Marquis de Sade manuscript finally returned to France
A photo taken on April 2, 2014 at the Institut des Lettres et des Manuscrits in Paris shows the manuscript of "The 120 Days of Sodom" written by the Marquis de Sade while he was imprisoned at the Bastille in 1785 - by Martin Bureau
The parchment piece -- originally recovered from a cell wall at Paris's Bastille prison -- will go on display in the city from September to mark the bicentenary of the eighteenth century nobleman's death.
Written in 1785 while Sade was imprisoned in the Bastille, the book details the sexual orgies of four wealthy French libertines who rape, torture and finally murder their mostly teenage victims.
The 12-metre (39 foot) long scroll was found in its hiding place when the jail was stormed during the 1789 French revolution and over the years has repeatedly changed hands and had its ownership disputed through the courts.
But now current owner Gerard Lheritier, president and founder of Aristophil, a firm specialising in rare manuscripts, has brought it back to France from Switzerland so that it can go on public display at the Museum of Letters and Manuscripts in Paris, which he owns.
Frenchman Lheritier last month acquired the manuscript for seven million euros ($9.6 million), possibly signalling the end of two-century-long saga, and says he would like to one day see it in the hands of the National Library of France.
Described by Sade (1780-1814) as "the most impure tale that has ever been told since our world began", the novel was published in Germany in 1904 after being acquired by a German psychiatrist.
The draft scroll was then bought in 1929 by the husband of Marie-Laure de Noailles, a direct descendant of Sade, and inherited by her daughter Nathalie.
But after it was subsequently stolen, smuggled into Switzerland and resold to Swiss erotica collector Gerard Nordmann, a Swiss court ruled in 1998 that the de Noailles family had no claim to it as it had been bought in good faith.
Lheritier bought the piece, which was a decade ago put on display for the first time at the Bodmer Foundation near Geneva, from Nordmann's son Serge.
"A share of the seven million euros will go to the Nordmann family, the legal holder of the scroll, according to Swiss justice, the other share to Carlo Perrone, Nathalie de Noailles' heir," he said.
Without this agreement for part of the proceeds to go to the de Noailles family, he explained, it would have been seized by the authorities on its return to France due to a 1990 decision in the family's favour by France's high court.
Lheritier added that he had proposed keeping the scroll for five years and then gifting to the library but that the Ministry of Culture had not yet "acted on this".