- Contes: Charles Perrault ed. by Tony Gheeraert
This new French edition of Perrault’s fairy tales has the immense merit of being a comprehensive collection of Perrault’s writings in the genre, including his versified tales, prose tales (found in the 1695 manuscript, the Mercure galant, and the 1697 edition), and prefaces, dedications, contemporary letters, and contemporary articles on the subject. The book is divided into four main parts, followed by outlines and notices of each tale, a bibliography, an index of the main mentioned names, and a table of illustrations. The first section is a long introduction. Next is Perrault’s versified tales and their prefaces. They are followed by the published tales of the 1697 Histoires ou contes du temps passé, including the dedication, illustrations, and an extract of the king’s privilege. The appendix constitutes the longest part of the book, in which the editor reproduces letters, the integral text of Perrault’s 1695 manuscript, the Mercure galant’s version of “La Belle au bois dormant,” some excerpts of Mercure galant’s articles on Perrault’s fairy tales, a prose version of “Peau d’Ane,” and a chapbook version of “Grisélidis.” The editor has chosen to reproduce the tales with modernized spelling and to signal the numerous typographic and orthographic mistakes and negligence of contemporary editions in the footnotes.
Tony Gheeraert first reproduces Perrault’s three versified tales, “ Grisélidis,” “Peau d’Ane,” and “Les souhaits ridicules,” from the fourth edition (1695). Because the tales are not introduced, the reader needs to refer either to the introduction or to the bibliography to learn which edition was the fourth, in order to put it into the context of the reprints. All variants from previous editions are indicated in the footnotes. The prefaces and dedications originally published with the tales are also reproduced. The extensive footnotes, indicating variants, regularly refer to Antoine Furetière’s dictionary (1690) to explain the vocabulary in its context and give a significant amount of information on historical and textual sources. [End Page 113]
Gheeraert reproduces the entire 1697 second edition of Histoires ou contes du temps passé, avec des moralités, with the frontispiece and dedication to Mademoiselle signed by P. Darmancour. In the Histoires Perrault published his five fairy tales from the 1695 manuscript, and added “Cendrillon,” “Le petit Poucet,” and “Riquet à la Houppe.” The reader must refer again to the introduction to know the addition of these three tales. Each tale is introduced by its vignette as it was in the original edition. The notes include variants from the first edition, historical facts relevant to the understanding of the story, vocabulary explanations, and potential sources.
The longest part of the Contes: Charles Perrault—and the most interesting for scholars—is the Appendix, in which the editor publishes texts that are more difficult to find or seldom reproduced. Gheeraert introduces briefly the anonymous letters on “Grisélidis” and “Peau d’Ane” published in March 1694 with their avertissement. These letters are of noteworthy interest to scholars because they describe the atmosphere of tale creation in the beginning of fairy-tale publication and demonstrate a criticism of Perrault’s writing that contradicts the more famous Villiers’s Entretiens sur les contes de fées published in 1699, toward the end of the first vogue. The 1695 manuscript owned by the Morgan Library and Museum (previously the Pierpont Morgan Library, and not the Morgan Pierpont as Gheeraert says) is reproduced with a quick introduction and a few notes. The punctuation and spelling are modernized, and a code is introduced to understand the changes made to the tales between the manuscript and the 1697 edition. The same is true for the reproduction of the version of “La Belle au bois dormant” from the Mercure galant (February 1696). Gheeraert continues with the reproduction of two excerpts from the Mercure galant that specifically concern Perrault’s fairy tales. These examples of contemporary texts are valuable to have in such an edition, as they give an immediate context to the writing of the genre. The first is an...