Dreyfus Affair letter sees 205% increase despite protest

A letter from Alfred Dreyfus, the central figure of the Dreyfus Affair scandal that rocked late 1800s France, has sold with outstanding results as part of Sotheby's Books & Manuscripts auction in Paris, held on May 29.

Dreyfus Affair letter auction Sothebys
The letter was handed back to Dreyfus when he left prison and was never delivered to the minister of the interior

The letter sold with a 204.9% increase on its $193,500 high estimate for $589,937 - a testament to the lasting impression the case left on the French people.

The Dreyfus Affair began when Alfred Dreyfus, an Alsatian Jewish army captain, was wrongly accused of treason after supposedly handing secret documents over to Germany in 1894.

Dreyfus was an obvious scapegoat and, despite evidence to the contrary, remained in prison for his imagined crime, which raised serious questions about France's political and judicial system.

The country was divided over the scandal, and public opinion as well as the press played a major role in freeing Dreyfus, who was eventually exonerated and reinstated as a major in the French army.

The letter was written by Dreyfus while in prison to the minister of the interior, with the falsely imprisoned captain pleading for justice. However, it was discovered that the letter never reached the minister, serving as further evidence of the numerous injustices Dreyfus faced.

The auction came under fire from Dreyfus' grandson, who urged the consignor not to sell the letter, instead asking them to contribute it to a museum.

Paul Fraser Collectibles has a superb selection of signed letters for sale, with examples from some of history's most important figures.

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