4.55 million euros of manuscript of the Marquis de Sade acquired for the French nation | Marquis de Sade

The manuscript of the Marquis de Sade’s infamous erotic tale The 120 Days of Sodom was acquired by the French government for 4.55 million euros, following a campaign to keep it in the country.

Detail of the allegorical portrait of Sade by H Biberstein. Photography: Roger-Viollet / Rex / Shutterstock

Written in 1785 by the aristocrat while imprisoned in the Bastille for a series of sex scandals, the notorious manuscript tells the story of four libertines, in search of sexual gratification, who kidnap and sexually torture teenage victims. Sade, who described it as “the most impure tale ever written since the world began”, hid the 12-meter-long scroll in the wall of his cell, leaving it behind when he was transferred. in an asylum in 1789, 10 days before the Bastille was taken by storm.

Although its author never saw it again, the scroll survived, but was not published until 1904, by sex therapist Iwan Bloch. It was acquired by Sade’s descendants, the Noailles family, in 1929, but was stolen in 1982 and sold to erotic collector Gérard Nordmann. A private foundation acquired the parchment in 2014, and in 2017 the French Ministry of Culture designated it as a national treasure, blocking its export.

In February, the French government appealed for help from companies to acquire the manuscript. The purchase price was provided in full by Emmanuel Boussard, co-founder of the Boussard & Gavaudan investment fund, said the Ministry of Culture, which described the manuscript as a “real monument” which “deeply marked many authors “, from André Breton to Georges Bataille.

It will join the collection of the Arsenal library in Paris, branch of the National Library of France. Boussard’s grandfather, says the BNF, was curator at the Arsenal library between 1943 and 1964.

“This manuscript, emblem of literary and artistic freedom, with an eventful course, joins the public collections and the archives of prisoner Sade kept in the archives of the Bastille at the Arsenal library”, specifies the BNF. “It is now a classic, with immense posthumous fortune… The entry of this manuscript in the national collections will allow researchers to continue the studies which have been devoted to it.

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