BOUND FOR THE ELECTOR OF BRANDENBURG
Commentarii de nobilitate et de iure primigeniorum.Basel, [Johann Froben], 1561.
Folio. 2 parts in 1, pp. (lii) 588, 415 (xxix). Roman letter, index in Italic. Woodcut printer’s device to t-p and last verso, ¼-page woodcut author’s portrait to t-p verso, decorated initials and ornaments. T-p and last verso a little dusty at margins, couple of tiny worm holes and a little finger soiling to edges of first few ll., slight yellowing, light water stain at upper edge of few gatherings, small hole to c6 affecting couple of letters, ink spots to lower margin of E1 verso. A very good, well-margined copy in contemporary pigskin, lacking ties, double blind ruled, outer border with blind roll of vegetal decoration, second with scenes from the life of Christ, third with female virtues, central panels with arms of Johann Georg, Elector of Brandenburg, on upper cover: ‘M.V.R.’ and 1567 blind-stamped at head and foot, raised bands, lower cover a bit rubbed. Modern bookplate of Jacques Laget to front pastedown, C18 bibliographical note to ffep verso, a few C16 ms. notes and underlinings in red.
This handsome binding was produced in the workshop of H.H. (EBDB w000424, Haebler I 180-185). Both plates (p000945, p000947) portray the arms of Johann Georg, Elector of Brandenburg (1525-98), a frequent subject. This copy was probably a gift to the Elector or a purchase for his library, whence it probably exited when it was given to the obscure M.V.R.
A very good, well-margined copy of this fascinating and important legal encyclopaedia on the law of nobility and primogeniture. Beneath his unassuming life as humanist, ‘juge-châtelain’ and counsellor of the Parlement de Paris, André Tiraqueau (1488-1558) was also patron of Rabelais and probably the figure behind the latter’s character of Trinquamelle in ‘Gargantua and Pantagruelle’. His major works are all concerned with family law. First published in 1549, ‘De nobilitate’ explored two thorny questions for medieval and early modern aristocratic families, using as a starting point Bartolus de Saxoferrato, integrated with French law. The first part is devoted to nobility, the second to the law of primogeniture. The first begins with a discussion on the origin and nature of nobility—a problematic blend of blood and virtue. Do wealth, wisdom, custom or virtue bring nobility? How are princes noble? Can astrologers foresee and planets influence nobility? It then proceeds to discuss how people with no other virtue but nobility make a point of boasting about it, and the transmission of nobility to/from parent and children or husband and wife. The remainder explores specific legal situations—e.g., is one’s nobility lost if they become impoverished or if they enter a religious order; can legal professionals like judges, lawyers or procurators or activities like medicine, commerce and agriculture in any way delimit the privileges of nobility or detract from it; is a father’s practice of ‘the sordid arts’ prejudicial to his children’s nobility? The early annotator of this copy was interested, among others, in the three ways to nobility (by blood, virtue or merit), bastardy and legitimacy, whether the nobility of a homeland can ennoble citizens (‘places cannot ennoble men, but men ennoble places’), the punishment of people who pass themselves off as noble, and the function of the wet nurse and its impact on a child’s nobility if he is not fed with his mother’s milk. The second part—on primogeniture—begins with a lengthy historical preface, followed by the detailed nit and grit, divided in sections and subsections. E.g., the meaning of ‘primogenitus’ by statute or immemorial custom, the absence of a male heir, the exclusion of siblings from the inheritance, and so on. An important work, in an elegant Froben edition.Only Delaware and Duke copies recorded in the US. Not in BM STC Ger. or Graesse.