4to (212 x 154 mm). 101 ff. (of 102, lacking final blank). Gothic types. Title printed in red and black within nine-part woodcut & metalcut title border, woodcut printer’s device in red and black. Red underlining to title. 119 woodcut illustrations printed from 108 blocks. Cuts on e6r and f2r printed upside down. Woodcut initials. Marginal restoration to lower corners of i7 and i8, affecting some letters and a few words on i7v and i8r-v, supplied in unobtrusive facsimile. Eighteenth-century red morocco, triple gilt fillet borders on sides, spine finely tooled with small floral and foliate tools, title lettered in second compartment, turn-ins and board edges gold-tooled, gilt edges (slight wear to joints & corners, tail of spine cracked). Provenance: Ambroise Firmin-Didot, with his bookplate (sale, Paris, part II, 26 May 1879, lot 422).***
The Ship of Fools in French, illustrated with the "Lyonese" woodcut series; from the library of Ambroise Firmin-Didot.
Das Narren Schiff, Brant's illustrated verse satire of human folly, first published in Basel in 1494, owed its wide dissemination to the slightly shorter Latin translation (Stultifera navis) of Brant’s disciple Jakob Locher, published three years later and illustrated with the same woodcuts (attributed to several masters including the young Albrecht Dürer). It was Locher’s version that was used for most vernacular translations (or adaptations, free interpretations rather than exact translations being customary at this time), including three early French versions which appeared in quick succession. Of these the first published was Pierre Riviere's enlarged verse translation, illustrated with close copies of the original Basel woodcuts, printed in Paris by Philippi, Steyner and de Marnef in late 1497 or early 1498 (Goff B-1094). The present prose version, of which the first recorded edition was printed in Lyon in the summer of 1498 by Guillaume Balsarin (Goff B-1095) who reprinted it in 1499 (GW 5060), was the work of Jean Drouyn (or Droyn), a law clerk from Amiens of whom little else is known. Drouyn apparently based his very free adaptation on Riviere’s French text rather than on Locher’s Latin. A third, anonymous prose translation was printed in Paris by André Bocard in February 1499 (Goff B-1096).
Balsarin illustrated his editions of Drouyn’s text with a new series of woodcuts – used here – based on the Basel originals, though probably copied from the blocks of the Philippi-de Marnef edition.
Only a few sixteenth-century French-language editions of the Narrenschiff are recorded, either because Josse Bade's imitative Stultiferae naves (“Ship of Foolish Maidens”), which appeared in 1500 and was also ”translated”* into French by Jean Drouyn, diverted some of the readership that might normally have been drawn to Brant’s text, or because some vernacular editions were read to pieces and have been lost. For the first half of the century only the present edition, two undated Paris editions of different translations (Denis Janot, ca. 1537, and Philippe Le Noir & Denis Janot, ca. 1529), and a small-format abridgement of Riviere's verse translation, printed in Lyon ca. 1520 by Jehan Meunier or Monnier, are recorded.
Monnier had illustrated that edition (of which a single copy survives) with the woodblocks of Balsarin's incunable editions; they then passed to François Juste, who used them for this third edition of the Drouyn text. The work of two or more presumably Lyonese engravers, these woodcuts are marked by strong lines, vigorous parallel hatching, and figures animated by lively facial expressions rendered in simple clear strokes. Several of the cuts are exact copies of the Basel originals, but most use more angular lines and tend to simplify or eliminate background details. Eleven of the cuts are repeated; all but one (the preaching of wisdom, repeated also in the original) therefore do not match the iconography of the Basel or Paris editions. The full-page illustration to the chapter on the Antichrist (fol. l3r) was printed from two probably 15th-century woodblocks from the printer's stock, one showing the expulsion of Satan and the other a pair of prophets appearing before a king, both incorporating several small black devils. A few of the Lyonese Brant cuts made occasional appearances in other books from Juste's press (e.g., the title woodcut of the Pantagrueline Prognostication, 1532, reproduced in Rawles & Screech, New Rabelais Bibliography, p. 113), and many reappeared nearly half a century later in two Lyonese editions of Badius’ Nef des folles, published by Jean d'Ogerolles in 1579 and 1583.
This edition is the earliest recorded book under the separate imprint of François Juste, who went on to publish over 100 editions in the next 17 years.
Early French versions of the Ship of Fools are rare. In American libraries, three of the four French-language incunable editions are represented in either one copy (Goff B-1095 and B-1096), or two copies (B-1094). OCLC locates one U.S. copy of the present edition, at the Bailey/Howe Library of the University of Vermont; OCLC lists other copies at the BnF, British Library, Bodleian (title in facsimile), and National Library of Scotland (cited by Gültlingen but not in their online catalogue, which lists only the microfilm).
Baudrier Suppl. I.11; Bechtel B-389; Gültlingen IV: 201, 2. Index Aureliensis 123.706; BM/STC French, p. 81; Brunet I: 207; Brun, Livre illustré en France (1930), p. 164. On Drouyn and his translations, see Olga Anna Duhl, “Vernacular Translation and the Sins of the Tongue: from Brant’s `Stultifera Navis’ (1494) to Droyn’s `La Nef des folles’ (c. 1498),” in Fifteenth-Century Studies 32 (2007):53-67. Duhl shows that Drouyn’s Nef des folles, his French version of Josse Bade’s work, included several modified passages from his present rendering of Brant’s Ship of Fools. Item #3111