Privileges of the Kings of France

Privileges of the Kings of France


Privilege of King Francis I


FRANCIS by the grace of God King of France, to the Provost of Paris, the Bailiff of Rouen, the Seneschals of Lyons, Thoulouse and Poitou, and to all our justices and officers or to their deputies, and to each of them as to him belongeth, greeting.

On the part of our well-beloved and trusty Master Francis Rabelais, Doctor in Medicine of our University of Montpellier, it hath been set forth that the said petitioner having hereinbefore caused to be printed several books, especially two volumes of the heroic Deeds and Sayings of Pantagruel, not less useful than delectable, the printers have in several places corrupted and perverted the said books, to the great displeasure and detriment of the aforesaid petitioner, and the prejudice of the readers, wherefor he hath abstained from the publication of the remainder and continuation of the said heroic Deeds and Sayings. Nevertheless, being daily importuned by the learned and studious people in our kingdom, and requested to bring into use as by printing the said continuation, he hath petitioned Us to grant him the privilege that no one should have permission to print them or offer for sale any save those which he shall cause to be printed expressly by booksellers, and to whom he shall give his own true copies. And this for the space of ten consecutive years, beginning on the day and date of the printing of his said books. We therefore, these things considered, being desirous that good letters be promoted through our kingdom, to the profit and instruction of our subjects, have granted to the said petitioner privilege, leave, license and permission to cause to be printed and put in sale by such tried booksellers as he shall think fit his said books and works in continuation of the heroic Deeds of Pantagruel, beginning with the third volume, with power and authority to correct and review the two first books heretofore by him composed : and to make or cause to be made a new impression and sale of them, putting forth inhibitions and prohibitions in our name, on certain great penalties, confiscation of the books thus by them printed, and arbitrary amend to all printers and others to whom it shall belong, not to print and put in sale the books hereinbefore mentioned without the will and consent of the said petitioner within the term of six consecutive years [l] beginning on the day and date of the impression of his said books, on pain of confiscation of the said printed books and of arbitrary amend. To do this, we have given and do give to each and every of you, as to him shall belong, full power, commission and authority, and we request and require all our justices, officers and subjects by our presents that they cause, suffer and permit the said petitioner peaceably to enjoy and use this leave, privilege and commission, and that you in so doing be obeyed. For thus it is our pleasure it be done.

Given at Paris the nineteenth day of September in the year of grace one thousand five hundred and forty-five, and the thirty-first of our reign.

Signed : ” By order of the Council

and sealed on single label [2] with yellow wax.

1. six consecutive years. A little above, the document says ten consecutive years. The privilege was really given for six years. This privilege accompanied the edition of 1646.

2. On single label is when the seal is attached to a corner of the parchment which is cut for that purpose. On double label is when the seal is on a strip of parchment which is passed through the deed and doubled.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. p. 371. Internet Archive

Privilege of King Francis I

FRANCOYS PAR la grace de Dieu Roy de France, au Praevost de Paris, Bailly de Roüen, Seneschaulx de Lyon, Tholouse, Bordeaulx, & de Poictou, & a tous noz Justiciers, & officiers, ou a leurs Lieutenans, & a chascun d’eulx si comme a luy apartiendra salut. De la partie de nostre aimé & feal maistre Francoys Rabelais docteur en Medicine de nostre Université de Montpellier, nous a esté exposé, que icelluy suppliant ayant par cy davant baillé a imprimer plusieurs livres, mesmement deux volumes des faictz & dictz Heroïcques de Pantagruel, non moins utiles que delectables, les Imprimeurs auroient iceulx livres corrumpu & perverty en plusieurs endroictz, au grand deplaisir & detriment dudict suppliant, & praejudice des lecteurs, dont se seroit abstenu de mettre en public le reste & sequence des dictz faictz & dictz Heroïcques. Estant toutesfoys importuné journellement par les gens scavans & studieux de nostre Royaulme & requis de mectre en l’utilité comme en impression la dicte sequence: Nous auroit supplié de luy octroyer privilege a ce que personne n’eust a les imprimer ou mectre en vente fors ceulx qu’il feroit imprimer par libraires exprés, & aux quelz il bailleroit ses propres & vrayes copies. Et ce l’espace de dix ans consecutifz, a ii commancans au jour & dacte de l’impression de ses dictz livres. Pour quoy nous ces choses considerées desirans les bonnes letres estre promeues par nostre Royaulme a l’utilité & erudition de noz subjectz, avons audict suppliant donné privilege, congé, licence, & permission de faire imprimer & mectre en vente par telz libraires experimentez qu’il advisera, ses dictz livres & oeuvres consequens, des faictz Heroïcques de Pantagruel, commancans au troisiesme volume, avec povoir & puissance de corriger & revoir les deux premiers par cy davant par luy composez: & les mectre ou faire mectre en nouvelle impression & vente, faisans inhibitions & deffences de par nous sur certaines & grands peines, confiscation des livres ainsi par eulx imprimez, & d’admende arbitraire a tous imprimeurs & aultres qu’il appartiendra de non imprimer & mectre en vente les livres cy dessus mentionnez, sans le vouloir & consentement dudict suppliant dedans le terme de six ans consecutifz; commancans au jour & dacte de l’impression de ses dictz livres, sur poine de confiscation des dictz livres imprimez, & d’admende arbitraire. De ce faire vous avons chascun de vous si comme a luy apartiendra donné, & donnons plein povoir, commission & auctorité, mandons & commandons a tous noz justiciers, officiers & subjectz, que de noz praesens congé, privilege, & commission, ilz facent seuffrent, & laissent jouyr & user le dict suppliant paisiblement, & a vous en ce faisant estre obey. Car ainsi nous plaist il estre faict. Donné a Paris, le dixneufiesme jour de Septembre, l’an de grace, Mil cinq cens quarante cinq, & de nostre regne le xxxi. Ainsi signé par le conseil Delaunay . Et seellé sur simple queue de cire jaulne.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Tiers Livre des faictz et dictz Heroïques du noble Pantagruel: composez par M. François Rabelais docteur en Medicine, & Calloïer des Isles Hieres. L’auteur susdict supplie les Lecteurs benevoles, soy reserver a rire au soixante & dixhuytiesme livre. Paris: Chrestien Wechel, 1546. [Privilège]. Les Bibliotèques Virtuelles Humanistes

Privilege of King Henry II


HENRY by the grace of God King of France, to the Provost of Paris, the Bailiff of Rouen, the Seneschals of Lyons, Bordeaux, Dauphine, Poitou, and all our other Justices and Officers or their Deputies, and to each of them as to him shall belong health and love.

On the part of our dear and well-beloved Master Francis Rabelais, Doctor in Medicine, it hath been set forth to us that the said petitioner, having aforetimes given to be printed several books in Greek, Latin, French, and Tuscan, specially certain volumes of the heroic Deeds and Sayings of Pantagruel, not less useful than delectable, the printers had corrupted, depraved and perverted the said books in several places. Moreover that they had printed several other scandalous books in the name of the said petitioner, to his great displeasure, prejudice and ignominy, by him totally disavowed as false and supposititious : the which he desires under our good will and pleasure to suppress. He desireth withal to review and correct and to reprint anew the others his own works avowed, but depraved and disguised as aforesaid. Likewise to put into publication and sale the continuation of the heroic Deeds and Sayings of Pantagruel, thereto humbly requiring us to grant to him our letters-patent necessary and convenient for this.

Therefore it is that we, freely inclining unto the supplication and request of the said Master Francis Rabelais, and desiring to entreat him well and favourably in this matter, have to him, for these causes and other good considerations moving us hereto, permitted, accorded and granted, and of our certain knowledge, full power and royal authority do hereby permit, accord and grant by these presents that he have power and permission, by such printers as he shall think fit, to cause to be printed and again placed and exposed for sale all and every one of the said books and continuation of Pantagruel by him composed and undertaken, as well those which have already been printed and which shall be for this purpose revised and corrected by him, as also those which he purposeth to publish anew. Likewise that he have power to suppress those which are falsely attributed to him. And to the end that he have means to support the necessary expenses for the publication of the said impression, we have by these presents inhibited and forbidden most expressly, and we do hereby inhibit and forbid all other booksellers and printers in this our kingdom and others our lands and signories that they do not have to print or cause to be printed, place and expose for sale, any of the aforesaid books, old as well as new, during the time and term of ten years ensuing and consecutive, commencing on the day and date of the impression of the said books, without the freewill and consent of the said petitioner, and that under penalty of confiscation of the books which shall be found to have been printed to the prejudice of this our present permission and arbitrary amend.

We do therefore hereby will and command you and each one of you in his place and as to him it shall belong, that you entertain, guard and observe our present leave, licence and permissions, inhibitions and interdicts. And if any have been found to have contravened, proceed and cause process to be taken against them by the pains aforesaid and otherwise. And cause the said petitioner to enjoy and use fully and peaceably that which is contained hereabove during the said time to begin and everything as above is said, ceasing and causing to cease all troubles and hindrances to the contrary. For such is our pleasure, notwithstanding all ordinances, restrictions, commands or interdicts whatever contrary to this. And for that copies of these presents may be made in several and divers places we will that on the vidimus thereof made under the seal royal obedience be given as to this original present.

Given at Saint Germain in Laye the sixth day of August the year of grace one thousand five hundred and fifty and the fourth of our reign.

By order of the King.
Present — The Cardinal of Chatillon.
(Signed) Du THIER

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), The Five Books and Minor Writings. Volume 1: Books I-III. William Francis Smith (1842–1919), translator. London: Alexader P. Watt, 1893. p. 373. Internet Archive

Privilege du Roy

HENRY par la grace de Dieu Roy de France, au Prevost de Paris, Bailly de Rouen, Seneschaulx de Lyon, Tholouze, Bordeaux, Daulphiné, Poictou, et à tous nos aultres justiciers & officiers, ou a leurs lieutenants, & a chascun d’eulx si comme a luy appartiendra, salut & dilection. De la partie de notre cher & bien ayme M. François Rabelais docteur en medicine, nous a esté expo- sé que icelluy suppliant ayant par cy devant baillé a imprimer plusieurs livres: en Grec, Latin, François, & Thuscan, mesmement certains volumes des faicts & dicts Heroïques de Pantagruel, non moins utiles que delectables: les Imprimeurs auroient iceulx livres corrompuz, depravez, & pervertiz en plusieurs endroictz. Auroient d’avantage imprimez plusieurs autres livres scandaleux, ou nom dudict suppliant, a son grand desplaisir, prejudice, & ignominie par luy totalement desadvouez comme faulx & supposez: lesquelz il desireroit soubs nostre bon plaisir & volonté supprimer. Ensemble les autres siens advouez, mais depravez & desguisez, comme dict est, reveoir & corriger & de nouveau reimprimer. Pareillement mettre en lumiere & vente la suitte des faicts & dicts Heroïques de Pantagruel. Nous humblement requerant surce, luy octroyer nos letres a ce necessaires & convenables. Pource est il que nous enclinans liberalement a la supplication & requeste dudict M. François Rabelais, exposant & desirans le bien & favorablement traicter en cest endroict. A icelluy pour ces causes & autres bonnes considerations a ce nous mouvans, avons permis accordé & octroyé. Et de nostre certaine science pleine puissance & auctorité Royal, permettons accordons & octroyons par ces presentes, qu’il puisse & luy soit loisible par telz imprimeurs qu’il advisera faire imprimer, & de nouveau mettre & exposer en vente tous & chascuns lesdicts livres & suitte de Pantagruel par luy composez & entreprins, tant ceulx qui ont ja esté imprimez, qui seront pour cest effect par luy reveuz & corrigez. Que aussi ceulx qu’il delibere de nouvel mettre en lumiere. Pareillement supprimer ceulx qui faulcement luy sont attribuez. Et affin qu’il ayt moyen de supporter les fraiz necessaires a l’ouverture de ladicte impression: avons par ces presen tes tresexpressement inhibé & deffendu, inhibons & deffendons a tous autres libraires & imprimeurs de cestuy nostre Royaulme, & autres nos terres & seigneuries, qu’ilz n’ayent a imprimer ne faire imprimer mettre & exposer en vente aucuns des dessusdicts livres, tant vieux que nouveaux durant le temps & terme de dix ans ensuivans & consecutifz, commençans au jour & dacte de l’impression desdicts livres sans le vouloir & consentement dudict exposant, & ce sur peine de confiscation des livres qui se trouverront avoir esté imprimez au prejudice de ceste nostre pre sente permission & d’amende arbitraire. Si voulons & vous mandons & a chascun de vous endroict soy & si comme a luy appartiendra, que nos presens congé licence & permission, inhibitions & deffenses, vous entretenez gardez & observez. Et si aucuns estoient trouvez y avoir contrevenu, procedez & faictes proceder a l’encontre d’eulx, par les peines susdictes & autrement. Et du contenu cy dessus faictes, ledict suppliant jouyr & user plainement & paisiblement durant ledict temps a commencer & tout ainsi que dessus est dict. Cessans & faisans cesser tous troubles & empeschemens au contraire: car tel est nostre plaisir. Nonobstant quelzconques ordonnances, restrinctions, mandemens, ou deffenses a ce contraires. Et pource que de ces presentes lon pourra avoir a faire en plusieurs & divers lieux, Nous voulons que au vidimus d’icelles, faict soubs seel Royal, foy soit adjoustée comme a ce present original. Donné a sainct Germain en laye le sixiesme jour d’Aoust, L’an de grace mil cinq cens cinquante, Et de nostre regne le quatreiesme.

Par le Roy, le cardinal de Chastillon praesent. Signé Du Thier.

Rabelais, François (1483?–1553), Le Tiers Livre des Faicts et Dicts Heroïques du bon Pantagruel: Composé par M. Fran. Rabelais docteur en Medicine. Reueu, & corrigé par l’Autheur, ſus la cenſure antique. L’Avthevr svsdict ſupplie les Lecteurs beneuoles, ſoy reſeruer a rire au ſoixante & dixhuytieſme Liure. Paris: Michel Fezandat, 1552. p. 2. Les Bibliotèques Virtuelles Humanistes


Despite the privilège, and the volume’s dedication to Marguerite de Navarre, the Third Book (NRB 28), printed by the humanist Chrétien Wechel of Paris, was also banned in December 1546. Shortly thereafter, Rabelais himself fled France for Metz; ultimately the Royal Privilege of 1545 protected him neither against the Sorbonne, not against pirated editions. Nor was he on good terms with his new printer. In the Fourth Book, Rabelais appears to blame Wechel for a textual blunder in 1546 (OC 520), and there is evidence of a lawsuit between him and Wechel in a document of February 27, 1546. Not surprisingly, Rabelais did not employ Wechel for the definitive editions of the Third and Fourth Books in 1552.

These (NRB 36, 45-46) definitive editions of the Third and Fourth Books were bublished by Michel Fezandat of Paris and were protected by an even more remarkable privilège dated August 6, 1550. Granted under the aegis of a powerful protector, Odet de Chastillon, and reading like a humanist manifesto, the new Royal Privilege repeats many of the terms of 1545. It also covers Rabelais’s learned works and seeks to suppress the inauthentic works connected with Rabelais’s name. Notwithstanding the privilège authorizing its publication, however, the Fourth Book was quickly condemned. The king backed Rabelais in the face of this condemnation, virtually guaranteeing the volume’s succès de scandale, and the Fourth Book was reprinted, first by Fezandat and then illegally by others, in part to satisfy public curiosity about the controversy.

Rabelais’s death in 1553 prevented and test of his reinforced privilège and powerful patronage.

Zegura, Elizabeth Chesney, The Rabelais Encyclopedia. Westport CT: Greenwood, 2004. p. 193. Google Books

Posted 23 January 2019. Modified 1 March 2019.

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