"Le Petit Testament de François Villon"

These are notes to support my restoration of an edition of François Villon's Lais, part of a complete works edition attempted by Nicolas Lenglet Dufresnoy (hereafter Lenglet), controversial historiographer, literary critic, editor of 27 published works, spy and occasional lodger at the Bastille. It was written some time between 1735 and 1744.

Under Construction

Here is how my restoration of the text is arranged. In the column to the left of the text is Lenglet's unbracketed line numbering, by fives. I have bracketed the page numbers of the text's source as well as the line numbers in modern editions (from Rychner-Henry) to parallel those of Lenglet. These numbers are also in the left column.

The text source consists of marginal, interlinear, paste-on notes and added manuscript pages in an exemplar of the 1723 Coustelier printed edition of Villon's work, now in the British Library (B.L. 241.f.17). This has long been misidentified since as the work of Bernard de La Monnoye, jurist, poet, Academician and scholar of early French verse, who died in 1728. In 1867, Pierre Jannet incorporated these notes into his printed edition of Villon's poetry (Oeuvres complètes de François Villon). He worked from a transcription made by Gustave Masson, who discovered the manuscript in London in 1858. Jannet was also working under a rather tenuous assumption: "On savait depuis longtemps que La Monnoye avait eu l'intention de faire une édition des oeuvres de Villon. Alors à cet effet il avait annoté un exemplaire de l'édition de 1723." the expression "depuis longtemps" undoubtedly refers to apublished letter which outlined an ambitious scholarly project, including an edition of Villon1s works: "Nouvelles littéraires: Extrait d'une lettre de Paris." Journal littéraire (janvier-février 1714): 232.

Lenglet's notes are contained in MS. Paris Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal 2948, an undated document, whose worn marble calf-skin cover bears a gold inlay spine title "Manuscr. Villon". The contents of this 191 leaf document are a preface containing a general historical essay on French literature with a justification for a new edition of Villon's work, a biography of the poet, reflections on his poetry and an outline of the new edition, at the end of which the editor indicated his wish to insert Marot's "Avis aux lecteurs" (fol. Ar -Pr ). This is followed by notes for a 240-line texte intégral of of the Petit Testament (fol. 1r -17r), a 2018 line texte intégral of the Testament (fol. 17r -114r), 11 poems from the Poésies Diverses (or PV, fol. 114v -123r), including "Epitre à ses amis", "Ballade de Fortune", "Quatrain", "L'Epitaphe Villon", "Question au clerc du guichet", "Louange à la court", "Débat du cuer et du corps de Villon", "Requête à Monsieur de Bourbon", "Ballade des proverbes", "Ballade des menus propos", and "Ballade contre les enemis de la France". The preface indicates that the six "Ballades en Jargon" (already in the Coustelier edition) would be admitted, without annotation. Next are notes for Les Repues franches (fol. 124r -138v ), which the editor attributed the disciples of Villon. He implied in the preface that Le Monologue du Franc Archier de Baignollet and Le Dialogue de Messieurs de Mallepaye et de Baillevent would be included at this point, but he left no notes for these two. The Repues franchesnotes are followed by the text of twenty-three ballads and twenty-two rondels (fol. 139r -166v ), which he alleged were taken from the Jardin de Plaisance (source J), and most of which the editor said could be attributed to Villon. Then, in a serendipitous spirit, he included his edition of Jean Molinet's "Testament de Guerre" (fol. 167r -169v ). Finally there is an eleven-page four-column index to discussions of words in the notes (fol.170r -175v ).

The companion volume for Arsenal 2948 was undoubtedly an exemplar of the Coustelier edition, as a cataloger said in his note on the fly leaf. Evidence for this is the fact that with the exception of 197 lines of text newly attributed to Villon, all of the items not in the manuscript but designated for inclusion in the work are found in the 1723 edition. This link is further corroborated by instructions and page references for text throughout the notes.

A discussion of Villon's readership in the Enlightenment, with an extensive bibliography of eighteenth-century sources and complete proof of Lenglet's authorship of both manuscripts, is revealed in my essay called "Villon Unsung?: False Shadows on the Enlightenment", to which I may well be adding additional bibliographic materials. Another page contains a exposition of what we know about Lenglet's sources for his unpublished edition.

A modern and hypertext commentary, with a set of codicological and paleographical comments for both the text source and Lenglet's notes, is a further refinement to what I must still call a work in progress. Future plans include a revision of all pages for their inclusion in a more structured critical toilette for an edition of additional texts from Lenglet from British Library 241.f.17 and Arsenal 2948

Return to the Société François Villon.
TennesseeBob Peckham
Director, The Globe-Gate Project
University of Tennessee-Martin