The Kahn library: from dreams to reality

On 20 November 2019, by Anne Doridou-Heim

A huge success awaited the extraordinary bindings and illustrations in the library of Geneviève and Jean-Paul Kahn.

Paul Éluard (1895-1952), Joan Miró (1893-1983), À toute épreuve, Geneva, Gérald Cramer, 1958. Copy no. 1 of 6 deluxe versions of the illustrated first edition (print of 130), in-folio, loose sheets, with an illustrated cover, contained in a box. Included: 77 proofs signed and annotated by Miró.
© Successió Miró/Adagp, Paris, 2019
Result: €385,854

With a sale total of €5,760,323, six pre-emptions and a decidedly Surrealist tone, the library sale established itself as a glittering benchmark. This was no accident: the result was amply justified by the high standards dictating the creation – over nearly six decades – of this remarkable collection, devoted essentially to Surrealism and Dada. One memorable item was Louis Aragon's Une vague de rêves, a first edition rewarded by €93,518, with a cover by Paul Bonet showing ribbons falling from an open hand. One of the highlights, naturally, consisted of Joan Miró illustrations for an anthology of poems by Paul Éluard, À toute épreuve: very simply one of the most beautiful illustrated books of the 20th century, here on offer as no. 1 of the deluxe edition of six. It earned a splendid €385,854: the highest bid of the day. The Catalan artist's enrichment of the text dates from 1958; the poems were first published in 1930. Another incontestable gem was Tonnerre de Brest. Written in a school exercise book, the autograph manuscript of Jean Genet's first draft of Querelle de Brest caused a sensation. This small monument of around 370 pages, which appeared in the Jacques Guérin sale of 1992 and casts a fascinating light on the genesis of the work, inspired a bidding battle up to €182,000. André Breton and Philippe Soupault followed on with their two-handed autograph manuscript of Les Champs magnétiques of 1919, presented in an aubergine shagreen wallet with flaps, itself contained in a lidded box surmounted with a sculpture by Jean Benoît from the early 1970s: an incredible object designed to protect the birth certificate of Surrealism, which was knocked down for €117,000.
 

Louis Aragon (1897-1982), Une vague de rêves (A Wave of Dreams), 1924, first edition of the Commerce review separate issue, with an autogr

Louis Aragon (1897-1982), Une vague de rêves (A Wave of Dreams), 1924, first edition of the Commerce review separate issue, with an autograph envoi to Pierre Mac Orlan, in-4o; black half-morocco binding with raised bands, each side covered with an original silver halide photograph, with gilt and mosaic decoration by Paul Bonet, 1938.
Result: €93,518

Institutions: a fine showing
For €71,500, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France acquired a unique and intimate document: a collection of notes made by André Breton between 4 and 16 October 1926, illustrating his close, brief relationship with a young woman, Nadja. They served as the basis for the famous narrative published in 1928, a year after she entered a mental hospital. The Paris library used its right of pre-emption again for a rare edition of L'Anguria lirica by Tullio Mazzotti, aka D'Albisola (1899-1971). Considered one of the founding books of Italian Futurism, with only fifty copies distributed commercially, and unusual in being printed in lito-latta (lithograph on tin plate), this attracted €56,869. Meanwhile the Jacques Doucet library carried off Alfred Jarry's correspondence with Eugène and Claire Demolder (€18,200) and the 1927-1928 autograph manuscript of René Crevel's Êtes-vous fous? (€24,700), while the INHA chose a first edition of Some French Moderns Says McBride, a collection of collated articles illustrated with photographs by Marcel Duchamp (€27,803), and the City of Nantes went for the autograph manuscript of Benjamin Péret's Passager du Transatlantique (€15,600). These are both rare, significant documents in the history of art.  

Key figures
for the Kahn sale

€5,760,323 Total sale result
291 Numbers
7 bids Of over €100,000
€385,854The highest bid, for À toute épreuve by Éluard and Miró
6 Pre-emptions

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