Fragment 510899



Of what would be made the chassis?

Original French:  De quoy feroit on chaſsis?

Modern French:  De quoy feroit on chassis?


Chassis: A frame of wood for a window; (hence) also, a woodden, paper, or linnen, window; and, the bands, or borders that are on either side of a dore, gate, or window; also, a Printers Tympane.
Chassissé. Fenestre chassissée. A window that is covered with Paper, or Linnen cloth, in stead of glasse.

Randle Cotgrave [–1634?]
A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongue
London: Adam Islip, 1611


Peut-être la trame de la toile.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483-ca. 1553]
Œuvres de F. Rabelais
L. Jacob, editor
Paris: Charpentier, 1840


Fr. chassis. I have adopted the suggestion of Littré. Chassis appears to mean the frame in which anything is fastened, such as a window, or stretched, such as a cloth, and thence anything consisting of a rough canvas on a frame. In the present usage it would refer to the hemp-made canvas rather than the frame. ? Lat. cassis, a net. In iv. 30, Lent’s veins are said to be like a chassis.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–ca. 1553]
Gargantua and Pantagruel
William Francis Smith, translator
London, 1893


Ouvrage de menuiserie servant d’encadrement. Châssis de chêne. Châssis de châtaignier.

Châssis de papier, châssis de verre, l’ouvrage de menuiserie après qu’il a reçu, dans de petites feuillures pratiquées à cet effet, les carreaux de papier ou de verre destinés à laisser passer la lumière.

Émile Littré [1801–1881]
Dictionnaire de la langue française
Paris: Hachette, 1872-1877
Dictionnaire vivant de la langue française


Jeu de mots. Châssis voulait dire le cadre de fer employé par les imprimeurs (Cotgrave, « a Printers Tympane»), mais aussi une « fenétre de lin» (Cotgrave « a woodden, paper or linnen window »).

François Rabelais [ca. 1483–ca. 1553]
Le Tiers Livre
Michael A. Screech, editor
Paris-Genève: Librarie Droz, 1964


Les fenêtres étaient souvent garnie simplement de papier huilé.

François Rabelais [ca. 1483-ca. 1553]
Le Tiers Livre
Jean Céard, editor
Librarie Général Français, 1995


Le mot châssis désigne à la fois le cadre de fer utilisé par les imprimeurs et un «fenêtre de lin».

François Rabelais [ca. 1483-ca. 1553]
Le Tiers Livre
Pierre Michel, editor
Paris: Gallimard, 1966


Some measure of Rabelais’s technical knowledge of printing may be indicated by the mention of the “chassis.” The “chassis” in printing terminology is a “chase” in English — that is the metal frame into which pages of type are placed, and which, once the type is tightly held in by “quoins” (”coins” in French) are called “formes” (in both Engish and French). In a more general sense “chassis” in French can (and could) mean any kind of frame and it is not therefore certain that Rabelais had the item of printing equipment in mind, although the juxtaposition with a specific mention of the “noble art” may be suggestive.
Note: “Chassis” is defined by Cotgrave (A Dictionarie of the French and English Tongues, London, 1611) in the context of printing, as a “printer’s Tympane.” He may well have been influenced by an earlier definition in Claude de Sainliens’s The Treasurie of the French Tong (London, 1580), cited in the Oxford English Dictionary: “Le Chassis, the tympane of a Printers press.” These definitions reveal a misunderstanding of the technicalities of printing presses. In both French and English, “tympan/tympane” means, and always has meant, a double frame, usually of metal, across both parts of which cloth or parchment is stretched, and between which packing material is placed. The whole tympan is hinged to the bed of the press, and paper is put on it, held in position by the “frisket” (from the French “frisquette”), and folded down onto the inked type for printing.… It is quite possible that Rabelais also misunderstood the distinction between chase and tympan — especially since a tympan used cloth or paper. The meaning could, perhaps more plausible, be “sewing frame,” which is the meaning assumed by Huchon in the only other place in which the word appears: Quart Livre, chap 30, p. 609, note D.
M. A. Screech (in his edition of the Tiers Livre) suggests that Rabelais intends a play on words here, using another sense of “chassis” recorded by Cotgrave: “a woodden, paper, or linnen window.” It could be that this second meaning is what led Cotgrave and Sainliens or make their mistaken definition, for a printer’s “tympane” is indeed covered with paper or cloth.

Stephen Rawles
What did Rabelais really know about printing and publishing?


Paul J. Smith
Editer et traduire Rabelais à travers les âges
Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1997
Google Books



Posted 10 February 2013. Modified 14 June 2015.

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