Opuscules. Antoine BLONDEL.


Douai: Jacques Boscare, 1576. 8vo. 248 pp., including index. FIRST AND ONLY EDITION. Woodcut printer’s device on title, woodcut tailpieces. Contemporary calf, elaborate gilt embossing including a decorative lozenge on front and back covers inscribed “EN ESPERAT I DE CORTEVVILLE DESIRE FAICTIA CUIR M LXXVII,” spine in compartments, front hinge reinforced, with elegant gauffered edges. Overall a spectacular binding and copy of an incredibly rare work. Item #16012

First and only (?) printing of this compilation of poetry in French and Latin with some additional verses in Italian and Flemish, a rare and unique example of a humanistic pursuit. The first twenty-four pages offer humorous sonnets and verses by Antoine Blondel and authors involved with his local poetic society (see below). Some of these poems lightly poke fun at Blondel and generally the various genres and forms of poetry. The volume is dedicated to Mademoiselle Marie d’Espinoy; nineteenth-century historians debated her identity, suggesting two possible sixteenth-century women: Philippotte Christine (also known as Marie-Philippine, Philippe-Chretienne, or Marie-Christine) de Lalaing (1454-1582), wife of Pierre de Melun (d. 1594), Prince of Epinoy; or Marie de Melun (d. 1634), daughter of Hugues de Melun (1520-1553), Prince of Epinoy, who married Lamoral (1563-1624), Prince of Ligne, a knight of the order of the Golden Fleece (Souvenirs de la Flandre wallonne, 50).

The Antoine Blondel credited for this text was almost certainly the esteemed knight Antoine Blondel II (d. 1603), Baron de Cuinchy, Lord of Manicourt, Ghore, Villers-au-Bois, Saulchoy, Verquigneul, and Lambres. Blondel also served as Colonel of the Walloon regiment. In commendation for his command of the infantry in Malta against the Ottomans in 1565, he was awarded the title of Baron de Cuinchy-Prevot on September 20, 1586 by Philip II of Spain (Courcelles, p. 9). He eventually married Madelaine de Bercus with whom he had three children, Jacques II, Antoine-Floris, and Louis. Blondel lived in Milan where he excelled at all the arts of a gentleman, before returning to Cuincy where he established the small “banc poetique,” a group dedicated to spinning verses about youthful beauty (Pettegree, 5859).

In regards to the inscribed binding, we are certain that it is not related to the Blondel family’s heraldry or armorial motto. However, the name Corteville may refer to the Flemish Corteville (Courteville or Cortewille) family, suggesting that the book was previously owned by a member of that noble clan. There is evidence that the family was based in Northern France, which was at the time part of Flanders (for example in Steenvoorde). One family member, Josse de Corteville, Lord of Polinchove, was tasked with a secret mission by Philippe II in 1577 (Parenty, 355).

We have located only two other extant copies of this work at the Douai Bibliotheque municipal and Versailles Bibliotheque municipal. No copies located in OCLC.

Price: $6,000.00

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