The Victor Hugo’s Literary House’s Collection now includes more than 4,500 items: books, engravings, photographs, letters, manuscripts, shavings.
Shavings are drafts that Victor Hugo wrote instantly when an idea or intuition came to his mind. He immediately jotted them down on anything within reach of his hand: an envelope, the flyleaf of a book, the back of a telegram, etc..
The Literary House of Victor Hugo owns the « printing proof » of Les Misérables, entirely corrected by hand by Victor Hugo, that is to say the unique copy in the world comprising the last modifications before the « original edition » of this masterpiece. We also have the « printing proof » of Les Contemplations, which includes the manuscript of the preface as well as numerous corrections by the hand of Victor Hugo and Noël Parfait, who was in charge of the Brussels edition. This work marks Victor Hugo’s return to literature and pure poetry since the death of his daughter in 1843.
The texts were worked on many times until the final version, which is called the « manuscript ». The latter was copied clean, proofread and corrected by Victor Hugo, and it was this copy that was sent to the publisher. Hugo received in return a « printing proof ». He checked everything again, tue punctuation, the layout, the character of the titles, but sometimes he also reworked the text, giving it a new dimension. These corrections, copied, were sent back to the publisher who could then print the first so-called « original » edition.
Judging from their historical, cultural and literary importance, five pieces belonging to our collection, have come to be classified as « National Treasures » by the French Ministry of Culture and Communication, along with three other documents belonging to our collection: « the printing proof » of La Légende des siècles, corrected by Victor Hugo, which he had offered to Juliette Drouet with a moving dedication illuminating in an exceptional way, the courageous action of Juliette during their flight to Belgium; the draft handwritten decree of Victor Hugo for the general amnesty of the communards, in order to create the conditions for national reconciliation; finally the last sentence written by Victor Hugo’s hand three days before his death: « To love is to act » signed « Victor Hugo ».
As well as a testimony for universal literary history, the classification of these five major pieces is a recognition of the remarkable quality of the collection of the museum and of the work of protection and preservation of our cultural heritage, a work which has been done so far by Mr. Ikeda and the Literary House of Victor Hugo.
« I hope that this house will make it possible to further strengthen the links between different cultures, and I would be happy if it allowed the immortal soul of the great poet to lead men towards universality. »
Director of the Literary House of Victor Hugo