The May 2021 provenance mystery features Discours ou est descrit au vray, l’estat du roy d’Espainge: et de ses royaumes, forces, & moyens. The attributed author for this work is Jean de Prantinhac, and the book was published at an unknown location in 1590, but most likely it was printed in Montauban.
This work is very rare, in that this is the only known copy: no such title is recorded in the Universal Short Title Catalogue, and the only copy listed in the Heritage of the Printed Book (HPB) database is this copy. Olivier Barbier’s Dictionnaire des ouvrages anonymes also does not list the work. The attribution to Jean de Prantinhac stems from the inscription on the title page, which reads: ‘A Monthaulban per Prantinac’. Below this a further inscription has been trimmed: ‘Discource de Pranti[?]’. If that author attribution is correct, there is only one other book by him listed in the HPB: Anatomie de l’ame et de l’homme interieur, printed in Saint-Jean-d’Angély in 1616.
This book presents two mysteries. The first regards the authorship, and whether this attribution is correct. I have not been able to find any information on this author, apart from a brief mention in a publication from the 19th century, discussing the Anatomie, but it did not provide any further information on this author. The 26 year gap between the two publications suggests that these two works, if both by a Jean de Prantinhac, cannot both be by the same person. The second concerns what is a possibly a cipher or other mark of ownership that has been crossed out on the title page. Was this the same hand that indicated the authorship, and place of publication? Is it a name or signature? It is unlikely that this inscription is traceable, but someone may recognise it, or have seen something similar.
I will confess that at this stage I have not read the book. The subtitle (et de ses royaumes, forces, & moyens: et consequemment, de toute la ligue. A ce opposé l’estat du roy, ses forces & moye[n]s: et des rois princes, & estats, ses amis, & confederés. Et un traicté, de l’exelence de la monarchie Françoise. Avec un oracle d’invention poëtique) indicates that it concerns the wars of religion in France, and Henry of Navarre’s battles against the Catholic League, which involved forces from Spain and other international Catholic forces. Robert Ashley (1565-1641), the library’s founder, took part in this war, and was at the fall of Gournay in September 1591. This book was part of his collection.
It is possible that someone will recognise the ornamental type the printer has used on the title page. Can similarities be observed with the printer Jamet Mettayer’s use of ornamental type on the title page to L’ordre des etats generaux tenus a Bloys, 1589? Mettayer was working in Tours from 1589 to 1594 and was embedded with the French court during the wars of religion. He printed pamphlets against the Catholic League.
The book is reasonably short at a total of 126 pages, and thus can be considered an ephemeral type of pamphlet. But given the keen interest in the wars of religion, and England’s interest in Spain and its armies after the Spanish armada years, why is this book so rare, and the authorship a mystery?
As ever, if you have any comments on this provenance mystery, contact the library at: email@example.com.