DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE FIRST GOTHIC CATHEDRAL, SAINT-DENIS, WITH A VISUAL INVENTORY OF ITS TREASURES, 1706
FÉLIBIEN, Michel. Histoire de L’Abbaye Royale de Saint-Denys en France. Paris: Frederic Leonard, 1706. Thick folio (10-1/2 by 15-1/2 inches), contemporary full brown mottled calf rebacked with the original gilt-decorated spine laid down, raised bands. $3500.
First edition of this authoritative description and pictorial inventory of the Cathedral of Saint-Denis, with engraved frontispiece by De Poilly, two double-page plans (the town of Saint-Denis and the Cathedral), 12 engraved plates (ten double-page) of precious objects and tombs, and 12 combinations of historiated headpiece and initial letter.
The Cathedral of Saint-Denis is considered an architectural landmark, as it was the first major structure designed and built in the Gothic style. “Both stylistically and structurally it heralded the change from Romanesque architecture to Gothic architecture. Before the term ‘Gothic’ came into common use, it was known as the ‘French Style” (Opus Francigenum). Like most Medieval cathedrals, Saint-Denis held many treasures— reliquaries and liturgical vessels made of precious materials, as well as the “regalia” (objects used in the coronation of French Kings). One of the major sources of information about the rich collection in the treasury of Saint-Denis is this work by Dom Michel Félibien, containing both descriptions and a visual inventory of these objects, many of which were dispersed or destroyed during the French Revolution. Félibien’s illustrations provide critical documentation as to these original holdings, especially the contents of the four armoires in which the treasure was displayed throughout the 18th century. The earliest account of Saint-Denis is an anonymous manuscript in the Bibliothéque Nationale, entitled Descriptio qualiter Karlus Magnus. It was composed and written at Saint-Denis before 1100 and probably even before the First Crusade. Félibien has included this text along with his own elaborate description of the church, together with an account of the privileges and lives of its abbots and benefactors. “So high a reputation did this work gain for its author as a learned, painstaking and faithful historian, that the merchants of Paris… applied to Dom Félibien to write a history of Paris, L’Histoire de la Ville de Paris, published posthumously in 1755” (Charles Knight). Text in French. Brunet II, 1203. Graesse II, 561.
Plates fine, only scattered foxing to fore-edge margins of text. A nearly fine copy.