9 Feb 2024
Eléonore's letters
Las cartas de Eléonore

But what is this bundle of handwritten letters, filled with spelling mistakes and all adorned with wax seals and their colored silk ribbons? What treasure do we have here? Imagine, ladies and gentlemen, a collection of 43 handwritten letters, just like that! And not just any letters, as these are the correspondences addressed to her father by a figure of the high French nobility from the North of France, the Maréchale d'Hocquincourt herself!

Who exactly was this Maréchale d'Hocquincourt? Well, my friends, let me introduce Éléonore d'Estampes de Valençay, a woman with a destiny as fascinating as it is tumultuous. The daughter of Jacques d'Estampes, lord of Valençay and Happlaincourt, governor of Calais, she married in 1628 Charles de Monchy, Marquis d'Hocquincourt, Marshal of France, and governor general of Péronne, Montdidier, and Roye. Here is a characteristic marriage of the grand unions of that time, traditionally linking two great aristocratic families with converging interests.

These letters addressed to her father by Éléonore, before and after her marriage, invite us to experience her world for nearly twenty years. We discover a young girl full of innocence and childlike obedience, residing in Boran-sur-Oise. Then, over the letters, we see Éléonore grow and tackle more serious subjects, especially when she resides in Plainville or Paris. She talks about political rumors she hears, troop movements she observes, visits she receives, conflicts with her husband who abuses her dowry (what a horror!)... Ah, the joys of marriage!

But Éléonore doesn't just spread political rumors to her father or talk about her marital difficulties, no! She also conveys to the patriarch news about her family, especially the women who composed it. Her mother Louise Blondel de Joigny, her "life mother" (an appellation that probably refers to her nurse), her sister Charlotte, nun then abbess, her aunt, or family friends, etc. And she also reports information that could be useful to him in managing his affairs. One feels the importance of the role she plays in her family. And, married or not, it is invariably under her maiden name ("E. d'Estampes") that she signs her letters to her father, who annotates them as he receives them, indicating after her marriage her married name: "My daughter d'Hocquincourt." Just to make sure not to mess things up.

We can say it: Éléonore's life was not a long, quiet river. She was the mother of eight children, among whom... seven boys! Several of whom followed in the footsteps of their father and grandfather in the military career. And imagine that one day her husband decided (to please other women, they say) to betray the court of the King of France and join the Spanish in 1655... Nothing less! He ended up being killed in 1658 during the defense of Dunkirk for the Spanish, who held the city at that time. Widowed, Éléonore also had the misfortune of seeing two of her sons die in military operations, in 1665 and 1675. But she did not lose courage and launched a legal action in 1667 against the houses of Nesle and Montcavrel, to claim a sum owed to her. The Parliament almost immediately ruled in her favor, but the procedure seems to have been relaunched after her death in 1679... A true saga!

But back to our letters. They not only constitute a precious testimony to family life and the social role of women in the high French nobility but are also beautiful to read and... to look at! The wax seals, the colored silk ribbons, the handling of the French language, the formality with which they are imbued, and the charm of the formulas that Éléonore uses to express her feelings... everything is there to immerse us in the atmosphere of the time. And the spelling of these missives, practically nonexistent, does not reflect any negligence on the part of Léonore but rather her lack of academic training. This was still the case in her time for many women, regardless of their rank and condition. It only makes more moving these lines written to her father in the greatest ignorance of "aurtaugrafic" rules (which does not fail to attract her father's wrath).

In conclusion, dear readers, this collection of letters from the Maréchale d'Hocquincourt is a true historical treasure. They allow us to delve into the intimacy of a family of French warlords in the 17th century and unveil some realities of the lives of women within the sword nobility of that time. If you enjoy diving headfirst into documents that transport you several centuries back, at the risk of having a hard time coming back, Éléonore d'Estampes de Valençay is waiting for you... Feel free to write to her, we will forward the message !
posted by  Cecilie at  11:50 | permalink | comments [0]

14 Sep 2018
“Dear reader, may God protect you from bad books...”
As a tribute to the master satirist and virtuoso of language Francisco de Quevedo Villegas, born on this day in 1580, we present to you a copy of an utmost rare Sevilla printing of his famous “Sueños y Discursos”, a collection of misanthropic fantasies of the afterworld first published in Barcelona in 1627. This slightly expurgated version was edited by a friend of the author, with his agreement, and published with an alternative title in order to escape censorship.

Estimado lector, que Dios lo proteja de los libros malos, la policía y las mujeres regañonas, con la cara lívida y el cabello rubio.

posted by  Benjamin at  16:16 | permalink | comments [0]

27 Jul 2018
On the Barricades of the July Revolution
After the storming of the Bastille, we could not resist the pleasure of presenting this suite of fine lithographs depicting the barricades of the Revolution of July 1830! This heroic vision is that of the painter Hyppolite Bellangé (1800-1866), a specialist in battle scenes famous for his paintings of the Napoleonic epic !

posted by  Benjamin at  16:14 | permalink | comments [0]

20 Jul 2018
Libri Medullitus Delectant
A little over seven centuries ago today, the great Petrarch was born !
As a tribute to the founder of Humanism, we present to you this rare and beautiful Venice edition (Il Petrarcha, Venegia, Bernardino Bindoni Milanese, 1543), illustrated with 6 engraved figures and a portrait of the master, and dressed in its contemporary vellum !

"[L]ibri medullitus delectant, colloquuntur, consulunt et viva quadam nobis atque arguta familiaritate iunguntur, neque solum se se lectoribus quisque suis insinuat, sed et aliorum nomen ingerit et alter alterius desiderium facit. » (Epistolae de Rebus Familiaribus, III, 18)

posted by  Benjamin at  12:48 | permalink | comments [0]

13 Jul 2018
The Beginning of the French Revolution according to Nicolas de Basseville
On the eve of Bastille Day, we invite you to discover a detailed chronicle of the events and debates that took place during the first months of the French Revolution, from the creation of the National Assembly until September 1789: “Mémoires historiques, critiques et politiques de la Révolution de France avec toutes les opérations de l'Assemblée Nationale” (Paris, chez l'Auteur, Bleuet, et Potier de Lille, 1790).
Its author, Nicolas de Basseville (1753-1793) was an editor at the Mercure National and then a diplomat in Italy; he died in Rome as a martyr of the young Republic, lynched by a mob raised by the papal clergy against the symbols of the French Revolution !

A beautiful copy in nice contemporary binding, illustrated with an engraving of the storming of the Bastille!

posted by  Benjamin at  16:30 | permalink | comments [0]

29 Jun 2018
Wurzelbau's Opera Geographico-Astronomica
Now that summertime’s here, don’t we all dream of a night spent watching the stars, far away from the city ? To celebrate the arrival of the favourite season for amateur astronomers, we present to you the works of an amateur so passionate and diligent in his observation that a crater of the Moon now bears his name: Johann Philipp von Wurzelbau (1651-1725) !

Has anybody seen my telescope ?

posted by  Benjamin at  17:08 | permalink | comments [0]

22 Jun 2018
Otto van Veen's Emblems Printed by Anna Margaretha Blanckaert
As a tribute to the many women printers whose identity was often reduced to that of "wife of" or "widow of the printer", and on the occasion of tomorrow's International Widows Day, we present to this very beautiful edition of the famous book of emblems by Flemish painter Otto van Veen, printed by Anna Margaretha Blanckaert (1670-1750), widow of the printer Henrik Verdussen. Missing from the title pages of the works she edited, the name of this great woman printer is not even mentioned in most bibliographies...

Because "to name is to show” and because “one is not born, but rather becomes, *the widow of”, here is her name again : Anna Margaretha Blanckaert !

posted by  Benjamin at  16:13 | permalink | comments [0]

15 Jun 2018
Fourcroy and the Annales de Chimie (1789-1815)
Born on June 15th, 1755, the chemist and revolutionary statesman Antoine-François de Fourcroy was one of the founders of the Annales de Chimie, a journal so fundamental to the emergence of the principles of modern chemistry.

In his honor, here is an utmost rare complete 50-volumes collection of the first series of publication (1789-1815), in charming contemporary binding.

A genuine monument, indeed !

posted by  Benjamin at  16:58 | permalink | comments [0]

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