Jacques Guérin was head of the French perfume company Parfums d’Orsay. But although he would remain there for over 50 years, it was never the primary focus of his life. His real passion lay in the rare books, precious manuscripts and artists’ papers that he collected. He loved to stroll in and out of the city’s antiquarian bookstores, scanning the shelves, sniffing out something unique. He was making his usual rounds one day in 1935 when, on Rue du Faubourg Saint-Honoré, he saw a bookshop he had never noticed before. He went inside and began to browse. The owner asked if he could be of help, if there were any writers in particular who interested him. Guérin demurred, but mentioned Baudelaire and Proust. The bookseller, named Lefebvre, expressed surprise. Only a few minutes earlier he had bought some proofs, corrected by the hand of Marcel Proust. The seller had just left. In addition to these autograph manuscripts, he had also been told that Proust’s desk and bookcase were for sale, but he had declined them, as he was not set up to deal with furniture. He said that the man would soon be returning to the store to pick up a cheque.
A fascinating story from the Financial Times magazine about the passion of a Proust collector.