A quintessential aesthete’s aesthete and the longtime partner of Yves Saint Laurent, the late fashion magnate Pierre Bergé amassed a formidable collection of art and antiques over the course of his glamorous life with the designer in Paris and Morocco. Now you have a chance to own a bit of that jet-setter magic. On December 14, 130 works from Bergé’s extraordinary rare-book library hits the block at the Parisian auction house Drouot Richelieu in a sale organized by Pierre Bergé & Associés in partnership with Sotheby’s in Paris.
“Bergé, who counted among his closest friends Jean Cocteau and Bernard Buffet, was a polymath who was interested in a thousand things, which is clearly reflected in the breadth and depth of his literary holdings,” says Benoît Forgeot, the specialist in charge of the sale at Pierre Bergé & Associés. Having started out as an antiquarian book dealer, he explains, Bergé adopted a saying of Michel De Montaigne—one of his favorite authors—about books: “They are the best ammunition I have found for this human journey.”
Among the covetable volumes on offer—which range from great works of literature by Gustave Flaubert and Oscar Wilde to treatises on botany and philosophy—is rare copy of Marcel Proust’s Du côté de chez Swann (1914) printed on Japan paper, which was given by the author to French novelist and painter Lucien Daudet. It carries an estimate of €600,000 to €800,000 ($682,300–$910,000). Other highlights include a first edition of Montaigne’s Essais (1580), a treatise on human nature, which is tagged at €400,000 to €500,000 ($454,900–$568,600), and Le Propriétaire des choses, an illustrated medieval encyclopedia by Bartholomeus Anglicus, which was printed in Lyon in the 15th century. The latter is estimated at €150,000 to €200,000 ($170,570–$227,430).
“Through its variety and open-mindedness,” says Forgeot, “this sale provides a journey through the history of books, where official and alternative thinkers, gardeners and novelists, militants, and poets all mingle together.”