The Brölemanns, Lyon bibliophiles

On 09 January 2020, by Caroline Legrand

Kept in the same family until today, 260 works attest to the bibliophilic passion of four generations of collectors. All of them will be offered with highly enticing estimates ranging from €10 to €6,000.

Giacomo Franco (1550-1620), Habiti d'huomini et donne venetiane, Venice, 1610, Giacomo Franco, a small in-folio volume, 24 engraved plates
Estimate: €2,500/3,500

Born in Soest, Westphalia, Thierry Brölemann (1738-1800) moved to Lyon in the 18th century. During the reign of Louis XV, he made a fortune with his trading house, Brölemann et Duport. For three generations, until a large part of the collection was donated in 1904 to the Palais Saint-Pierre, now the Lyon Museum of Fine Arts, the family library was carefully and thoughtfully expanded. Each member of the dynasty marked it with their own imprint. Between 1824 and 1854, Henry-Auguste Brölemann (1775-1854), who started the collection, amassed over 4,000 works. Manuscripts, especially Books of Hours—204 of them were sold at Sotheby's London in 1926—early books, histories of the 15th and 16th centuries, literature and religion were his favourites. Religion is present in this sale through several books, including a rare Arabic Bible by Anajil Yasu'al-Masih Sayyidina al-Muqaddasah, printed in Rome in 1591 (€1,500/2,000). The 368-page first edition with 149 woodcut engravings, published under the direction of the famous Orientalist Giovanni Battista Raimondi, tells the story of the Gospels in Arabic script. It was the first book printed by the Tipografia Medicea orientale, created by Gregory XIII in 1584 and funded by the Cardinal and future Grand Duke of Tuscany Ferdinand I de Medici. This edition is a rarity: it was used mainly for the evangelisation of the Middle East (and was not necessarily well received). The bilingual version was used in Europe to teach Arabic.

Books published in Lyon and emblemata
Henry-Auguste's son, Thierry (1800-1896), did not enrich the library but he carefully maintained the collection and started the process of sharing and donating it, bequeathing six illuminated manuscripts to the museums of Lyon. In the fourth generation, Arthur-Auguste (1826-1904) ran the family business while becoming a silk commissioner, judge and head of the Commercial Court. He enhanced the library with books published in Lyon, such as the small volume Icones historiarum veteris Testamenti, printed in 1547 and illustrated with 94 woodcut engravings on Old Testament themes by the German painter and engraver Hans Holbein the Younger (€2,500/3,500). Arthur-Augustus also had a catalogue of the library’s most beautiful volumes drawn up by Brehghot de Lut, who placed his shield-shaped ex-libris surmounted by the motto "Viligentia et prudentia" on the books in the collection. They include impressive works by printmakers such as 16th and 17th-century emblem books, in which a print is set as a counterpart to the text. These books often have enigmatic, even fantastic subjects, such as the Dance of Death, printed in Leipzig in 1572 by David Denecker, featuring 40 earthy full-page engravings (€1,000/1,500).

Claude Duret (ca. 1570-1611), Histoire admirable des plantes et herbes esmerveillables & miraculeuses en nature, Paris, Nicolas Buon, 1605
Claude Duret (ca. 1570-1611), Histoire admirable des plantes et herbes esmerveillables & miraculeuses en nature, Paris, Nicolas Buon, 1605; an in-12 volume, 28 woodcut engravings
Estimate: €1,500/2,000

Plants worthy of Harry Potter
Among other themes, natural history is prominent with, for example, a rare edition of Le liure des prouffitz champestres et ruraulx. Touchant le labour des champs vignes et iardins by Pierre des Crescens (1230-1320/1), the Italian father of agronomy, printed in Paris by Philippe le Noir in 1532 (€4,000/6,000), and the in-12 volume of the first and only edition of L’Histoire admirable des plantes et herbes esmerveillables & miraculeuses en nature by the French botanist Claude Duret (ca. 1570-1611), printed in Paris in 1605 by Nicolas Buon and illustrated with 28 woodcut engravings. Expected to fetch €1,500/2,000, this copy was dedicated by its author to the minister Sully and features astonishing illustrations of "animal plants", called zoophytes, based on many species and stories brought back from the New World. They include the Tree of Life from Earthly Paradise, the first illustration of a pineapple, a plant giving birth to birds and a mysterious mandrake with anthropomorphic roots that has always inspired writers (the latest being J. K. Rowling).

Saturday 18 January 2020 - 14:00
Vannes - 8, rue du docteur Joseph-Audic, zone d'activités du Ténénio - 56001
Jack-Philippe Ruellan
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