CASTIGLIONE, Baldassare (CHAPPUYS, Gabriel)

CASTIGLIONE, Baldassare (CHAPPUYS, Gabriel, Tr.). Le parfait courtisan

Paris, Par Nicolas Bonfons, 1585.

£975

8vo, ã8 ê8 a-z A-V8, pp. (xxxii) 678 (=658) (xxx). Double column, French in Roman letter, Italian in Italic. Printer’s device on title page with motto: “proba me deus et scito cor meum” (Psalm 138:23). C19th ms. note on title page “Monneraye / Monneraye / bon garçon”, with name “Monneraye” appearing occasionally throughout the book on margins. Paper evenly yellowed because of aging, occasional small wormholes to outer and lower blank margin, no loss to text. Some light dampstaining and spotting, edges of initial leaves slightly worn. Rebound in modern vellum with yapp edges.

This is an early French translation of this greatly renowned work of Baldassare Castiglione (1478-1529). Castiglione was an Italian courtier, diplomat, soldier and a prominent Renaissance author. He was born at Mantua, where he served the Gonzaga family, then moved to Urbino in the service of its duke, Guidolbaldo da Montefeltro. In 1506 he was in England to receive the Order of the Garter for his master from Henry VII. In 1524 he went to Spain as papal envoy; he died there in 1529, universally mourned. Finished in 1518, the book sets forth in a series of dialogues the author’s conception of the ideal courtier and the norms of courtesy in a cultured society. Kendall Tarte has shed light on the influence of this work on the French culture of the time in relation to another similar work, especially with regard to the role of women: “La Puce de Madame des-Roches offers a complex portrait of one woman. The book’s fictionalized accounts of Catherine’s body, her expressions of virtue, and her participation in salon activities help the modern reader imagine the Poitiers community of the late sixteenth century. The poets of that group engage with contemporary codes of conduct in their renderings of the salon interactions. Portraits of Catherine Des Roches reflect an idealized view of women, and in her poems Des Roches adopts a stance suggested by such guidelines. A consideration of contemporary conduct books will illuminate the ideas that set the tone of interactions between sexes. Of particular importance are contemporary works that deal with codes of conversation between men and women, and that discuss specifically the question of the speech of women. Two Italian texts, Baldassare Castiglioni’s Libro del Cortegiano, or The Book of the Courtier, and Stefano Guazzo’s Civil Conversatione, provide guidelines for women in polite society. First published in Italian in 1528, Il Cortegiano was enormously influential throughout Europe. The first French translation, by Jacques Colin, appeared in 1537 at King François I’s request. Another translation, Gabriel Chappuy’s 1585 bilingual edition, testifies to the book’s popularity throughout the sixteenth century. Castiglione’s directives for the conduct of the courtier and his lady-in-waiting apply to the parallel situation of sixteenth-century humanist salons. Despite the obvious class difference, the Poitiers group resembles the Italian court in its makeup – both consist primarily of men – and its social practices, which place special emphasis on speech.” Kendall B. Tarte, Writing Places: Sixteenth-century City Culture and the Des Roches Salon, 2007.

 BM STC Fr. C16th p. 94