Félibien, Dom Michel
Histoire de l’abbaye royale de Saint-Denys en France, contenant la vie des abbez … avec la description de l’église & de tout ce qu’elle contient de remarquable.
Paris, Frederic Leonard 1706.
Folio. (32) + 591 + (1) + ccxxiii + (25)pp, engraved frontispiece, 13 engraved plates (of which 12 double-page). Contemporary speckled calf, worn at corners and outer edges, rebacked with mid twentieth century spine and new endpapers. Ink ownership inscription of Matt(hew) H(olbeche) Bloxam, Rugby, 1850, on a preliminary blank leaf. Two nineteenth century Rugby School bookplates pasted to inside front cover, the lower one recording that the book came to the school’s library as a legacy from Bloxam. Three outer lower corners with old crease marks (now flattened), also some occasional light browning, but generally a good copy, unrestored internally.
An extremely substantial and scholarly history of the abbey of Saint-Denis by Félibien (1666-1719), younger brother of the architectural writer and royal historiographer Jean Félibien des Avaux. He provides a full narrative history of the abbey down to his own time, and in a lengthy appendix of original documents he prints verbatim the surviving Latin texts describing Abbot Suger’s restoration and alteration of the abbey church in the second quarter of the twelfth century, key to the understanding both of the abbey’s own architecture and of its place in wider architectural history. Another feature of particular value about Félibien’s book which he could not possibly have anticipated is that the six handsome double-page plates which illustrate the part of the book dealing with the church and its contents now serve as the best visual record of the contents of the abbey’s treasury, which then included precious items of the French royal regalia, splendid early medieval reliquaries, and so on, most of them subsequently lost during the French Revolution. The abbey was also the traditional burying place for members of France’s successive royal dynasties, and other double-page plates illustrate four of the finest royal and other tombs, in fine condition at the time of the book’s publication, but destroyed or seriously damaged in the revolutionary period. The present copy belonged to Matthew Holbeche Bloxam (1805-1888), author of one of the most widely esteemed books on English Gothic architecture to be published during the nineteenth century, running to twelve editions between 1829 and 1882. Bloxam was a solicitor by profession, with a practice in Rugby, Warwickshire, and he bequeathed his extensive library to Rugby School, from which this and other books have recently been sold. This is the first copy that we have had through our hands since the architect William Porden’s copy, offered in 1993 in our Cat 17, item 42. BAL Cat 1047.