The Heptameron, Margaret of Navarre, intro. By Walter K. Kelly (Privately Printed, the Panurge Press, New York, nd. [c. 1930], #342/1500)
8.5″ X 6″, 312pp, hardbound, decorative purple boards with gilt decorations and titles, top edge gilt, others deckled. Good condition for age.
The Heptaméron is a collection of 72 short stories written in French by Marguerite of Navarre (1492–1549), published posthumously in 1558. It has the form of a frame narrative and was inspired by The Decameron of Giovanni Boccaccio. It was originally intended to contain one hundred stories covering ten days just as The Decameron does, but at Marguerite’s death it was only completed as far as the second story of the eighth day. Many of the stories deal with love, lust, infidelity, and other romantic and sexual matters. One was based on the life of Marguerite de La Rocque, a French noblewoman who was punished by being abandoned with her lover on an island off Quebec.
In the “Prologue” to The Heptameron a group of people wait for the building of a bridge to be completed and are beset by a series of natural calamities and criminal actions that keeps them virtual prisoners in an abbey. Parlamente, having obtained her husband Hircan’s permission to do so, makes bold to ask Lady Oisille to devise an appropriate means by which the company of stranded guests may amuse themselves. A devout Christian, the lady suggests that they read the Bible. However, Hircan says that they are young enough to need other diversions as well. Parlamente suggests that those who want to write stories after the manner of Boccaccio, do so, sharing them with the others in the afternoon, after Scriptures are read in the morning. It will take 10 days to complete the bridge, and, each day, in a shady grove in a meadow, the writers will share 10 tales, telling a total of 100 stories. The stories will be published, if the audience likes them, and be presented to the listeners as presents. Lady Oisille agrees to Parlamente’s recommendation, provided that the stories are true.