Theatre. 1676 Scarron's Comical Romance, History of a Company of Strowling Stage-Players


Scarce 17th century (1676) English edition of Paul Scarron's Comical Romance; at the time of listing I can't find another copy available on the market (using Vialibri).

A notable and rare representation of 17th century French travelling theater and village life, with some interesting English theater points added in the translation/printing.

On page 17 Shakespeare is mentioned, and the frontispiece includes an illustration of stage players, on scaffolding, in a neighborhood of London (conjectured to be Old Smithfield). The advertisement for two printed plays, at the rear, states, "...Acted at the Theatre Royal. These two plays were acted by the Players on the Subject of this Book."

The Roman Comique tells the adventures of a company of strolling players in a realistic setting, thus providing much information concerning the customs of these companies of actors. The main plot tells the misadventures of Destin's acting company and presents us with an intrusive narrator who disappears when some of the characters tell their life stories such as Destin, La Caverne and La Garouffiere. These stories have a higher tone than the main plot since they tell of past loves among the nobility. It also contains four interpolated tales, taken mainly from Spanish sources. The most famous is the novella of the "Invisible Mistress," a comic adaptation of the more serious tale by Alonso de Castillo Solorzano.

"This history of a troupe of strolling actors... is almost the first French novel...which shows real power of painting manners and character, and is singularly vivid. The realism of the novel makes it an invaluable source of information about conditions in the French provinces in the 17th century." – Encyclopedia Brittanica

About William Faithorne's Illustration -

From the Descriptive Catalogue of the Engraved Works of William Faithorne - "View of a street. In the foreground a cart, drawn by a bullock and a horse. An actress is seen seated on some boxes, & c., in the cart. By its side is an actor wearing a sword and carrying on his right shoulder a gun. He is preceded by an old man carrying on his back a violoncello or base. In the background a crowd witnessing a performance."

About Paul Scarron -

Scarron’s origins were bourgeois, and it was originally intended that he should enter the church. After a period in Brittany and a visit to Rome, however, Scarron settled in Paris and devoted himself to writing. His first works were burlesques. The poet Marc-Antoine Girard de Saint-Amant had already started the vogue for parodies of the classics, but Scarron is mainly responsible for making the burlesque one of the characteristic literary forms of the mid-17th century. Scarron, who married d’Aubigne in 1652, was also a considerable figure in the theatrical life of Paris in the years immediately preceding Moliere’s arrival in the capital.

Bibliographic Details -

Universal Short Title Catalogue reference number 3095626. 24 copies listed in the world's libraries.

English Short Title Catalogue reference number R26230.

Physical Attributes -

Measures approx. 29.5 x 19.5 x 2.5 cm, signed in four (but possibly a small folio). Mottled leather (possibly sheep) binding. Boards framed with blind roll. Spine with five raised bands. "Lond 1676" in gilt in one compartment, title in gilt on red morocco in one compartment.

Pages - frontis plate, iv pages (title page and following leaf), 251 numbered pages, one page of advertisement

Collation - Frontis, (presumably) A2, B-Z4, Aa-Ii4, Kk2

Condition -

See pictures. A little cracking along joints but boards holding well. Some splaying to boards. Bottom corners of boards with nibbles; evidence of older underlay at corners. Respined, but very-well done, the line hidden by a blind tool. Some bookseller notes on pastedown; older shelf mark moved to new(ish) endpaper. Older 1st endpaper with edge chipping, ghost of oiled turn-ins and ink shelfmark.

Tiny hole in bottom margin of frontispiece. Text block has some toning and rust spots throughout. Some thumbing, occasional dog-eared corner, candle ember mark. Occasional small worm hole. Nice wide margins. Inky thumb margin of D1. One cm (food?) spot on O3. Ink margins of P4. R4r two very rudimentary manicules drawn in the margin. 2 (food?) spots in the margin of X1. Moisture spot bottom margin X3-Y4. 1 cm hole in Cc4.

Note about Virgil and Paradise on last old endpaper; also very ghosted from turn-ins and etc.

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