EUROPEAN HISTORY FROM THE LIBRARY OF A PRE-CIVIL WAR PARLIAMENTARIAN

Les Chroniques.

Paris, Pierre L’Huillier, 1572.

£4,950

FIRST EDITION thus. Folio. Three volumes. 1) ff. (xii) 324 (vi). 2) (viii) 201 (v). 3) (x) 255 (xii) lacking blank b4 in last volume, with all other integral blanks. Roman letter, tables in Italic, separate title page to each with L’Huillier’s fine olive tree device within ornate woodcut frame, fine large grotesque initials and headpieces by Jean le Blanc (signed I. B.) at beginning of each volume, figurative and floriated woodcut initials throughout, “Ex dono dna [domina] Hamden 1624” at head of first title page, C19th armorial bookplate of Ditton Park on front pastedowns, shelf marks in red ink on front endpapers. Very light age yellowing, tiny single wormhole in lower blank margin of first few quires of volume I, just touching a few letters, very occasional minor marginal foxing. A very good, crisp, clean copy, with good margins in excellent English diced russia c. 1820, covers with wide border of multiple gilt rules to large floriated gilt corner-pieces, centers of border with special gilt stamps of helmets, at head and tail, crossed swords and mailed gloves at sides, spines with gilt ruled raised bands, richly gilt in compartments, edges and inner dentelles gilt, all edges gilt.

The first edition by Denis Sauvage; the best, most correct, and one of the loveliest of the early editions of this great Chronicle, in an excellent aristocratic binding of the romantic age, with specially designed gilt stamps and important historic provenance. Intended as a supplement to Froissart, the first book begins at about 1400 and goes up to 1422. The second begins with the reign of Charles VII and continues up to 1444. The last probably owes little to Monstrelet and is usually attributed to Mathieu D’Esscouchy; it takes the history up to 1467.

The work recounts, in considerable detail, inter alia the civil war between the houses of Orleans and Burgundy, the occupation of Paris and Normandy by the English (the Agincourt expedition) and their expulsion, the exploits of Joan of Arc and the ending of the Hundred Years War. European events as far away as Poland are also recorded. Monstrelet (c. 1390 – 1453) was in the service of Jean de Luxembourg throughout much of the period he describes; his work includes, and in some cases comprises the sole surviving source for large numbers of documents of the period, and much of what he relates he saw either at first hand or heard from an eye-witness.

He was at Cambrai when Joan of Arc was captured, and was actually present at her subsequent interview with the Duke of Burgundy. With the exception of matters concerning his master (where it would have been foolhardy), Monstrelet is by and large an impartial observer, merely recording what he saw and heard, and recounting it in very considerable detail. His work is the preeminent source book for the history of events in France, and especially of the English in France, in the C15. The earlier editions of the Chroniques were generally deplorable. Without tables, indexes or notes, full of errors and mistaken names and places, they are of little historical value. This version by Denis Sauvage (1521 – 1587) is the first critical and first reliable edition of this important text. “Cette édition est la plus belle que nous ayons de ces chroniques; et, qoique le text en ait été alteré par l’éditeur, on la recherche encore assez.” Brunet III 1832.

The ex dono on the title is of Lady Hapmden of Hampden House in Buckinghamshire, the wife of John Hampden (c. 1595 – 1643), politician, and one of the Five Members whose attempted unconstitutional arrest by King Charles I in the House of Commons in 1642 sparked the Civil War. Hampden was imprisoned in 1626 for refusing to subscribe to a forced loan, but it was in 1635, when the Ship Money tax was extended to the inland counties, that he made a stand against the King. Despite being one of the wealthiest landowners in the country, he refused to pay the levy, and was summoned for the assessment of 20 shillings on his Stoke Mandeville lands. Although the verdict went against Hampden by the narrowest of margins (7 – 5), it was a great moral victory. The decision, wrote the historian Clarendon (a contemporary of Hampden), “proved of more advantage and credit to the gentleman condemned than to the King’s service,” and the reasoning of the judges “left no man anything he could call his own.” Ditton Park is within easy reach of the Hampden’s seat and these volumes perhaps were a thank you for neighboring support in difficult times. Numerous towns are named after him in the US.

The binding, though unsigned, is very similar in style, with its use of multiple filets juxtaposed with ornate corner or centerpieces, to a binding in the British Library by Dawson & Lewis of London, shelf mark c154i12. See also M M Foot, The Henry Davis Gift, vol. II, no. 212, for another similar binding by Dawson and Lewis.

BM STC Fr. p. 316. Tchemerzine IV p. 867. Adams M 1613. Hoefer vol 36 p. 30 “Une mention speciale est due à celle de Denis Sauvage.” Brunet. III 1832 “Cette édition est la plus belle que nous ayons de ses chroniques.”

L1587

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