[Famous Women] [Female Biography]

Johannes Ravisus Textor (compiler and editor)
[Jacopo Filippo Foresti, Plutarch, Valerand de la Varanne, et al.]

De memorabilibus et claris mulieribus: aliquot diversorum scriptorum opera.

Paris: Simon de Colines, 8th November 1521.


A complete, wide-margined example of this "rare and remarkable collection of biographies of famous women, the first great comprehensive and up-to-date dictionary of feminine biography," (E.P. Goldschmidt), compiled and edited by Jean Tixier de Ravisy (1480-1524), also known under the Latinized name Ravisus Textor, a French humanist of Nevers who taught in the Collège de Navarre (at the University of Paris).

This beautifully printed folio includes the full text of Jacopo Filippo Foresti's De Claris Mulieribus, as well as Plutarch's Mulierum virtutes ("On the virtues of women"), "Life of St. Catherine of Sienna" by Jean de Pins, as well as further works by Battista Fregoso and Raffaele Maffei, et al, as well as some contributions by Ravisius himself. Most importantly, this edition also included an early 16th century epic poem in Latin (leaves C3r-E6r) about the life of Jeanne d'Arc by Valerand de la Varanne.

Two unnumbered leaves (signed y9,10) contain a biographic sketch and several epitaphs and laudatory poems on Anne of Brittany (1477-1514), a French queen who reigned as Duchess of Brittany from 1488 until her death and was a central figure in the struggle for influence that led to the union of Brittany and France and the famous patroness of art and letters in the early French Renaissance.

Foresti's influential work on famous women updated the work of Boccaccio of the same title. "Foresti's biographies range from Eve, the Holy Virgin and a large contingent of woman saints to such prodigies of Renaissance learning as Isotta Nogarola and Cassandra Fedele, treating en route such ultimate examples of female depravity as Cleopatra, Agrippina and Faustina. [...] Legendary figures like Circe, Helen, Penelope, Camilla and Mary Magdalen are treated alongside contemporary woman monarchs and Joan of Arc." (Peter G. Bietenholz, Historia and Fabula, p.161)

It was originally published in 1497 and dedicated to Beatrice of Aragon. Foresti's De Claris Mulieribus "was included in an anthology assembled by Joannes Ravisius Textor, published in 1521, which ensured Foresti's influence on a European scale. Each of the works that Textor assembled presented its own set of illustrious women. Gathering together some texts that had suffered forte negligentia, he chose for his anthology on the basis of an implied usefulness to future writers or compilers of treatises on women. Textor's anthology amounted to a perfect sourcebook for such writers in the early 16th century." (S. Kolsky, The Ghost of Boccaccio: Writings on Famous Women in Renaissance Italy, p.9)

Physical description:

Folio (324 mm x 208 mm); wide margins; taller than both Macclesfield and Fugger copies. 18th-century vellum-backed boards; spine with two gilt-lettered leather labels.

Foliated: 176, [2], 177-219, [2] leaves.
Signatures: a-x8 y10 z8 A-E6 F8 [-F8 blank].
Complete (except for the terminal blank F8).

Woodcut printer's device on title page, numerous fine woodcut criblé initials of various sizes (many designed by Geoffroy Tory); a very large 11-line criblé initial 'Q' incorporating arms of the dedicatee Jeanne de Vuignacourt and her husband Charles Guillard on leaf a2r (Dedication) and repeated on A6v.

Two unnumbered leaves following f.177 signed y9 and y10. Colophon on F5v; the two unnumbered leaves at the end (F6,7) contain indexes.


Good antiquarian condition. Binding rubbed with minor soiling and wear to edges and corners. Leaf a1 (title) carefully laid down on blank verso. Final leaf (F7) with a long repaired closed tear and marginal repair (affecting some letters, but without loss). Several leaves in the beginning with a few tiny wormholes (mostly marginal and with legibility unaffected). Occasional light marginal soiling and some unobtrusive neat marginalia in 16th-century hand(s). In all a pleasing, genuine, wide-margined example of this elegantly printed volume.


Ownership inscription of Elia Herrmann on title page, dated Leipzig 1702.

Bibliographic references:

Adams R201; Moreau III, 233; Pettegree (French Books) 89144; Renouard, Colines, p.20-2.

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