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Banned! — Premiere [-seconde] parite du Directoire des contemplatifz

woodcut of Mary and Child with angels overhead, four lines of text in Latin above
“… a person can practice as much abstinence as he wants, give himself to prayer, give himself up to strict religious observance, go into the desert, but still in spite of all this be caught up in the drama of love of self or affection for worldly things and never have an authentic spirit. Therefore true spiritual poverty consists in not having affection for anything but God. This is what our Seraphic Father called lofty knowledge. However to come down to what is basic, I say that whoever has affection for family and friends, the little things that he uses, such as books and other things cannot love God perfectly.” – Henri de Herp

Premiere [-seconde] partie du directoire des contemplatifz
Henri de Herp (1400?-1478)
Paris: J. Réal, pr. Poncet Le Preux, 1549 and 1552
First edition in French translation

Composed in Flemish between 1455 and 1460, and first printed in Dutch in 1475, this work is an explanation of various phases of contemplation, aimed at a lay, albeit literate, audience and written, specifically, for a woman, a “spiritual daughter” most likely belonging to the Third Order of St Francis. Miroirs, medieval devotional texts intended to encourage an intensity of pious emotion, remained popular within Counter Reformation literature. A 1509 Latin translation of this work was widely distributed and quickly translated into Spanish, German, Portuguese, and Italian. Belgian Henri de Herp was a Franciscan of the Strict Observance and a writer on mysticism. His writings were influenced in particular by St Bernard, St Bonaventure and Thomas Aquinas.

Title-page, volume 1, text in Latin
During the Reformation/Counter Reformation period the printed book acquired title-pages including the name and address of the printer and or editor, and the date. Toward the middle of the sixteenth century this practice was curtailed. Censorship led to many religious texts being produced without address or date.

The translation here, the first into French, was commissioned and put into print “en ceste petite forme” by a woman.

spread of text (Prologue)

It is dedicated to a woman and was translated by a woman, the enigmatic E.B., who likely worked from the Latin. This  French translation was never reissued.

spread with floriated initial, text in Latin, intials E. B.

In 1559, all of Herp’s works were added to the Index of Forbidden Books for a number of theological errors, although no heresies were found. The ban was renewed in 1580, in 1583 and in 1598. Expurgated versions sold steadily through the end of the 17th century, although the condemnation took its toll and the sale of the book in any language diminished. On the one hand, the General Superior of the Society of Jesus, Eduard Mercurian, wrote a letter to all the provincial superiors of the Order concerning books that Jesuits could only read with special permission. The list included the writings of several mystics, including Herp. On the other hand, the work was chosen as the official manual for the formation of novices by the General Chapter of Toledo in 1633.

Undertaken at the request of Mme. De Sausaye, this translation of the first two of the work’s four parts was ready for the press in 1549. It was expanded with The Mirror of Man and Woman, here attributed to poet, theologian, and defender of Jean D’Arc and mysticism, Jean de Gerson (1363-1429).

spread opening "Le mironer"

The third and fourth parts appeared after a delay of three years, enlarged by a third with explanations, elaborations, observations and examples contributed by an unnamed woman. Integrated into Herp’s text, the supplemental material is indicated with an asterisk and contained within parentheses.

The anonymous thirty-six-page Prologue to the 1552 volume is also likely the work of the translator’s circle. Spiritual aids such as Directoire des contemplatifz were often directed toward female audiences (those who could read and those who could be read to), in particular French nuns, who were not expected to read Latin. Herp often directed his writings to a female religious audience.

An examination of the type and ornament show both volumes to have come from the press of Jean Réal. It is printed with a bâtarde typeface. Illustrated with two large ornamental woodcuts with foliage, a full-page woodcut of the mulier amicta sole (Virgin and Child clothed in radiance).  Rare Books copy bound in ca. 1850 glazed brown paper over paper boards with gilt red morocco labels. Early manuscript title on the top and bottom edges. Bookplate of Lyon collector Arthur-August Brölemann (1826-1904). Brölemann had a collection of more than four thousand books, acquired by his grandfather Henri-August Brölemann between 1824 and the latter’s death in 1854.

front board pastedown with book plate

full page woodcut

full page woodcut

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