MATHEOLUS (c.1260-c.1320). Le Livre de Matheolus. Translated by Jean Le Fèvre; edited by Alexandre Primet. [Lyons: Claude Dayne, c.1497-98].
Chancery 2° (279 x 195mm). Collation: a8 b-l6 (a1r title, verso blank, a2r-l5v text, l5v editor’s verse colophon, l6 blank). 68 leaves. Type: 1:97B. 40 lines, double column. White-on-black woodcut initials, large woodcut historiated calligraphic initial on title, 35 woodcuts from 24 blocks. 19th-century red morocco janseniste by Trautz-Bauzonnet, gilt edges (minor scratches). Provenance: Baron de La Roche Lacarelle (1816-87; booklabel; sale Paris 1888, lot 144) – Comte de Lignerolles (1817-93; sale Paris 1894, lot 856) – Charles Fairfax Murray (1849-1919; number label; Davies cat. 363) – Edmée Maus (1905-71; booklabel) – George Abrams (sale Sotheby’s, 16 November 1989, lot 85).
FIRST EDITION. ILLUSTRATED WITH 35 WOODCUTS. THE LA ROCHE LACARELLE-LIGNEROLLES-FAIRFAX MURRAY-MAUS-ABRAMS COPY.
The Livre de Mathéolus is based on the Lamentations of Matheolus (also known as Matthaeus Bononiensis, Matthieu de Boulogne-sur-Mer), a misogynistic tract now surviving in only one manuscript. Matheolus composed his Lamentationes between 1295 and 1300; its chief popularity derived from a 14th-century verse translation by Jean Le Fèvre (c. 1371-72). In his text Matheolus complains about the countless ways in which a woman can bring misfortune onto her husband, thereby vilifying marriage as well as women. He goes on to outline every situation – a young man marrying an older woman, an old man marrying a younger woman, a young man marrying a young woman – as detrimental for a man. One scene, a young wife cuckolding her husband with a young lover, is illustrated by a woodcut in the present edition. Wilson and Makowski outline the blasphemy in book III: ‘Matheolus, in his projected persona of a modern Job, accuses God of incompetence and malice for instituting matrimony; he even raises the question of Divine cowardice —
had Christ dared to take a wife, she might have expelled him from Paradise. Day and night, he says, he is tormented and crucified [...] ''You did not dare to take a wife, Christ'', he exclaims ...’ (Wilson and Makowski p. 142). However, it is very unlikely that Matheolus is really lamenting his own fate, because his text is a ‘pronouncedly eclectic and learned work, utilizing the whole topography of the misogamous canon, yet claiming to rely on personal experience rather than authority.’ (Wilson and Makowski, ibid.)
Only about 13 editions are assigned to the press of Claude Dayne, a native of Salins also known as a bookseller and whose period of activity is limited to the years around 1495-1500. He produced 3 closely similar editions of Matheolus, of which this is the first (ISTC records only two of these editions); Pellechet also gave precedence to this edition over that assigned to Jean de Vingle c. 1497. Only 8 other copies known.
The fine historiated woodcut L of the Matheolus occurs in several of his signed editions; and subsequently was in the possession of Mathias Huss. The woodcuts are apparently made for this edition, and are employed at the beginnings of chapters. Two more unsigned and undated editions of Matheolus were printed in Lyons using the materials of the first edition (see FMF, 364, 365).
ISTC and GW differ in dating this book. While ISTC dates it around 1497/98, GW dates it ‘after 3rd October 1492’, as this date is given by the editor Alexandre Primet in the colophon. Moreover, GW lists a 1495 edition also printed by Claude Dayne with a different number of lines per column, but records no surviving copies. However, Dayne did print another edition in 1498, very close to the present one; Wilson, Katharina M. and Elizabeth M. Makowski, Wykked wyves and the woes of marriage: misogamous literature from Juvenal to Chaucer. New York, 1990. H [not C?] 10915; C 3913 = 3915; BMC VIII 327 (IB.42144); GW M21613; CIBN M-213; IGI 6276; Davies, Fairfax Murray French 363; Rosenwald 365; Goff M-353.