12mo (142 x 80 mm). 191 pp. Two parts, separately titled but continuously paginated. Woodcut peacock device on title. A pretty copy; occasional light foxing to upper margins. Eighteenth-century French red morocco, sides with triple gilt fillet, smooth spine gold-tooled with green morocco lettering-piece, edges gilt over marbling, marbled endpapers (edges slightly scuffed). Provenance: Marquis de Rognes, engraved armorial bookplate, signed Nicolas de Mire, 1777.***
Most complete edition of one of the earliest collections of French macaronic poetry (an often burlesque admixture of the vernacular and Latin), celebrated for its valuable descriptions of and notations of early Provençal dance. The preface from the supposed publisher (“Librarius”) is addressed to the “bragardissimis” dancers of France: bragare, in Arena’s personal brand of Latin, means to “have fun,” but Arena’s work, addressed to students, was intended to meet a (semi-) serious need: To attract students to the University of Aix, less popular than the faculties of Avignon and Montpellier, the rector had decided to authorize a ball at the time of graduation for the graduates and their families, but “for certain students, dancing in public was a much more forbidding test than all of those that they had undergone during their studies” (Louisson-Lassablière, p. 268, our translation). Thus Arena’s goal was to familiarize students with the many different “basses danses” currently in fashion.
Following a prose introduction to the subject, the poem, in 1896 lines, is in two parts, the first being an autobiography in which the author, successively a law student, soldier and lawyer of whom little else is known, recalls his horrific experiences in the Italian campaigns, including an eye-witness account of the Sack of Rome in 1527. Following his final return from Italy in 1528, he had given his first dance lessons, and thus the work segues into a largely tongue-in-cheek introduction to dance and to proper comportment. Of greatest interest for dance historians are the technical descriptions of dances found in a four-page section (pp. 86-90) in French, in which the author uses a stenographic notation system in which each step is designated by the initial of its name, repeated to indicate a repetition of the step. Thus in the description "R c ss d ss d d d ss r c ss a ss r c," "c" signifies "congé," "ss" signifies "deux simples," "d d d" signifies "trois doubles," and so on. Such detailed choreographic records are rare for this period. Each dance description, occupying no more than one line, is prefaced by the title or titles of popular songs or melodies to which it should be danced.
The earliest known edition of the work was printed anonymously, probably in Lyons, in 1528; at least 40 more editions followed, the last from 1758 (a full census including untraced and “ghost” editions is provided by R. Mullally). The present edition includes other previously published macaronic verse, including Rémy Belleau’s “Poema macaronicum de bello huguenotico,” and, separately titled, a collection of Italian macaronic poetry by Bartolomeo Bolla (first printed in 1604), with satirical poems such as one addressed to the “culinary Muse” (p. 147), humourous lists of attributes (including types of women) associated with various Italian towns (pp. 121-129), and poems in the patois of Bergamo. On textual grounds Mullally revised the attribution of this edition to Paris; it was traditionally assigned to Lyon.
Brunet I, 393 ("Edition la plus complète que l'on ait de ce recueil") ; Fletcher, Bibliographical Descriptions of Forty Dance Books, 3a ; Clarke, Four Hundred Years of Dance Notation (1987), no. 6; Robert Mullally, “The editions of Antonius Arena’s Ad suos compagnones studiante,” Gutenberg-Jahrbuch 1979:146-57, edition P12. Cf. Marie-Joëlle Louisson-Lassablière, "Antonius Arena ou le Latin macaronique," in E. Bury, Tous vos gens à Latin (2005). Item #2332