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Alongside the excitement of exploring the possibilities of the printing press, one of the under-acknowledged challenges for xvith and xviith century printers was to balance the evident potential of the technology at their command with the demands of the political and social circumstances in which they found themselves operating. This was particularly true in France, where the civil and religious unrest that underpinned four decades of civil war in the second half of the xvith century left an enduring cultural legacy, with book culture particularly affected. This article examines how editors and printers reacted to these changing circumstances, particularly when the subject matter of their products came with a complicated reception history. By examining the Cantiques du sieur de Maisonfleur, an anthology of Protestant and Catholic verse which went through multiple editions and expansions over three decades, this article considers how editorial concerns about the textual content of works, in this case a shifting balance to be maintained between spiritual integrity and aesthetic standards, were handled alongside concerns about the physical composition of the book itself, whilst simultaneously responding to the complicated confessional situation. The complex evolution of the collections is outlined in the appendix to this piece.

The anthology, its purpose and its production, has received somewhat mixed scholarly attention.[2] Even defining an anthology can be troublesome, depending essentially on the genre of work in which the material being collected falls.[3] In this study, ‘anthology’ is understood to describe a collection of works by two or more authors, in this particular case printed and made up of poems, where clear editorial parameters have been established and followed, and where the multiplicity of the original source material is indicated on the title page, or made explicit as part of the product’s format. The adherence to editorial parameters, of there being some form of decision-making that drives the selection of material, and which the audience is expected to recognise, distinguishes the anthology from other sorts of collected works, and is what makes the evolution of poetry anthologies in the late xvith and early xvith centuries so intriguing.

Scholars have categorised printed poetry anthologies as a rather clumsy attempt by printers to cash in on the established elite pastime of collecting and compiling commonplace books.[4] Manuscript commonplace books were of course driven by the whim or interest of the reader/compiler, who selected the extracts that he or she wanted to include in his or her book. This power was not be totally eradicated by the advent of print.[5] Most immediately, readers demonstrated their personal taste in the items they elected to buy. Items would be bound together soon after purchase in an attempt to fashion a single work from multiple contributors, particularly in the case of pamphlets and shorter works.[6] The resulting recueils, still found intact in libraries today, tell us much about reader choice in purchasing. Created in the printshop, printers and booksellers could not help but be aware of the demands and trends which lay behind such collections, and moved to produce something to cater for this demand. In a pre-selected collection, the editor/printer took over the active role of selecting, and the reader/purchaser became a passive participant in the process, until the moment of purchase itself.[7] Collections and anthologies, therefore, indicate what editors and printers understood to reflect reader taste, an anticipation which had to be considered alongside the editor’s own aims and ambitions for the collection, rather than recreating reader choice directly.[8] How these compilation decisions were reached is all too often obscure to the modern scholar. Some of the xvith century’s earliest collections were made up of the ‘stars’ of French poetry and anthologies served as ‘greatest hits’ collections, suggesting that reader taste played a significant role.[9] The collected works of the most famous poets were successful printing ventures, running to multiple editions.[10] But the composition of other recueils and the relatively high percentage of anonymous or pseudo-anonymous verse included in some of these works indicate that editors were not simply cashing in on established successes. The products discussed here show evidence of careful and sustained editorial intervention, which is only partly explained by the demands of the reader, and their publication history suggests successful reception, despite or perhaps because of their confessional ambiguity.

The Problem of Poetry in the French Reformation

The French protestant community was largely dependent on the book. Frequently restricted from worshipping as they would have chosen by law and local public opinion, French Protestants found their worship necessarily interiorised. Books provided private spiritual sustenance: they had a practical value in maintaining the faith, whilst acting as secret emblems of belief. Knowledgably reading the same books as other Protestants fostered a community spirit denied believers by the reality of political circumstances.[11] Protestant authorities were very aware of the potential uses and abuses of book culture and took steps to control access to literature where they could, with National Synods taking precautions against the publication of ‘dangerous’ books.[12] The possession and use of books was such a defining characteristic of Protestant life that owning a known protestant book could be enough to condemn a suspected Protestant in the eyes of the law.[13] Unsurprisingly then, the French Protestant community collectively produced a range of literature to sustain itself. Aside from the celebrated vernacular bibles, the faithful could select from theological treaties, Psalters, catechisms, bible commentaries, and martyrologies, to name a handful of genres.

Within this undeniably highly literate community, poetry presented something of a problem. French Protestant leaders found themselves torn between poetry’s ability to create an intense emotional response in the reader, and suspicion as to its precise role in their spiritual paradigm, and its potential for worldly subversion.[14] Although the popular stereotype of Reformed Protestants as cultural killjoys needs to be revised, the fact remains that within the later French reformation, Protestant leaders understood that all verse should be in praise of God in the manner of the Psalms and contemporary poetry typically presented strong temptations away from the path of righteousness. Once the illustrious project of the translation of the psalms had been completed by Clement Marot and Théodore de Bèze, writing new poetry became problematic for French Protestants. The most celebrated verse of the mid xvith century, that of the Pleïade, did little to dispel these fears, being both highly worldly as well as openly acknowledging a debt to classical models. De Bèze admitted to feeling shame about his youthful dalliances with verse that was not particularly spiritual in nature.[15] Alternative subjects were needed, ones which celebrated God and the Protestant cause. Luckily, many of the movement’s leaders were talented poets in their own right, and writers such as de Bèze, Antoine de Chandieu and Simon Goulart became adept at employing poetry to facilitate devotion and contemplation, nurturing a protestant worldview in verse.[16] Recognition of the perilous earthly situation, man’s utter wretchedness and total dependence on God formed the basis of a particularly moving protestant poetic tradition, in turn inspiring and legitimising protestant poets who were not pastors but still dedicated to the spiritual cause. In this, these poets were addressing similar concerns to many of their catholic counterparts, many of whom were also drawn to the production of spiritual, devotional verse.[17] In fact, Catholics and Protestants drew on similar sources of inspiration for their verse production, particularly the Psalms and the Lamentations of Job, leading to a large body of work which could be appropriated by both confessions without substantial revision. Turning such verse into a viable printing project, however, was not immediately simple, and required careful consideration and printing approaches. The anthology, with its central concern of pre-selection according to established criteria, would prove an attractive solution to the apparent problem of guiding Protestant recreational reading.

Explaining an Anthology

Anthologies could easily be constructed to provide spiritually-correct recreational verse for eager protestant readers that did not contravene their religious sensibilities, but individual collections could be, and were, put together in very different ways. Whilst the exact conditions of production, and of the works’ diffusion and reception, have been obscured by the passage of time, the surviving products themselves can be examined alongside the latest bibliographical research in order to shed some light on how such products were conceived and perhaps assembled. The earliest protestant poetry collection printed in French, the Poemes Chrestiens de Bernard. de Montméja, was printed in 1574 in Geneva.[18] It was assembled by Philippe de Pas, who explained to his dedicatee the Count Palatine that he recognised that many people lacked the time to indulge in prolonged reading, let alone to sort out ‘les livres honnestes et proufitables’ from the vast array of titles on offer.[19] Aware of the reformed dilemma, that one should be reading devotional literature for instruction and support whilst simultaneously scrupulously avoiding anything morally suspect or ambiguous, de Pas decided to pre-select verse for the busy reader, inspired by an obvious gap in the market:

‘Et voyant que nos François n’ont encores gueres de poësie chrestienne, i’ay pensé leur estre obligé en cest endroit. Pource, en m’acquittant enuers eux, i’ay tasché de resiouir ceux qui ont quelq ;[sic] crainte de Dieu ; & en faisant rougir tous volupteux, (s’ils on encor quelque goutte de honte & d’honnesteté) qui n’escriuent ni ne lisent que choses lasciues, inciter beaucoup d’excellens personnages qui suppriment trop long temps leurs doctes & sainctes poësies, de les mettre en auant, à peine d’estre conuaincus d’ingratitude & de sacrilege.’[20]

Although de Pas was exacting in his standards for the ‘sainctété’ of his inclusions, he was far less stringent when addressing their poetic merits, freely admitting some critics would criticise his selections on artistic grounds.[21] He based his selection on content over style, consciously omitting items that failed to meet his spiritual standards, the aim being to edify, not to entertain. Through his editorial choices, de Pas acted to diffuse the ‘problem’ of poetry for his protestant reader: one could read poetry as long as it was poetry with a manifestly protestant ethos. The quality of the verse itself was secondary to the spiritual intent of the author – good Protestantism was all that mattered.

The stated editorial aims of the Cantiques du sieur de Maisonfleur as they evolved over three decades were markedly different to those of de Pas.[22] In the address to the reader included in the editions up to 1586, the editor noted that whilst God granted to many the grace necessary to serve him, far too few manifested this in writing, despite the potential for such compositions to reach a wide audience. Furthermore, amongst those who did write, there were few who did it well: ‘car les ignorans sont ordinairement plus presompteux que les doctes, ce qui les fait trop audacieusement exposer sur le theatre, à la veuë de tout le monde, des inepties dont ils se rendent ridicules.’[23] These charlatans either resorted to deduction and explanation or they were overly reliant on their style rather than their spiritual content. In short, in both prose and rhyme, these writers were far removed from the standard required to praise God, so much so that it were preferable that they did not write at all. Those with talent rarely took up their pen to write about ‘choses sainctes et serieuses’ but wasted their time on frivolous verse, thereby failing to emulate the ancient sages who used their verse to discuss matters of great import. [24] This had been a longstanding grievance of the Protestant community: many of the polemical critiques of Ronsard in the 1560s challenged him directly for wasting his divinely given talent on fripperies.[25] The editor also remarked that Maisonfleur had initially followed this path, succumbing to the tempting ‘delices’ of the court and tasting the ‘poisons du monde’.[26] Yet a true faith and God’s goodness allowed Maisonfleur to recognise his errors, and so he turned his hand to celebrating God’s glory in verse. As such, Maisonfleur was a perfect example of both the dangers and potentials of poetry envisaged by Protestant commentators, although his verse was ‘vn singulier example de pieté.[27] The ambiguous balance between ‘visible’ and ‘invisible’ authors is explored in a later section of this paper. At this stage, it is sufficient to note that throughout most of the collections, the author’s role, apart from the original production of verse, was to provide if possible a name that could be taken and used by the producers of the textual product for their own ends. The personality of the author was only expressed through his name and his verses. It was the editor, albeit a shadowy and largely anonymous figure, who had the most obvious direct relationship with the reader.

The editor of the Maisonfleur collections made his selection taking into account not simply spiritual content but also the quality of the verse itself. Verse that had both spiritual and stylistic substance was beautiful and must be shared. The implied conclusion was that verse had been directly inspired by God, and was thus worthy of publication and personal contemplation, rather than well-intentioned verse that failed to hit the stylistic mark. This potentially allowed for the inclusion of works by both Protestant and Catholic authors. Later editions would not state this aim so definitively: the prefatory address to the reader included from 1587 onwards instead focused on the success of the earlier collections, and the reasons and justifications for the anthology’s expansion, in particular inclusion of the Valagre verses.[28] It is true that each of the Maisonfleur editions was the product of particular circumstances. The first editions appeared at the start of the 1580s, a period of peasant revolts in the south and complicated interventions in the unfolding conflict in the Low Countries, as well as the inconclusive seventh war of religion. The editions which came out between 1584 and 1587 had as their cultural backdrop the rising power of the Catholic League, the implosion of Henri III’s power, and the emerging military power of Henri of Navarre, whose campaign to establish himself fully as king would dominate the next major period of production in the early 1590s. The final editions all appeared in the post-Nantes period, with the last edition, in 1613, appearing at a dangerous time for the Protestant cause, after Henri’s assassination in 1610 and Sully’s resignation from the Privy ouncil in 1611.[29] As such, any attempt to find an all-encompassing explanation for their production is likely to be futile, given the three decade time-span of production which covers some of the most unsettled years of French history, and the involvement of nine named printers, to say nothing of the mysterious editors and varied contributing authors, knowing or not. Nonetheless, the physical composition of the volumes suggests that the concern to provide spiritually sustaining, stylistically pleasing verse retained a strong influence over later editions. These items were as elegant and carefully considered as any other poetry printing on the market, and while their exact diffusion cannot easily be traced, they should be recognised as smart literary products which were deliberately prepared to meet the discerning tastes of the poetry reading and buying public.


The cross-confessional nature of the Maisonfleur collections has always proved particularly difficult to explain. Traditional explanations focused on the inclusion of Catholic works to act as a cover for more ‘suspect’ protestant contributions.[30] This might be plausible for the early editions, produced as the Catholic League grew in strength, and as France disintegrated once more into civil war: an overtly protestant collection would be perhaps foolhardy, even one published in Geneva and smuggled into France. One must then question the editor’s logic in dedicating the work to Charlotte de Bourbon and indeed in having Maisonfleur’s name on the title page.[31] If this were indeed the case, greater proportions of Protestant verse might be expected as the political climate settled into the relative stability of the reign of Henri IV over the 1590s and into the xviith century and as the collection itself became established. Yet poetry sourced from identifiably Protestant authors dropped from nearly 80% to under 40% over the period of production.[32] As such, the ‘catholic cover story’ explanation must be re-evaluated. Other explanations have focused on the inclusion of both protestant and catholic verse as an attempt to ‘reunite’ the confessions, a literary representation of the slippery, amorphous grouping within the wars typically referred to as the politiques.[33] Recently it has been suggested that the project aimed to reunite the protestant community to the monarchy, and recast the protestant as a loyal subject.[34] An attractive circumstantial explanation, this pays somewhat limited attention to the selection and positioning of the verses within the collections themselves, crucial to any hypothesis about development and intent.

A number of distinct sections are visible within the collections. Up to 1586, the ‘Cantiques’ by the sieur de Maisonfleur were always presented as a distinct section at the start of the volume. Once the Valagre verses were added in to the collection, they took the prime position at the start of the collection, but both sets of verses were given the recognition of discrete sections. The most deliberately anthologised section of the work was the part entitled the Muse Chrestienne, a title noted in the table of contents and in the text, but not on the title page, thus separating the collected works from the specifically advertised contents, but still attempting to give them a coherent character.[35] Finally, subsequent title pages, and in several editions separate collation, were granted to other named works by particular authors brought into the collection, those by Rouspeau, Pybrac and Du Val.[36] All sections were expanded over time, although they would keep the basic order (Maisonfleur-Valagre; Muse Chrestienne; different sections with named authors), as detailed in the appendix to this article. The evolution of these different sections, the Muse Chrestienne in particular, indicates a growing recognition on the part of the editors that poets on both sides of the confessional divide were producing more and more verse, and verse which could be useful to the reader. It also suggests that readers were responding to these collections, and that additions were integrated carefully in order not to upset the balance of the collection as a whole.

The collections were notably porous, in that verses were added in throughout the work, not simply added at the end of the Muse Chrestienne. Poets whose verses constituted a sizeable contribution were given the recognition of their own section with an independent title page, but this again was designed to be malleable, as it could be bound in different ways within the text.[37] Placing decisions appear to have been made based on the content and tenor of the verses themselves. Du Bellay’s second ‘Hymne Chrestienne’ addressed the same themes of individual wretchedness and the individual’s dependence on God that Chandieu developed throughout his fifty ‘Octonaires’, thus they were placed together in the 1586 edition. This could also necessitate a particular verse changing location within the collection between editions: Ronsard’s paraphrase of the Te Deum was included in the section of works by Pierre du Val in the 1586 edition, between a variant version of Du Bellay’s second ‘Hymne chrestien’, and works by anonymous authors. When the Du Val section was dropped for the 1591 edition, these works were redistributed: Ronsard’s ‘Te Deum’ was placed between the other variant of Du Bellay’s ‘Hymne Chrestienne’ within the Muse Chrestienne and Chandieu’s ‘Octonaires’. When the Du Val section was reinstated in the 1592 edition, it was as a separate section, followed by the group of anonymous works which continued to follow Du Val even when his works were reintegrated back into the Muse Chrestienne in 1602. In some cases this led to rather strange juxtapositions, notably the close proximity of works by Ronsard and Chandieu in the editions of 1587 and 1591. Given that these men had conducted a high-profile polemical war against each other in the 1560s, which had essentially degenerated to name calling, it is striking to see their works appearing on consecutive pages, even if Chandieu’s identity was in theory hidden behind the use of his pseudonym. The common usage of pastoral imagery and the emphasis on the power of God over the vagaries of human experience seem to have been enough to overlook the potential authorial dissonance.[38] In addition to being moved, works by a particular poet could be split up, so as to get the maximum potential from each verse. This seems to have only been done to very established poets, those who had been included in the collection for some time, and who would be expected to have significant independent name recognition: Du Bellay (1586 edition) and Desportes (1586, 1587, 1591 and 1592). Expanding the collection internally, taking advantage of flexible positioning, printers and booksellers could present each version of the collection as a distinctly different product, redesigned and reconsidered rather than simply expanded, whilst simultaneously promoting and exploiting the anthology’s reputation and heritage.

It is unlikely that these ordering decisions were made for practical typographical reasons, apart from the separate sections for star poets like Rouspeau and Pybrac. [39] Every edition of the collection showed mixed consideration for starting new authorial sections on new folios, and neither anonymous nor attributed works were used evidently to fill empty page space. Each verse’s positioning was deliberate and selected, suggesting that the compilers of the collection were more concerned about the content flow of this collection than the physical look of the product, and that they understood both the physical possibilities of the book and the ways in which these could be exploited.

Textual Composition: Apparatus for the Reader I

It is sadly not immediately clear exactly how the reader was expected to use these collections. Were they intended as cumulative reading projects, where the reader started at the first poem and read sequentially through the work? If so, the ‘narrative flow’ between the different verses outlined above would form an important consideration, rather than the physical accessibility of the collections as searchable components taking precedence. If, on the other hand, readers were intended to dip in and out, picking verses at random, then a clear layout and careful structuring that made verses easy to find would be most effective. That the supporting apparatus became more complex as the editions expanded suggests that in fact the project objective might have shifted between these two ideas, from guided reading to a less rigid collection, over the course of the editions. The contents of the collection had been thoughtfully selected, with the underlying thought process explained to the reader in the paratextual material, and then carefully ordered to make the most of the potential links between the poetical subject matter, to the extent that personal animosities between authors had been ignored. Typographically, there is very little to distinguish these works from any other poetry collection of the late xvith century. This perhaps was the point: the editors wanted these to be ordinary collections, ones that could be bought and read as one would do with any other poetry anthology, despite or indeed because of the rarefied subject matter. As products, they conformed to the typical expectations of the period: slim volumes produced in small formats, the text set in small point italic type, with either unadorned or simply embellished capital letters at the start of most sections.[40] What distinguishing features there were served to highlight that these were intended to be books that people read and used, not works to be admired from afar.

In the early editions, the page layout was not particularly sophisticated. In the 1581 edition, the Maisonfleur cantiques had separate running titles, capitalised headings, simple black initial letters, and each cantique ended with a distinct ‘FIN’. The ‘Prieres et Sainctes Doleances de Iob’ were preceded by a decorative border, and Belleau’s name appeared on a separate line. The Muse Chrestienne started on H8v, halfway down the page, after a similar decorative border, and within the text, more attention was drawn to divisions between verses and titles than to authors. The same general approach was taken in the 1584 edition, although it is noticeable that within the separate section dedicated to Yves Rouspeau’s ‘Quatrains Spirituels’, the divisions between the verses were made much clearer, with each starting afresh on a new page, and the individual titles made more prominent through the careful use of capitals. Several of the shorter contributions were also initialled Y.R., presumably in an attempt to make the author even more prominent. In the 1586 edition, more space, and thus more attention, was given to the titles of individual works and to their authors: both le Saulx and de Sautemont’s names were far more prominent than in the earlier editions. However, the spacing within individual works, particularly those made up of large sections of numbered verses or sections (such as the ‘Octonaires’ of Chandieu or the ‘Cantiques’ of Maisonfleur himself) was still relatively minimal, typically only consisting of the numbered line itself. In fact, the typographical layout of the later editions was notably clearer and less ‘squashed’ than the earlier editions, despite the inclusion of more works, and more anonymous works at that. The 1613 edition would see the vast majority of titles set off by a fleuron border, a ruled line or simply capitalised titles, but this use of spacing between titles was striking compared to the earlier editions. Such typographical clarity made navigation around the collection simpler than in the earlier editions, and implies that the aims of the project, and the intended actions of the reader, changed over time, a point borne out by the evolution of supporting materials in the text.

Marginal annotations first appeared in the 1584 edition, where relevant bible references were included alongside the text, with verses that were picked out and glossed. These tended to be sections of the verse which either relied heavily on imagery, and where the poet’s meaning might be misinterpreted, or where there was a particular point the reader was not to miss.[41] The annotations changed between editions: the gloss to verse 22 of Maisonfleur’s Cantique I was given as ‘La parole de Dieu est vraye et assuree’ with references to Psalms 116-117, Mathew 14 & Luke 21 in 1584. By 1592, this was modified to ‘Les promesses de Dieu sont seures et sa parole veritable’, with the Psalm reference maintained, but the New Testament references linked more explicitly with the following verses. Such glosses were of course familiar to Protestant readers, having been long included in vernacular bibles, and their inclusion here could be read to reinforce the idea of this as a collection designed primarily for Protestant use. From 1587, a further support system for the reader was included, in the form of ‘arguments’ prefacing the majority of verses, serving as hybrid overview and critical introduction to the topic of the verse in question. Although these were not included for all the verses, and they seem to have been mainly used to support the items which had been in the collection for the longest period, they became enough of a selling point for their inclusion to be given a prominent position on the title page, and discussed in further detail in the address to the reader.[42] One possible explanation for the inclusion of these kinds of material is that the book producers were well aware of the complexity of the project they were undertaking, and realised that readers would benefit from careful guidance if they were to experience the full potential of the works contained within. This is particularly true when dealing with the various poets whose work was contained within the collection, a heady mixture of protestant, catholic, living, dead, famous, semi-known and anonymous authors whose work nonetheless all met the standards of the editing team.

Visible and Invisible Authors: Apparatus for the Reader II

The role of the author is extremely problematic for the reader of the Maisonfleur collections. In one sense, of course, the author was highly visible, whereas the editor was not.[43] The collection’s title was built around the identification of an author — firstly the sieur de Maisonfleur, and latterly the sieur de Valagre — even though the reputations of these authors were at best ambiguous, at worst shadowy, and the pull-factor of their names alone must be questioned. Famous poets were included in the collection, but their names were not prominent on the primary advertising space of the title page.[44] The title page of the 1581 edition, after the introduction of Maisonfleur’s work, focused on the verse, with the ‘minor authors’ mentioned collectively, almost as an afterthought. The effect, through the sentence construction and the typographical layout, with the capitalised ‘Chrestiennes’ positioned at the end of the line, was to draw the attention to the quality of the verse, rather than to the person producing it. In 1584, the inclusion of the ‘Quatrains’ of Rouspeau saw the basic title page modified. The capitalisation of ‘Autheurs’ and its position on a separate line drew attention, but the focus was still on the two named authors, Maisonfleur as the lead poet, supported by Rouspeau. From 1587, the idea of collectivity in the work was only included on the title page through the general reference to ‘Poëmes pleins de pieté’ (included in all works from 1587) or to ‘autres oeuures Chrestiennes’ (1602 and 1613 editions), but the direct reference to ‘diuers autheurs’ was removed. The make-up of the work was only fully explained through the table of contents and the work itself, the former of which became increasingly elaborate. Going by the title page alone, the reader then either had to be familiar with the likely contents of the collection, and aware either of the subject matter or the likely contributors, or they had to be intrigued enough by the promise of the title page to actually pick up the book and look inside to see what was on offer.

All surviving editions contain a table of contents in some form. In the 1581 edition, this was notably basic.[45] In the 1584 edition, the same basic formula was followed, although the works by Rouspeau, which had a separate title page and collation, were noted separately.[46] By 1586, the list was more extensive, but actually gave less clarity to the reader, removing some of the explanatory elements, and mixing the sections with the verses.[47] Only two names were given, Maisonfleur and Pybrac, and Ronsard’s contribution was hinted at. The authors would be far more prominent in the 1587 edition, which also tried to guide the reader through the work with the use of folio numbers for all but the final two items.[48] The items not attributed to authors in the table of contents were all matched back to their authors in the main text: ‘L’hymne Chrestien de la liberté’ to I.M.D.L.G., the ‘Doleances de Iob’ to Belleau, the ‘L’inconstance & vanité du Monde’ to Chandieu, or rather to his pseudonymous initials A.Z., and the ‘plaisirs de la vie Rustique’ to Pybrac.

The 1592 edition presented a transition stage in the table’s development. It was still placed near the start of the volume, as part of a preliminary gathering ã, and it gave a level of detail sustained in later editions, with both foliation numbers and the inclusion of first lines. It served less as a table of contents and more as an index, taking up four and a half folio sides. In 1602, the table moved to the end of the work, although there was a ‘teaser’ for the new additions given on A3v, announcing the inclusion of works including the ‘Larmes de Iesvs Christ’ and the ‘pleurs de la Vierge’, before directing the reader to the table itself. Detail about authorship of verses appeared here rather than in the text, a direct reversal of the 1587 approach. Notably a separate section appeared at the end of the index, separated from the rest of the titles by a border, announcing the elements new to this edition, “EN CESTE DERNIERE EDI- || tion ont esté adioustees, || …”[49] The edition of 1613 continued this practice, keeping the index at the end of the work, and noting which items had been added in a separate section, albeit one that included items which had been present in earlier volumes, including the works of Perron, Doudemare and President Faure.

The relationship between these expanding indexes and the contents they represented allows insight into the motivation for including verse by less than illustrious poets. There appears to have been a careful attempt to integrate anonymous or less celebrated verses so that their lack of authorial contribution, albeit relative or complete, did not affect their reception. Anonymous verses were included in the collection from 1586, when they were put in at the end of the Muse Chrestienne, after works by Du Bellay and Ronsard. In later editions, anonymous verses would be placed in the substantial section of works by Du Val, a pairing that proved so successful that the link would be maintained even when Du Val lost his discrete section with its own title page and was reintegrated back into the MuseChrestienne. Anonymous verses also seem to have been treated with respect. In the 1587 edition, the relatively anonymous I.M.D.L.G.’s short verse was introduced between the two main components of the collection, the headline verses by Valagre and Maisonfleur. This is particularly striking, as I.M.D.L.G.’s verse was only four folios long, as opposed to the 84 and 104 of Valagre and Maisonfleur respectively, but it was nonetheless accorded this position of honour, in the opening section of the work, for no obvious reason other than its spiritual sensibility. Anonymity or lack of recognition could also be inferred on a verse or set of verses. In the 1602 edition, several verses were presented anonymously in the text then given authorial attribution in the index. This included works already established as part of the collection, Marin le Saulx’s ‘Sonnets’, included from 1581, as well as new verses by Doudemare.[50] Thus both the indexes and the collections themselves show how outright anonymity or relative lack of reputation was not a bar to inclusion. Of course, if someone had a strong reputation as a poet of talent and stature, that was to be recognised, but not necessarily overly celebrated: Ronsard and Du Bellay were not mentioned on the title page of any of these collections, despite their dominant standing. Verses were allowed to speak for themselves, all the while granting the author whatever recognition was possible. Nonetheless, the attempt to try to name authors can be seen to have led to a tension between the named authors, and all that their individual and combined legacies implied, and the anonymity of the collected work, with its shadowy editor and its variable printing attributions.

Evidently, the author was a relatively minor player in the compilation of the anthology. Maisonfleur and Valagre themselves were hardly marquee names, although the collections clearly attracted a following over time. Still, poets had extremely minimal input into the evolution of the collections. The only insight into how poems moved from author to collection came in the ‘Advis de l’Imprimevr aux Lizevrs’ included from 1587, where the printer admitted that he had ‘forced’ the somewhat reluctant sieur de Valagre to share his works, despite the poet’s concerns about the quality of the verse.[51] This exchange is atypical for the collection, not least because of the described personal relationship between the two men. These collections were of course largely based on works included without their authors’ knowledge and without any chance of their acquiescence: many of the authors represented in the collection were in fact dead when their works were first included. Of these, Ronsard and Du Bellay were not only the most notable, but they also were in many ways the least likely contributors, if the ‘catholic cover story’ explanation for the collection is followed. The vast majority of their verse production was precisely the kind of material which worried Protestant authorities because of its concentration on worldly and classical themes, and neither of them were particularly noted as religious poets, despite the tenor of the verses included here. Some of the authors, including well-known names like Du Bellay and Pybrac, were known for their production of religious verse, but that was as much to do with trends in poetry as it was particular spiritual considerations. As much as they might not want to recognise the similarities, protestant poets active at the end of the xvith century shared a common poetical heritage with their Catholic counterparts, one which allowed them to produce work which could sit alongside their spiritual adversaries with not merely minimal unevenness, but to great effect.

The Maisonfleur editions provide a fascinating snapshot into the practical problems of book production in a multi-confessional society. This investigation does not seek to reject the received interpretation that the Maisonfleur collections were at heart a protestant anthology project. The decision to include obscure Protestant poets alongside celebrated Catholic superstars, the concern with both style and spiritual content expressed in the early liminary materials, the carefully developed expansion of the works, and the support for the reader which became a key feature of the collection all suggest that the producers of this anthology saw their volume as reaching a Protestant market. Protestants were conditioned to sustaining their faith through the personal use of individual texts, and this was a project dedicated to supporting spiritual development through reading. But there was nothing particularly distinguishing about this approach that prevented these collections from finding a cross-confessional audience. Over time, the collection’s protestant bias became less pronounced, and the volumes evolved from a prescribed programme to a collection with apparatus in place to allow the reader to pick and choose their reading, as evidenced by the shift from a table of contents to an index with page references. When taken to reflect the editors’ perceived shift in the envisaged readership, this also explains the heavier reliance on Catholic poets in the later editions. Certainly, when the content of the poems is considered alongside their positioning in the volume, and their support in the apparatus provided for the reader, it becomes clear that this collection was as much about drawing on a shared tradition of poetry, rather than promoting an aggressively politique view of the world, or even a demonstrably loyal royalist approach. The editing, ordering and presentation allowed Protestants and Catholics to approach this collection on equal terms, with the Protestants supported by the apparatus of the printed book, and the Catholics granted the bulk of the contents and much of the name recognition of the authors. The Cantiques du sieur de Maisonfleur thus demonstrate how book producers did not just create a cross-confessional anthology, but over the various editions were able to combine their understanding of the potential of the apparatus of the printed book with trends in religious verse in order to create a product which engaged its audience over three decades of production. The collection allows modern readers to experience both textual histories and history as text, showing both the changing socio-religious climate of late xvith and early xviith century France, the evolution of one particular collection, and the growing sophistication of book products over the course of the second century of print.