Tablettes ou quatrains de la vie et de la mort. Par Pierre Matthieu, conseiller du roy.

Première [– troisième] partie … Rouen, Jacques Cailloué, 1628.

Several parts in one vol., oblong 16mo, pp. [384] (register continuous); with main title and 5 part-titles with borders of type ornaments, woodcut initials, typographic headpieces; leaf X2 cut close at foot affecting one line of text, some toning, a very few light marks; very good in eighteenth-century quarter calf, drab paper boards, spine gilt in compartments, red edges; upper joint partly split, some wear to edges and covers; modern collector’s bookplate to front pastedown.


US $3793€3503

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Tablettes ou quatrains de la vie et de la mort. Par Pierre Matthieu, conseiller du roy.

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Very rare pocket-sized Rouen edition of verses on life and death by the poet and royal historiographer Pierre Matthieu (1563–1621), here printed with further poems by Guy du Faur de Pibrac, Antoine Favre and others. All early editions are extremely rare, many known in a single copy.

First published between 1606 and 1622, the three hundred quatrains that make up Matthieu’s three-part Tablettes remain to this day of genuine historical, religious, and aesthetic interest. An important witness to evolving attitudes towards death at the end of the sixteenth century and beginning of the seventeenth, Matthieu’s verse also reflects a sort of ecumenical Christianity, in which the author, a one-time sympathiser of the Catholic League who rallied to Henri IV, takes care to find common ground between Catholicism and Protestantism. The Tablettes are also notable for Matthieu’s indisputable success in mastering the technique of the quatrain.

Matthieu’s poetry is here followed by quatrains by Guy du Faur de Pibrac (1529–1584) (‘long a standard school-text … austere in format but embody[ing] a popular wisdom’ (New Oxford Companion to Literature in French) alongside his ‘Les plaisirs de la vie rustique’; ‘Les advis moraux’ by the Sieur de la Valbonne; quatrains and octonaires ‘sur la vanité du monde’; moral maxims attributed to Cato and versified ‘pour l’instruction de la ieunesse’; quatrains penned by the jurist and poet Antoine Favre (1557–1624); the ‘Defi au malheur’ of d’Aubigné; and lines from the Greek of Gregory of Nazianzus.

No copies of this edition traced in the UK; only one copy in the US on OCLC, at Harvard.

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