First printed edition of Olivier de la Marche’s Chevalier Délibéré bound together with nine exquisite and mostly unknown texts of old French courtly literature
40 Outstanding compilation of ten French literary incunabula.Paris: 1488-c. 1495.
4°, 209 mm x 138 mm. 246 unfoliated leaves, complete. – Gothic type. In all 50 woodcuts, some of them repeated, numerous woodcut printers’ marks. – Excellent condition, paper over all unstained, but darkened towards the outer margins. Remains of an ancient shelf mark (.N.IIII.) on trimmed top edge, the same signature appears on front pastedown (.No.4.). – Contemporary (15th or 16th century) tan brown Parisian calf binding on 3 raised bands, blind-ruled in diaper pattern, stamped with roses and tendrils, remains of two leather strips. Covers in fairly good condition; back joint broken, edges, front joint, head and tail restored.
PROVENANCE: 1. Front and back pastedown, first title page bear the Denory family motto “Droyt & ferme”, the first text page also the ms. exlibris “Ce livre est a Fansquin Denory” (old French diminutive of ‘Françoise’), a ‘table of content’ on the front flyleaf is written in the same late 15th-century hand; another motto on the back pastedown reads “vouloir fet tout”. 2. Note on front flyleaf: “Questo libro e domini Francesco orfano d’antonio de tomaso a parigi”. 3. Charles Gillet (1879-1972), industrialist in Lyon, later in Lausanne. 4. H. P. Kraus, Catalogue 135 (1973), No. 6. 5. Collection Otto Schäfer, Schweinfurt, OS 1076, acquired Nov. 1975. The handwritten exlibris implies that the first owner of this compendium was a woman of Parisian ancestry. Most likely, this exquisite selection of courtly French literature was compiled especially for her and thus represents an example of feminine literary taste in late 15th-century Paris.The conflation of several literary themes focusing primarily on love, heroic quests for moral virtue and marital matters, implies a well-chosen assortment for a young lady.As the latest prints in this collection can be dated to c.1492-93, the book must have been bound after those dates. In addition, we may conclude that the oldest edition of the Chevalier (printed 1488) must have been printed in such quantities that it was still easily available in 1493, and that a Parisian bookshop had all these items in stock. The discovery of this ensemble, which has remained unknown and intact over a span of almost five centuries, is of undisputed bibliographic as well as bibliophile value. Most of the texts represent the only known copies of the respective editions to have survived, which holds true for all other 15th-century editions of these works as well.Von Arnim dated the volumes of this collection from the states of printers’ marks, types and woodcuts.They are separately described in the following. I. Guillaume Alexis, Le blason des faulses amours. Paris: Jean Treperel, [c. 1492-93]. 12 leaves. a-b6. 34 lines. 1 woodcut and
1 printer’s mark. One of the principal works of the renowned French poet Guillaume Alexis.With his blason the author created one of the very first examples of a literary genre which was to become extremely popular in the mid-16th century. First printed in 1486 by Pierre Levet, the work was reprinted four times, including two different editions by Treperel. The woodcut depicts a blessed monk seated opposite three lay persons. It had already been used for the first edition, and it appears in some of the other texts in our volume, too. Unique copy. – Arnim 1984, no. 9; GW 0123005N; ISTC ia00458110.
II. Les ditz damours et ventes. Paris: Jean Treperel, [c. 1492- 93]. 8 leaves. a8. 27 lines. Printer’s mark. This poem is an amusing dialogue between L’amant and L’amye, in which the man proposes to sell to his companion diverse objects, such as apples, a bag of silk, a bird or flowers. She rejects all of them and starts making offers in return. No dated edition of this poem is known at present, and in contrast to our copy the other two editions by Treperel do not have a colophon. Unique copy. – Arnim 1984,no. 119;GW 0848910N.Cf.ISTC id00277200 (later edition, dated c. 1494-97 from the state of the device).
III. Johannes Presbyter, Sensuivent plusieurs nouvelletes & diversitez estans entre lez bestes en la terre de .Prestre. Jehan. Paris: Jean Treperel, [c. 1492-93]. 8 leaves. a8. 32 lines. 1 woodcut illustration (as in I.), 1 printer’s mark. Rare edition of one of the basic documents of the Prester John legend (French: Prêtre Jean), a ‘wonders of the East’ fiction, which dates back to the middle of the 12th century. It purports to be a letter from Prester John, an immensely rich sovereign of some unknown Christian kingdom, offering to form an alliance with the kings of the Occident. The letter describes the fabulous riches of the priest-king’s palace and of the animals, birds and peoples that populate his kingdom. It thus represents a vision of the ante-chamber of Paradise and a prefiguration of the kingdom to come, ruled by Christ, the priest-king par excellence, who will put an end to all vicissitudes by establishing everlasting peace. The letter of the Prester John is a document that seeks to set an example to the princes of this world, whilst at the same time conveying a message of hope Only known copy; a single leaf is in Paris, BN. – Arnim 1984, no. 191; ISTC ij00399200; not recorded in GW (cf. another Treperel-edition: GW M1452010).
IV. L’amant rendu cordelier alobservance damours. Paris: Le Petit Laurens, 13 March [1492-96]. 34 leaves. a8, b-d6, e8. 32 lines. 1 large grotesque initial L on title. This text had long been attributed to Martial d’Auvergne, due to its similarity to one of his well-known works.However, there is reason to suppose that it had been composed long before Martial’s literary career began. L’amant rendu cordelier is inspired by one of the episodes of the cycle of the Belle dame sans merci. It opposes the suffering of passion and the dolorous penitence of monastic life yet pleads vigorously on behalf of love. Only one dated incunabular edition (Paris, Bineaut, 1490) and three undated editions of this work are known. Hence it is difficult to establish the order of publication. Le Petit Laurens had been using the types of the present volume since December 1491. Unique. – Arnim 1984, no. 226; GW M 2122410; ISTC ia00548710.
V. La complainte du nouveau marie. Paris, Jean Treperel, [c. 1492-93]. 10 leaves (final blank). a6, b4. 21-22 lines. 1 fullpage woodcut (as in I.), 1 printer’s mark. A lively, comic description of a desperate young husband who regrets having lost his liberty and recommends that his friends should remain unmarried. Four 15th-century editions of this poem are known, all undated, two by Treperel.These are almost identical, apart from small type differences. Only known copy. – Brunet 1860, II, col. 200;Arnim 1984, no. 109; GW 0727110N; ISTC ic00796930.
VI. Bernardino Lopez Carvajal and Juna Ruiz de Medina, La trescelebrable digne de memoire et victorieuse prise de la cite de granade. Paris: Jean Treperel, [after March 1492]. 6 leaves.A6. 30 lines. Printer’s mark. A literary work of extraordinary historic value, written by the bishops of Badajoz and of Astorga.They give a detailed account of the capture and occupation of Granada by the Catholic monarchs Ferdinand and Isabella of Spain in early 1492.While the introduction suggests that this is a translation of a Latin text, the long passage in Spanish on fol. a5 makes it more likely that the original had been written in the vernacular. Fol. a2 mentions that Granada had fallen three months before the work was printed, which provides a date for the edition around April 1492. Only one other edition, by Pierre Le Rouge, is known. Two more copies survived, British Library and Paris,BN, apparently being variants. – BMC,VIII, p. 165; Arnim 1984, no. 93; GW 11292; ISTC ig00336500.
VII. La maniere de enter et planter en iardins. [Paris: Pierre Le Rouge or Antoine Vérard, c. 1492.] 6 leaves, a6. 23-24 lines. Anonymous work, which has often been attributed to Petrus de Crescentiis, Nicole Du Mesnil or Gorgole de Corne.An interesting handbook on gardening, especially on fruit trees, which contains numerous details concerning the ideal seasons for planting, for the destruction of ants, for the preservation of the fruits etc. Eight editions of this manual are known.Von Arnim ascribed this edition to Le Rouge, GW assigns it to Vérard. Unique copy. – Arnim 1984, no. 221; GW M2060710; ISTC im00197900.
VIII. [Pierre de la Cépède]. Paris et Vienne. Paris: Denis Meslier, [c. 1491]. 52 leaves. a-e8, f-g6. 30 lines. 29 woodcuts, printer’s mark. Pierre de la Cépède composed this prose novel in around 1438, basing it on an older text, which he translated from Provençal. The adventures of the Chevalier Paris and the daughter of the Dauphin du Viennois have been interpreted by historians as an allegory of the unification of the Dauphiné with France and thus represent a decisive moment for the history of the penetration of the French language into Provence. The volume contains a magnificent cycle of 29 woodcuts (9 repeated), all of which were executed for this edition. Seven incunable editions in French are known, the first appearing in Lyons c. 1480.The present edition is the first to be printed in Paris. Unique copy. – Arnim 1984, no. 262; GW 12687; ISTC ip00112850.
IX. [Pierre de Provence et] La belle Maguelonne. Paris, Denis Meslier, [c. 1491]. 38 leaves. a-d8, e6. 29-30 lines. 15 woodcuts, printer’s mark. This anonymous novel, which has long been thought to be a work of Bernard de Tréviers, is set in the 12th century: Pierre, the son of the Count of Provence, receives his education in Naples, where he falls in love with the King’s daughter, Maguelonne.The novel enjoyed enormous popularity and was translated into several languages. 11 French incunabular editions are known (8 printed in Lyon, 3 in Paris).The volume is illustrated with 15 woodcuts (7 repeated), which had been used already in Paris et Vienne (VIII.). The only known copy of the first Parisian edition. – Arnim 1984, no. 269; GW 12711; ISTC ip00645430. The masterpiece of this unique compilation was kept for the end of the book:
X. Olivier de la Marche, Le Chevalier Délibéré. Paris: Guy Marchand or Antoine Caillaut for Antoine Vérard, 8 August 1488. First edition. 72 leaves. a-d8, e-i6, K6, l4; complete. 24 lines. 13 woodcuts, 1 grotesque initial L.
TEXT: Olivier de la Marche (c. 1425-1502) may justly be called the courtier ‘par excellence’. He retired in 1482 from his political offices at the Burgundian court in order to devote his time entirely to literary activity. Le Chevalier Délibéré, which had been begun after the death of Charles the Bold in the siege of Nancy in 1477, was completed in April 1483.The poem is an allegorical account of the perilous adventures of a young knight, whose journey through the realms of Age and Death shows the necessities and constraints that every mortal has to overcome (for more about the author and the poem see no. 41). Le Chevalier Délibéré, in which Olivier de la Marche manifests his close ties with the court of Burgundy,was enormously successful at the end of the Middle Ages: 12 editions appeared in France between the late 15th and early 16th centuries, 12 Spanish editions (El Caballero Determinado) followed between 1553 and 1591 and an English translation, The Resolved Gentleman, was printed in 1594.
ILLUSTRATION: The illustrations comprise 13 woodcuts (one repeated) created especially for this edition.They “resemble the work done in the workshop of Pierre Le Rouge first at Chablis and later at Paris. The best cuts made either by or for this gifted printer are by far the most outstanding and distinctive woodcuts in the field of early French illustration.The rather elongated graceful figures have small heads. Their faces are expressive and have a definite French cast of countenance.With a few telling lines, the artist imparts a sculptural quality to the heads and faces which in a later period is modified to a more linear style.The technique of cutting is simple and direct.There is no cross hatching; shadows, texture and substance are indicated successfully by short delicate flick lines.There is imagination in the variety of ornamental patterns used in architectural details and in the economical portrayal of landscape.” (Goff, F.: Le Chevalier Délibéré,Washington, Library of Congress, 1946).
RARITY: Only three copies of this edition are known, of which the one at hand is unquestionably the most beautiful and the only one still in private hands. Moreover, the copies in Vienna (ÖNB) and Washington (LC, ex Fairfax-Murray) are of smaller dimensions: 191 x 131 mm, and 183 x 134 mm, respectively. – Hain/Copinger 1895, no. 4952; Macfarlane 1900, 7; Fairfax-Murray, French, no. 299; Goff 1964, L-29;Arnim 1984, no. 204; GW M16752; ISTC il00029000.