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Art and the Marketplace

Has the interest of Western collectors in Japanese art, so powerful in the 19th and 20th centuries, died? In an article (Closing the book on rare Japanese prints, November 29) in the International Herald Tribune, Souren Melikian chronicles how poorly one of the best Japanese print collections in the world did in its auction at Sotheby's.

However, lest you think that the stagnant economy is responsible for the drop in collectors' interest, a short article (Record pour Montaigne, 28 November) in Le Figaro relates another sale at Sotheby's, which stands out for the opposite reason:

A copy of the first edition in 1580 of Montaigne's Essais, preserved in its original vellum binding, was sold for 300,000 euros (before costs) yesterday, during an auction dedicated to the writer. [. . .] This book is one of the treasures collected by Francis Pottiée-Sperry, a Touquet surgeon who died last year. Containing the first two books of the Essais, this copy, published in Bordeaux by Simon Millange, was expected to sell for between 150,000 and 200,000 euros.

Estimated at a value between 800,000 and 1.2 million euros, the collection contains 158 items, including some first editions of the Essais, a work endlessly reworked by the writer, and of the writers whom he read, with all volumes in original bindings.
You can read the English translation of the Essais by John Florio (published in 1603) online.

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