The manuscript of the 120 days of Sodom by the Marquis de Sade and a set of autograph manuscripts by André Breton, among which the two Manifestos of Surrealism, make their entry into the national collections entrusted to the Bibliothèque nationale de France. These major acquisitions follow the rejection of export certificates in 2017 of these documents, giving them the status of “National Treasures”, and the call for patronage launched by the Ministry of Culture to make it possible to acquire them.
System allowing the maintenance on French territory for 30 months of assets of major heritage importance, the refusal of export certificate, pronounced in 2017 after favourable opinion of the Commission consultative des trésors nationaux, for these manuscripts allowed the State to gather the necessary means for their acquisition by the Bibliothèque nationale de France.
The prohibition of leaving the territory of the manuscript of Sade was decided by the Ministry of Culture in the first place having regard to its importance from the point of view of the literary history: real monument, capital text of the criticism and the imaginary, Sultry and become a classic, it has deeply marked many authors, from André Breton to Annie Le Brun, from Georges Bataille to Pasolini. It is also remarkable because of the exceptional nature of the conditions of its production, at the Bastille on the eve of the Revolution, and because of its material characteristics, a surprising roll of more than 12 metres long consisting of 33 sheets glued end to end over a width of 11.3 cm. This document in any single point will join the department of the Arsenal of the BnF, which preserves one of the finest collections of 18th century written heritage.
This manuscript will be presented at a conference in 2022, bringing together specialists and intellectuals, aiming to question the figure of Sade, the reception of his work over the centuries and its reading today.
The manuscripts of Breton - Soluble Fish, the Manifesto of Surrealism and the Second Manifesto of Surrealism - constitute a remarkable ensemble, bringing together the essential theoretical work of the author. Texts with world influence, explaining the unpublished approaches of those who formed the most important literary movement of the twentieth century, they join the department of manuscripts of the BnF, on the site Richelieu, making the library’s collection the richest surrealist background ever built, alongside those of Nadja and the Magnetic Fields.
They will be exhibited on July 19 in the exhibition The Invention of Surrealism, Magnetic Fields in Nadja, at Bnf François-Mitterrand.
These two major acquisitions were made thanks to the mobilization of the BnF and the Ministry of Culture, with the major support of major patrons of the Library, the use of the tax system for the acquisition of national treasures provided for in Article 238a 0A of the General Tax Code.
The Cercle de la BnF, which has brought together library patrons of the institution since 2000, has been particularly involved. This is how Emmanuel Boussard responded positively to the call of Jean-Claude Meyer, its President, to support in its entirety the acquisition of the roll of Sade. He wanted to show his special attachment to the Arsenal library, where his grandfather served as a curator between 1943 and 1964.
The acquisition of Breton’s manuscripts was carried out with the patronage of Jean-Claude Meyer, Alain Minc, Fondation Khôra – Institut de France and Carlo Perrone. He was also delighted to see Sade’s manuscript, which belonged to his grandparents Charles and Marie-Laure de Noailles, join the public collections. The sale of this set was carried out through the intermediary of the administrator in charge of the Aristophil fund, with the collaboration of the auction company Aguttes.
This exceptional enrichment of the national collections is one of the most important in recent years for the BnF. The Ministry of Culture and the Bibliothèque nationale de France thank the patrons who contributed to the realization of these acquisitions.