A First Edition Print Of Marcel Proust’s ‘Swann’s Way’ Has Just Sold For A Record-Breaking $1.7 Million

The sale of Proust's 'Swann's Way' has set a new world record for French literature, breaking the previous record set by Baudelaire's 'Les Fleurs du mal'.

French author Marcel Proust (1871 - 1922) sitting outside a window.
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The sale of Proust's 'Swann's Way' has set a new world record for French literature, breaking the previous record set by Baudelaire's 'Les Fleurs du mal'.

An extremely rare first edition print of Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way has just sold for an astonishing record-breaking price of €1.5 million ($1.7 million), which has broken the previous record for French literature that was set by Charles Baudelaire’s Les Fleurs du mal, which sold for €775,000.

As the Local France reports, while the auction house of Sotheby’s had expected Proust’s Swann’s Way to fetch a fairly good price, they had estimated that it would be a little closer to between €600,000 and €800,000, rather than the €1.5 million it garnered.

The specific edition of Swann’s Way that sold at auction was the first official copy of a limited edition run that was beautifully bound and dedicated to Marcel Proust’s “little darling” Lucien Daudet, with Proust paying to have the book published himself, and then giving a copy to Lucien. According to the Economic Times, Proust also inscribed a loving note to Daudet in the book that sold, assuring him that he was much too important to be written into his novel.

“You are not in this book. You are too much in my heart that I could you never portray you objectively. You will never be (a mere) ‘character’, because you are the better half of its author.”

Swann’s Way was part of an extremely large collection of personal items that headed to auction at Sotheby’s that were previously owned by Pierre Berge, who was responsible for helping to create the Yves Saint Laurent fashion brand. Proust’s novel was part of the fourth installment of auctions that were conducted on behalf of Berge’s estate, and the book was clearly the most desired item in the latest round of auctions.

Pierre Berge was a dedicated bibliophile and had built up an enormous collection of both extremely rare and antiquarian books during his lifetime. Books expert Benoit Forgeot, who helped to work on the collection that headed to auction, explained that Berge was vindicated in the end with his beloved collection of books.

“I am very happy. The market has completely endorsed Pierre Berge’s taste. Berge was interested in a thousand things, obviously literature was his main passion — but also mythology, botany, gardens and politics.”

Part of this collection also included valuable Renaissance works, books by Karl Marx and Mikhail Bakunin, and a copy of Plutarch’s Lives of the Noble Greeks and Romans from the year 1508, which was lavishly illustrated.

The entire collection of Berge’s items, including Marcel Proust’s Swann’s Way, sold at the most recent round of auctions at Sotheby’s for a stunning €8.1 million.