[TROYES, Chrétien de].

[TROYES, Chrétien de]. Cest lhystoire du sainct Greaal. Qui est le premier liure de la Table ronde. ..

Paris, Philippe le Noir, 24 octobre 1523


Folio. two vols in one. ff. [iv] cxvi; [iv] cxxiii-ccxxxi: a4, A-S6, T-V4, X6; AA4, AA-QQ6, RR-SS4, TT6 lacking a1-4 in first volume (title and table). The missing title has been replaced by the title of the second part of the first edition, with the word “Seccond” pasted over with the word “Premier”, remarginged at inner and lower margin. Lettre Bâtard in double column. Fine large grotesque woodcut letter L on both titles, 17 beautiful woodcut illustrations, some full page, charming floriated and historiated white on black criblée initials, engraved armorial bookplate of Robert d’Arcy, Earl of Holdernesse (1718-1778), “TC the gift of” in mss on the bookplate, “Ce volume est un des plus rares de la classe des romans de chevalerie” in C18th hand on fly. Light age yellowing, first title a dusty at margins, b1 and x5 with closed tears restored without loss, rare marginal spot . A very good copy in fine C18th French morocco, much in the style of Derome, covers bordered with a triple gilt rule, spine with gilt ruled raised bands, gilt ruled in compartments with large thistle tool gilt at centres, pointillé and scrolled tools gilt, edges double gilt ruled, inner dentelles gilt, combed marble endpapers, a.e.g. extremities a little rubbed.

Second edition, beautifully bound, of this extremely rare, finely printed and charmingly illustrated chivalric romance ‘The Story of the Holy Grail’, set up in near identical fashion, almost line by line, to the first edition of 1516, but with a different, but equally fine, suite of woodcuts. This edition uses the same printer’s device of Michel Le Noir that is found on the first title page of the first edition; it appears here on the verso of the colophon, though the work was printed by his son Philippe Le Noir. Interestingly the colophon of the first edition states “Nouvellement imprimé á Paris” though there is no record of an earlier edition. Bernard Quaritch had a copy of this work in his catalogue of December 1885 number 25807, in C19th blue morocco by Duru, for sale at £120, of which he quoted the following ““One of the most remarkable editions of these romances is that of Paris in folio published in 1516 in which the history of the Grëal is divided into two branches” – Bergman. “Philippe Le Noir en donna à Paris, en 1523, une réimpression qui est tout aussi rare que l’édition originale (de 1516)” Francisque Michel. “The Sangreal is the scarcest romance of the Round Table” – Dunlop.”” He also had a copy of the first edition in the same catalogue, number 25806, which he priced at £100.
Most Grail scholars agree that the Christian Grail legend was first fully developed in Robert de Boron’s ‘Roman de L’Estoire dou Graal’ (or Joseph). Robert’s seminal version tying the Grail to the Last Supper was subsequently elaborated in the longer redactions of the ‘First Continuation’ of Chrétien de Troyes, the ‘Perlesvaus’, and several branches of the ‘Vulgate’, especially the ‘Queste’ and the ‘Estoire’. “The legend of the Holy Grail is one of the most enduring in Western European literature and art. The Grail was said to be the cup of the Last Supper and at the Crucifixion to have received blood flowing from Christ’s side. It was brought to Britain by Joseph of Arimathea, where it lay hidden for centuries. The search for the vessel became the principal quest of the knights of King Arthur. It was believed to be kept in a mysterious castle surrounded by a wasteland and guarded by a custodian called the Fisher King, who suffered from a wound that would not heal. His recovery and the renewal of the blighted lands depended upon the successful completion of the quest. Equally, the self-realisation of the questing knight was assured by finding the Grail. The magical properties attributed to the Holy Grail have been plausibly traced to the magic vessels of Celtic myth that satisfied the tastes and needs of all who ate and drank from them. The Holy Grail first appears in a written text in Chrétien de Troyes’s Old French verse romance, the Conte del Graal (‘Story of the Grail’), or Perceval, of c.1180. During the next 50 years several works, both in verse and prose, were written although the story, and the principal character, vary from one work to another. In France this process culminated in a cycle of five prose romances telling the history of the Grail from the Crucifixion to the death of Arthur. The Old French romances were translated into other European languages. Among these other versions two stand out: Wolfram von Eschenbach’s Parzifal (early 13th century) and Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur (late 15th century).” BL.
An extremely rare work; we can find no copies at auction of either edition. A lovely copy finely bound from the library of Robert d’Arcy, Earl of Holdernesse.

USTC 27595. Brunet V 49. Tchemerzine, II, pp. 444-446, “aussi rare et précieuse que la précédente”. Pastoureau, Lancelot du Lac et la quête du Graal, 2002, pp. 9-10. Moreau, Inventaire Chronologique des Éditions Parisiennes du XVIe siècle, III 522. Not in Fairfax Murray or Mortimer Fr. C16 books at Harvard.

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