First edition. An unusual illustrated chronicle centering on the history of Europe's relationship to Flanders, Hainault, and Artois, and their inhabitants, printed in a robust gothic fount by Gilles Couteau. No single author claims to have written the Legende des flamens, and indeed it may have been composed by committee, given the variable use of third person, first person, and first-person plural to relate the history of the region with respect to the wars, commerce, political machinations, and cultural differences with the rest of Europe, from the conversion of Clovis to Christianity in 493 AD to the early 1520s. But the work may have been commissioned as a political statement, and published as a kind of punishment directed at Flanders for its support of François I's bitter rival, Charles V. The work, though beautiful as a bibliographical object, useful as a general chronicle, and illuminating as a witness to France's burgeoning humanist docket, it is virulent in its condemnation of Flanders and Flemings, with many vituperative attacks on the culture of the region. Given the expense of its production (indeed, three copies on vellum are known), the work may also have served as a kind of national directive to the people of France to recover their esteem following the disappointment of the Field of the Cloth of Gold tournaments held in the late spring and early summer of 1520 as a show of good will between France and England. Though it had been agreed beforehand that Henry VIII and François would not personally engage, the latter challenged the former to a wrestling match. Henry lost badly. England secretly conspired with Charles V against François the following year; two years following Henry invaded France. The Legende des flamens is illustrated with four large woodcuts and 26 smaller vignettes (including one on a black background), each of which was designed for specific use with this text. The work was dedicated to Louise of Savoie. Uncommon in the trade—the most recent comparable exemplar to appear at auction, the Macclesfield copy, fetched £16,250 in 2008. Three copies located in North American libraris (Yale, Library Company of Philadelphia, and Morgan).
Full title: La Lége[n]de des Flame[n]s | artiſiens et haynuyers: | Ou autreme[n]t leur cronique abregee En laquelle ſont conte- | nues pluſieurs hyſtoires de Fra[n]ce, Angleterre & Allemaigne. | ❡Avecq[ue]s les genealogies et deſcentes des roys de Naples | et Sicille qui y ont regne en quatre nations iuſques a preſent | Aſcavoir Normans, Allemans, Francois & Arrago[n]noys. | ❡Meſmement des viſco[n]tes, princes & Ducz de Myllan qui | ont regne iuſques a preſent Et le Droict et tiltre que les treſ- | chreſtiens roys de France ont, tant au royaulme et couro[n]ne de Naples & Sicile que au duche et Eſtat de Millan. || Cum p[ri]uillegio || ❡Ilz ſe vendent a Paris en la rue ſainct Jaques | a lenſeigne ſainct Claude pres les Maturins.
Paris: Gilles Couteau for François Regnault, 1522.
Quarto, 221 x 173 x 18 mm (binding), 218 x 170 x 15 mm (text block). a6 b8 c4 d8 e4 f8 g4 h8 i4 k(lz)8 l4 m8 n4 o4 p8 pp6 q4 r8 s6 (s6 blank and present); i-xc, lxxxv-xc, xci-ci,  =108 ff. Thirty woodcuts in text. Late 19th-century maroon morocco gilt by de Coverley. Some wear to extremities; spotting to upper cover; offsetting of turn-ins to endpapers; old ex-libris removed from upper pastedown. Interior: A few expertly accomplished paper repairs, including to title; none of which we noticed until the leaves were backlit. A few scattered minor stains, occasional underlinings and marginal scribbles in ink by a contemporary read. A very clean, complete copy with good margins.
Acquired by W. S. Cotter Rare Books from Marc van de Weile of Bruges, June 2022.
Brunet Suppl. I, col. 820; Essling 391; Fairfax Murray 308; Moreau 1522-347; Bechtel L113; Emerson, Catherine, Reading and Writing History in Sixteenth-Century France: The Case of La Legende Des Flamens (1522), Paris and Galway: Association des etudes françaises et francophones d'Irlande, 2016.
Status: On Hold