THE REIGN OF KING LOUIS IX OF FRANCE
Histoire et Chronique du Tres Chrestien Roy Sainct Loys, IX. Du Nom, et XVIIII. Roy de France.
Geneva, Jacques Chouët, 1596.
12mo., pp. (xxiv), last four blank, 320, (xvi), last four blank. Roman and italic letter, small woodcut device on title page and on the upper margin ”Ex-libris Oratorii Sammagloriani,” in same hand “1670” with printed library shelf-mark in red and black on pastedown. A good clean copy in contemporary vellum, a little worming around the middle of the volume to lower margin not affecting text.
The work is divided into three parts. The first comprises the reign of St. Louis (1214-1270) and the Regency of Blanche of Castille, the conspiracies against the King and the alliance with the King of England against the Saracens. The second describes Joinville’s extraordinary personal history, having served his King for almost 80 years, and the peoples, places and customs he encountered on his travels through Egypt and Palestine during the seventh crusade. He chronicles here his experiences as a Knight under the command of St. Louis at the battles of Damiette and Mansourah, where he describes the Greek fire, the illness of the French army because of the amount of corpses in the Nile, his own sickness, how he was saved by a Saracen, and the negotiations with the Sultan for the ransom of the King and of the French army. All were experiences which Joinville shared with his King at first hand. The book concludes with the return in France, Louis’ death at Tunis, and process of canonisation (at which the author gave evidence) and contains the ‘enseignement,’ still the best summary of the theoretical duties of a medieval Christian monarch.
This work is a most important source for Louis IX’s crusade to Egypt in 1248, written by the second great writer of history in Old French and the only chronicler of note between Villehardouin and Froissart. Joinville (1224-1319) was the head of a noble family of the province of Champagne and he was known as a close friend, confidant, and counsellor to the King. He began his literary work after the eighth crusade, at Queen Jeanne of Navarre’s request. The task was completed in October 1309 by which time Jeanne was dead, so Joinville presented his book to her son, King Louis the Quarreller.
A French critic of the XIXth century, Villemain said about him: “The sharp imagination and at the same time the ignorant imagination of this ingenious knight gave to him unforgettable words. Everything is new, everything is extraordinary for him: Cairo is Babylon, the Nile’s source come from heaven. He has a particular point of view, but as for real facts, you can’t find a more naive witness. It’s like things are born the same day he saw them. He describes it with a wonderful precision of language, with no alteration. He describes it like Herodote, better maybe, because Herodote was already knowledgeable, Joinville, save God, isn’t knowledgeable at all”.
BM STC Fr ; Brunet, III, 557 « Ce même texte (Poitiers, J. Et Enguilberd de Marnerf, 1547) a été reproduit dans une édition faite à Genève, pour Jacq. Chouet, en 1595 et 1596, in-12 ». Tchemerzine, III, 774.