Robert Hoe's Beautifully Bound Copy of a Rare 16th Century Poem Inveighing against Fortune-Telling as well as Relying on Good Luck


(Poitiers: Jacques Bouchet pour Enguilbert de Marnef à Paris et à Poitiers, 1524). 188 x 122 mm. (7 3/8 x 5"). [172] leaves. Second Edition.

FINE 19TH CENTURY BROWN MOROCCO IN THE JANSENIST STYLE BY CHAMBOLLE-DURU (stamp-signed on front doublure), raised bands, gilt titling, BEAUTIFUL RED MOROCCO DOUBLURES gilt and inlaid in a Grolieresque design, marbled free endpapers, all edges gilt. With woodcut device of the Brothers Marnef on title page and royal arms on verso, and a full-page allegorical frontispiece featuring Daedalus and Icarus flying away from the Minoan labyrinth, apparently pursued by bees, with a few gilt highlights added by a contemporary hand. Front free endpaper with morocco bookplate of Robert Hoe, monogrammed bookplate of Maurice Escoffier, and armorial bookplate of C. L. F. Robinson; title page with illegible red ink library stamp; frontispiece with ink cipher of "AER." Brunet I, 1156; Graesse I, 507; USTC 21032. A touch of light wear to exterior, top edges very slightly bumped, title and a few other leaves with expert repairs to lower margins, pages lightly washed and pressed, in keeping with bibliophilic fashion at the time of re-binding, but the ink still very dark and rich, an occasional negligible blemish, but still A BEAUTIFUL COPY, the contents extremely pleasing, and the doublures especially lustrous and glistening with gold.

This is the lovely Hoe copy of a Medieval French morality poem reflecting the increasing public interest in astrology and fortune-telling, including what the author viewed as a mistaken attitude toward luck and divine providence. In these verses, first published in 1522, the poet guides the reader through a labyrinth, where, following twists and turns, those who thought themselves safely rich or powerful find instead they are beset by woes. He ends with an exhortation to trust only in the "three noble ladies": Faith, Hope, and Charity. Blessed with a good education and rich imagination, Poitiers poet and lawyer Jean Bouchet (1476-1555) was a friend and correspondent of Rabelais. He wrote on a variety of subjects, penning histories, guides to moral conduct, and panegyrics to the powerful, and had the good fortune of having a printer in the family, his brother Jacques, who produced this volume. His work is valuable today for the insight it gives us into society, politics, religion, and literature in 16th century France. A rough contemporary of, and certainly the equal in technique to, binders like Trautz, Marius Michel père, Lortic, and Cuzin, Chambolle the elder served his apprenticeship under Hippolyte Duru, and later formed a partnership with him. Chambolle's son, who was likely responsible for the present volume, continued the business when his father retired in 1898, and although the firm "showed a cautious recognition of the . . . preoccupation with Art Nouveau," classical work was always the mainstay of the Chambolle bindery. (Duncan & De Bartha) In "Modern Bookbindings," Sarah Prideaux says of her contemporary, "Chambolle most worthily continues the traditions associated with the name of his father. As an interpreter of the past, he has a place apart and almost untouched by the main revolutionary movement that has penetrated nearly every atelier in Paris, and modified, if not overturned, its inherited traditions." His ornamentation, says Prideaux, "reveals great taste and feeling for composition." The decoration here is appropriate to the contents, and both are worthy of their presence in the collection of Robert Hoe (1839-1911), founding member and first president of the Grolier Club, whose library, in the words of Beverly Chew, was "the finest [America] has ever contained." He acquired illuminated manuscripts, early printing (he owned a Gutenberg Bible on paper and one on vellum), fine bindings, French and English literature, and Americana, and when his library was sold in 1911-12, it fetched nearly $2 million, a record that held until the Streeter sale more than 50 years later. Our volume has also graced the shelves of Parisian librarian, bibliophile, and bookseller Maurice Escoffier (1879-1959), and Colt Firearms president C. L. F. Robinson (d. 1916). This work is rare at auction, ABPC and RBH listing just one other copy sold in the past 40 years, as well as in libraries, with OCLC and USTC recording 10 copies, just one of these in North America (at Harvard).