first edition in french. one of three known copies printed on vellum, fully illuminated throughout, from the library of nicolas-joseph foucault.
The humanist scholar Robert Gaguin was born in the Pas-de-Calais and educated by the Trinitarians before joining the order at Préavins near Arras. After moving to Paris in 1457, he travelled widely on behalf of the order and was appointed general in 1473. He subsequently travelled on several royal embassies to Germany, Italy and England. He was also a leading member of earliest humanist circles in Paris, helping his friend and former teacher Guillaume Fichet, rector of the Sorbonne, establish France's first printing press in Paris, and a prominent supporter of Erasmus when he first arrived in Paris. The present work was published while Erasmus was in Paris, and the Dutch humanist wrote a prefatory address recommending the text to readers.
One of Gaguin's main aims in writing his great history of France, Compendium de origine et gestis francorum, was, as stated in his preface, to bring to the subject the elegance of the classical Latin historians, lacking from earlier sources upon which he drew. He also provides an invaluable contemporary record of the reigns of Charles VIII and Louis XII, with eyewitness accounts of domestic events under Louis XII, such as his dispute with the university of Paris, the lowering of taxes and the collapse of the Pont Notre-Dame in Paris on 25 October 1499. The work was first published at Paris in 1495 and was almost immediately revised for three further fifteenth-century editions in 1497 and 1500. After Gaguin's death in 1501, the work was republished under several names and in different forms. The present edition, the first to be entitled Les grandes croniques, was both translated and brought up to date with supplements by Pierre Desrey (c. 1450-after 1514), a native of Troyes. Another edition of his translation appeared in 1518 entitled La mer des croniques et mirouer historial de France.
As well as four editions of the Compendium, several of Gaguin's other works were printed at Paris in the fifteenth century, including a treatise on Latin versification, collections of letters and orations and French translations of Caesar, Livy and Pico della Mirandola.
Van Praet records two copies of the present edition on vellum, one from the library of Cardinal Dubois with 20 miniatures, the other from the library of M. Chardin, sold in London in 1817, with 16 miniatures.
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