8vo (173 x 110 mm). , 518,  pp. Engraved allegorical title by Thomas de Leu, 14 full-page engravings at the head of each chapter, signed by de Leu (1), Charles de [Karel van] Mallery (6), and Léonard Gaultier (5), two unsigned, the engravings printed on versos, all but 4 of the rectos blank except for pagination and signature (where appropriate), two with a woodcut ornament; woodcut head-pieces and initials, woodcut tail-pieces. Occasional light marginal foxing, discoloration especially toward end, a few leaves lightly creased. 19th-century parchment over stiff boards, smooth spine with gilt title and gold-stamped winged dragon device of the Borghese family, tissue guards (wove paper watermarked Dobbs / 1808), edges gilt. Provenance: Borghese family library, partially deleted armorial inkstamp on title, binding stamp; deleted shelfmark number on front pastedown. ***
First Edition (see below) of an image-based devotional and typological treatise by the golden-tongued Jesuit polemicist, called by some the “French Cicero” (Sommervogel), with engravings by the most sought-after illustrators of early seventeenth-century Paris.
Throughout his oeuvre Richeome consistently promoted the use of imagery to approach the religious mysteries, and as a vehicle for pious meditation. In this text he sets out to show the meaning of Biblical symbolism as a prefiguration or embodiment of the sacrament of Mass. In the foreword he analyses the three meanings of “figure” (or representation): visual, as in painting or sculpture, verbal, as in descriptive writing, and mystical or religious, referring to the allegorical symbolism that strives to convey divine truth. (He also castigates those writers who squander their talents on profane subjects instead of celebrating God.) Each of the 14 chapters opens with an engraving depicting a different Biblical episode or concept. In each chapter Richeome first explains the scene and then analyzes its symbolism and meaning for the Eucharist, this second section being printed in smaller types. Accompanying the text is a copious paratextual apparatus: a detailed table of contents, list of authors cited, extensive subject index, and shoulder notes.
“Richeome's specialty lay in his appeal to visual media, a strategy he laid out in [this book], printed by Laurent Sonnius, a well known publisher and founding member of the powerful counter-reformation editing cartel, the Compagnie du navire. Further editions in ... 1609, 1611, and 1613 [the last two printed in Rouen] attest to its success despite what must have been a fairly steep price, given its expensive illustration” (Hoffmann). An English translation appeared in 1619 (without illustrations) and a German one in 1621 (with copies of the engravings). “Richeome's Tableaux sacrés coincided in France with engraving's definitive replacement of the cheaper woodcut illustrations of the preceding century, and this work set a new standard for the engraver's craft thanks to Léonard Gaultier's consummate artistry. The entire project also owes much to the renewed interest in Philostratus' Images ou tableaux de la platte peinture” (ibid.), which is indeed cited by Richeome in his foreword.
It appears to have gone unnoticed that Sonnius printed at least three editions in 1601: comparison of this copy to the digitized Getty copy, and to photos of another copy in the trade, all with the same imprint, reveals three entirely different typesettings, i.e. distinct editions. The engravings of the Getty copy also differ from the other editions (see below). Our copy collates ã8 a-z A-I K4 L M N 4 (ã1 and 8 blank, N4 blank removed, K4 blank except for woodcut ornament on recto). Besides obvious differences in the collation, including 3 extra leaves in quire K and no quire N, the Getty copy has different ornaments and page settings throughout. There are textual variants in Richeome’s dedication to Marie de Medici, especially in the long first sentence: stylistically the Getty variant of the opening passage appears a bit clearer, implying that it may have been a rewriting, hence published second. Furthermore, the 1609 edition (BnF copy digitized on Gallica) reprints the text and engravings used in the “Getty” edition, and reproduces other elements of that edition not found here (such as a heading “Approbation des Docteurs” to the Sorbonne approval printed here on fol. 6v).
Presumably the book sold out quickly, necessitating new editions in a short span of time. Apparently after two (or more?) impressions the copperplates were too worn to re-use: except for the title, all the engravings in the present edition (and the other 1601 edition) differ from those of the Getty copy, which at least in part match those of the BnF copy (based on the IFF description), and which were reused in the 1609 edition. Those plates seem to be corrections compared to the plates in this copy, which would indicate that our edition has priority. It seems clear that the author involved himself in the production the new plates for what was evidently the third 1601 edition, for some of the engravings of our edition do not respond to all Richeome’s specifications. For example, in chapter one, in his description of the Garden of Eden, Richeome mentions a bird of paradise perched in a palm tree, and specifies the position of the Tree of Knowledge, to the left, or west, of the garden. In this copy’s engraving (p. 20), by Mallery, there is no palm tree, no bird of paradise, and the tree of knowledge is on the right; these faults and others are corrected in the engraving (unsigned) used in the “Getty” edition. Similarly, in the next chapter Richeome relates the tale of Cain and Abel, including their respective sacrifices to God and the fratricide. In the engraving of our copy (p. 48), by Mallery, Abel immolates a sheep while Cain’s fire is piled high with fruits, gourds, wood, and a few wheat sheaves. There is no murder scene. In the “corrected” engraving of the other edition, also by Mallery, Cain is correctly shown burning only paltry sheaves of wheat, and in the background Cain slays Abel. In other cases, however, the engravings are very close. Some are by the same artist, but were nonetheless printed from different copperplates. (A full list of the engravings of this edition compared to those of the “Getty / BnF” 1601 edition is available on request.)
Not surprisingly, perhaps, in his final notice to the reader, Richeome, apparently distrusting his illustrators, admonished his readers that in case of any uncertainty caused by a discrepancy between the text and the illustrations, the text should be considered more correct. (This appears in all editions.)
Besides the Getty copy, I locate one other US institutional copy, at the University of Virginia (collation matching this copy).
De Backer-Sommervogel VI: 1820, no. 10; Duportal, Etude sur les Livres à Figures édités en France de 1601 à 1660 (1914), p. 225-226; Inventaire du Fonds français, graveurs du XVIIe siècle IV: p. 449, Gaulthier 194-201; Robert-Dumesnil, Le Peintre-Graveur X, p. 38, de Leu no. 99 ; Brunet Supplément II:481 (1609 ed.); George Hoffmann, essay in the University of Virginia online exhibition The Renaissance in Print: Sixteenth-Century Books in the Douglas Gordon Collection (2008). Item #4124