A Lavishly Illustrated Festival book from the Plantin Press

FESTIVALS. SPLENDID CEREMONIES. Bochius, Joannes (1555-1609)

Historica narratio profectionis et inaugurationis serenissimorum Belgii principum Alberti et Isabellæ, Austriæ archiducum: et eorum optatissimi in Belgium aduentus, rerumque gestarum et memorabilium, gratulationum, apparatuum, et spectaculorum in ipsorum susceptione et inauguratione hactenus editorum accurata descriptio.

Antwerp: Ex Officina Plantiniana, apud Ioannem Moretum, 1602


Folio: 37.5 x 24.5 cm. 500, [12] pages. Collation: A-Y4, Z2, a-b2, c4, d2, e4, f-k2, l-m4, n2, o-q4, r2 (quire r bound before q), s4, t-v2, x4, y2, z4, Aa2, Bb-Dd4, Ee2, Ff-Tt4, Vv6, Xx-Zz4, AA4, [dagger]6.


Bound in contemporary Dutch vellum, ruled in blind (corners bumped, very light wear.) The text and plates are in excellent condition with only a few minor rust spots, a light marginal damp stain in two signatures, and a few toned leaves. Profusely illustrated. With an elaborately engraved general title page and three additional engraved section titles introducing the descriptions of festivities in Antwerp, p. [171]; Ghent, p. [317]; and Valenciennes, p. [409]. In addition, there are 28 magnificent, full-page engravings, 15 of them double-page, illustrating the description of the festivities in Antwerp, p. [171]-316. An excellent copy of a magnificent book.

A splendidly illustrated record of the triumphal entries of the newly-weds Albrecht VII, Archduke of Austria, Duke of Brabant (1559-1621) and his bride Isabella Clara Eugenia, Infanta of Spain (1566-1633) into Brussels, Antwerp, Ghent and Valenciennes in 1599. The author, Bochius (1555-1609) was town clerk of Antwerp. The accounts of the Antwerp and Brussels entry are his own, whereas the account of the festivities in Ghent is written by Max. Vriendt (1559-1614) and the entry into Valenciennes is by Henri d'Outreman (1546-1605). 

All three authors give detailed accounts of the festivities, the festival architecture, the floats, and the illuminations and fireworks (explaining in detail the meanings of the emblematic and allegorical decorations.) With 2 pages of musical notation. The first engraved title page incorporates fine portraits of Albert and Isabella, 3 further engr. section titles, 2 architectural, all elaborate, 1 incorporating a view of Antwerp, another a view of Ghent, and 28 engr. plates (incl. 15 double-page) by Pieter Bruegel's student Pieter van der Borcht(1545-1608), the drawings variously attributed to Otto van Veen (ca. 1556-1629), Jodocus Momper (1564-1635) or van der Borcht himself (See Funck. Le Livre belge à gravures. 1925, p. 281).  With two pages of printed music. The last leaf with a large Plantin device. Only 775 copies of this book were printed.

"The towns visited by the archdukes vied with each other in erecting triumphal arches and staging tableaux vivantsalong the procession route. Even if the primary aim of these displays was to glorify the new sovereigns, they nevertheless served as a vehicle for expressing political concerns. Behind the grandiloquent gestures of reverence, the local authorities projected an image of just rule and offered subtle comments about current political issues. The gods of antiquity, the virtues of Christianity and the worthies of dynastic history personified the political precepts and aspirations of the present. In order to perpetuate the memory of these events, the Antwerp city secretary Johannes Bochius compiled the reports of the various joyous entries and had them published by Moretus in 1602. His own report on the festivities in Antwerp was illustrated by 28 large engravings, testifying to the importance of the publication.

"With the benefit of hindsight, readers of Bochius' work have tended to focus solely on the expressions of a desire for peace. These were not hard to find. Ghent confronted the archducal retinue with a tableau of the forge of Vulcan, staging the god and his apprentices forging ploughshares from swords. In Antwerp, the city's giant was cast in the role of Mars who was being disarmed by a dozen putti. Another display featured a revolving theatre. As the cortège halted before it, a first group of actors described the horrors of war. Then the theatre swung round to reveal a second group who pleaded the cause of peace. 

"The appeals for a swift peace were clear enough, but then the desirability of peace was not being debated. Any early modern Christian polity would subscribe to desiring peace. The real issue under debate was how this peace ought to be achieved. Some were prepared to negotiate and hence accept a compromise in order to end the war. Others felt that only a complete victory could secure a real peace. Both opinions manifested themselves in the pageants of the inaugurations. Another display in Antwerp featured the Hercules Gallicus. According to tradition, the Gauls worshipped Hercules as a peacemaker, who restored concord by the sole power of his eloquence. In the display Hercules towered over a group of maidens, each personifying one of the 17 provinces. From the hero's mouth came as many chains that held the assembly in loving obedience.

"The display was obviously intended as a plea for a negotiated settlement with the rebellious States. However, just a few streets away from the Hercules Gallicus, the city honored Albert by erecting a victory column in keeping with Roman military traditions. The magistrates furthermore presented the archdukes with a magnificent set of seven tapestries extolling Albert's recent conquests. These could easily be construed as an argument for settling matters by force of arms rather than by negotiation and compromise. The same went for the 'Andromede Belgica dicta', a play performed by a group of philosophy students at the joyous entry into Louvain. In the play, Andromeda represents the Low Countries harassed by the two-headed monster of heresy and rebellion. Perseus was likened to Albert and his noble steed Pegasus to Isabella. The equation of Albert with Perseus was likewise made at Courtrai, where it was paired with a comparison of Isabella and Judith. In Ghent the onus war was squarely put on the shoulders of Holland, Zeeland and England, who were personified by War, Discord and Heresy. In every case, the underlying message was uncompromising. Peace had to be restored by the rigid and resolute use of force. If the archdukes learnt anything while on progress, it was that urban opinion hung in the balance between accommodating and overpowering the enemy."(Duerloo, Dynasty and Piety, Archduke Albert and Habsburg Political Culture in an Age of Religious Wars.)

Bibl. Belgica, I, B389; Hollstein. Dutch, III, p.102; Kramm, I, p. 123-124; Thieme-Becker, XXXIV, p. 176; Wurzbach, I, p. 140-141; Imhof (Moretus) B-44; Landwehr (Splendid ceremonies) 62. - Berlin Kat. 2945; Lipperheide 2657 (Sd14) See also: Margit Thofner, "Domina et princeps proprietaria": The Ideal of Sovereignty in the Joyous Entries of the Archduke Albert and the Infanta Isabella" in Albert & Isabella, 1598-1621, Essays (Turnhout, 11998) p. 55-66