GAMES FOR WOMEN

Cinquante jeus divers d’honnete entretien

Lyon, Charles Pesnot, 1555

£1,950

FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. pp. [viii], 305 (ie 301), [i]. Roman and Italic letter, charming circular woodcut printer’s device of rose on verso of last, fine historiated initials, woodcut headpiece, armorial Library stamp of Jacques Richard (1744-1812), on blank margins of title and first page of text, oval bookplate of Armand Bertin on fly. Light age yellowing, small tear to blank margins of last two leaves, expertly restored. A very good copy, crisp and clean, in fine mid C19th polished calf by Koehler, covers bordered with a triple blind rule, arms of Baron Achille de Seillière (d. 1869), (Guigard II, 438) gilt at centres, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, double gilt ruled in compartments gilt tooled, black morocco label gilt lettered, edges, head and tail bands gilt ruled, inner dentelles richly gilt, combed marble endpapers, a.e.g. fractionally rubbed at extremities. 

A very handsome copy of the beautifully printed first French translation of Ringhieri’s seminal work on games, here translated into French by Hubert Philippe de Villiers and abridged to 50 games from the original 100. Ringhieri’s work, in the first Italian edition, was dedicated to Catherine de Medici, and in this translation to Marguerite de Bourbon, but is also dedicated to women in general and uses every one of its games to praise them. “Game-playing had long been an important part of Italian court culture, a way to pass long afternoons and evenings. There were card games, dice games, memory games and games to test one’s general knowledge. It was this last variety which formed the backbone of the first published Italian compendium of games, Innocenzo Ringhieri’s One hundred Games of Liberality and Ingenuity of 1551, dedicated to Catherine de Medici. The games in Ringhieri’s book were intended solely for female players. However, men and women did play against each other, and a frequent complaint of some of the top female gamers at Italian courts was that their male components ‘allowed’ them to win and would not make games into real competition.” Caroline P. Murphy ‘Murder of a Medici Princess.’

“This is the only work of that era that does not digress into portraits of gaming societies as elaborate fictions, or into philosophical and moral reflections on the social game, yet it was seminal. Ringhieri presents his activities and their rules ‘tout court’ with almost ethnographic precision, as though they were a fading national and folkloric tradition collected from the people and preserved for posterity. His intended audience was identified specifically as lettered and cultivated aristocratic women for whom such games were a vital form of expression and self-definition; men became participants only when they were invited according to the rules set out by the society of women. The work is suffused, moreover, with the conventions of Petrarchan love contained within the games and perpetuated by the inventions called up by the terms of play. In that spirit, each of the ten books closes with a poem in deference to the model set out by the Decameron. F. Lecercle refers to ehe entire collection as ‘un Dècameron ludique’ (a playing Decameron), which at the same time forms a little utopia, a little world withdrawn into its own idealised and microscopic order, perfect civility, and social hierarchy. To be sure these games of attention, verbal dexterity, word-play, micro-recitations, and dubbi are particular in their ethos and execution, for they are intent upon putting players out of action when they are led into error.” Donald Beecher ‘Stapparola. The Pleasant Nights.’

From the library of Jacques Richard (1744-1812), a doctor and bibliophile from Lyon. Originally from Montbard, who having studied medicine in Paris, established himself at Lyon in 1786 where he practised until his death and where he amassed a considerable library. His library was sold in 1812. Armand Bertin, the owner and editor of the hugely influential conservative newspaper the ‘Journal des Debats’ and was a renowned book-collector. His library was sold on his death at Paris is 1554. The work was then acquired by Baron Achille de Seillière (d. 1869) who had “une riche collection de livres dont la plupart était habilé par les plus habiles ouvriers”. Guigard. His library passed to his two sons and was sold on their deaths in London and Paris. De Seillière had the work bound by Koehler, who was the student of the King’s binder Thouvenin.

USTC 83671. Gultlingen VIII p. 160. Baudrier III:131. Brunet IV 1268.

L3044

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