[FRANCE] Calendrier des iours & autres temps que lon n\'a accoustume de tenir les Plaits ordinaires au siege d\'Yssouldun

Poiters, a l\'enseigne du Pelican pour Julien Trouve libraire demourant a Yssouldun, pres l\'Eglise Sainct Sire., mid 16th century


FIRST EDITION. 8vo. ff. (viii), a8. Roman letter. Title and text in red and black, text in four columns, contemporary autograph ‘Claude Delachastre Pr’ on title, repeated twice, crossed out on verso of last, the occasional annotation adding saints days and fair days to the calendar. Title page slightly dusty, the odd ink spot and marginal thumb mark, uniform age yellowing. A very good copy in modern limp vellum antique.

Exceptionally rare and most probably unique surviving copy of this most ephemeral of Calendars showing the days in which pleas or “Plaits ordinaires” could be heard in the courts of the small but ancient town of Issoudun in the “Berry” region of France, of tremendous social and legal interest. This work is not recorded in the Bibliotheque National de France or in any French regional library, neither is it recorded in the ‘Répertoire bibliographique des livres Imprimes en France au seizième siècle’, and apparently any other library. Nor does the ‘Repertoire’ or worldcat mention any other calendar of this kind, specifically related to the courts. The only comparable we have found is another undated printing also concerning the town of Issoudun, but printed at Paris in gothic, known in a single copy at the BNF, published with or a part of a local ‘Coustumier.’

This calendar would have been invaluable to the small group of lawyers, judges and clerks who practised in the market town of Issoudun, in the second half of the sixteenth century. The copy was still in use in 1589 when the calendar was annotated “l’obeissance du roi 1589”, a reference either to the death of King Henri III, who was murdered on the second of August that year, (close to the time of this entry in the Calendar) and who was contentiously succeeded by Henri IV, or perhaps it refers to the town’s siding with the King (and not the League) at the beginning of the then civil war. It is possible that the Delachastre of the title page, obviously a lawyer, was a ‘procureur’ in the town from the ‘pr’ added after his autograph. The calendar is printed in columns, divided by the months, with the days of the weeks indicated alphabetically A-G (‘A’ printed in red) and “feast days” and “fair days” printed in red, the days of the month numbered on the right, with a further column of numbers printed in roman numerals (from i-xix) on the left. This column perhaps indicates that the calendar was to be used over a nineteen year period. However if this were the case pleas could be heard rarely, at most twice a month during the year which seems unlikely. The last page gives a list of the days, citing their saints name and days of religious festivals, on which the court did not sit; this includes holidays and ‘vendanges’ or harvests, fair days, days in which any ‘procureur’, lawyer or their wives had died, or days in which a lawyer or any of their children were getting married. The survival of such an extremely ephemeral piece of printing, that would have been of use to very few in the first place, printed in such restricted numbers, and discarded, is highly improbable. It provides a fascinating and extremely rare glimpse into the day to day workings of the legal world of a small market town in C16th France, an insight not revealed in much grander legal impressions.

Not in the ‘Répertoire bibliographique des livres Imprimes en France au seizième siècle’ and otherwise unrecorded.

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