Fleurs du Mal brings £775k at auction

Hôtel Drouot's sale of books and letters relating to the great poet and critic Charles Baudelaire proved to be a huge success, selling for €4m. Some of the autographs performed very well, with Baudelaire's (attempted) suicide note selling for €180,000 (not including buyer's premium).

However, that was by no means the top lot, which was a first edition copy of Baudelaire's Fleurs du Mal (Flowers of Evil) published in 1857, which had been presented by him to his friend and legal advisor Narcisse Ancelle, and contained a signed note of friendship.

Fleurs du Mal Flowers of Evil Charles Baudelaire first edition
Fleurs du Mal

This 12 inch tall edition, bound in sheepskin and green covers was already expected to sell for as high as €150,000, but furious bidding drove the price up, and it was only taken away for €775,000, which was a world record price for a copy of the text.

Remarkably, this was not the book in the sale which performed best against estimate.

A first edition of Baudelaire's 1860 work Paradis artificiels: Opium et Haschisch (Artificial Paradises: Opium and Hashish) which was expected to sell for €18,000-25,000 made a nonsense of this valuation as eager bidders pushed the price up to a full €375,000.

Paradis Artificiels Opium Et Haschisch Artificial Paradises Opium Hashish first edition
Paradis Artificiels: Opium Et Haschisch

The copy belonged, and was dedicated to, Baudelaire's beloved mother who outlived him, which no doubt increased the significance of the text for many.


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