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Paris auction house to sell letters of Karl Marx

German philosopher Karl Marx in 1875.
German philosopher Karl Marx in 1875. International Institute of Social History/John Jabez Edwin Mayal

Letters between Karl Marx and his French publisher, as well as the contract of the first French edition of Marx’s masterwork Capital, were to be sold at a Paris auction house on Tuesday.

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Paris-based auction house Ader Nordmann said the items included “the original contract of the first French edition of this founding text of Marxism, as well as 23 letters hand-written by the author and sent to his publisher”.

The contract for the French edition of Capital: Critique of Political Economy, Marx’s foundational theoretical text on materialist philosophy, economics and politics, is estimated to be worth between 20,000 and 25,000 euros.

The estimated values of the individual letters range from 2500 to 30,000 euros.

The documents were conserved by descendants of Marx’s French publisher, Maurice Lachâtre.

According to the auction house, the letters Marx chose to publish with Lachâtre for his willingness to publish the book “in a form and at a price that would make it available to those of the smallest means”.

Letters also show Marx was dissatisfied with the translation offered by Lachâtre and translated the first chapter himself.

Auctioneers of the world unite

In the nineteenth century, Marx developed the doctrine of Marxism, which uses methodologies now known as historical materialism and dialectical materialism to analyse and critique the development of capitalism and the role of class struggle in systematic economic and political change.

Auction houses around the world have sold drafts and inscribed copies of Marx’s works this year, which marks the 200th anniversary of the German philosopher’s birth on 5 May 1818.

The month of May saw New York-based auction house Sothebys proposing a signed copy of the Lachâtre edition that it had valued over 60,000 euros.

The same month, Bonhams in London put up a signed copy of a German edition that it had valued at 133,000 euros.

The most extravagant sale happened in China in May, when a single manuscript page went for an amount worth about 400,000 euros.

The document was part of notes thought to make up early drafts of Capital: Critique of Political Economy, Marx’s foundational theoretical text on materialist philosophy, economics and politics.

A manuscript page written by Friedrich Engels, another German philosopher who collaborated with Marx in authoring The Communist Manifesto, sold for about 230,000 euros at the same auction.

 

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