8vo (167 x 106 mm).  pages (of 240, last 2 blank leaves removed). Printer’s woodcut device on title (Baudrier no. 2), full-page portrait of the author, eight different sets of four-part woodcut page borders of grotesques, including a lion’s head, fruits and scrollwork, typographic tail-piece ornaments, woodcut historiated initials, passe-partout cartouche on last page. Ruled in red throughout. A few tiny marginal tears or chips, a few pages or corners lightly creased, occasional marginal staining or soiling. Contemporary calf(?) over pasteboard, sides stamped with an interlacing strapwork plaque and with a few individual tools, at center a quadrilateral cartouche from which emerge four stylized flower tools, those tools repeated at outer corners of the panel stamp, side compartments with a pair of stylized leafy tools, central and corner compartments with pointillé tooling, the binding heavily overpainted in brown, black, off-white and red, gilt edges; rebacked, later endpapers; folding velvet-lined case. Provenance: early jottings in lower margins of ff. L8v and M1r; Louis de La Saussaye (1801-1878), member of the Academies of Poitiers and Lyon, numismatist and historian, bookplate (with motto Cominus et Eminus); William Loring Andrews (1837-1920), formerly with his bookplate, according to the sale catalogue of: Cortlandt F. Bishop (1870-1935), bookplate, sale, part 2, 25-27 April 1938, lot 1268; Maurice Burrus (1882-1959), bookplate, ms. acquisition label (from Meulenaere, 1938) on lower flyleaf. ***
First Edition of a collection of four hundred French hermetic quatrains, on the “four worlds”: divine, angelic, celestial, and “sensible” (that which can be grasped by the senses), by the author of the first French emblem book, and “ a keen advocate of the vernacular” (Glasgow, French Emblems). Each of the four parts has two prefaces, one in prose, the other in verse, to celebrate diversity (”afin que la diversité donne plus de délectation,” C4r). The preface to the first “century” (part one) contains a lengthy encomium of mathematics and “mathematical symbolization” as the best way to apprehend what the human mind cannot otherwise understand or even approach understanding, followed by a description or definition of God. Various mathematicians and scientists, including Pacioli and the geometrician Bouelles, are praised in the prefaces. A final verse Epilogue evokes alchemy in a description of poetic intelligence: “Tous les metaux par secret de Nature / Sur l’argent vif nagent certainement / Excepté l’or, lequel va par droicture / Comme le Roy au fond directement.”
According to Brun, the woodcut portrait and ornamentation were commissioned by La Perrière himself. They are the work of the Toulouse wood engraver Guiraud Agret. The portrait shows the author holding a jeweler’s balance scale, with a book (not a pack of cards, as called by Brun) in one pan and a fool’s sceptre (marotte) in the other. The playful woodcut page-borders show horse-headed caryatids, nonchalant nymphs, and growling lions whose jaws stretch into volutes.The borders and the portrait were re-used within the year for La Perrière’s second emblem book, La Morosophie. Interestingly, the blocks were supplied to the Lyonese printer Bonhomme by his Toulouse publishers: of the 8 different border sets, one is dated 1511, one is signed IM and one IP, the initials of the Toulouse libraires Jean Mounier (or Moulnier) and Jean Perrin, to whom the printing privilege was granted for both works on 11 August 1551. (Mortimer devotes a long paragraph to justifying this long unrecognized fact: the signatures and initials that appear on woodblocks throughout the 16th century, especially in France, are almost always a mark of ownership rather than craftsmanship.)
Three years later the printer Macé Bonhomme was to publish the first edition of the Prophéties of Michel Nostradamus, who consciously imitated the form used here by La Perrière, four “centuries,” each of 100 decasyllabic verses.
The Considérations des quatre mondes is sometimes referred to as an emblem book, or “para-emblem book” (Saunders, p. 164), so similar are the poems in construction and atmosphere to those of La Perrière’s Morosophie, and so obviously do they cry out for emblematic illustrations.
This copy was the subject of a long description in the Cortlandt Bishop sale catalogue, where it was headlined ”In a Lyonnese Grolieresque binding.” The panel stamp used on this binding, measuring 167 x 104 mm. is recorded on several other bindings of the period and was recently described by Michael Laird in his survey of "Some Sixteenth-Century Bindings in the New York Public Library" (Bulletin du Bibliophile, Paris 1994, No. 2, 303-331), cf. plate VI, pp. 317-319. The NYPL example appears on an undated Simon Vostre Book of Hours, use of Rouen, where it is stamped within an ornamental gold-tooled frame, and has a gold-lettered motto in the central compartment instead of the cartouche and flower tools used in this example. The same flower tools appear in the side compartments of the NYPL copy, whereas the side compartments of the present binding are decorated with a pair of stylized foliate tools. Other examples of the same plaque noted by Mr. Laird include another copy of the same Vostre Horae from the Rahir collection (Rahir sale II, lot 333), and a copy of a Lyon 1505 edition of Petrarch now in the Biblioteca Trivulziana. Further examples of the plaque are found on a copy of a 1532 Hardouyn Horae in the Biblioteca Braidense (reproduced on their website), and on another book from the library of Maurice Burrus, a copy of Alciati, Diverse impresi, Lyon, 1551 (Christie's Paris, 15 December 2015, lot 2). The last three examples are decorated with the same tools as the present binding. Our thanks to Michael Laird for drawing our attention to all these examples.
Uncommon, with four copies in American libraries (Houghton, Newberry, UVA, Brandeis).
Baudrier 10:226; Gültlingen 8:96, no. 168; Brun, Le Livre français illustré de la Renaissance (1969), p. 232; Brunet III, 830; Harvard / Mortimer French 339; cf. Alison Saunders, The 16th Century French Emblem Book, 141 and 164-5; E. Huguet, Macé Bonhomme, un imprimeur lyonnais du XVIe siècle (Lyon, 2013), no. 164; Jacques Mégret, “Guiraud Agret, graveur toulousain,” Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance, vol. 5 (1944), pp. 361-372. On La Perrière see also the Glasgow Emblems website (http://www.emblems.arts.gla.ac.uk/french/books.php?id=FLPb). Item #2781