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VILLON, François

Les Œuvres de François Villon

Paris, François Renault, en la rue sainct Jacques à lenseigne de Lelephant, [circa 1540]



In-8 (114 x 72mm)

“Édition en petites lettres rondes et assez jolie” (Brunet)
30 lignes à la page, deux initiales gravées en blanc sur fond noir

COLLATION : 3A-G8 : 56 feuillets (sans le dernier feuillet blanc), les feuillets 3G3 e 3G4 ont été inversés
CONTENU : 3A1r titre, 3A1v : le prologue de Clément Marot : “Entre tous les bon livres imprimez de la langue Françoyse, ne s’en veoit ung si incorrect ne si lourdement corrompu que celui de Villon”, 3A4r : Le petit Testament de Villon, 3A8v : Cy commence le grant testament de Francoys Villon, 3B6v : “Balade des dames du temps jadis”, 3B8v : “les regrets de la belle Heaumière”, 3C2r : “Balade & doctrine de la belle Heaulmière aux filles de joye”, 3C2v : “l’autheur”, 3C3v “Double Ballade continuant le premier propos”, 3C6v : “Icy commence Villon à tester”, 3C8r : “Ballade que Villon feit a la requeste de sa mere pour prier nostre dame”, 3D1v : “Ballade de Villon à s’amye”, 3D2v : “Lay ou plustost rondeau”, 3D7r : “Ballade & oraison”, 3E1r : “Ballade que Villon donna a ung Gentilhomme nouvellement marié”, 3E3v : “Clement Marot au lecteur”, 3E4v : “Ballade intitulée, les contredicts de franc Gontier”, 3E5v : “Ballade des femmes de Paris”, 3E6r : “Ballade”, 3E8v : “Belle leçon de Villon aux enfanz perdus”, 3F1r : “Ballade de bonne doctrine à ceulx de mauvaise vie”, 3F4r : “Rondeau”, F6V : “Ballade par laquelle Villon crye merci à chascun”, 3F7r : Fin du grand testament de Villon Et commencent plusieurs autres oeuuvres de icelluy, 3F7v : Autres oevvres de Villon dont le célèbre “Lepitaphe en forme de ballade que feit pour luy & pour ses compagnons s’attendant estre pendu avec eux”

Frères humains, qui après nous vivez

3G1r : Ballade de lappel de Villon, 3G1v : “La Requeste de Villon presentee à la cour de parlemont”, 3G3r : “Le débat du cueur et du corps”, 3G4r : “Envoy”, 3GRv : “La requeste que Villon bailla a monseigneur de Bourbon”, 3G6v : Subscription de ladicte requeste, 3G7r : Fin des œuvres de Francoys Villon de Paris, reueues & remises en leur entier…

RELIURE DU XVIIIe SIÈCLE. Veau moucheté, légèrement glacé, filet doré autour des plats, DOS LONG AVEC TITRAISON LONGITUDINALE EN LETTRES DORÉES, tranches rouges

PROVENANCE : note manuscrite vers 1800 au bas de la page de garde “Cat. de Nyon 12905” il s’agit de la référence au catalogue de la vente des livres de César de La Baume le Blanc, duc de La Vallière (1708-1780) : “v. marb.” et dans la marge de l’exemplaire il est inscrit par une main de l’époque : “double à vendre”. Sur la page de notre exemplaire on note “do. à vendre”. Catalogue des livres de feu M. de duc de La Vallière, seconde partie, Paris, Nyon, 1784, n° 12905. :/12148/bpt6k10414051/f94.image

Restaurations de papier faites au XVIIIe siècle dans les marges des deux derniers feuillets. La reliure a été légèrement restaurée

“And then there was Villon. The poetry of this sublime rogue”… (Claude Bonnnefoy, La Poésie française).

Twenty-seven editions of Villon were printed between 1489 (the first, printed by Levet) and 1540 (our copy). These twenty-seven editions (of which nine are incunabula), are known today in thirty-four copies preserved in public institutions. The BNF alone holds nineteen of the copies. Only fifteen examples of the incunabula editions are known about, of which only one is in private hands, that of the Jean A. Bonna collection.


It was François 1st who asked Clément Marot to prepare a new edition of Villon’s poems. It is known that he had at hand the last edition of the Gothic Villon, given by Galiot du Pré in 1532 which, today, is not a rare book. The editions revised by Clément Marot began to be published in 1533 (cf. Sturm 24). Eight copies (for seven editions), printed between 1533 and 1540 are preserved in institutions. This copy, which undoubtedly belonged to the Duc de la Vallière, is the only one for which an early provenance is given. In addition, it is the only one still cited for this Renault edition of 1540 (cited by Brunet, taken up by Tchemerzine and then modern bibliographies of Villon such as that of Rudolf Sturm).

Of the Bonnemere edition, another address of the last Gothic edition of Galiot du Pré, also dating from 1532, three copies have been through the international and national auction market since 1977. One of them, bound by Trautz-Bauzonnet, had the bottom of the first four leaves redone (Paris, 17-18 April 1997, n°74, €28,000). The second is the Berès copy, bound in vellum of the time, which was part of his cabinet (Paris, 20th June 2006) n°9, €151,000).

The Bibliothèque Nationale de France has three copies of Villon’s Œuvres published in 1532 : one by Galiot du Pré, of which the title leaf and seven other leaves have been reassembled ; one by Bonnemere, and a third printed in Lyon in Gothic type by the widow Chaussard. For American libraries, OCLC lists only three copies of Villon, published in 1532, one of which is at Yale University (Beinecke Library) and another at Pierpont Morgan Library. All three were printed by Galiot du Pré, like the one in the British Library.

François I had ordered Marot to undertake the revision of Villon’s works in 1533, one century after the poet’s birth. The infinite rarity of Villon incunabula – of which only one copy is known to be in private hands – makes us pay particular attention to the editions of Villon printed in the 16th century. Marot resorted to incunabula editions, most of which were incomplete. He did not use handwritten sources. When the text was missing, he restored it. The fact remains that despite his defects, inherent to the shortcomings of his sources, Villon entered the posterity of the French language thanks to Marot.

And if there is a poet, before Ronsard, that one remembers by heart, it is Villon. Far from Rutebeuf, Charles d’Orléans, Marot, Maurice Scève, Louise Labé. "It is to a bad subject, pimp, murderer, torture victim, destined for the gallows, pardoned and then banished by Louis XI, who died undoubtedly at thirty-two years old, whose true name remains unknown, that we owe some of the verses which, for five centuries, sing in memories” (catalog Des Valois à Henri IV, Pierre Berès bookstore).

This is perfectly illustrated by the contemporary writer Pierre Michon in Corps du Roi, when he talks about the death of his mother :

“When I entered my mother’s room, she was no longer gasping, she was no longer breathing, her hand that I took was still quite warm. The nurse called having ratified the death, I was left alone. My mind alone was there and observed, as before. The books were wisely placed at the foot of the bed in their little pouch, near the feet of the corpses, which are very small. The green wall was good to the spirit. The spirit was lukewarm, as well, as it always is. I was supposed to pray, to call the heart and soul, that this woman deserved. I tried one of those things learnt in Sunday school, probably Our Father, but I stopped very quickly. And then the text, the prayer, imposed itself, come from far away, as if it were sent by another, and I said aloud, so that death could hear as if it were : “Human brothers who live after us, do not have hearts hardened against us, for if others pity us, God will sooner have mercy on you.” Heart and hand came running, I said the poem from one end to the other as it should be said, weeping, I stood in front of my mother’s corpse as one should stand, weeping.”

Two other copies of this edition by François Renault have been on the market ; one from the former Burton collection, bound in 17th century calf but very damaged (Christie’s New York, April 1994, lot 177, $24,000 with costs), and that of the Jean A. Bonna collection, bound by Bauzonnet, printed by Jehan Andry (Sturm 29), having belonged to the former Robert Samuel Turner and Georges Heilbrun collections (Artcurial 2009, €29,593 with costs).

The La Vallière copy

This edition “followed on from the Œuvres de Marot” like some other editions published in the 1530s by Denis Lelong, Nicolas Gille, François Juste… which explains the Aaa signatures. However, it was considered as an anonymous typographical entity, among others by the Duc de la Vallière. Jacques-Charles Brunet’s Manuel du libraire cites this edition only by the Duc de Vallière’s copy. In the catalog of his second sale, it is designated as being in “v.(eau) mar.(bré)”, which corresponds exactly to the binding of our copy. The presence of a longitudinal title-piece also seems to characterize the La Vallière provenance. However, it is above all the mention “do. à vend” in the second line of the registration of origin of our copy, that explicitly refers to the one appearing in the margin of the copy of the BNF La Vallière catalog : (cf. :/12148/bpt6k10414051/f94.image), and that allows us to affirm that this copy is indeed that of the Duc de Vallière.

REFERENCES : A. Tchemerzine, Bibliographie des éditions originales et rares d'auteurs français, V, 978, d., “cité par Brunet d’après le cat. La Vallière, Nyon 12905” -- J.-C. Brunet, Manuel du libraire, V, 1249 et Supplément II, 899 -- sur le travail de Clément Marot, cf. Madeleine Lazard, “Clément Marot éditeur et lecteur de de Villon”, Cahier de l’Association internationale des Études Françaises, 32 (1980), pp. 7-20 -- V. de Diesbach, Six siècles de littérature française. XVe siècle, cat. de la coll. Jean A. Bonna, n° 42 -- C. Dop-Miller, “Clément Marot et l’édition humaniste des œuvres de François Villon” Romania 112 (1991), pp. 217-242 -- J. Cerquiglini, “Clément Marot et la critique littéraire textuelle : du bien nommé au mal imprimé Villon”, Clément Marot, “prince des poëtes françois” 1496-1996, Paris, 1999, pp. 157-164 -- et l’art. plus récent de C. Thiry, “Marot, éditeur de Villon”, Villon entre mythe et poésieçàç)opl=, Paris, 2014, pp. 282-290