FRANÇOIS I. Ordonnances sur le faict de la justice et abbreviation des proces ou pays de Daulphine

Lyon, Denis de Harsy, vend Romain Morain à Lyon et Galiot du Pré à Paris, 1542


8vo. ff. [xxii] XC. A-B8, C6, a-k8, l10. Roman letter. Charming woodcut on title of two angels holding the arms of the Dauphiné, historiated and white on black criblé initials, ex lib. “Gavre” at sides, contemporary pen trails “Franoy par le Roi” etc, on front and rear end-papers, ex lib. of the Norman Perrin family inked over on fly. Light age yellowing, very minor spotting in places, the odd mark or splash. A very good copy, crisp and clean, on thick paper, in contemporary limp vellum, yapp edges, title mss. on upper cover, remains of ties, small loss of vellum to upper inner corner of lower cover, small hole on spine.

Rare second edition of this most important ordinance by Francois I,  first published in 1540, known as the ‘l’Ordonnance d’Abbeville’ which is in effect the Dauphinoise version of the famous ‘Ordonnance Villers-Cotterêts’, one of the foundational sets of laws written on behalf of Francois I in 1539, and the oldest legislative text still in force in France today; its articles concerning the French language never having been repealed. The ‘Ordonnance Villers-Cotterêts’, with 192 articles, is now best known for being the founding act of the primacy and exclusivity of the French language, over Latin or regional dialects, in documents relating to public life in France. It was made to facilitate the proper understanding of administrative and judicial acts, but also to strengthen monarchical power, and required that all official documents be written “in the French mother tongue and not otherwise”. French thus became the official language of law and administration in place of Latin. In addition this ordinance reformed ecclesiastical jurisdiction, reduced certain prerogatives of regions and towns and made compulsory the keeping of registers of baptisms and burials by parish priests. This most important ordinance, entitled “Ordonnance du Roy sur le fait de justice” was written by the Chancellor, Guillaume Poyet, the celebrated lawyer and member of the King’s Privy Council. It has often been referred to as the ‘Guillemine’ or ‘Guilelmine’ in reference to its author and was of huge importance in the making of the French state.

The Villers-Cotterêts Ordonnance was not applied immediately in the Dauphiné as the parliament of Dauphiné initially refused to accept it on the grounds that they were not officially part of the Kingdom of France. Francis I then issued a new ordinance, adapted to the Dauphiné, called the ‘Ordonnance d’ Abbeville’, the present volume. It was in fact much more comprehensive than the Villers-Cotterêts ordinance, which had only 192 articles; it reviews, in 439 articles, all aspects of the courts and judiciary in the Dauphiné. The obligation to write acts in French remained (article 95), but not the article on baptismal registers. The ordinance was made in February, 1540, and was registered by the Dauphiné  Parliament on April 9, 1540. It marks the first step in the full integration of the Dauphiné into French institutions. It was in effect a standardisation of the laws in France which disguised a power grab by the king in asserting his power over the regions. The ordinance is a major step in the construction of the modern French state by defining new rules and a new organisation of the justice system which strengthened royal power to the detriment of ecclesiastical and regional power.

The work is also most interesting for the coordinated way in which it was published. The ordinances of Villers-Cotterêts and d’Abbeville were the first royal acts to have been the subject of a massive and organised distribution throughout France. In a few months, nearly twenty thousand copies were printed in Paris and in the provinces under the direction of the wealthy Parisian bookseller Galliot Du Pré who enjoyed a monopoly thanks to a royal privilege, the first of its kind granted for an administrative act. This privilege was issued by order of the Chancellor Guillaume Poyet who was undoubtedly at the origin of this publishing campaign, made on an unprecedented scale, which reveals his desire for rapid implementation of the ordinance throughout France.

USTC 24278. Pettegree 21504. Brunet IV 216. Baudrier V, 376. Actes de François Ier, IV, n° 11380. Gültlingen vol. 4, pp. 133 no. 115.
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