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Reviewed by:
  • Traicté de la Cabale
  • Marion Leathers Kuntz
Jean Thenaud . Traicté de la Cabale. Textes de la Renaissance 124. Eds. Ian R. Christie-Miller and François Roudaut. Paris: Honoré Champion Éditeur, 2007. 482 pp. + 1 color and 28 b/w pls. index. illus. gloss. bibl. €88. ISBN: 978-2-7453-1541-0.

The Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism have acquired an ever increasing authority in Renaissance studies since the pioneering work of Scholem, Blau, and Secret; the works of Moshe Idel, David Ruderman, and Chaim Wirszubski have contributed significantly, and also textural studies such as Saverio Campanini's noteworthy edition of Flavius Mithridates' translation of the Bahir. No less significant is the study under review.

The Traicté de la Cabale of Jean Thenaud (ca. 1480-1542), carefully edited by Ian Christie-Miller with the collaboration of François Roudaut, makes accessible to scholars of the Renaissance another source for the understanding of the Kabbalah. Jean Thenaud, born near Poitiers, was a grateful member of the household of Louise of Savoy, mother of Francis, who would be the future King of France, Francis I. Thenaud was deeply imbued in the Christian faith and had been received in the orders. In 1514 he was guardian of the monastery of the Cordeliers of Angoulême, and the next year Louise of Savoy gave to his order some of the gardens of Angoulê me. Francis I was also a benefactor of the monastery of which Thenaud was abbot from 1529 until his death. Thenaud's first work, La Margarite de France (1508), pays homage to Louise of Savoy in its dedication as it develops themes about the primitive language and the role of Jews in history. Following Annius of Viterbo, Thenaud includes a history of the kings who ruled France from Japhet to Charles VIII (1498). [End Page 1316]

Jean Thenaud's early kabbalistic works were written for Francis I, who was displeased with the first study, La saincte et très chrestïenne cabale metrifiée (Bibliothèque nationale, ms. Fr. 882), because of the "riguer du stile qui est en metre." (26, n. 94), according to Thenaud, and Francis I ordered him to prepare a second version. The second version in prose was entitled Traicté de la Cabale, ou La Cabale et l'estat du monde angélic ou spirituel, of which only three manuscripts of 1520-21 exist: Nantes (ms. 521), Paris (ms. 5061), and Geneva (ms. 167). The copy in Paris (Bibliothèque de l' Arsenal ms. 5061), a beautiful volume in parchment, is that which Thenaud gave to Francis I in 1521.

The text of Thenaud is rather complicated, but the editor Christie-Miller carefully guides the reader through the various complexities. The Traicté de la Cabale begins with a letter to King Francis I, divided into three parts: 240 decasyllables in French and nine Latin citations; a commentary of Raban Maur in which he eulogizes the king as guarantor of religion; and the third part in eighteen decasyllables that celebrates the king, his wife Claude, his mother Louise, and his sister Marguerite. A prologue follows the tripartite letter in which Thenaud develops thoughts on the vanity of honors, the smallness of the earth, and men's follies. Six tractates serve as the main body of the Traicté de la Cabale. The first tractate, les quatre mondes, is derived from Giovanni Pico's Heptaplus; the second, l'immortalité des ames, from Ficino's Platonica Theologia. The third tractate, le monde angélique, draws from Dionisius the Areopagite's Hierachia caelestia, while the fourth, la Kabbale des Hebreux, uses Reuchlin's De Arte cabalistica. La Kabbale des Chrétiens, derived from Raban Maur's De laudibus sanctae Crucis, is the fifth part of the Traicté, and the final tractate is le monde angélique gouverne le céleste parte quarternaire et le septenaire.

This book is a model for textual research. The introduction acquaints the reader with the texts that are to follow. The footnotes to the introduction and to the Traicté de la Cabale are excellent and present a wealth of scholarship, significant in itself, in addition to the text. There is an excellent bibliography of primary and...


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