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Rewriting Arthurian Romance in Renaissance France

Rewriting Arthurian Romance in Renaissance France: Publishing from Manuscript to Book

Series: Gallica
Volume: 33
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Rewriting Arthurian Romance in Renaissance France
    Book Description:

    Arthurian romance in Renaissance France has long been treated by modern critics as marginal - although manuscripts and printed volumes, adaptations and rewritings, show just how much writers, and especially publishers, saw its potential attractions for readers. This book is the first full-length study of what happens to Arthur at the beginning of the age of print. It explores the fascinations of Arthurian romance in the sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries, from the magnificent presentation volumes offered by Antoine Vérard or Galliot du Pré in the early years of the century to the perfunctory abbreviated Lancelot published by Benoît Rigaud in Lyon in 1591; from PierreSala's dutiful "translation" of Yvain to Jean Maugin's exuberant rewriting of the prose Tristan; from attempts at "new" romance like the little-known Giglan to the runaway best-seller Amadis de Gaule.The book's primary focus is the techniques and stratagems employed by publishers and their workshops to renew Arthurian romance for a new readership: the ways in which the publishers, the translators and the adapters of the Renaissance tailor romance to fit new cultural contexts. Their story - which is the story of the rise and fall of one of the great genres of the Middle Ages - allows privileged insights into socio-cultural and ideological attitudes in the France of the Renaissance, and into issues of literary taste, particular patterns of choice and preference. Jane H.M. Taylor is Emeritus Professor of French at Durham University.

    eISBN: 978-1-78204-201-3
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-x)
    (pp. xi-xii)
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
    (pp. 1-10)

    In 1506, the most prominent and successful publisher in Paris, Antoine Vérard, published a particularly enchanting book of hours. Books of hours were a staple of early publishing, and provided a nicely stable income-stream at a time when so many publishers, so easily, failed and went out of business.¹ Vérard’s book of hours, BnF Rés. Vélins 1638, is a charming octavo volume, printed on vellum: the print is a clear and beautiful Gothic black-letter; initial letters have been coloured red and blue; and every page is expensively illustrated with delicate borders and marginal woodcuts. But I want here to draw...

  7. 1 Pierre Sala, Poacher
    (pp. 11-37)

    One summer in about 1510, an apparently unremarkable civil servant called Pierre Sala tells us, he found himself in Grenoble, in the train of King Louis XII – and was intrigued.² Not far away, he knew, a mere twenty miles or so, was a most strange and noteworthy site, anestrange assiete: the Carthusian monastery known as the Grande Chartreuse, perched remotely and spectacularly in the mountains of the Dauphiné. It was not, he knew, easy of access – yet the way was even moresaulvaige, the monastery even moreaustere, than he had expected. Even though it was June,...

  8. 2 ‘Books Printed Here’: The Business of the Print Shop
    (pp. 38-60)

    In 1494 Antoine Vérard, the great Parisianmarchand–libraireof the early years of printing in France, brought out a magnificent folio edition of theRoman de Lancelot. This is a luxury object: three thick volumes, meticulous print, generousmise en page, nicely chosen illustrations. As he often did, Vérard also prepared a number of individual copies on vellum² – including one now in the BnF,³ which has a sumptuous full-page frontispiece in glorious, vivid colours (fig.5).⁴ The scene is a tournament: in the foreground knights in rich armour, on magnificent, spirited chargers, are attacking each other with lances and...

  9. 3 ‘A Condition of Survival’: Lancelot and Tristan
    (pp. 61-90)

    In the late 1480s, less than twenty years after the first printing press in Paris opened for business,² two, or perhaps three, publishers decided on what must have been a considerable gamble: the publication of the very first printed Arthurian romances. They chose the most popular, but also the most monumental: first, an integralLancelot du Lac, including not just theLancelotproper but also theQueste del saint GraalandLa Mort le roi Artu, and second, a year or so later, a proseTristan. A considerable gamble: the edition ofLancelotconsists of two large folio volumes, more...

  10. 4 ‘Skimble-Skamble Stuff’ Meliadus, Merlin, Greaal
    (pp. 91-118)

    In the measured, calculated prologue which Jean Le Bourgeois and Jean du Pré – perhaps with Vérard’s collaboration – had made for theireditio princepsof theLancelotin 1488, and which we explored in part in the previous chapter, the twomarchands–librairesproduce something like a profession of faith. The pagans, they say with an edge of disdain, chose, absurdly and because of theirfolles et imparfaictes credences[insane and imperfect beliefs], to think of theirhommes vertueuxas gods; Christians, they say, being so much more rational, consider itdecent et raisonnable[appropriate and reasonable] to recordx...

  11. 5 ‘Imperious Seductions’: Giglan and Perceval
    (pp. 119-146)

    Readers, says Certeau, as we saw in Chapter 1, are poachers: they ‘use their wits […] to insinuate […] their inventiveness into the cracks of cultural orthodoxy’.² The three romances that we explored in the last chapter were read, and certainly edited, but largely in the interests of narrative efficiency: withMeliadus, to avoid a clash with a well-loved and well-knownTristan; with theProphéties, to impose some coherence on an indecipherable original; with theHystoire du sainct Greaal, to fit a third text into a compendium of Grail romances. In this chapter I turn to two other romances, much...

  12. 6 ‘Satyric Scenes in Landscape Style’: Amadis de Gaule
    (pp. 147-182)

    In 1543 the leading Parisian publishing house of Denis Janot, in a consortium with two colleagues, produced a handsome folio volume, Book IV of the runaway best-seller seriesAmadis de Gaule; it has a little quatrain as anenvoi, which runs:

    De Herberay noble sieur des Essars

    Ton Amadis tous aultres romans passe

    Et qui le list de veoir après se passe

    Les lancelotz, les Tristans, les Froissars.²

    [Noble Herberay des Essarts, yourAmadissurpasses all other romances, and anyone who has read it can do without the Lancelots, the Tristans, the Froissarts.]

    The quatrain is addressed to Nicolas d’Herberay...

  13. 7 ‘Fruitlesse Historie’: Maugin’s Tristan, Rigaud’s Lancelot
    (pp. 183-214)

    François de La Noue was a hardened veteran known – for his artificial arm – as ‘Bras-de-Fer’; he was the author of austereDiscours politiques et militaires, written in captivity and first published in Switzerland in 1587. His opinion ofAmadisis poor: it is no preparation for a decent military career, he says: the chapter he devotes to it is entitled ‘Que la lecture des livres d’Amadis n’est moins pernicieuse aux jeunes gens, que celle des livres de Machiavel aux vieux’; they are, he says,escrits de mensonge[reading theAmadisbooks is no less harmful to the young...

  14. Afterword
    (pp. 215-216)

    In 1646 Jean Chapelain, urbane habitué of seventeenth-centurysalonsand an elegant, graceful stylist who specialised in dialogue-treatises, wrote a littleDialogue de la lecture des vieux romanswhich purports to be a conversation between himself and two well-read friends.¹ Chapelain is ambivalent: romances can, perhaps, be useful in informing the young about history, or language. But they are also problematic, in a society that valuesgalanterie– and he turns, with some perplexity, to theLancelot. Can one, he wonders, speak of thegalanterieof Lancelot? He is doubtful if it is at all appropriate,

    pour ce que je...

  15. Appendix 1: Rough Chronology of Publication
    (pp. 217-222)
  16. Appendix 2: Sainct Greaal (1516) v. Vulgate Queste
    (pp. 223-232)
  17. Appendix 3: Structure of the Roman De Giglan
    (pp. 233-240)
    (pp. 241-268)
  19. INDEX
    (pp. 269-278)
  20. Back Matter
    (pp. 279-281)