L’ Histoire Æthiopique de Heliodorus, traitant des l oyales et pudiques amours de Theagenes, thenalieu & Chariclea Æthiopienne.

Paris, de l’imprimerie d’Estienne Groulleau, 1547.

£3,750

FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. ff. (iv) 161,(i). A, A-2D. (without last blank 2D6).  Roman letter, some Italic. Charming woodcut on title, woodcut initials, ms love C1600, from the ‘Cabinet Satyrique ou recueil parfait des vers piquans & gaillards de ce temps.’ on verso of last, mss note “par Jaques Amyot natif de Melun” in a contemporary hand on t-p, ‘L Carré” in a slightly later hand beneath, ‘F Lenoble 1712’ on first leaf of text, ‘Moriee’ in another hand on fly with a charming dedication from the Count Chaffoy la Prat to a Countess on her seventh wedding anniversary, on the four hundred year anniversary of the printing of the work (1947) beneath, engraved armorial bookplate of the Duc de Vallombrosa on pastedown. A good copy, crisp and clean in good late C17th speckled calf, spine with raised bands richly gilt in compartments, red morocco label gilt, a.e.r. a bit worn at extremities.

Rare first edition of the first French translation of the best of all extant Greek novels and very probably the first European novel. The translation is by the great French hellenist and translator Jaques Amyot. It was first brought to light in modern times in a ms from the library of Matthias Corvinus, found at the sack of Buda (Ofen) in 1526, and first printed at Basel in 1534. The title derives from the fact that the story, developed in 10 books, starts and ends in Ethiopia. In Charicleia, the daughter of the queen of Ethiopia, born white due to the effect of the sight of a marble statue upon the queen during her pregnancy, is raised by priests in Delphi, eventually becoming a priestess of Apollo herself. There she meets and falls in love with a noble Thessalian, Theagenes. The young lovers, of course, endure many trials and have many adventures. They flee Delphi with the help of Calasiris, an Egyptian priest, and are captured and separated by pirates. Once again reunited in Memphis, they wend their way south, arriving in Meroe, the capital of Ethiopia, as prisoners of the Ethiopian army, then at war with Persia. At the last moment, just before Charicleia is about to be sacrificed to the gods, she is recognized as the true princess of Ethiopia and the two lovers are happily married. The rapid succession of events, the variety of the characters, the fascinating descriptions of natural scenary in Ethiopia, Egypt and Greece, the simplicity and elegance of the style, all give the ‘Aethiopica’ great charm. Heliodorus was an exceptional master of plot development and narrative style. Homer and Euripides were his favourite authors and Heliodorus was, in turn, admired by Byzantine critics and men of the Renaissance. Tasso modelled his heroine Clorinda, in his ‘Gerusalemme Liberata’, on Charicleia; Racine considered a drama on the same subject; and it formed the model of the ‘Persiles y Sigismunda’ of Cervantes. Heliodorus was born at Emesa in Syria. He lived towards the end of the fifth century of the Christian era, converted to Christianity and became Bishop of Tricca in Thessaly. The ‘Aethiopica’ was written in his early years, probably before his conversion.

Jacques Amyot (1513-1594), was tutor to the sons of Henry II (the future Charles IX and Henri III), later a professor at the University of Bourges, ‘Grand Aumonier de France’ and then Bishop of Auxerre, which he turned into an important centre for humanism. He translated the works of Plutarch on the recommendation of Francis I. His translations had considerable impact, not only for their rediscovery of antiquity and of Plutarch, but on the French language itself. He was not just an able translator but his goal was different to the writers of the Pleiade in that he was concerned with reaching a wide, non scholarly audience, and not with hellenistic turns of phrase. He brought French translation into a new era.

BM STC Fr. C16th. p. 217. Brunet III 88. Graesse III p. 235. Not in Adams.

L3236

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