Paris, E. Michallet 1673.
Gilt-ruled tan calf (Petit; joints broken and badly repaired), gilt red and black morocco gilt-lettered labels, all edges gilt.
Some books really aren’t what they are. This Q & A manual for confessors specializing in drunks received theological endorsement on the way to its printing privilege, though it is one continual satire of high school excuses for a bender. The first line of the preface says it all: “The whole world deplores the disorder caused by an excess of drink; even Christians…” (tr.).
The book is evenly divided into two parts. The introductory exposition sets the parameters with definitions of alcoholism, the personal and social hazards of drinking to excess, the responsibility (and liability) of enablers including tavern and innkeepers, the hypocrisy of empty and broken promises to quit, etc.
Five dialogs between the confessor and the (potential) penitent follow. In the first the confessor engages the obstinate drinker: C. “How many times have you been drunk and disorderly?”, P. “Ten or twelve times, that I can remember…”. The confessor prescribes a hair shirt for a year: P. “Ah Father, I can’t do that!”. And so the bargaining begins. Three fingers of wine to test its quality, wine in the countryside in lieu of unsafe water, then threats of mortal sin and sacrilege, and finally the penitent departs, vowing to find another confessor. The relapsed drinker, the hollow leg who consumes two bottles a night (no problem) but gets his companions totally stewed and the guilty bar owner round out the irredeemable. Closing on an uplifting note, the last dialog features a reformed tippler, who blasphemed, beat his wife, wasted 600 livres on wine, was regularly too drunk to open his shop, lost 1000 livres in his business and all of his regular customers. Over the past year he never visited a cabaret, never took a drink, never swore, stopped beating his wife, saved money, regained his old customers, attracted many new ones and turned a 2000 livres profit. Batting .250 isn’t that bad….
I have only been able to trace the BnF copy. Internally in good condition; pale blue gilt paper bookplate of the Mexican-Spanish diplomat José Gómez de la Cortina, marqués de Morante (1799-1860; Catalogus librorum 6251 “picante”), bookplate of André L. Simon (Catalogue (1981) 148).
¶Simon, Bibliotheca Vinaria 197 “Sm. folio” (before he owned this copy!); Simon, Bibliotheca gastronomica 1147 “A very rare little book” (now, correctly, a small 8vo); Vicaire, Bibliographie gastronomique 673.