RABELAIS François (1599)


Available to view at our Curzon Street shop.


Full page woodcut of the Sacred Bottle on p.145 of the fifth book. Italic chapter headings, arabesque type ornaments and headings. 

12mo (152 x 86mm). 480 leaves; 322, [8]pp; 435, [9]pp; 154, [32]pp. Contemporary vellum with yapp edges, title in manuscript on spine (recased, new endpapers, minor worming on upper cover, repaired). 

Lyon: Jean Martin, 

Attractive and uncommon edition of Rabelais' infamous pentalogy of comic-satirical novels about the giant Gargantua and his son, Pantagruel. An immensely popular work, Rawles & Screech list 17 editions with the Martin imprint alone (though do question them all being the work of Jean Martin himself). This text follows that of Martin's 1596 edition and is one of two variants of the 1599 printing with roman, rather than italic text in the 'Sacred Bottle' ('the existence of two states of the bottle poem, one in roman type and one in italic, along with a resetting of the type in gathering Q is not readily explicable', R&S, 80). 

Rabelais' text provoked controversy on publication, and after; a highly sophisticated, learned comic masterpiece that runs the gamut from burlesque to satire, it was condemned by the Sorbonne for its obscenity and heresy. Nevertheless the author enjoyed the protection and support of several important patrons, including Margaret, Queen of Navarre, to whom the third book is dedicated. The first book describes the life and exploits of the giant Gargantua, father of Pantagruel; it was published (probably in 1534) after the second book, an account of the life of Pantagruel himself, in 1532 under the pseudonym Alcofribas Nasier (an anagram of the author's name). The third and fourth books were published in 1546 and 1552. The text of the fifth and final volume of Pantagruel's adventures, here with a separate title page, surfaced after Rabelais' death in 1562 in Lyon. Different in tone and feel to the earlier books, whether it was written by Rabelais, pieced together posthumously from his drafts or simply borrowed from other sources and compiled by another author entirely, is open to debate. Pictured here is the sacred Bottle of the prophetess Bacbuc - 'boire est le propre de l'homme'.  

Provenance: 1. Ownership inscription of Georgius Christianus, Buchhatz (possibly Buchatz, an area of the German states now in present-day Poland), 1608 on front free endpaper (mounted at inside margin, between new endleaves). Below it an excerpt about Rabelais copied in a later hand taken from 'Amusements Serieux et Comiques' (though seemingly not Dufresny). 2. Two ownership inscriptions at head and foot of title page. 3. Thought to have been owned by Arthur E. Popham (1889-1970), Keeper of Prints and Drawings at the British Museum and father of Anne Olivier Bell, member of the Bloomsbury Group.  Pencil notes at the end of the third and fourth books with dates and locations of reading, during the First World War, thought to be his, along with sporadic marginal pencil annotations in Greek.  

Minimal worming to front endpaper and title page, and inner margin of first three quires, occasional very faint waterstains, otherwise good, clean copy. 

Rawles & Screech, 80. Tchemerzine IX, p.315. Brunet IV, 1057. BMSTC (French), 371. 

OCLC: US: Boston Public Library, Cleveland Public Library, Bancroft Library at Berkeley, University of Pennsylvania. UK: BL, Oxford only.

Stock Code: 233349

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