Sotheby's forthcoming auction of Books & Manuscripts in Paris will be highlighted by the sale of the "most dramatic" Dreyfus Affair document in private hands.
The Alfred Dreyfus-signed letter will cross the block on May 29 with a $131,000-196,500 estimate, as Sotheby's presents 149 lots from across the 18th, 19th and 20th centuries.
The Dreyfus Affair was a political scandal surrounding the imprisonment of Captain Alfred Dreyfus, which divided France from 1894-1906. It is seen as an extremely important moment in the nation's history, with the implications of the case resounding in all aspects of French public life.
Alfred Dreyfus was imprisoned for treason in 1894, having been accused of handing secret documents over to the Germans. However, despite numerous protests and evidence to support his innocence, the accusations against the young Alsatian Jew were only confirmed as baseless years after he was sent to the penal colony Devil's Island in French Guiana.
The letter itself was written by Dreyfus from prison to the minister of the interior on January 26, 1895 - one month after his conviction. Dreyfus' desperate words read, "I was condemned for the most infamous crime a soldier may commit, and I am innocent… I seek neither your grace nor pity, Monsieur le Ministre, only justice."
The letter comes to auction from the Dreyfus family, having been given back to Alfred by prison authorities in 1900, which suggests that the minister never received it. With Dreyfus reinstated in the French army as a major in 1906, it was lodged with the Bibliotheque Nationale to make sure it did not fall into Nazi hands by his grandson, before being returned to his family.
Paul Fraser Collectibles has some exceptional manuscripts for sale, documenting some of history's most important moments.