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French Forum 26.1 (2001) 105-106

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Book Review


Marguerite de Navarre. Heptaméron. Ed. Renja Salminen. Textes Littéraires Français 516. Geneva: Droz, 1999. xcii + 864 pp.

For the most part, literary scholars have the benefit of working with modern critical editions of the major texts of their period or field of interest. Until recently, however, such was not the case with Marguerite de Navarre’s Heptaméron, unquestionably one of the most important works of the French Renaissance. It must be admitted that the problems posed by the textual tradition for a potential editor were particularly daunting. Remaining unfinished at Marguerite’s death, her collection of short stories was first published posthumously in 1558, then again in 1559. Unfortunately, neither of these editions offers a satisfactory text, even though the second, which improves greatly upon the first, remained standard until 1853—54. At that date, Le Roux de Lincy published a text of the Heptaméron based, for the first time, upon a manuscript source, BnF ms. fr. 1512. Anatole de Montaiglon’s revised reissue of this edition in 1880 was reprinted by Slatkine in 1969. Apart from Yves Le Hir’s edition, in 1967, of BnF ms. fr. 1524, the manuscript on which all other modern editions have been based has remained BnF fr. 1512–i.e., those of Michel François (first published 1943), Pierre Jourda (1965), and Simone de Reyff (1982). While François’s edition became the standard reference for scholars, its limitations were not unknown. As de Reyff admitted in her 1982 introduction: "On attend encore l’indispensable édition critique qui . . . permettra d’aborder l’oeuvre narrative de la reine dans un texte satisfaisant" (Heptaméron, Paris: GF-Flammarion, p. 31).

Thanks to Renja Salminen’s meticulous scholarship, such an edition appeared in two volumes (1991 and 1997) in the Annals of the Finnish Academy of Science and Letters, and is now reissued, with minor changes and additions, by Droz. Salminen’s most important innovation is to adopt as her primary source BnF ms. fr. 2155. This manuscript, the editor argues, gives a text which, in all likelihood, represents the state of the work upon Marguerite’s death in 1549–a text free from later scribal modifications, whether errors inadvertently introduced on the one hand, or corrections and stylistic improvements deliberately made on the other. The text of the Heptaméron (pp. 1—508) represents only a little over half of this substantial volume, however. It is preceded by an introduction (pp. xi-xcii), which carefully reviews the 19 extant manuscripts (nine of which are complete), analyzes variants, establishes the stemma, and traces the genesis of the work in three distinct phases. Following the text, an ample critical apparatus (pp. 509—670) gives all significant variants [End Page 105] from nine manuscripts, with those from a tenth being included in the "Notes et Commentaires" (pp. 671—791). In this section, the reader also finds, in addition to generous historical and elucidatory material, abundant references to or summaries of relevant critical studies. A glossary, index of proper names, and extensive bibliography complete this impressive volume.

Renaissance scholars must be profoundly grateful to Renja Salminen, who has not only provided the long-awaited critical edition of the Heptaméron, but has done so superbly. The edition’s inclusion in Droz’s TLF series is to be welcomed as allowing the wide and easy diffusion of what should become the standard scholarly edition of this work.

Gary Ferguson
University of Delaware



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