000 to €5,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Cantillon (Richard). Essai sur la Nature du Commerce en General, Traduit de l'Anglois, Sm. 8vo London (Fletcher Gyles) 1756. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Gregory, (Lady Augusta). Spreading the News: The Rising of the Moon: The Poorhouse (with Douglas Hyde). Being Vol. IX of the Abbey Theatre Series. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Lavery (Lady Hazel). A moving series of three A.L.S. and a Telegram to Gen. Eoin O'Duffy, July-August 1927, expressing her grief at the death of Kevin O'Higgins. €3,000 to €4,000.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Dampier (Wm.) Nouveau Voyage Autour du Monde, ou l'on descrit en particulier l'Isthme de l'Amerique…, 2 vols. in one, Amsterdam, 1698. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Howell (James). Instructions for Forreine Travel Shewing by what Cours, and in what Compasse of Time…, London, 1642. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s
    Summer Rare Book
    & Collectors’ Sale
    July 30-31, 2024
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: Rowling (J.K.) Harry Potter and the Philosopher's Stone, 8vo, L. (Bloomsbury) 1999, First Edn., First Printing of Deluxe Collectors Edn. Signed. €800 to €1,200.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: James (Wm.) A Full and Correct Account of the Military Occurrences of The Late War Between Great Britain and The United States of America. 2 vols. Lond. 1818. €650 to €900.
    Fonsie Mealy’s, July 30-31: The Laws of the United States, Published by Authority, 3 vols. Philadelphia (Richard Folwell) 1796. €600 to €800.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions