"CURIOUS GLIMPSES OF LIFE IN THE 15TH CENTURY": A PROSE CLASSIC OF THE FRENCH RENAISSANCE, LES CENT NOUVELLES NOUVELLES, WITH OVER 300 ILLUSTRATIONS BY ROBIDA
(ROBIDA, Albert, illustrator) (LOUIS XI) (PHILIPPE LE BON) (DE LA SALE, Antoine, editor). Les Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles. Paris: Librairie Illustrée, . Two volumes. Octavo, early 20th-century three-quarter turquoise morocco, gilt-decorated spines, raised bands, top edges gilt; original printed paper wrappers bound in. $850.
Lovely illustrated edition of this classic collection of prose tales from the French Renaissance, purporting to be narrated by various persons at the court of Philippe le Bon, Duke of Burgundy, while Prince Louis XI resided in exile there (1456-61), collected together by Antoine de la Sale shortly thereafter, with more than 300 wood-engraved illustrations by Albert Robida, handsomely bound by Peter Franck.
"Undoubtedly the first work of literary prose in French… The short prose tale of a comic character is the one French literary product the pre-eminence and perfection of which it is impossible to dispute, and the prose tale first appears to advantage in the Cent Nouvelles Nouvelles" (George Saintsbury). "The stories give us curious glimpses of life in the 15th Century. We get a genuine view of the social condition of the nobility and the middle classes… This seems to have struck M. Lenient, a French critic, who says: 'Generally the incidents and personages belong to the bourgeoisie; there is nothing chivalric, nothing wonderful; no dreamy lovers, romantic dames, fairies, or enchanters. Noble dames, bourgeois, nuns, knights, merchants, monks, and peasants mutually dupe each other… The vices of the monks are depicted in half a score tales, and the seducers are punished with a severity not always in proportion to the offence'" (Robert Douglas, Introduction to the 1899 English edition). For centuries the authorship of these tales was ascribed to Louis XI, though recent scholarship has proven this theory incorrect, while allowing that he may have contributed some of them, and almost certainly was familiar with the collection as a whole. "Robida began his notable career as a popular illustrator in 1878. His designs… have attracted the favor of today's collectors" (Ray, The Art of the French Illustrated Book, 403). Text in French.
Spines uniformly toned. A lovely illustrated edition, handsomely bound, in fine condition.