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Sign here Guest book from Zurich café auctioned for CHF42,000

Painting by Otto Pilny

A painting in the book, from April 1, 1917, by Swiss Orientalist Otto Pilny


Between 1917 and 1932, the cream of Zurich’s art and political scene signed the little guest book in the Café Odeon. The 61-page autograph-hunter’s dream has now been auctioned in Zurich for CHF42,000 ($43,000), double the estimate. 

The brown leather book, which measures 17.5cm by 13.5cm and is just 1cm thick, contains 140 signatures and was described by Christie’s on Tuesday as an “extraordinary historical document”. 

General Ulrich Wille, the pro-German head of the Swiss armed forces during the First World War, entered his name on July 20, 1920, in a break between card games. Sculptor Alberto Giacometti, whose studio was in the same building as the caféexternal link, painted a sketch in the book on April 10, 1923. 

Many other artists, actors and figures from the city’s literary scene left their mark, mostly with a pen or quill. Christie’s said it portrayed an “important cross section of the then blossoming art scene in Zurich”. 

Helen May-Otto, who with her husband Werner May ran the Odeon, asked selected patrons to add to the book. In 1932, the Mays headed for North America. The book was recently found by their granddaughter, who lives in Canada and who put it up for sale. and agencies/ts

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