16mo (108 x 75 mm).  ff. Type ornament title border, printer’s woodcut device, woodcut initial and headpiece. Discreet marginal paper repairs to first half dozen leaves, causing loss to portions of title border, supplied in neat facsimile, a few other small marginal repairs. 19th-century green morocco, central gold-stamped arms of the Marquis de Morante, spine and turn-ins gold-tooled, g.e., by Trautz-Bauzonnet (joints & corners rubbed). Provenance: Joachim Gomez de la Cortina, Marquis de Morante, supra-libros; small inkstamp on title verso, JAR. ***
A small-format collection of French proverbs with Latin translations, arranged alphabetically, providing a convenient short cut to wisdom and wit, this version professedly adapted for juvenile readers, and cheaply printed for quick sales and little pockets.
The over 1100 French proverbs were compiled in the early sixteenth century, probably by the translator Jean Gilles, of Noyers (Nuits, in Burgundy, “Aegidius Nuceriensis"), a cleric of the University of Paris. His principal source was the collection of French Proverbes communs, compiled in the late 15th century by Jean de la Vesprie, Abbot of Clairvaux; of which the first complete text was published by Josse Bade in 1519. This edition also incorporates parts of another contemporary collection, assembled by Gilles' colleague Nicolas Du Puy (known as Bonaspes), who may have contributed some of the Latin translations. The 6-page supplemental section at the end, containing 14 sayings or expressions in French and Latin with explanatory paragraphs, was borrowed from the collection Proverbiorum vulgarium of Charles de Bouvelles (1st ed. 1531).
This edition reprints a version that may have first been printed at Lyon by Benoit Rigaud in 1558, which eliminated 58 proverbs considered, according to the preface, unseemly or disrespectful of religion. A Latin poem (Ad lectorem hexastichon) following the preface states that the compilation is suitable for children and “unmarried girls.” Gratet-Duplessis found the choice of proverbs omitted to have been arbitrary. (Perhaps this “censorship” was the act of a compositor who wished to avoid starting another quire!) The printer’s preface contains an unabashed plug for the book, urging the reader to use it for both edification and social prestige.
Brunet and Gratet-Duplessis date the edition to 1602, but the address in the imprint, “chez Pierre Ménier demeurant a la porte sainct Victor,” was used not by Pierre Ménier I, but by his son, active from around 1605 (BnF authority file). A very good copy, from the library of the great Spanish bibliophile. I locate one other copy, in Hannover, at the Goffried Wilhelm Leibniz Bibliothek.
Brunet IV:136; Gratet-Duplessis, Bibliographie Paremiologique, p.124, no. 8 (”1602”). Cf. Natalie Zemon Davis, “Proverbial Wisdom and Popular Errors,” Society and Culture in Early Modern France, pp. 226 ff. Item #2473