8vo (170 x 105 mm). , 85,  leaves (the last blank). Title with woodcut arms, woodcut royal device of Charles IX on title verso (Renouard 796), large woodcut Cavellat gryphon device on final verso (Renouard 130), 62 woodcut portraits of sovereigns, each on its own page with a caption in roman type, followed by one to three pages of descriptive text in italic and civilité types. Title, all 16 pages of prelims, and the 62 portrait pages within a variety of four-part woodcut borders; type ornament and woodcut tail-piece vignettes, woodcut initials. Slightly later laced-case cover of parchment over flexible couched-laminate boards, sewn to the text block on two thongs at top and bottom, contemporary manuscript spine title written lengthwise, text block liners of 16th-century printed waste from two different sheets with the same passage of an unidentified French text in roman type. Provenance: “De Longuefoe,” signature on title with motto “Cultus justitiae silentium” and the date (cropped) 1585, the same information repeated in a purchase note on the first blank leaf at end, stating that the book was purchased on 8 March 1585 (emptus die ix martij 1585), the printed text extensively annotated throughout, with a few underlinings, and twelve pages of manuscript notes by the same reader on the final blank recto and on 6 of 7 blank leaves at end; front flyleaf with 17th- or 18th-century pen trials repeating the name “Monsieur Martin.” Condition: dampstaining to outer section of pages in quires B and C, some fraying to edges of last few leaves and curling of fore-corners throughout, manuscript leaves at end stained and softened with loss to ms. text at upper fore-edges, a few marginalia cropped; binding very worn with loss to edge of lower board and to the covering parchment, hole to parchment of upper cover, spine largely defective exposing sewing structure. ***
first edition of a delightful and scarce Renaissance portrait book. The anonymous publication may have been a commercial speculation by its publisher and printer Cavellat (author of the introduction to the reader), deliberately imitating Du Verdier’s La prosopographie, ou Description des personnes insignes, published in Lyon in 1573. Although often attributed to Du Verdier, the latter did not include this work in the list of his own writings in his 1585 bibliography of French literature (La bibliothèque d'Antoine du Verdier ...), and his biographer the abbé Reure rejected the attribution. The present copy is of interest for its extensive manuscript annotations by a contemporary reader, as well as for its unrestored workaday parchment cover, probably intended as a temporary binding.
The 62 French kings described and illustrated herein begin with Pharamond, the legendary 4th-5th century king of the Franks, and conclude with the reigning monarch Henri III. Ruth Mortimer describes the sources of the woodcuts: the first 51 portrait cuts are copies in reverse of engravings used in the Epitome gestorum lviii regum Franciae (Lyons: Arnoullet, 1546), but “a more immediate model for the Cavellat blocks through no. 60 may be found in a woodcut series used by Jean d’Ongoys in La chronique des faicts, gestes et vies illustres des roys de France, 1575” (Mortimer, p. 239). The marvelously varied grotesque borders use 64 separate blocks, by Mortimer’s count, of which one, used on the title verso, incorporates Cavellat’s monogram (Renouard 138), and two include his motto (cf. Renouard 133). Each portrait is accompanied by a laudatory poem, printed in italic type, with asterisked words or phrases keyed to notes printed in civilité type. A 3-page alphabetical index concludes the work.
The annotator de Longuefoe supplied scrawled notes to almost all the entries, adding or expanding on the historical data, or emphasizing details. The first eight of the final twelve pages of notes contain supplementary remarks regarding the earlier monarchs, but most interesting are the last four pages, providing details of the reign of Henri III from his coronation in 1575 to the present day (1585). The two years between the book’s publication and de Longuefoe’s purchase of this copy were a moment of short-lived respite in the religious wars, which were about to break out anew:
“In said year 1585 ... arms were taken up by some Catholic lords of this realm against those holding the new opinion, under the pretext that one should not tolerate more than one religion in France, which is the one that they hold to be apostolic and Roman, not without great clamor by the poor people and suffering on the occasion of the long stationing of the king’s army in every place” (”Au dit an 1585 ... sont les armes prises par aucuns seigneurs catholiques de ce royaulme contre ceux de la nouvelle oppinion, soubz pretexte de ne vouloir souffrir [en] france qu’une seule religion qui est celui que l’on dit et tient apostolique et romaine, non sans grande clameur du pauvre peuple et souffrance à l’occasion du long seiour que faisoit l’armée du roy en chasque lieu...”).
The following paragraph records the signing by Henri III of the Edit de Nemours, on 18 July 1585, in which the King ceded to the Ligue’s pressure to revoke previous edicts that had protected Protestants. Four lines at the foot of the page are energetically crossed out. Longuefoe’s final paragraphs are devoted to the death of Ronsard, the formation of the congregation of “penitents bleus” (joining the congregation of white penitents, formed by Henri III), and the foundation of the new Jesuit college and church in the rue St. Antoine.
OCLC and USTC locate 5 copies in American libraries (Harvard, Syracuse Univ., Princeton, U. Kansas and NYPL). Harvard / Mortimer French 194; Brun, p. 177; Brunet 2:928-929; USTC 2844. Item #2960