La Magdeleine. RÉMI de BEAUVAIS.
La Magdeleine.

La Magdeleine. Tournai: Charles Martin, 1617.

8vo (150 x 98 mm). Engraved title, 746, [5] pp., [1] blank leaf. 2 engraved plates. Shoulder notes. Woodcut and typographic head- and tail-piece ornaments. Rust-stain in quire D, small stain or adhesion on fol. Tt3v affecting a couple of words, soiling to a page or two, else very good. 18th-century French calf, sides with single blind rule border, spine gold-tooled with red morocco gilt lettering-piece, edges red-stained (a few ink stains to covers, minor wear). Provenance: Paris, Capuchins(?), early inscription at head of engraved title (cropped); Albin Ser[ai?]n - long signed note on front flyleaf, signature partially deleted.***

Only edition of a stupefyingly long poem on Mary Magdalene by an otherwise unknown Capucin friar and poetaster. The history of the work is provided in a preface to the reader by Marie de Longueval, a noblewoman and friend of the scribbling friar, who was probably her confessor. Mme. de Longueval had requested of Father Rémi a few verses on la Madeleine for her own diversion, and after a couple of initial sonnets in the light vein that she expected, the sonnets kept coming, and coming, and an epic work took shape, eventually reaching 20 books, of non-stop alexandrines. At Mme. de Longueval’s request Rémi gave her his manuscripts. Originally written only for her, and for a small circle of friends, the work was too great, in her view, to keep from the public, and she feared that the manuscript could be lost or damaged, sitting in her cabinet “among her rings,” so she persuaded the friar to let her publish it. The same circle of friends, no doubt, contributed laudatory verses, praising the monster as a masterpiece.

Though inspired stylistically by Ronsard and the poets of the Pléiade, Rémi de Beauvais lacked their genius. A German scholar, Paul Dittmer, who analyzed this obscure work (the subject of his doctoral thesis) in an even more obscure publication, describes Rémi’s endless, obsessive detours into dusty by-ways of erudition, his helpless use of onomatopoeias to fill out his lines, and his waves of empty words, which finally suffocate his readers and turn his sincere attempts at reverence into silly parodies. Not surprisingly, in spite of the colorful promise of its subject, the medieval Magdalene legend being filled with lonely sea-voyages, mass conversions, years in a cave in the south of France, and flying angels, Remi’s oeuvre was soon forgotten.

Luckily, it is illustrated. Most fetching is the engraving, signed by Martin Baes or Bass (cf. Thieme-Becker 2:348), of the Cappadocia-like mountains of the Sainte-Baume with the Saint’s grotto, her soul being carried aloft by a pair of angels. The title appears also to be by Baes. The other plate, showing the penitent Magdalene, is unsigned.

There appear to be different states of the edition: the Harvard copy has an errata leaf at the end, apparently not present in most copies, and the number of engravings seem to vary, with some copies having only one plate (Harvard) plus the title or no plates (Huntington), others with 3 plates (Mazarine, which also has a copy with 9 plates, described as by Jacques Grandhomme). Gay-Lemonnyer II:960. Cf. Paul Dittmer, “La Magdeleine: eine Magdalenenlegende aus dem anfange des 17. jahrhunderts,” Siebzehnter Jahresbericht über die Städtische Realschule zu Magdeburg (Magdeburg 1907),1-10. Item #2698

Price: $1,800.00

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