Collectible books at Saffronart
Rare collectible books and ephemera spanning the last 140 years of Indian art will hit the auction block at Saffronart on May 2-3.
It is a collector's paradise for connoisseurs of Indian art. With 93 lots on offer, the online sale presents an extraordinary glimpse into the last 140 years of modern and contemporary Indian art.
The auction encompasses a large collection of limited edition books and portfolios; exhibition catalogues, rare art journals, and periodicals on artists—from the early moderns such as Raja Ravi Varma, Nicholas Roerich, the Tagores and Amrita Sher-Gil, to post-Independence pioneers Ram Kumar, S H Raza, V S Gaitonde, and Akbar Padamsee, to name a few.
Leading the sale is Lot 2, Albert Camus' novel L'etranger [The Stranger], 1966, estimated between INR 7 - 10 lakhs ($10,770 – 15,385). Originally published in 1942, L'Etranger ("The Outsider" or "The Stranger") was Nobel Prize winner Camus' first novel and is considered a classic of French literature. The novel, which is steeped in Camus' philosophy of existentialism and the absurd, is illustrated by Pakistani artist Sadequain. The illustrations are a small but important body of work produced by the artist whilst in Paris.
Along with rare novels, the auction includes a range of books by Bengal school artists. Lot 1, Rabindranath Tagore's recited and signed copy of The Crescent Moon: Child Poems, 1916, is estimated to sell between INR 2 - 2.5 lakhs ($3,080-3,850). Signed by Tagore, the book includes a note which states that the book on offer was used by the author for a reading in Los Angeles in 1916. The poem "Sleep-Stealer" in the book includes the original bookmark to indicate the poem he intended to read.
Lot 65, Birupa Bajra, estimated at INR 3 - 4 lakhs ($4,620-6,155), is a rare book of caricatures by Gaganendranath Tagore. Published by Tagore in his lifetime, the present lot is one of the three books that caricaturise the Bengali mores, customs, and lifestyles which were influenced by the British. Tagore's other caricatures were Realm of the Absurd [sold by StoryLtd in April 2017 for Rs 10 lakhs] and Reform Screams.
In addition, the auction includes important pre-1947 art journals published in Calcutta and Bombay, often found mentioned only in academic footnotes. Lot 17, Modern Review 1907-1970, the earliest journal of Indian Art in Calcutta—first published in 1907—contains remarkable illustrations by great Bengali artists of the time. Estimated between INR 5 - 7 lakhs ($7,815 -10,940), this lot includes an almost complete run of the publication with about 116 volumes containing approximately 600 issues. Another such collection of rare journals on offer is Lot 20, a set of Roopa- Lekha from 1930's to 1980's. Roopalekha was the first journal entirely devoted to fine arts to be published in northern India. Published by The All India Fine Arts and Crafts Society (AIFACS), an independent arts organization in India, the journal's editorial board consisted of Ananda K. Coomaraswamy, James H. Cousins, Ajit Ghose, Karl Khandalvala, G. Venkatachalam and Sarada Ukil.The lot is estimated at INR 1.25 - 1.5 lakhs ($1,925 – 2,310).