France fears rare manuscripts could go abroad

16th June 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, June 16, 2006 (AFP) - One of France's most important private collections of manuscripts is to go under the hammer on Tuesday, including two rare examples by the French author Stendhal.

PARIS, June 16, 2006 (AFP) - One of France's most important private collections of manuscripts is to go under the hammer on Tuesday, including two rare examples by the French author Stendhal.

Collector Pierre Berès, 93, decided last year to sell 177 manuscripts and rare editions amassed over the past 80 years with an estimated value of some EUR 6 million.

In his long career Berès became a legend for collecting rare editions of works by such giants of French literature as Marcel Proust, Arthur Rimbaud and Gustave Flaubert, many of which he kept for a long time to resell for huge sums later.

Among the works to be auctioned at the Drouot auction houses on Tuesday are manuscripts from writers including Honore de Balzac, Proust and Rimbaud, along with a copy of Flaubert's 'Madame Bovary' dedicated to the writer Alexandre Dumas.

But French academics are concerned that some of the manuscripts, in particular the two works by Stendhal, could go abroad.

They include five journals of Stendhal's diary covering some 570 pages believed to be worth EUR 600,000 to 900,000, and a corrected version of the 1839 novel 'The Charterhouse of Parma', substantially reworked "following the advice of Mr Balzac" as the author notes in the draft.

Several Stendhal experts have urged the government to mobilise to ensure that the editions are kept in France, preferably placed with a collection held in Stendhal's home town of Grenoble.

"We are afraid, alas, that the journal could be irrevocably mutilated if these diaries leave our borders and could be resold piecemeal by any uncaring book dealer," wrote two historians in a recent plea to the daily Le Monde.

The culture ministry said it was studying all the possibilities but would not be drawn on whether a solution would be found.

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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