THE BOOK OF THE DEVIL. Post-incunabula. Printed 1508.
Le livre de la deablerie. [Paris, Michel Le Noir, 1508].
Small folio (262 x 187 mm).
123 leaves (A5, B-T6, V4, X6), printed in two columns.
With full-page title woodcut and half-page woodcut at the beginning of the text. Splendid 19th-century red morocco, signed "F. Bedford.
Excessively rare! There are worldwide 11 copies (in two variants), only one is in the US in the Pierpont Morgan Library.
Châlons-en-Champagne, one in the British Library, one in the Pierpont Morgan Library and one in the BnF, Besançon, Chantilly, Glasgow, BnF (2), Paris Ste Gen., and Valenciennes
Written at the close of the fifteenth century and published in 1508, this long poem by Eloy d'Amerval is one of the last of the rich series of medieval dream vision poems that includes the Roman de la Rose and the Pelerinage de la Vie Humaine.
The book is classified in literature as a belonging to the Demonomanie but if you are interested in this I have to disappoint you, because it has nothing to do with conjuring up the Devil. In fact it is not an esoteric book at all, but a delightful didactic poem.
The author eavesdrops on a diabolic dialogue between Satan and his ambitious henchman, Lucifer. The later brags on his success in luring sinners into the infernal realm
The vices of merchants, innkeepers, tradesmen, peasants, nobleman and the clergy are all vividly described in every lurid detail.
For example: Gambling and hunting (book II, chapters 1-17), Marriage and family life (II, chapters 126-149). Of course also scholarship (II, chapters 82-93) has its moral faults, such as concupiscence, cunning and pride. Vices that the person who is selling you this book is all too acquainted with. For the highway to hell is broad, and its gate is wide!
D’Amerval describes by way of contrast, the behaviour of the virtuous and tell us that he is happy that there are not more of the latter, because otherwise the devils' domain would be less thronged! And we can agree with him for the depiction of the world of vice is at first glance always far more interesting then that of virtue. Eloy is apt at delivering an impressive number of profanities. With its humour and richness of language, the dialogue between both devils must be considered unique for its time. The poem's cultural significance is amplified by its references to music, musical instruments and musicians heard at French and Burgundian courts during the 15th century. Eloy’s List” has come to be regarded as a nascent “Who’s Who” of late fifteenth-century composers. The text also would seem to shed light upon April’s fool’s day in the sentence "maquereau infâme de maint homme et de mainte femme, poisson d'avril."
Furthermore the book provides us with a fascinating glimpse into the life and customs of a broad spectrum of French society on the eve of the Reformation: its customs and manners, its food and its dress, its work and its play. And as an historical document, it bears witness to the medieval conception of Hell and the representatives of Good and Evil
About the author
Eloy, apparently from Amerval in the Pas-de-Calais, was probably born before 1440; he was a singer, choirmaster and composer of note and spent most of his life serving in institutions connected with the French royal court in the region of the Loire Valley. Le livre de la deablerie was finally published in 1508, but it is not known how long he lived after that. King Louis XII granted him explicit permission for its publication, and also granted him special payment for many years of service
Several variant imprints of this edition are known: our copy does not have the printer's name on the final page, thus agreeing with those kept at Chantilly and the Bibliotheque national the France.
The first page is most likely in facsimile, because it is on a different stock of paper. It is extremely well done however and not some ghastly modern reproduction. Some insignificant fingerstaining to margins; corners of ff. M4-5 neatly remargined without loss to text. Bound by the legendary London binder Francis Bedford (1799-1883), whose mastery is extolled by the DNB: "The work of Bedford is not excelled by that of any English bookbinder of his time [...] It is always in good taste, and [...] for soundness and thoroughness it could not be surpassed. Bedford appreciated tall copies, and a book never came from his hands shorn of its margins. He was also a very skilful mender of damaged leaves [...] For many years a continuous stream of beautiful bindings issued from his workshops, the great majority of which are now to be found on the shelves of the finest libraries of England and America"
From the famous library of Alfred Henry Huth (1850-1910), whose bookplate is on the front pastedown. The volume was sold by Sotheby's as lot 1957 in the 1912 auction of his collection; this remains the only known copy ever to have surfaced at auction.
As for value, I took this into account, when pricing it. Given it’s rarity and subject nature, it still is a very desirable book. Books of this nature, sold in Paris (despite one facsimile leaf) for astronomical prices.
Customers from the EU must pay 6% VAT upon the final price, if the book is delivered in any EU country. Paypal is possible, but let’s discuss it, because with high value transactions like this, paypal does not offer you consumer protection for the full amount (although you might think that!). But I do. So no worries J Of course you can send this book back in the unlikely case that you are not happy.