Famous first book on 'monsters'

Boaistuau, P.

Histoires prodigieuses les plus memorables qui ayent esté observées depuis la nativité de Iesus Christ, iusques à nostre siecle : extraictes de plusieurs fameux autheurs, Grecz, & Latins, sacrez & prophanes: mises en nostre langue par P. Boaistuau, surn’mé Launay, natif de Bretaigne, avec les pourtaictz & figures. Dediées à treshault, & trespuissant Seigneur, Iehan de Rieux, Seigneur Dasserac.

Published 1560
Item ID 73398
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Paris, Vincent Sertenas, 1560. 4to (22.0 x 15.8 cm). Title page with engraved vignette; [xxiii], 173, [v] pp.; woodcuts in the text. 18th-century full mottled calf; spine with five raised bands; compartments rich gilt with floral vignettes, and burgundy morocco label with gilt title. Marbled endpapers. Edges speckled red.

First edition. Pierre Boaistuau, also known as Pierre Launay or Sieur de Launay (ca. 1517-1566) “...was a French Renaissance humanist writer, author of a number of popularizing compilations and discourses on various subjects. Beside his many popular titles as a writer, Boaistuau was also an editor, translator and compiler. He holds a very special place in literary developments in the middle and second half of the sixteenth century as the importer of two influential genres in France, the ‘histoire tragique’ and the ‘histoire prodigieuse’. He was also the first editor of Marguerite of Navarre’s collection of nouvelles that is known today as Heptameron.” (Wikipedia). His Histoire prodigieuses “[is] a collection of extraordinary stories of monstrous births, demons, sea-monsters, serpents, creatures half-man and half-animal, precious stones, floods, comets, earthquakes and other natural phenomena.” (Wikipedia). The work is well-illustrated. Many woodcuts, in particular of monsters, have been copies by authors such as Ambroise Parée and John Jonston. “Boaistuau is the first to extract material about all the wonders of nature from their serious, learned context, he wrote not tract but stories. His Histoires Prodigieuses appeared in Paris in 1560. The bundle was among the best sellers in the sixteenth century. He was reprinted as early as 1561, 1564 and 1566, followed by translations and editions with additions from other authors.” (Brouwers). Perhaps most famous is Boaistuau’s illustration of Satan. “Satan is possessed of two breasts ... and appears to be pushing out ... a monster from between his legs. Boaistuau goes on to illustrate and explicate a host of gynecological monstrosities.” (Read). Provenance: bookplate of Daniel Berditchevsky (probably the Belgian bibliophile book collector, born in 1925) mounted on the front paste-down. Skillful repairs to outer hinges, several marginalia and a few underlinings in an old hand, one images censored; some light dampstaining on the upper edge of a few text leaves, but generally in a very good condition. Very rare; only five auction records since WWII. E. Brouwers (1991) Een wonderlijk schatboek uit 1592, p. 82; Brunet I, pp. 982-983; K. D. Read (2011) Birthing Bodies in Early Modern France: Stories of Gender and Reproduction, p. 138.

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