La decoratio[n] Dhumaine nature et aornement des dames. Co[m]pile et extraict des tres excelle[nts] docteurs et pl[us] expers medecins ta[n]t anciens q[ue] modernes…. André LE FOURNIER, fl. 1518.
La decoratio[n] Dhumaine nature et aornement des dames. Co[m]pile et extraict des tres excelle[nts] docteurs et pl[us] expers medecins ta[n]t anciens q[ue] modernes…

La decoratio[n] Dhumaine nature et aornement des dames. Co[m]pile et extraict des tres excelle[nts] docteurs et pl[us] expers medecins ta[n]t anciens q[ue] modernes… Lyon: Claude Veycellier, 1 March 1531.

8vo (133 x 90 mm). 50, [6] leaves. Bâtarde type. Title in red and black within woodcut border printed from four blocks, woodcut initials. Bound ca. 1830 in crimson polished calf, covers with double gilt fillet surrounding two blind roll-tooled borders, smooth spine gilt with title lettered longitudinally within decorative cartouche, gilt edges, marbled endleaves, signed "Simier" at foot of spine. Notes in Latin in a contemporary French hand on final blank page. ***

The first French beauty manual and treatise on products intended for female beautification. This is the second edition and the first Lyonese edition. This collection of recipes for cosmetics, perfumes and herbal treatments relies on easily available foods or plants, many requiring no more than a stove, and occasionally an alambic for distillation. Most of the concoctions are cosmetic: how to dye hair blond or black, make one’s nipples firm and pretty, prevent a suntan, remove unwanted hair, warts, pimples, or freckles, whiten one’s teeth, sweeten one’s breath, brighten one’s complexion, smell like roses, clean up ragged fingernails, or abolish wrinkles. Several remedies address common medical complaints – a child’s cough, headaches, injuries occasioned by childbirth, and other gynecological issues (the latter written in Latin, to ensure that the readers consult a “clerc” or doctor). The second part is devoted to perfumes, powders, oils & soaps. A table at end provides for easy reference. Le Fournier, doctor and chemist, named regent of the Faculté de Médecine de Paris in 1518, apparently gathered his health & beauty remedies from oral tradition. His books would hardly have told him, for example, the secret skin cleansing recipe of Isabelle of Aragon (involving large quantities of goat’s milk and flour), or that a concentrate of 300 boiled snails blended with a laurel leaf, 3 spoons of olive oil and honey will produce a hair-thickening pomade; while a distillation of 12 fresh hen’s eggs, 12 ounces of ass’s milk & an ounce of cinnamon will “illuminate, purify, and so glorify a person’s face that she will look 15 years old."

Claude Veycellier issued this edition five months after the first (recorded) edition, printed in Paris by Pierre Leber for Jean Longis & Jean Saint-Denis (18 October 1530). A second Paris edition, also from Leber’s press, is dated two days after Veycellier's. Both include three pages of medical remedies not included in the 1530 edition. The book jumped off the shelves: Veycellier reprinted the text in 1532, and seven further editions are recorded, most Lyonese and all but one printed in the 1530s and 40s. Nearly all survive in one to five copies, as to be expected given “the frequent use these Companions of the Toilet (like their relatives of the Kitchen) must have been subject to by their fair owners, probably lying open for reference close by during the concoction of the various mixtures…” (Picot, Fairfax Murray catalogue).

I locate 4 other copies of this edition: the Lignerolles-Fairfax Murray copy, now at Princeton, a copy at the British Library (shelfmark 1174. d.1, mistakenly described as undated in the BMC catalogue and listed as a separate edition by Baudrier and Gültlingen, but examined and correctly described by Ferguson), a copy at the University of Minnesota, and a copy offered by Giraud-Badin in the 1990s. The admittedly incomplete Catalogue Collectif de France records no copies of either Veycellier edition in France.

Dating from the Restoration or early July Monarchy, the binding on our copy may be the work of René Simier, or of his son Alphonse, who took over the firm ca. 1826. But, while decorated with one of the characteristic border rolls (“en molette”) from their shop, it is signed simply Simier, without the title “Relieur [or R.] du Roi” used by René Simier after his appointment in 1816 or 1817 as binder to Louis XVIII, and later by his son. The narrow backstrip may have made inclusion of the honorific impractical, but it is also possible that the binding was produced by the unrelated or distantly related binder Germain Simier, who capitalized on the name from the early 1830s, until he was forced by court order to identify himself properly (another borrower of the name, Jean Simier, was active later).

Baudrier XII, 428; Gültlingen VI:107, no. 8; Fairfax Murray French 307; Brunet III, 932; BM/STC French p. 260 (misdescribed as undated, the oddly placed colophon having been overlooked by the cataloguer); Bechtel L-100=L-103 (perpetuating the “undated” ghost edition); Ferguson, Secrets, S. III, p. 16, no. 21, & Index no. 499; cf. Demerson, Livres populaires Mpvf 01-03, and Kelso, Doctrine for the Lady 492. Item #2009

Price: $9,750.00

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