London: Dreyden Press, 1886. First Edition. Hardcover. 1st edition of this translation. The 1st French, 1558, 1st in English, 1597, and those that followed, were terribly abridged so this is the first complete and thorough translation into English (see below). Contemporary morocco (5 1/2” X 8 1/2”) by Kaufmann. Portrait and 8 plates. Near fine. A dutiful text but a common book, and since you should never discount beauty, ours is a good way to want it, in an extravagant binding. Now, we have priced this book half what we paid for it, because we re–mark our books to market when we catalog them and today $400 is what it’s worth. Near fine. Item #812
Marguerite (1492–1549), often hailed as the first modern woman, was Queen of Navarre, and forebearer of the Bourbon Kings of France through her grandson Henry IV, first of his line and the last amiable French King of the people. She was smart, adeptly educated, a humanist, and a reformer, and hostessed Leonardo at the Château d’ Amboise after he left Italy and sheltered John Calvin and François Rabelais in her court. She took The Heptameron’s frame narrative from Boccaccio’s Decameron, but her 72 tales emphasize love, and though her aim was for them to have an elevating and civilizing impact on her readers, the greatest authors are seldom reticent or even respectable, so the tales got away from her higher ideals and wander well past love into lust, plots, intrigue, ruses, suspicion, seduction, deception, infidelity, jealously, trickery, misadventure, revenge, passion, grudges, desire, conniving, and all the other allied subjects orbiting romance. And though many of the tales twist into irony, others manage to have happy endings.
The Heptameron’s stories were the most famous, and remain the most popular, French stories of their time, but their road to eminence was long and rocky. Marguerite died before the 100 stories she planned could be finished, and for 300 years all the editions of the 72 she did write were slashed up, bowdlerized, and stripped of their vitality in the name of duplicitous morality. Finally, in the mid 19th century, a more faithful edition, was called for and about that time a 16th century manuscript was uncovered and published, and our edition is a translation from that one, redacting only quaint redundancies. And in the end, here’s the thing about censorship (and propriety) today. If there are subjects people cannot discuss freely, people will be timid on all subjects.