Brussels, François Foppens, 1675.
12mo [146 x 83 mm] of (3) ll., 110 pp. Bound in 19th century red full morocco, triple gilt fillet on covers, spine ribbed and richly gilt, inner gilt border, gilt edges on marbling. Binding signed Duru 1846.
Rare first edition of this peculiar opuscule attributed to Jacques Boileau, Nicolas Boileau-Despreaux’s brother. Graesse, Trésor de livres rares, 8; Bulletin Morgand et Fatout, 10836; Barbier, Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes, 47-48; Brunet, I, 22; P. L. Jacob, Enigmes et découvertes bibliographiques, pp. 276-280; Gay, Bibliographie des ouvrages relatifs à l’amour, 12.
Jacques Boileau (1635-1716), a French theologian and doctor at the Sorbonne, Gilles and Nicolas Boileau’s brother, was for 25 years vicar-general and legal vicar of the diocese of Sens. « He had the spirit focused on satire and jest. His numerous works are enlivened by a biting style and by a thousand peculiar remarks: they announce an amazing scholarship and a rather important boldness of mind. »
« At the beginning of the first edition of this peculiar treatise, the Printer presents it, in the Notice to the reader, as “the effect of zeal and piety of a French gentleman who went through Flanders, and seeing that there most of the women had their breast and shoulders naked and were coming that way close to the place of confession and even of the holy Table” was so scandalized that he promised to send to this country, on his return to France, a document in which he would show the overindulgence and the dissoluteness of this custom. However the printer of the first edition: ‘De l’Abus des nuditez de gorge’ (Brussels, 1675, 12mo) is François Foppens, who had at that time frequent relations with French writers, and who was taking care of publishing the works they were not daring to circulate at first in France. Belgium was, in the seventeenth century, a sort of neutral place for French literature and bookselling. It is certain that the author of this small book was French, if not a gentleman. That is not to say that it was Jacques Boileau, doctor at the Sorbonne, vicar-general and legal vicar of the diocese of Sens, brother of the great satirical Boileau-Despréaux. Jacques Boileau, who published a ‘Histoire des Flagellant’s, a ‘Histoire de la Confession auriculaire’, a ‘Traité des Attouchements impudiques’, chose preferably scabrous and difficult subjects; but ordinarily he wrote in Latin, even though he was very capable to write in a very good French. Thus, nothing proves that Jacques Boileau is the writer of ‘l’Abus des nuditez de gorge’, treatise written in very good French, but of which no Latin version is known. We tried to look for another author to whom we could attribute this small work, reprinted in Paris in 1667. We believed that under this pseudonym of a French gentleman was hidden a less known clergyman than Father Boileau, Mr de Neuilly, priest of Beauvais, that literary history does not mention anywhere […]. The scholar Barbier, in his ‘Dictionnaire des anonymes’, confined himself to Jacques Boileau: we shall keep this example until we know more. […] The treatise of ‘l’Abus des nuditez de gorge’, of which a third edition exists, printed in Paris in 1680, was written by a man who knew how to write, who lived in society, and who tackles openly, with great delicacy, the thorny subject he chose among all. This anonymous, despite the semblances of strictness he gives to himself, had his heart set on being read by ladies. He always expresses himself with affinity and politeness. » (P. L. Jacob)
The work is divided into two parts, one of them dealing with the nuisance and the guilt of naked shoulders and breast; and the other one dealing with the vain excuses of women to allow this abuse. The subject is contained in 113 paragraphs, divided like this, 44 in the first part and 69 in the second one.
« […] Some details turn Boileau into an amateur-aesthete. He often comes back to the danger of gazing at a nice naked breast’; and he obviously speaks to men, he never expels himself from the assaulted and tempted group. It is mainly complicity between desiring men that Boileau establishes. Indisputably, here, the eye is for him the high road to temptation. The first edition of the text repeated like an incantation the expression ‘par la nudité du sein’ that is to say, the breast nudity […]. Despite his daring words, Boileau is not one of those libertine Fathers of the court devoted to an anti-catholic erotic production. On the contrary he is in line with a thought which orthodoxy is not involved. If his ‘Abus des nudités de gorge’ matters, it is first because it emphasizes the hold of the confessional method over minds – Boileau obviously feels the need to confess– but it is also because this text illustrates the impasse where the sermons stand that end erotically overinvesting the subject itself they were trying to conceal.» (La femme au XVIIe siècle, Richard G. Hodgson, p. 260).
A beautiful copy of this treatise dedicated to the shamlessness of women, fineley bound in red morocco by Duru.
OCLC lists only one copy among all the public institutions, at the Cleveland Public Library.
Provenance: from P. Desq’s collection with exlibris (catalogue from 1866, n°77).