N.p.n.d. [towards 1870].
8vo [200 x 140 mm.] of (11) ll., text written in black with small and round gothic characters, many painted initials on a golden background and ornamental initials in the text. Manuscript on vellum. Bound in claret full straight-grained morocco, flat spine, orange watered-silked doublures and endleaves. Binding signed Cretté succ. de Marius Michel.
A superb illuminated manuscript in French telling the legend of the city of Ys.
King Gradlon, a leaning figure of Cornouaille, a legendary character, probably inspired by a historical truth, once reigned over the city of Ys, surrounded by two saints – the monk Guénolé and the hermit Corentin – who gave the King advice. The king had a daughter, Dahut, for whom he had built the magnificent city of Ys. This town, located on the bay of Douarnenez was protected from the sea by breakwaters and tide gates, which keys were kept by the King. There Dahut lived a sweet life of pleasure. One day at the tide gate, she meets a handsome knight who convinces her to steal the keys from his father, who kept them around his neck. Taking advantage of the king’s sleep, she grabs them and gives them to the red knight, who is in fact the Devil … The later then opens the locks and the city is overrun by the waves. Only Gradlon and Guénolé manage to escape. It is said that Dahut was drowned and transformed into a mermaid, Morgan, who is still set on getting the sailors lost…
This work was written by Olivier Souvestre inspired by the Breton legend of the city of Ys.
The figure of King Gradlon appears around 880 in the second book of the “Vie latine de saint Guénolé” by the abbot of Landévennec. The legend of Gradlon gets bigger after the barbarian invasions of the Xth century, until he became the hero of a Breton lay and one of the characters of a chanson de geste.
But the celebrity of the city of Ys is mainly due to writers from the XIXth century who wrote and enhanced the legend with many variations. In 1845, Théodore Hersart de la Villemarqué includes it in Le Barzaz Breiz, his collection of traditional songs from Brittany,
In 1850, Olivier Souvestre (1831-1896), a major breton songwriter wrote a lament in breton entitled Ar Roue Gralon ha Kear Is (King Gralon and the city of Ys), inspired by the legend of the city of Ys and which was one of the main supports of its spreading.
This long “gwerz” of more than 200 verses quickly became popular.
This manuscript, executed during the second half of the XIXth century, is inspired by illuminated French manuscripts from the XVth century.
This manuscript is illustrated with four illuminated vignettes by P. Cornillac which illustrate some passages of the legend of the city of Ys : the encounter between King Gradlon and Saint Corentin in the forest, Princess Dahut witnessing the construction of the city of Ys, princess Dahut dancing with the mysterious bearded prince, the king Gradlon fleeing the city on horseback.
In addition, every page of the manuscript is embellished with a large and rich frame painted with plant designs. In these magnificent frames, we see many colored flowers with large blue, golden, pink and red acanthus leaves.
A superb and precious illuminated manuscript, entirely painted by hand on vellum, telling a moving Breton legend.
Secular and historical manuscripts are extremely rare; these luxurious and expensive works of art being devoted to books of hours.
Prestigious provenance: ex libris of Georges Wendling, President of les Amis du Livre Contemporain from 1958 to 1959.