With the Folding Woodcut of the Envisioned Tomb

Du Bellay, Joachim (1522-1560)

Tumulus Henrici Secundi Gallorum regis christianiss. per Joach. Bellaium. Idem gallice totidem versibus expressum per eumdem. Accessit et ejusdem elegia ad illustriss. principem Carolum card. Lotharingum.

Paris: Frédéric Morel, 1559


Quarto: 22 x 15 cm. [15] lvs. Collation: A-C4, D2


Bound in 19th c. speckled calf, ruled in gold (hinges rubbed, small loss at head of spine.) A fine copy. Small clean tear to blank margin of plate. Printed in Latin and French. Morel’s printer’s device on the title. Attractive ornamental initials. With the oversized woodcut plate of the fictive, multi-tiered tomb of Henri II. On the verso of the plate is an epitaph within an architectural frame. I have not traced another copy with this added plate.

“Joachim Du Bellay has earned the epithet of ‘le poète du sépulcre’ because of his obsession with the image of the tomb.

“[T]he genre of occasional poetry known as the ‘Tombeau’ came into vogue in 1536 when the death of the Dauphin François de Valois occasioned a number of poetic tributes… According to the original conception of the genre, the ‘Tombeau’ is a  monument designed to protect its subject from oblivion and to confer on him immortal fame. In succeeding years, the deaths of famous figures occasioned more poetic tombs, and in 1547 after François I’s death there appeared the ‘Tumuli Francisci Valesii’, the first such work to call itself a tomb.  

“Du Bellay’s involvement with the genre dates back to the earliest stages of his career. In 1550 three English noblewomen, Anne, Marguerite, and Jane Seymour composed a hundred Latin distichs to commemorate the death of Marguerite de Navarre, and in the following year Du Bellay translated these into French as his contribution to the ‘Tombeau de Marguerite de Valois, Reine de Navarre’. In addition to contributing to collective ‘Tombeaux’, Du Bellay composed many individual epitaphs for various friends, patrons, and famous figures…

“One of the last works Du Bellay composed was a dual language eulogy for Henri II published in 1559 as the ‘Tumulus Henrici secundi Gallorum’. In this work, the poet appeals to other poets to follow his example, ‘Certatim hunc tumulum vestris celebrate camoenis’ (‘Celebrez à l’envy ce royal monument’) while he exorts the royal princes to erect a literal monument to their departed father, ‘Erigite Henrico pendentia Mausolea, / Henrico Pharias tollite Pyramides’. Du Bellay develops this architectural metaphor further in his letter to Jean Morel of October 1559 where he compares his ‘Tumulus Henrici secundi’ to ‘un ouvrage Dorique’ and maintains that ‘il ne doit ceder ny à l’excellence du Mausolée, ny à l’orgueil des Pyramides Egyptiennes.’ For Du Bellay at the end of his career, the ‘Tombeau’ represents the worthiest monument a poet could raise.”(Eric Macphail, The Roman Tomb or the Image of the Tomb in Du Bellay’s ‘Antiquitez’)

USTC, 59077; Tchemerzine, V, 19; Barbier, 23