([Geneva: Henri Estienne], 1566). 165 x 102 mm. (6 1/2 x 4"). 16 p.l., 572 pp. FIRST EDITION, Second State (as usual).

Excellent dark green morocco by Duru et Chambolle (stamp-signed on verso of front free endpaper and dated 1862), raised bands, spine with gilt titling, turn-ins densely gilt, marbled endpapers, all edges gilt. Printer's device on title, woodcut headpieces and initials. Schreiber 161; Renouard, pp. 126-28; Adams S-1774; Brunet II, 1076; Graesse IV, 506. ◆Leather with slight variation in color, text perhaps pressed (title leaf probably washed and pressed), a minor smudge here, a hint of foxing there, but quite a pleasing copy, showing very few internal or external signs of use.

In an era of religious strife, intolerance, and bloodshed, the publication of this work caused a furor. Ostensibly a pedantic defense of the veracity of the ancient Greek historian Herodotus, the book is in fact a rabid attack on the morals of the Catholic clergy as well as a denunciation of the general degeneracy of contemporary society. Earlier in 1566, Henri Estienne II had published an edition of Herodotus, to which he had appended a modest treatise in Latin, arguing that the historian's tales were not so mendacious as had been believed. Hearing that a French translation of the treatise was in preparation, Estienne decided to create his own French version. His pen, however, ran away with itself and produced this lengthy and scathing satire, in which the manifold peccadillos, attested and imaginary, of priests and monks are put on display to show that stranger and more horrendous things happen in the 16th century than ever Herodotus could have dreamed up. Estienne combines accounts of the scandals of his times with material from Boccaccio, Rabelais, Erasmus, the historians Froissart and Commines, and others. The work was a best-seller. It could not avoid offending many important readers, and according to legend, the author was forced to hide out in the snowy mountains of Auvergne to escape his infuriated detractors. He is said to have joked that he never felt the cold as bitterly as when he was burned in effigy in Paris (an event historians cannot confirm). In fact, although he may have raised the ire of many Catholics, it was the Calvinist consistory of Geneva that censored the book, not for its religious views, but for the smuttiness of some of its examples. As a result of this institutionalized pressure, the text in all known copies but two has been cleansed on eight pages (and, consequently, is, like ours, in the second state). The present copy was lot 251 at Butterfield-Swann on 25 April 1985 (selling for $800).

Price: $1,900.00