Lot n° 150
25000 - 30000
MAETERLINCK Maurice (1862-1949).
autograph manuscript, La Vie des abeilles, [1900-1901]; 326 leaves (plus 3 titles) in-4 (approx.
21 x 17 cm, some cut and pasted), orange paper cover, mounted on tabs between sheets of strong wove paper, all in one large folio volume, bound in tan morocco with large mosaic and gilt decoration on the boards and spine with yellow, white, brown morocco pieces representing bees and beehive cells; lemon morocco linings with cold fillet crosses, green bronze moire endpapers, double endpapers, gilt edges, slipcase (Fryns)
Complete working manuscript of this important work, ecological before its time, which was a great success worldwide.
Published in Paris by Fasquelle in 1901, and simultaneously in translation in Berlin, Amsterdam, London and New York, La Vie des abeilles was immediately a great success, with translations in sixteen languages.
It was in 1900, in Passy and in Normandy at Gruchet Saint-Siméon, that Maeterlinck, influenced by Jean-Henri Fabre, began a long study of bees, inspired by "twenty years of beekeeping", from his youth in the family country house at Oostacker, near Ghent. For his observations, Maeterlinck had a beehive made with a transparent wall. The book was praised by Rainer-Maria Rilke and Jean Rostand, among others: "Maeterlinck, by the virtue of his genius, will bring into the literary heritage a bit of the soul of the naturalist... Whoever has read The Life of Bees will remain impregnated with it forever"...
The manuscript is written in blue-black ink on the front of lined sheets of paper taken from a notebook. Many sheets have been partly cut out and glued back together with gummed paper on the back, testifying (as well as the changes of pagination) to an important work of reworking, some sheets counting up to eight fragments put end to end (32 cm).
The work is divided into seven books, whose titles have been inscribed in red ink (three on added leaves): I At the threshold of the hive;
II The swarm; III The foundation of the city; IV The young queens; V The nuptial flight; VI The massacre of the males; VII The progress of the species. The text is divided into 116 numbered sequences (the numbers will disappear in the edition).
The original cover of strong orange paper has been kept, with the autograph inscription in red ink: "complete manuscript - Life of bees".
There are numerous erasures, corrections and additions, some in red ink, and variants with the final text (some additions will be carried on the typing or the proofs).
The pagination was written in pencil by Maeterlinck in the upper right corner of the leaves; it is continuous until page 188 (with pages numbered 110-112 and 114-116), then discontinuous, with sometimes a double or triple numbering crossed out, corresponding to the different books or testifying to additions and upheavals in the organization of the work.
A letter from the secretariat of the Institut de France acknowledging receipt of the book for the Montyon competition (November 16, 1901) is attached.
Exhibition : Maurice Maeterlinck (Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, 1962, n° 207).
Provenance: Countess Renée Maeterlinck (sale Brussels 20 February 1974, no. 47);
Carlo de Poortere (ex-libris; Bibliothèque
Carlo De Poortere. Verhaeren, Maeterlinck, Rodenbach, Liège, 1985, n° 12, p. 145-146).
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