Paris: Adrien Le Roy, Robert Ballard and Mamert Patisson for Jacques Patin, 1582. 4to (231 x 165 mm). Collation: a4 e4, A-T4, including 53 pages of typographical musical notation; 8 full-page etchings of the entertainment and 18 large etchings of pictorial medallions, designed by Jacques Patin, one full-page engraving of the Queen's arms, printers' woodcut device on title, woodcut initials and head-pieces. 18th-century mottled calf, gilt spine; red cloth slipcase. Joints partly split, repairs to spine; the full-page etchings slightly cropped along fore-margin or at bottom, as often. Provenance: Thomas Jolley (1846 owner's inscription on pastedown); Alfred Cortot (1877-1962), Franco-Swiss pianist and conductor (bookplate, small inkstamp on title and several text leaves); Parmenia Ekstrom (1908-1989), ballet historian, author of The Ballerinas: from the Court of Louis XIV to Pavlova, 1972; purchased from Ximenes, 1991. From the Collection of Arthur & Charlotte Vershbow. Item #401675
FIRST EDITION. This famous early dramatic fusion of ballet, opera and poetry was commissioned by the Queen Consort of France, Louise de Lorraine (1553-1601), and was performed on 15 October 1581 as part of the festivities celebrating the marriage of her sister, Marguerite de Vaudémont (1564-1625), to Anne, Duc de Joyeuse (1561-1587), King Henri III's favorite. The Italian dancing-master Baltazarini, called Beaujoyeulx, conceived the production, Jacques Patin designed it; La Chesnaye, Salmon and Beaulieu composed the music and poetry. The novelty was manifested in the dancing – the dancers’ steps measured and performed in synchronicity with the accompanying music and verse consciously reflecting the rules of Jean-Antoine de Baïf's Académie de Poésie et de Musique. The publisher Patin was also responsible for the lavish illustrations, including a view of the spectators – among them the King and his mother, Catherine de' Medici – and the decorated sets in the hall, without proscenium or separate stage area. The plates further depict the elaborate chariots, most notably the fountain that carried the Queen; sirens, tritons, allegorical figures and other participants in the drama. The gold medallions were presented by the Queen and nymphs of the ballet, all ladies of the court, to the King and noblemen in the audience.
Beaujoyeaulx writes of his intentions in the preface:
“For, as to the Ballet, even though it may be a modern invention, or at least repeated so far distinct from antiquity that it can be so called, being, in truth only some geometric mixtures of several persons dancing together to a diverse harmony of several instruments, I confess to you that simply represented by [means of visual] impression it would have had much novelty, and little beauty, the recitation of a simple comedy. Also it would have been neither very excellent nor worthy of such a great queen, who wished to do something truly magnificent and triumphant.
Because of this I decided it would not be a bad idea to mix one and the other together and to diversify the music with poetry, and most often to merge the two together; for in antiquity they never recited poetry without music, and Orpheus never played without words. I have, however, given first place and honor to the dance, and second place to the substance, which I have called ‘comic’ more for the beautiful, tranquil and happy conclusion than for the quality of the personages, who are almost all gods and goddesses, or other heroic persons.
Thus I have animated and made the Ballet speak, and Comedy sing and resound, and have added many rare and rich scenes and ornaments. I may say that within a single well-proportioned body I have pleased eye, ear, and mind.”
The mythological subject is Circe's enchantment of Ulysses and his companions and the triumph of the combined gods, representing the French King. It was a coherent choreographic and musical spectacle, staged in the vast Salle Bourbon of the old Louvre palace and lasting from ten in the evening until three the following morning. For analyses of the author's new art form of court ballet, based mainly on this book, see H. Prunières, Le ballet de cour en France avant Benserade et Lully (1914); F.A. Yates, The French Academies of the sixteenth century (1947); M.M. McGowan, L'Art du ballet de cour en France (1963); and Lincoln Kirstein, Four Centuries of Ballet (1984). Destailleur 220; Harvard/Mortimer French 48; Picot, Rothschild II, 1445; Ruggieri 314; Vinet 477.