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Special Collections Recent Acquisition

January 2, 2013
Guillaume Jaudin

Guillaume Jaudin. Traité de tesmoings et d’enqvestes.Paris : Ieanne de Marnef, 1546.

The first edition of a vernacular handbook for the examination of witnesses and the collection of evidence in civil and criminal cases.

Bound in later calf with gilt decorations on spine and cover.  With catchwords and sideglosses.  Woodcut device of Denys Janot on verso of final leaf.

Intended for the practitioner, Traité de tesmoings sets forth contemporary judicial practices relating to the examination of witnesses and evidentiary standards in civil and criminal cases in sixteenth-century France.  It also presents early written evidence of a cultural phenomenon that was to become engrained in French society: the concept of the “honneste homme” (less archaically, “honnête homme”).  “Honnête homme” originally signified the ideal courtier, in whom were blended nobility, morality, courage, wit, skill in the saddle, refinement, and devotion to his prince: the perfect gentleman.  The notion of the honnête homme likely took hold in France after the 1537 French translation of Baldassare Castiglione’s Il Cortegiano (Venice, 1528), which offered guidance for achieving the perfection embodied in the ideal courtier.  Traité de tesmoings makes it clear that evidence given by the honnête homme was granted more weight than that given by witnesses of “lesser condition;” doctors, men-at-arms, and lawyers of fine reputation were among those qualifying for the status of “honnête homme,” versus men of lower station, which included men in the crafts, trade, and agriculture.

 Although the device of Parisian printer Denys Janot appears at the close of Traité de tesmoings, his widow, Jeanne de Marnef, is identified by her own name on the title page as the printer, and not as “la Veuve Janot,” in the style by which a widow printer customarily would present herself.  It was not unusual in early modern France for a printer’s widow to continue her husband’s business following his death; however, Marnef’s use of her own family name accents the renown of her family, which was prominent in the printing industry in sixteenth-century France.

Traité de tesmoings is one of three recorded copies in the United States.

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