French Renaissance Paleography


Paris, 2 June 1614
Les imprimeurs-libraires Jacques de Sanlecque et Toussaint Du Bray reconnaissent avoir reçu de la veuve du sieur de Fourquevaux les manuscrits de diverses oeuvres afin de les publier
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Wing ZW 639 .P283


The life of Toussaint Du Bray (1580?-1637) evidences upward personal and professional mobility. Notaries always recorded his name as “du Bray” or “Dubray,” but later in life he adopted the habit of writing “Du Bray.” His father was a maistre fripier in Paris—a vendor of used, repaired objects. After his father’s death in 1583, the merchant-bookseller Etienne Vallet became the guardian of the toddler Toussaint and his younger sister Girarde. In 1600 Girarde married Jacques de Sanlecque, a Paris printer, who then became Toussaint’s guardian for a few years before he reached his majority at age 25. Toussaint opened his own bookshop at about the time of his sister’s marriage, located first in the Palais de Justice and then later in the Latin Quarter on the rue Saint-Jacques. Toussaint married Marie Sanlecque, the daughter of a bourgeois merchant who was most likely a relative of his brother-in-law Jacques. Additionally, Antoine Du Breuil, a well-established bookseller, seems to have taken Du Bray under his wing and guided him during his early years in the profession. They collaborated on producing several editions, which launched Du Bray’s career as an editor. Beginning in 1604, Du Bray published approximately ten titles per year, specializing in new literature. From then until his death in 1637 he collaborated with numerous printers, engravers, and editors, including his brother-in-law—with whom he signed this document in 1614, attesting that they had received manuscripts from the widow of François Beccaria de Pavie, baron de Fourquevaux (who had died in 1611), with the intention of publishing the texts.

François de Pavie was a novelist and poet, many of whose works have been lost. Du Bray and Sanlecque do not appear to have published any of the manuscripts they purchased from his widow, although the first title mentioned in the notarial record, Les Vies de plusieurs grands capitaines français, was printed in 1643 by Du Bray’s son, Jean.

The document cites texts recounting voyages to Jerusalem and to England, which do not appear to have survived. What did survive is Fourquevaux’s account of his journey to Poland in 1585, which remained in manuscript until 1933, when it saw print as La Pologne vue par deux voyageurs français du XVIe siècle (along with a narrative by Jacques Esprinchard, sieur du Plon, from 1597).

The Espadon satyrique, a collection of satirical poetry first printed in Lyon in 1619, has sometimes been attributed to Fourquevaux, on the assumption that he was using the pseudonym of Esternod, but it appears that the author was Claude d’Esternod (1590-1640).

-Carla Zecher


-Arbour, Roméo. Un éditeur d’oeuvres littéraires au XVIIe siècle, Toussaint Du Bray, 1604-1636. Genève : Librairie Droz, 1992.