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Michel de Montaigne (1533-1592)

The primary 16th-century editions in the Gordon Collection

E 1580 .M65 (8vo) Essais de messire Michel seigneur de Montaigne, cheualier de l'Ordre du roy, & gentil-homme ordi-naire de sa chambre. Liure premier & second.

This first edition of the Essais (2 volumes) was published in Bordeaux in 1580 by S. Millanges.


Sayce #1*. This copy from the McGregor Collection at the University of Virginia has the second state of the Volume 1 title page, and the third state of the Volume 2 title page (as explained in Sayce and Maskell).

Gordon 1582 .M65 (8vo) Essais de messire Michel, Seigneur de Montaigne, cheualier de l'Ordre du Roy, & gentil-homme ordinaire de sa chambre, maire & gouuerneur de Bourdeaus (Bordeaux: Millanges).

In 1582, Millanges printed this slightly revised and expanded edition of the Essais, still in 2 volumes.


Sayce #2.* This copy is identified as “Gord” in the Sayce and Maskell bibliography, since the books were still in his private collection at the time the bibliography was published. Note #2 on p. 8 indicates “On K4 in Gord eight words of the last line left of tel are inverted.”


Gordon 1588 .M65 (4to) Essais de Michel Seigneur de Montaigne. Cinquiesme edition, / augment'ee d'un troisiesme liure: et de six cens additions aux deux premiers (Paris: Abel L’Angelier).

In 1588, Montaigne published this new edition of the Essais, adding a third volume and significant additions to the first two books.


Sayce #4* The Gordon copy has the second state of the engraved title page.


Gordon 1595 .M65b (folio) Les essais de Michel seigneur de Montaigne. Edition nouuelle, / trouuee après le deceds de l'autheur, reueuë & augmentée par luy d'vn tiers plus qu'aux precedentes impressions (Paris: Michel Sonnius, 1595).

View the digital facsimile of this book.


After Montaigne’s death, Marie de Gournay, his “adopted daughter” (“fille d’alliance”), edited this greatly expanded edition of the Essais, based on Montaigne’s own handwritten changes to his personal copy of the 1588 edition. (Now known as the exemplaire de Bordeaux, and residing in the Bibliothèque municipale de Bordeaux, that unique volume has been reproduced in print and electronically. See bibliographical references below.) The 1595 edition, in large folio format with a long preface by Marie de Gournay, was printed in Paris for two different booksellers, Abel l’Angelier and Michel Sonnius. (See the next item.)


Sayce #7A* The Gordon copy of this edition has title page “b”, with the device and imprint of the bookseller Michel Sonnius, and does not include the "Au Lecteur."


E1595.M65 (folio.) Les essais de Michel seigneur de Montaigne. Edition nouuelle, trouuee apres le deceds de l'autheur, reueuë & augmentée par luy d'vn tiers qu'aux precedentes impressions. (Paris: Abel L'Angelier, 1595)

Sayce #7A* This copy from the McGregor Collection in the University of Virginia Library has title page “a,” with the device and imprint of bookseller Abel L’Angelier. This copy includes the "Au lecteur." (See item above.)

Modern editions of the Essais reflect the many changes in Montaigne’s work over time by using symbols--often the letters A, B, and C--as labels within the text to refer to the three main editions of 1580, 1588 and 1595.

Other sixteenth-century editions of the Essais in Special Collections at the University of Virginia Library

Gordon 1587 .M65 (12mo) Essais de messire Michel, Seigneur de Montaigne, cheualier de l'Ordre du Roy, & gentil-homme ordinaire de sa chambre, maire & gouuerneur de Bourdeaus (A Paris : Chez Iean Richer)

Sayce #3* - This edition of 1587 reproduces the text of the 1582 Millanges edition and appears one year before the Bordeaux printer's "privilège" expired. Sayce and Maskel report that the 1587 edition "may have been unauthorized or the result of an agreement between Richer and Millanges." Michel Simonin has studied the contrefaçons of the Essais, and cites documentary evidence that supports the latter theory, that this edition was the result of an agreement beneficial to both printers and to Montaigne. (See Michel Simonin, “Les contrefaçons lyonnaises de Montaigne et Ronsard au temps de la Ligue, ” p. 139-159 in Les Presses grises, la contrefaçon du livre (XVIe-XIXe siècles). Textes réunis par François Moureau. Paris: Aux amateurs de livres, 1988.)


Gordon 1595 .M65 (12mo) Les essais de Michel, Seigneur de Montagne, diuisez en trois liures. : Contenants vn riche & rare thresor de plusieurs beaux & notables discours couchez en vn stile le plus pur & orné qu'il se trouue en nostre siecle. : Auec deux tables: l'vn des chapitres, l'autre des choses plus memorables contenues en iceux (Lyon : Pour François le Febure)

Sayce #6* - Despite Abel L’Angelier’s attempts to pursue legal action against the counterfeiters of an earlier 1593 edition of the Essais, (A Lyon, Pour Gabriel La Grange, Libraire d’Avigon), another unauthorized edition appeared in 1595, the same year in which L’Angelier published the folio edition of the Essais, prepared by Marie de Gournay. The 1595 contrefaçon indicates that it was printed “Pour François Le Febvre, de Lyon.” Michel Simonin demonstrates that this edition was in fact published in Geneva, and was based on the earlier 1593 counterfeit edition of Lyon-Avignon, in which a number of passages had been censured to bring them in line with the theology of the Reform movement. Simonin also points out that the “Au Lecteur,” intended for its initial publication in the folio edition of 1595 (prepared by Mademoiselle de Gournay), in fact first appeared in the pirated edition of 1595, though questions remain as to how François Le Febvre came into possession of the addition to the text. (See Michel Simonin, “Les contrefaçons lyonnaises de Montaigne et Ronsard au temps de la Ligue, ” p. 139-159 in Les Presses grises, la contrefaçon du livre (XVIe-XIXe siècles). Textes réunis par François Moureau. Paris: Aux amateurs de livres, 1988.)

* The “Sayce” references correspond to the editions of Montaigne as identified in A Descriptive Bibliography of Montaigne’s Essais, 1580-1700, by R.A. Sayce and David Maskell (London: Bibliographical Society, 1983).

Related titles in the Gordon Collection:


Gordon 1572 .X45 (8vo) La mesnagerie de Xenophon ; Les regles de mariage, de Plutarque ; Lettre de consolation, de Plutarque à sa femme. / Le tout traduict de Grec en François par feu m. Estienne De La Boetie ... ; Ensemble quelques vers Latins & François, de son inuention. ; Item, vn Discours sur la mort dudit Seigneur De la Boëtie, par M. de Montaigne. (Paris : De l'Imprimerie de Federic Morel…, 1572.)

Gordon 1774 .M65 (F) (4to) Journal du voyage de Michel de Montaigne en Italie, par la Suisse & le Allemagne, en 1580 & 1581. A Rome ; & se trouve a Paris : Chez Le Jay ..., 1774.

Gordon 1581 .R39 (8vo) La theologie naturelle de Raymond Sebon, / traduicte nouuellement en françois par messire Michel, Seigneur de Montaigne, Cheualier de l'ordre du Roy, & gentil-homme ordinaire de sa chambre. Paris : Chez Michel Sonnius…, 1581.


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