Item #274 Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs. ANON.
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs
Verse Addressed to Children Destined for a Life of Domestic Servitude.

Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs

Only known copy of an edition of medieval advice to young people on how to prepare for a life as a domestic. The work belongs to a long late-medieval tradition of doctrinals, or books of advice in verse, and became some of the earlier products of the vernacular presses in France. Verse advice for fathers, daughters, newlyweds, wives, princes, scholars, the condemned, and other target audiences emerged from French publishers between 1485 and 1530. The Doctrinal des bons serviteurs is composed of 28 octosyllabic enclosed-rhyme quatrains, which begin in the voice of an experienced servant passing on their advice, in the form of a written poem, to a novice servant. The elder servant advises first that to serve one's master is ultimately service to God. The young servant must always follow as a model the most experienced servant in a demesne. They must demonstrate obedience and fear, in equal measure, to the master. More practical advice to tyro domestics, with some levity, follows: Don't eat too much, and never drink in excess; no cussing around the master, even if they cuss; never eat at the master's table, unless they have departed and their leftovers remain; be tidy, clean, odorless, quiet, and invisible; don't be the bearer of bad news, especially if it dishonors the master. If the master takes one into their confidence, don't ever blab. Avoid taverns, prostitutes, cards, and dice. In the 13th quatrain, we read that the ideal servant should have oreilles de vache, groing de porc, et dos d'asne, which the senior servant explains in the lines following. Here we refer to the only known English translation, an anonymous work printed by John Butler at London about 1530 (and now lost):


By an asse eeres this is mente,
That thou must harken hym a boute, 
And yf that he be not content,
Saye nought, but se thou hym doute.


By the hogges snowte vnderstonden is
What mete soeuer to the is brought, 
Though it be somwhat a mys,
Holde thy peas and grutche nought.


As to regarde of the fete of an harte,
They sholde euer theyr mayster socoure, 
Payne the for hym though that thou smerte,
To renne and go at euery houre. 


(The English translation is about twice as long as the French, and bears additional advice, most noteworthy of which is that the best servants are not missing any fingers.) The elder servant somberly advises the novice that in times of war, where a servant faces death in battle or a gruesome hanging, they must persevere as a servant to the last breath; that we are all just worm food in the end. The refrain of the last three quatrains, Ainsi devient le varlet maistre (thus the servant becomes the master), suggests the ultimate reward for dutiful service. The elder servant imparting the advice refers again, at the very end, to the piece of paper on which their advice is written; the reader imagines the senior servant handing it to the novice. Four other early editions of our text are known, all surviving in single exemplars: a c1490-95 quarto (a copy of which was itemized in Ferdinand Columbus's Libro de los Epítomes); a Paris edition c1510; a Toulouse octavo of c1520 (without illustrations); and a c1530 Paris edition, also in octavo, with different woodcuts. Our book bears a title cut of two princes kowtowing to a lady; one prince is handing her an unknown object. The final page has a larger woodcut of God on his throne flanked by the four personages of Psalm 81: Truth, Mercy, Justice, and Peace, each identified by a banderole; six angels hover in the background. A single manuscript of Le Doctrinal des bons serviteurs exists, as part of a mid-15th-century epitome of Christine de Pisan's writings. Ours is a fine Renaissance printing with esteemed provenance.

Paris? 1515-1525.

Octavo, 136 x 96 x 5 mm (binding), 134 x 94 x 3 mm (text block); a4 [$=2], [8] pp. Full citron morocco, boards framed in triple decorative gilt rolls with acorn corner pieces and a central rose surrounded by a radiating mandorla; spine gilt in six compartments, the second with morocco lettering-piece titled in gilt DOC | TRI | NAL | DES | BONS | SER | VI | TEUR, edges and dentelles rolled in gilt; AEG, red silk bookmarker. Binding by Anthoine Bauzonnet, with his stamp to head verso of first free end; undated but likely produced after his work as gilder at Atelier Simier yet before his association with Trautz: c1829. Fine condition, with some acid migration from Audenet's bookplate through the first endpapers. Interior: Some minor foxing; trace of a deckle to first leaf preserved.

Provenance:

Bookplate of Charles Nodier to upper pastedown (Cat. Nodier 319, "magnifique exemplaire"); bookplate of Adolphe Audenet to upper pastedown (Cat. Audenet 690, "Charmante reliure de Bauzonnet"); the Baudelocque copy, no. 466 ("délicieuse reliure de Bauzonnet dite à la rose"); the Lignerolles copy, no. 1115 ("vers 1525"), sold to Charles Porquet for 182 fr.; later unidentified cataloguer's penciled notes to endpapers (including list of previous owners, omitting Baudelocque, and a remark, "seule exemplaire connu." 

Brunet II col. 781 (mentioning this copy, and other editions); Bechtel (2010) D-335.2 (this copy); not in USTC, OCLC, COPAC, or KVK; no copies in Rare Book Hub or JAP-Online; not in Fairfax-Murray; overlooked by bibliographers of gastronomic literature. Kelso, Ruth, Doctrine for the Lady of the Renaissance, UIP: 1978, p. 287; For the English tr., see Rimbault, E. F., Early English Poetry, Ballads and Popular Literature of the Middle Ages: London, Percy Society, 1842, pp 1-12; see BnF fr. 1181 (the only known manuscript).

Item #274

Price: $24,000.00

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