KINGS OF FRANCE. Recueil des effigies des Roys de France, avec un brief sommaire des généalogies, faits et gestes d’iceux. Paris: François Desprez, Rue Mo[n]torgueil, au bo[n] Pasteur, .
4to., (9 2/8 x 7 inches). Title-page with woodcut arms of Charles IX supported by the figures of Piety and Justice, 62 magnificent full-page woodcut portraits depicting a gallery of the Kings of France in order of succession, preceded by "Au lecteur, salut", and succeeded by "Sonnet, au roy Charles neufiesme...", an alternative woodcut of the figures of Piety and Justice appears on the penultimate leaf, each page, including the title-page, is framed by one of six elaborate allegorical woodcut borders (title-page and early leaves restored at margins occasionally affecting the woodcut border, H1 with closed tear crossing the border and just affecting the portrait, Q1 with marginal repair). Modern full red morocco by Bellevallée, the spine in six compartments with five raised bands, gilt decorated inner dentelles and board edges.
Provenance: contemporary marginalia; from the library of Jean Bonna, with his discreet booklabel on the front paste-down, his sale Christie's 16th June 2015, lot 68
FIRST AND ONLY EDITION. AN EXTREMELY RARE AND REMARKABLE SERIES OF 62 FULL-PAGE HEAD AND SHOULDER WOODCUT PORTRAITS OF THE KINGS OF FRANCE, FROM PHARAMOND TO CHARLES IX, only one other copy known in the BNF.
'The first two portraits, as well as those of François I and Henry II are rendered with a true mastery' (Brun).
Published simultaneously in Lyon by Raullant de Neufchatel. 1567 appears to be the year of publication, based on the date appearing within an interchangeable cartouche (alternatively displaying the name of the king portrayed, and a naked figure) in the lower edge of the woodcut border of B3, the last leaf of the "Table", and Q6, the last leaf of the gallery.
The woodcuts are very similar in style to those by Jehan Cousin ("le jeune," or "the younger") (1522-1595), son of the famous painter and sculptor Jehan Cousin ("the elder," ca. 1490-ca. 1560) who was often compared to his more celebrated contemporary, Albrecht Dürer. Cousin "Le Jeune"'s Livre de Pourtraicture was published in 1595 in Paris by David Leclerc, with woodcuts engraved by Jean Leclerc, just after Cousin le jeune's death.
François Desprez is better known for his authorship of the Recueil de la diversité des Habits (1562).
Charles IX (1550 – 1574), King of France at the time of publication of this book, was a monarch of the House of Valois. He ascended the throne of France upon the death of his brother Francis II. Charles is best remembered for authorizing the massacre of Protestants on St. Bartholomew’s Day, August 23–24, 1572, on the advice of his mother, Catherine de Médicis. Mortimer, Harvard French 454; Brun p. 281; BNF 465187403; see Didot, Catalogue de Livres anciens rares et précieux, Paris 1910, lot 112 ('Livre important au point de vue iconographique et fort rare'. Binding by Lortic). Catalogued by Kate Hunter