Rare Book Monthly

Articles - May - 2014 Issue

Of Goupils and Men, or the Bestial Condition of Man

B1ac4346-2aba-4835-8bb4-cbd35ec58022

The Lion King (and Queen) address their beastly subjects.

A question was recently raised in a rare books group on a social network: are fables featuring animals for kids? Yes, they are—but of course, not only. I’m French and, as such, a kid of Jean de La Fontaine—his adaptations of Aesop’s fables have become a part of our DNA. Kids love fables with animals because they are a beautiful way to say horrible things, and they enable them to catch a glimpse of the world of the grown-ups—they are initiatory readings. This reminded me of a peculiar book of mine entitled Le Renard, ou Le Procès des Bêtes (Reynard the Fox (1)) and published in 1743 in Amsterdam—quite a disturbing reading. It’s a sort of German Roman de Renard (2) featuring the dreadful Trigaudin, a cunning fox who cuts off the ears and takes out the eyes of his enemies, devours their offspring, tricks them and leads them to death. Trigaudin is a vicious creature who never pays for his crimes; on the contrary, he is eventually appointed to the highest position of the kingdom—a bloody and immoral tale, in fact. For kids? Well—they usually enjoy it. These animals tell them about the violence of the outside world, and they instinctively understand the value of such a teaching.

 

Mr. Goupil and Dr. Renard

 

 Trigaudin is what French people used to call a goupil—a fox; but the goupil featured in Le Roman de Renard became so famous during the Middle Age that he eventually gave his name, Renard, to his entire race. Le Procès des Bêtes is illustrated with twenty engravings. The first one shows a crowned lion holding a sceptre in front of an assembly of various animals. Among them is Glutton the Wolf (called Isegrim in many English editions, the name derives from Le Roman de Renard), who complains to His Majesty about the behaviour of Trigaudin, the only subject who dared not come to the royal assembly. Trigaudin, reports the Wolf, pretending to clean the face of his offspring, viciously blinded them with his claws! Then Gozille the Cock (a.k.a Chanticleer) shows the beheaded body of his daughter—“Out of fifteen children,” explains the wretched fowl, “Trigaudin has only left four alive!” Trigaudin came to Gozille a few weeks ago to tell him he had decided to stop chasing his offspring and that he was going on a long journey: “Take care of yourself, and don’t you crow too early in the morning and catch a cold.” The gullible fowl believed him, and the fox caught him off-guard. Moral of this chapter: “Never trust your enemy, no matter the reason why he comes to you.

 

Malice Vs. Strength

 

Despite the short morals that end up each chapter, Le Procès des Bêtes is a suspicious book that seems to teach our kids that malice always triumphs—indeed, there’s no satirical dimension to this popular text, as shown by William J. Thoms in his impressive introduction to the 1844 edition of the fable (London). Several royal messengers are sent to Trigaudin in his remote castle, whom he murders or mutilates until he is brought to Court and sentenced to death. With the rope around his neck, Trigaudin suddenly shouts at the Queen, to tell her about a wonderful treasure hidden somewhere. “He was taken off the gallows at once, so he could privately talk to the King and the Queen,” reads the book. Of course, Trigaudin is sent for the so-called treasure with some royal subjects... whom he tricks and murders. After another series of evil deeds, our cunning fox has no choice but to face his infuriated King again. Glutton the Wolf then challenges him to a duel; in the Middle Age, it was a common way to settle feuds, as God would never allow a guilty man to triumph over an innocent. Just like the Judgement of God that consisted in plunging the hand of a suspicious man into boiling water—if innocent, God would cure his wound within three days’ time; else, he was put to death. Trigaudin is less strong than his opponent, but more intelligent—and he eventually wins the fight. As soon as he victoriously comes out of the arena, all his former enemies rush to congratulate him. Moral of this chapter: “You are always wooed when elevated over the multitude, whether by merit or malice. Each and every one tries to get close to those Fortune favours. But adversity keeps even your friends away.”

 

Footnotes: 

 (1): In his Manuel du Libraire (Paris, 1814), Jacques-Charles Brunet gives a short insight of the English editions of this book, starting with The Hystorye of Reynart the Foxe... (M.CCCC.LXXXJ.). “This is one of the rarest editions from the press of Caxton. The history of the Regnard has since been several times printed, but with considerable changes. I’ve seen the following copy: The most delectable history of Reynard the Fox...(London, 1684).” He then evokes the editions of 1667, 1681 and 1733.

 

(2): This collective work from the Middle Age is a cornerstone of French literature. Jacques-Charles Brunet, in the aforementioned work ,writes: “Reynier le renard, histoire très joyeuse et récréative, contenant 70 chapitres, en français et bas allemand (Anvers, 1566). Prosper Marchand says the Flemish text of this volume was republished (...) in 1614, and he thinks that Le Renard, ou le Procès des bêtes, Bruxelles, 1739 (...) was translated from this Flemish version which was itself translated from—or inspired by—the French work Le livre de Maître Regnard. The Grand d’Aussy, on the contrary (...) says these Flemish and French versions were inspired by the old Roman de Renard, written in French verse in the early 13th century by Perrot de Saint-Cloot, or Pierre de Saint-Clost.”

  • Le Renard, ou Le Procez des Bestes (Bruxelles, 1739): title page, 3pp, 2pp, 1pp, 132pp, 4pp. This is the first edition, featuring a preface and some forewords. The quality of the 21 engravings (including a title vignette) is far better than in the edition above.

 Link: books.google.fr/books?id=cdcTAAAAQAAJ

  • Le Renard, ou Le Procès des Bêtes (Amsterdam, 1743): title page, 85pp, 2pp. 20 engravings. This edition features no title vignette and the engravings signed I.C.I are less attractive than those of the first edition.

Link: books.google.fr/books?id=V8t3agycTnkC

Rare Book Monthly

  • 20 Jul 2016, starts at 1pm EDT, NY
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Full scale vintage <i>Sputnik-1</i> EMC/EMI Lab Model, with live transmitter. US$ 10,000-15,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Flown SOYUZ-3 space navigation indicator with unflown on-ground transformer. <br>US$ 30,000-40,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Flown on SOYUZ 9<br>An exhaustive manuscript on life in space. [Trans: On-Board Flight Journal for Spacecraft Soyuz-9, 1970]. US$ 6,000-9,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> SOYUZ 18? Flown Navigation Celestial Globe. Soyuz 18 lasted from May 24-July 26, 1975. US$ 30,000-40,000
    20 Jul 2016, starts at 1pm EDT, NY
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Flown Space Suit from ISS Expidition 6. Worn by Flight Engineer Don Pettit on his dramitic return to earth. US$ 25,000-35,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Original Gemini 133P Trainer Assembly Five Part Electrical System & Attitude Maneuver ... US$ 60,000-90,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Lunar Rover Development. Collection of 11 vintage gelatin silver prints and 4 vintage NASA lithographs. <br>US$ 2,000-3,000.
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Lunar Orbiter I. The first image of the earth as seen from the moon. Gelatin silver print. August 23, 1966. US$ 2,500-3,500
    20 Jul 2016, starts at 1pm EDT, NY
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Michael Collins' Flown Crew-Signed Apollo 11 Emblem. One of the very few Armstrong signed mission artifacts. US$ 50,000-70,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Flown Apollo 11 Navigational Chart. Taken to Lunar surface mapping the start of the <br>first manned lunar descent. <br>US$ 25,000-35,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> FFlown Apollo 11 Flight Plan Sheetmission Day One. Some of the first words and data values written by Neil Armstrong. US$ 18,000-25,000
    <b>Bonhams Jul 20: </b> Apollo 12 - Alan Bean in the Ocean of Storms. Signed and inscribed by Bean. <br>US$ 2,000-3,000
  • <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Leaves from<br>George Washington's Own Draft <br>of His first Inaugural Address. An Extraordinary Rarity!
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Declaration of Independence: Benjamin Tyler 1818 - First Print with Facsimile Signatures.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Thomas Jefferson Signed Act of Contress Authorizing Alexander Hamilton to Complete Famous Portland Maine Lighthouse.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Emanuel Leutze. Silk Flag Banner designed by Leutze, created by Tiffany & Co., and presented to Gen. John A. Dix, 1864.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> The "greatest of early American maps … a masterpiece" (Corcoran). Thomas Holme.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Lincoln Summons His Cabinet for a Historic Meeting to Discuss Compensated Emancipation.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Albert Einstein. Autograph Letter Signed. Einstein Counsels His Son ... Meaning of Life.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Normal Rockwell. Painting/Drawing Signed. Rockwell's "Barbeshop Quartet", 1936.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Frederick Douglass. Autograph Letter Signed to unknown correspondent. Washington, D.C.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Harry Truman. Autograph Manuscript Notebook for Kansas City Law School Night Class.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> Robert E. Lee. Autograph Letter Signed, June 11, 1782. Hours after the Battle of Culpeper Court House, Lee Escapes Again.
    <b>Seth Kaller:</b> George Washington. Letter Signed, as Commander-in-Chief, Continental Army, to Elias Dayton, Headquarters, [Newburgh, N.Y.], June 11, 1782.
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,<br><i>The Chap Book</i>, 1896.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec,<br><i>Troupe de Mlle Églantine</i>, 1896.<br>$20,000 to $30,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Philippe Henri Noyer, <br><i>Limonade Brault</i>, 1938. <br>$4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b> <br><i>The Great Men of the World</i>,<br>designer unknown, circa 1945-46. <br>$7,000 to $10,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3: Vintage Posters</b>
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>James Montgomery Flagg,<br><i>Wake Up, America!</i>, 1917.<br>$4,000 to $6,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Alfred F. Burke, <i>Share / Jewish <br>Relief Campaign</i>, circa 1915.<br>$3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b><br>Ludwig Hohlwein, <i>Marke Pkz / <br>Burger - Kehl & Co.</i>, circa 1911. <br>$8,000 to $12,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Aug 3:</b> <br>Gian Emilio Malerba,<i> E.A. Mele / Modo e Novita per Signora</i>, circa 1900. $7,000 to $10,000.
  • <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (DEMOCRATIC CONVENTION, Chicago, 1968). <i>Collection of papers of John M. Bailey, Chairman of the Democratic National Committee, concerning the convention</i>. Various places, 1968.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (ARMSTRONG, NEIL.) VERNE, JULES. <i>A Trip to the Moon.</i> New York: F. M. Lupton, September 9, 1893. Signed by Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> KEY, FRANCIS SCOTT. <i>A Celebrated Patriotic Song, the Star Spangled Banner.</i> 1814.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> [COLUMBUS, CHRISTOPHER, Amerigo Vespucci ..] Bernardus Albingaunensis .. Dialogo nuperrime edito Genue in 1512.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (WATKINS, TABER &c.). <i>An album of 32 photographs of the Yosemite and American West Various places</i>, c. 1890s
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (BATTLE OF CONCORD.) <i>Powder horn used by Minuteman Oliver Buttrick at the Battle of Concord</i>, April 19, 1775.
    <b>19th Century Shop.</b> (CIVIL WAR.) <i>An Extraordinary Confederate Photograph and Autograph Album of Dr. R. L. C. White</i>, 125 original mounted salt prints. 1859-61.

Article Search

Archived Articles

Ask Questions