Diplomatic 1559 - Witness Description

Matteo Bandello (author), Pierre Boaistuau (translator), Histoires tragiques extraictes des oeuvres italiennes de Bandel, & mises en nostre langue Françoise, par Pierre Boaistuau surnommé Launay, natif de Bretaigne, Paris, Vincent Sertenas, 1559.

HISTOIRES || TRAGIQUES || EXTRAICTES DES || OEUVRES ITALIENNES DE || Bandel, & mises en nostre langue || Françoise, par Pierre Boaistuau sur-||nommé Launay, natif de Bretaigne. || Dediées a Monseigneur Matthieu de || Mauny, Abbé des Noyers. || [printer’s mark with a Latin motto, “Vincenti non victo gloria”] || A PARIS, || Pour Vincent Sertenas tenant sa boutique au Palais, en || la galerie par ou on va a la Chancellerie : Et a la rue || neufve Nostre dame, a l’enseigne 1. Jean l’Evangeliste. || 1559 || Avec Privilege.

[4]-171-[1] f. ; sign. *4, a-x8, y4 ; octavo.

Reference copy: Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek, 65.M.10 ALT PRUNK

Other available copies of the same edition: Rouen, Bibliothèque municipale; Anvers, Museum Plantin-Moretus Prentenkabinet; British Library; Cambridge, Emmanuel College Library; Pommersfelden SchlossBibliothek.

The book contains a printer’s mark, decorated initials but no further illustration.

The book uses a roman font. Italics are used in summaries (to separate them from the main text of each story) and to refer to Matthieu de Mauny, whom the Histoires tragiques were dedicated to. Therefore, italics can be found both in the frontispiece (in the phrase “Dediées a Monseigneur Matthieu de Mauny, Abbé des Noyers”) and in the prefatory text “A Monseigneur Matthieu de Mauny” (f. *2r*3v).

Our reference copy (Vienna, Österreichische Nationalbibliothek) does not contain any mark of ownership.

Since our work was carried out in Spring 2020 at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, at a time when travels were impossible and access to most Italian and European libraries was restricted, our choice of a copy of Pierre Boaistuau’s Histoires tragiques was severely limited, and we were forced to rely on the most readily available text. Therefore, our edition is based on a copy of the original Sertenas edition (published in 1559), kept at the Austrian National Library in Vienna and fully available online (Google Books).

However, it must be noted that, despite the high number of editions in the second half of the 16th century and early 17th century (at least twenty), the text of the Histoires tragiques mostly remained unchanged, to such an extent that even mistakes were carried over from one edition to the next. As of today, the most recent and complete overview of the first editions of Pierre Boaistuau’s Histoires tragiques can be found in an essay by Jean-Claude Arnould, “Les premières éditions des Histoires tragiques de Pierre Boaistuau” (in Les Histoires tragiques du XVIe siècle. Pierre Boaistuau et ses émules, edited by J.-C. Arnould, Paris, Classiques Garnier, 2017, p. 13-23), which expanded on previous bibliographical surveys, such as Donald Stone’s essay “Belleforest’s Bandello: A Bibliographical Study” (published in Bibliothèque d’Humanisme et Renaissance, XXXIV-3, 1972, p. 490-491) and a chapter of Michel Simonin’s book Vivre de sa plume au XVIe siècle, ou La carrière de François de Belleforest (Genève, Droz, 1992).

According to Arnould, textual variants are very sparse in the history of the 16th century editions of the Histoires tragiques and, more importantly, they were introduced by printers, not by Pierre Boaistuau himself, who died in 1566 and devoted the final years of his life to other projects (in particular to the publication of the Histoires prodigieuses). Moreover, most of these variants only affected spelling and punctuation, not the actual content of the stories or their lexical quality. As a matter of fact, Boaistuau only played an active role in the very first editions of the Histoires tragiques, which were published in 1559 by several printers and librarians in Paris, i.e. Vincent Sertenas, Gilles Robinot and Benoist Prévost. Among them, Robinot and Prévost’s editions (marked as B1 and B2 in Arnould’s essay) can be considered as an improvement over the original Sertenas edition (A1), in terms of layout and punctuation, but they are less frequently found nowadays. However, all 1559 editions share the same degree of authority, since Boaistuau was actively involved in their publication, unlike later editions. This may justify our choice of the Vienna copy.

It is also worth mentioning that, the same year (1559), Boaistuau dedicated another edition of his book to Queen Elizabeth I of England, of which two copies are available in Cambridge (Old Library Trinity Hall) and Washington (Folger Shakespeare Library). While this edition replicates the text (including the mistakes) of the Sertenas edition, it replaces the paratext to introduce new dedicatory poems, and features some minor variants, which were intended to convey a more flattering representation of English rulers. This edition was studied by Stephen Bamforth in his essay titled “Boaistuau, ses Histoires tragiques et l’Angleterre” (also published in Les Histoires tragiques du XVIe siècle. Pierre Boaistuau et ses émules, op. cit., p. 25-37).