Written at the close of the fifteenth century and published in 1508, this long poem by Eloy d'Amerval is one of the last of the rich series of medieval dream vision poems that includes the Roman de la Rose and the Pelerinage de la Vie Humaine. The book is classified in literature as a belonging to the Demonomanie but it has nothing to do with conjuring up the Devil. In fact it is not an esoteric book at all, but a delightful didactic poem.
The author eavesdrops on a diabolic dialogue between Satan and his ambitious henchman, Lucifer. The later brags on his success in luring sinners into the infernal realm. The vices of merchants, innkeepers, tradesmen, peasants, nobleman and the clergy are all vividly described in every lurid detail.
For example: Gambling and hunting (book II, chapters 1-17), Marriage and family life (II, chapters 126-149). Of course also scholarship (II, chapters 82-93) has its moral faults, such as concupiscence, cunning and pride. D’Amerval describes by way of contrast, the behaviour of the virtuous and tell us that he is happy that there are not more of the latter, because otherwise the devils' domain would be less thronged! And we can agree with him for the depiction of the world of vice is at first glance always far more interesting then that of virtue.
Eloy is apt at delivering an impressive number of profanities. With its humour and richness of language, the dialogue between both devils must be considered unique for its time. The poem's cultural significance is amplified by its references to music, musical instruments and musicians heard at French and Burgundian courts during the 15th century. Eloy’s List” has come to be regarded as a nascent “Who’s Who” of late fifteenth-century composers. The text also would seem to shed light upon April’s fool’s day in the sentence "maquereau infâme de maint homme et de mainte femme, poisson d'avril."
Furthermore the book provides us with a fascinating glimpse into the life and customs of a broad spectrum of French society on the eve of the Reformation: its customs and manners, its food and its dress, its work and its play. And as an historical document, it bears witness to the medieval conception of Hell and the representatives of Good and Evil
About the author

Eloy, apparently from Amerval in the Pas-de-Calais, was probably born before 1440; he was a singer, choirmaster and composer of note and spent most of his life serving in institutions connected with the French royal court in the region of the Loire Valley. Le livre de la deablerie was finally published in 1508, but it is not known how long he lived after that. King Louis XII granted him explicit permission for its publication, and also granted him special payment for many years of service

Condition

The first page is most likely in facsimile, because it is on a different stock of paper. It is extremely well done however and not some ghastly modern reproduction. Some insignificant fingerstaining to margins; corners of ff. M4-5 neatly remargined without loss to text.

Bound by the legendary London binder Francis Bedford (1799-1883), whose mastery is extolled by the DNB: "The work of Bedford is not excelled by that of any English bookbinder of his time [...] It is always in good taste, and [...] for soundness and thoroughness it could not be surpassed. Bedford appreciated tall copies, and a book never came from his hands shorn of its margins. He was also a very skilful mender of damaged leaves [...] For many years a continuous stream of beautiful bindings issued from his workshops, the great majority of which are now to be found on the shelves of the finest libraries of England and America"

Provenance

From the famous library of Alfred Henry Huth (1850-1910), whose bookplate is on the front pastedown. The volume was sold by Sotheby's as lot 1957 in the 1912 auction of his collection; this remains the only known copy ever to have surfaced at auction.

Literature

Marlène Britta, François Turellier, Philippe Vendrix: "La vie musicale à Orléans de la fin de la guerre de Cent Ans à la Saint-Barthélemy, in: "Orléans, une ville de la Renaissance", Ville d'Orléans, CESR de Tours, Université F.Rabelais de Tours, 2009, pp. 120-131.

Paula Higgins, Jeffrey Dean: "Eloy d'Amerval", Grove Music Online, ed. L. Macy (Accessed June 27, 2006),

Eloy d'Amerval, "Missa dixerunt discipuli" (composed at Blois, at the court of Charles d'Orléans, before 1465 ?), Ms., XVe siècle. Bibliothèque vaticane. Ed. Agostino Magro et Philippe Vendrix, Paris, Champion, 1997, 43

Richard Loyan, "Eloy d'Amerval", The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, ed. Stanley Sadie. 20 vol. London, Macmillan Publishers Ltd., 1980

Jacques Soyer, Notes pour servir à l’histoire littéraire. 1. Le poète Eloi d’Amerval à Orléans en 1468, Bulletin de la Société Archéologique et Historique de l'Orléanais, Ancienne série, T. XVI, N° 202, 1912, pp. 191-192, 201-222 (Compte du « parachevement » de l’église Saint-Aignan commençant à la Saint-Rémi 1468 [= 13 janvier 1469 nouveau style] et finissant le 30 septembre 1469) : « antiphonier par luy fait contenant LVI caiers et demy à XXIIII solz le caier ».
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