In 1942 this copy of the first of the seven books that make up Proust’s ‘Remembrance of Things Past’ sequence was acquired at auction by Roland Saucier, a bibliophile and manager of the Gallimard bookshop in Paris who died in 1994.
It had initially been given by the author to Louis Brun. He was described by Sotheby’s as the ‘eminence grise’ to the publisher, Bernard Grasset, who himself thought the book “unreadable” but who in 1913 was persuaded by Brun to publish it – albeit at Proust’s expense.
Brun was also among those who persuaded Proust to publish the later volumes under the aegis of the Nouvelle Revue Française and this copy was inscribed to him by Proust in recognition of that move.
Some of the author’s own promotional ruses are revealed in manuscript material bound up with this copy: two articles intended to promote the book and six letters (one to Bernard Grasset and five to Brun) that make reference to his strategies for ensuring its promotion in the press.
The latter included glowing reviews that he wrote himself but had typed up in the publisher’s office in order to distance himself “…absolutely from the money that will change hands”.
One these self-flattering reviews even found its way onto the front page of the French daily, Le Figaro, for a fee of 300 francs, and ‘Swann’s Way’ was variously and successfully promoted in this manner as a luminous work and a little masterpiece.
Of those five specially bound copies, one is now believed to have been lost in the 1940s, during the German occupation of Paris, but in 2013 the copy that Proust gave to his friend Lucien Daudet sold for a premium-inclusive €601,500 in the same rooms.
In this recent Paris sale €130,000 (£115,045) was paid for an album of original drawings intended to illustrate scenes from the Marquis de Sade’s tale of the nymphomaniac Juliette, together with the author’s autograph commentaries.