RABELAIS, François (ca 1494-1553). Les songes drolatiques de Pantagruel, ou sont contenues plusieurs figures de l'invention de maistre François Rabelais: & derniere oeuvre d'iceluy pour la recreation des bons esprits. Paris: Richard Breton, 1565.
8o (159 x 97mm). Collation: A-G8 2G8. 63 leaves (of 64, without blank G8): title, address to the reader, 120 FULL-PAGE WOODCUTS of grotesque figures and masquerades. (Printer's device cut out and replaced with old paper and a small vignette, early German manuscript captions unobtrusively erased.) French binding of c. 1700, polished calf, gilt spine, red edges, marbled endpapers, arms block of the Right Honourable Sir Charles Bagot added in the center of the covers, (extremities rubbed, front joint split). Quarter morocco slipcase.
Provenance: 17th-century German ownership (captions) -- Sir Charles Bagot, 1781-1843, governor-general of Canada (supra-libros) -- Ralph Sneyd of Keele Hall (gilt armorial white-leather booklabel), known as 'Sporting Ralph', nephew and heir of the great manuscript collector, Rev. Walter Sneyd (Sotheby sale 16 December 1903) -- Edmée Maus of Geneva (booklabel), her library dispersed by Jammes and Engelberts -- Acquired from Librairie Valette 1973.
FIRST EDITION OF THIS UNIQUE SERIES OF ILLUSTRATIONS OF BIZARRE CREATURES. The woodcuts are now generally attributed to François Desprez, who three years earlier had conceived for Breton, Recueil de la diversit©e des habits, qui sont de present en usage, which included three illustrations that would not be out of place among these "burlesque dreams". Some of the iconography can clearly be related to images by Hieronymus Bosch and Pieter Breughel, as published in Antwerp by Hieronymus Cock a decade earlier. Rabelais is invoked on the title and in the preface as the creator of this Pantagruelist buffoonery, but his name simply served to advertise the nature of this work. Much ink has flowed on the mysteries and hidden meanings in these cuts, such as Protestant propaganda, but there is perhaps no good reason for not taking the author of the preface at his word, that their purpose is only to amuse, specifically to inspire youths and other "bons esprits" who want to masquerade. EXTREMELY RARE IN FINE CONDITION. Brun pp. 60, 295; Mortimer French 499; Plan p. 243; Rawles & Screech 113. Fact and Fantasy 39.