DU VERDIER, Antoine.


DU VERDIER, Antoine. La Prosopographie ou description des hommes illustres

Lyon, Paul Frelon, 1605.


Folio. 3 vols. I: pp. xii, 796, [48]; II: pp. [4], 797-1551, [40]; III: pp. [4], 1553-2609, [42]. Roman letter. Titles in red and black within charming architectural woodcut border, author’s portait to *6, over 300 small woodcut portraits (or frames) of major biblical, mythological, classical, medieval and early modern figures, decorated initials and ornaments. Slight age browning, occasionally a bit heavier, II: worm trail at blank foot of initial gatherings repaired, narrowing into one hole for the first half, III: tiny worm hole at blank foot of first two ll., small repair to outer blank margin of Ttt5 and Zzz1. Good copies in contemporary German vellum, lacking ties, border with gilt roll of interlacing leaves, small gilt-stamped fleurons to inner corners, oval centrepiece with gilt arms of Moritz Landgrave of Hesse and C17 ELZH (Ernest Landgraf zu Hesse) tooled in black to upper covers, oval centrepiece with gilt motto and device of Landgraves of Hesse dated 1595 to rear cover, spine gilt and gilt-lettered, all edges gilt and gauffered, small worm trail at foot of upper cover of III, couple of small light stains. C19 Nordkirchen Library (Dukes of Arenberg) bookplate to front pastedowns, early C17 ms ‘Herman Landgrave d’Hessen’ to titles.

Elegantly bound set of a scarce edition of this early encyclopaedia of famous historical, literary, political, religious and cultural figures, from antiquity to the C16. Antoine du Verdier (1544-1600) was ‘conseiller du roi’ in Lyon, but mostly known as a biographer. ‘Prosopographie’ – i.e., a collection of biographies – first appeared in Lyon in 1573; it went through at least 4 further editions, the present by du Verdier’s son, Claude. In the humanistic tradition of ‘de viris illustribus’, the work gathers thousands of eminently educational anecdotes. Biblical figures include Adam, Eve, the Devil (with a wonderful woodcut portrait), the patriarchs, the Evangelists (with a lavishly illustrated biography of St Peter), and popes. Related religious figures are Zoroaster and Mohammed. Extensive sections are devoted to classical antiquity and mythology, with deities, heroes, emperors, philosophers and historians. Most valuable are the sections concerning Du Verdier’s contemporaries. In addition to kings, emperors and political figures, these include Pietro Aretino, Sir Thomas More (with an account of his death), Paracelsus, Ignatius of Loyola, the seditions of the Anabaptists in Westphalia, F. Rabelais (with a clear chronology), Francis Xavier, Sultan Suleyman, the occultist Guillaume Postel, Estienne Battori Prince of Transylvania, Mary Queen of Scots, the mathematician and cryptographer Blaise de Vigenère (with a bibliography), and Elizabeth I of England. The absence of portraits for several figures shows the impossibility of retrieving the actual likeness of hundreds of real and legendary figures.

From the library of Maurice (1572-1632), Landgrave of Hesse-Kassel, lover of culture and the performing arts. Among the travelling theatre troupes he hosted in Kassel were some from England. Subsequently in possession of his son Herman IV (1607-58), Landgrave of Hesse-Rotenburg. Due to a crippled foot, he eschewed the military life, becoming a respected scholar of astronomy, geography and mathematics. Then to Ernest (1623-93), Landgrave of Hesse-Rheinfels, Herman’s step-brother, known for his religious tolerance and the liturgical book he patronized, containing Catholic, Calvinist and Lutheran hymns. In the C19, this copy was in the renowned library of the Dukes of Arenberg at Nordkirchen Castle.

No copies recorded in the US. USTC 6900572; Brunet II, 929.
Stock Number: L4129 Categories: , ,