8vo (170 x 107 mm). Collation: A-D4.  pp. Woodcut vignettes on title and on final page, passe-partout “Fin” cartouche and initial, typographic initial and head-piece. Very worn and softened, a few finger-stains, leaves detached; disbound and unsewn. Provenance: the number 47 in early ink at foot of title; last page filled with old pen trials including the name Jean Rivalz.***
only known copy of the second(?) edition of an unusual verse facétie (joke pamphlet), first published in 1614. An Etrenne or New Year’s gift, addressed to a woman, the long poem, in heptasyllabic rhyming couplets, reviews, using verbal acrobatics, the entire life of a woman, from the most public to the most private moments, from girlhood to death.
The author remains unidentified; Lacroix ventured that he was part of that “côterie of libertine poets who had established their Parnassus in cabarets and houses of ill-repute” (p. vii). The prefatory letter is signed A.P., a reference to the joking author statement on the title, Artibus Prudens fecit. In it, the poet reviews the presents he could have given his friend “Margot,” discarding them one by one in favor of the best (and cheapest) gift of all: wishes and blessings (in doing so he lists common French greetings, parting phrases, and benedictions for mealtimes, sneezes, etc.). Thus his poem is presented as a series of New Year’s wishes for every occasion of the lady’s life, from marriage to childbirth to child-rearing to death.
“Ingeniously conceived, it is even more cleverly executed” (Lacroix): containing rhyming lists of the terms used for girls and women during different phases of their lives, of the attributes of a good husband, joys of a happy wedding day, duties of motherhood and of running a household, disorders and illnesses, and even the postures to be taken in the nuptial bed, the poem paints an unusually intimate picture of the life of a seventeenth-century woman. Details of daily life abound: foods and meals, including greasy banquets attended by bad-mannered guests, wedding-day customs, sexual comportment and expectations, weird cravings during pregnancy (for ashes, coal, the dirt from one’s shoes...), refrains of songs, and items of furniture and dress. Filled with word-play and puns (”con-prendre,” pet for paix, etc.), the poem’s rich vocabulary includes the terminology of everyday life and now obsolete words or phrases that were common in spoken language at the time. Lacroix estimated that 20 or 30 of the words in the poem never made it into even “the most vast and hospitable dictionaries” (p. viii).
Some details are grim: may God preserve you from the Tasteur, says the poet (fol. A4r-v), he who approaches girls and “hooks” them (a graphic paraphrase of the act follows): clearly well-known at the time, this refers to a rumor that terrorized Parisian women in 1613, of the nighttime maraudings of a sadistic iron-gloved molester, apparently a fictional bogeyman. Almost as chilling is the list of real dangers of childbirth, an experience that a wife was expected to repeat as soon as possible, until menopause (or death): “Il te faut recommencer / Afin qu’ainsi esgayée, / Pour neuf mois tu sois payée: / Et puis de là en avant / Tousiours en continuant” (C3v).
The poet (possibly a physician?) was well-informed of the ills and discomforts afflicting women (migraine, coughs, stomach-ache, rage), and especially new mothers: several pages are devoted to his wishes for post-partum comfort, and real problems such as sore nipples are accurately described. Breast-feeding is presented as the duty of a good mother, but should Margot have difficulty breast-feeding (for any number of reasons, all enumerated), may she find a good wet-nurse (nourrice). The nobility always had wet-nurses, but the ideal life portrayed here is that of a comfortable bourgeoise, not rich but prosperous enough to afford one servant. A long passage is devoted to the required traits and skills of a maidservant (chambrière). Besides physical strength and a good disposition, she should not be literate (or barely so), and she must be able to handle both household chores (laundry, weaving, making beds, cooking) and the children, speaking to them in baby-talk while singing to them and telling them stories (several fables of Aesop are cited). Above all the maid should be plain, to avoid jealousy entering the household: colorful details of her ideal physiognomy are supplied (a nose engraved by smallpox, red cheeks, crossed eyes, red hair which serves as a “warren for fleas” ...).
Satirical and humorous pamphlets were printed in the thousands in Paris and a few French provincial towns during the first half of the 17th century. As ephemeral literature, most copies and indeed entire editions disappeared, but their rediscovery by late 18th- and 19th-century collectors rescued some survivors from oblivion. Many of these facéties were printed over and over. The present pamphlet is one of the rarer texts. I locate only three other copies of other editions, dated 1614 and 1615, and none of this edition. The libraire Pierre Ménier, who, like his father of the same name, published mainly pamphlets (and who also inherited his father’s side job, manning the city gate of Saint-Victor), also issued the 1614 edition (or possibly editions), which this one copies faithfully, apart from a couple of typos, to judge by the 1868 reprint. A different 1615 edition, with the same Ménier imprint and quiring, but with the text within rule borders, is held by the University of Virginia. Only two copies with a 1614 imprint are located in the Catalogue collectif de France (BnF and Aix Méjanes). At least one smaller format edition was issued by the Oudots in Troyes in 1638 (OCLC lists a single copy, at the BnF).
Brunet II:1084; Gay-Lemonnyer II:177; Mercier, La littérature facétieuse sous Louis XIII, 247 (calling this a lost edition); Arbour, Ere baroque, IV (Supplément), 7133 (1614 edition); cf. Paul Lacroix, introduction to the limited edition reprint of the text (Geneva 1868). Item #2686