S’ensuit l’histoire de Morgant le geantParis, Alain Lotrian, [c. 1536]
FIRST EDITION thus. 4to. ff [clx]. 4, a-z4, cum4, rum4, A-O4. Lettre Bâtarde. Title in red and black with three quarter page woodcut of a tournament and large floriated white on black criblé initial, 14 woodcuts in text of various sizes, full-page on verso of title, woodcut floriated and grotesque white on black criblé initials in two or four lines, early shelfmarks on verso of front flyleaf, French ownership inscription on rear pastedown ‘Ce presendte libre appartin a moy Jhan Jaques demourant a annecy 1548. 2 Julliett’ small ink stamp ‘bibliotheca’ on verso of title. Light age yellowing, pale water stain on a few leaves, the rare mark or spot. A very good copy, crisp and clean in contemporary vellum wallet binding, recased, tie preserved, inked title to upper cover in an early hand, some stains to covers, repairs to head and tail of spine.
Rare, very charmingly illustrated, early edition of the French translation of the Morgante, a narrative account of the adventures of Orlando and the giant Morgante by Luigi Pulci in the form of a chivalric and ‘carnivalesque’ poem, composed in its final version of 28 cantos in octava rima, first published in Italian in 1478 in 23 cantos. Pulci returned to his poem, and the last five cantos appeared in 1483, including the narrative of the ‘Rotta di Roncisvalle’. The work met with great success and was translated into French prose in 1517 and published at Paris in 1519. The present edition (dated to about 1536) contains three added chapters, chapter 1, and after the end of the narrative, chapters 134 and 135. These added parts constitute a historical framework, relating to Charlemagne, added either by the translator or possibly the printers. The translator is anonymous but indicates the date of completion of his work at the end of the story: August 31, 1517. His work was more an adaptation of the comic narrative of the adventures of Morgan, Roland and Renaud in the time of Charlemagne than a direct translation (see Montorsi, 2011), suppressing for example the episode of Morgant and Margutte, the incredulous demi-giant (a passage judged undoubtedly too heterodox, whereas in Italy it was often reprinted separately). The prologue and the epilogue that he adds to the Italian narrative is made up of histories drawn from the legendary life of Charlemagne presented in quasi-narrative form without mentioning the Italian source. The name of Pulci does not appear on the title page either. The translation, which transposes the hendecasyllabic octaves of the twenty-eight songs into prose and divides the text into chapters, was a great success in France, with eleven editions in the sixteenth century and three in the seventeenth century.
“After enjoying considerable renown in the literary circles of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, Morgante, almost totally forgotten in the following century, was harshly criticized by the men of letters of the eighteenth, who considered it to be an inferior burlesque poem, and accused its author of an immoderate lack of respect for religion. Pulci’s masterpiece was well known outside Italy long before the end of the eighteenth century. The florentine poet’s work is credited, in fact, with having influenced Rabelais and Goethe, as well as several English writers. In the introduction to his verse translation of canto I of Morgante ..Lord Byron not only states that Morgante ‘divides with Orlando Innamorato the honour of having informed and suggested the style of Ariosto’ but also recognises Pulci as the ‘founder’ of the new style of Poetry which was flourishing in England in his time.” Edoardo Lebano. Introduction ‘Morgante: The Epic Adventures of Orlando and His Giant Friend Morgante’.