Duellum epistolare: Gallie & Italiæ antiquitates summatis complectens. Trophæum Christianissimi galliarum regis Francisci huius nominis primi. Item complures illustrium virorum epistolae ad dominu[m] Symphorianu[m] Camperiu[m]

Autore: CHAMPIER, Symphorien (ca. 1474-1539)

Tipografo: Jean Phiroben & Jean Divineur for Jacques François Giunta

Dati tipografici: [Lyon], October 10, 1519


8vo (157x101 mm). [96] leaves. Collation: a-m8. Title printed in red and black and a full-page woodcut at the end showing the author with his patron and his wife kneeling in prayer. Later stiff vellum. Manuscript ownership entry on the title page; list of names written down on last leaf verso. Title page slightly soiled and stained, some browning and staining throughout, wormhole skillfully repaired in the inner margin of quire b not affecting the text, all in all a good, genuine copy.

Extremely rare first edition of Champier's most interesting work, a significant document for the development of cultural nationalism among Renaissance intellectuals. Champier was in Italy three times: in 1506, in 1509 and in 1515. During his last travel he spent some time at Pavia, where he was admitted to the ‘collegium artistarum et medicorum'. The speech by Pietro Antonio Rustico, lecturer on logic and medicine, held on that occasion and printed toward the end of the volume, shows how proud Champier was about this honor. Rustico also alludes to Champier's family ties in Italy, which he sees in the Campeggi families of Bologna and Pavia. At the end of the speech Rustico enumerates and praises the hitherto books published by Champier, important as an early bibliography. The main part of the volume though consists of a ‘epistolary duel' with Girolamo da Pavia, an Augustinian monk from Asti, with whom Champier had for five years an intensive correspondence through the Lyonese publisher Balthazar de Gabiano (cf. P. Jodogne, La correspondence de Symphorien Champier avec Jérôme de Pavie dans le ‘Duellum epistolare', in: “The Late Middle Ages and the Dawn of Humanism Outside of Italy”, G. Verneke & J. Ijsewijn, eds., Den Haag, 1972, pp. 44-56).

In the Duellum Champier defends the French culture against the pretended superiority of the Italian claimed by some scholars, namely Sabellico, Foresti and Battista Mantovano. He also sees in many Italian writers detractors moved only by jealousy and malice and mentions Valla, Merula, Poggio, Pico and Girolamo Balbo. Fierce of his Lyonnais origins he praises the antique origins of his native city on the authority of Berosus, which however was rightly questioned by Girolamo da Pavia (cf. R. Cooper, Symphorien Champier et l'Italie, in: “L'Aube de la Renaissance”, Genève, 1991, pp. 233-246).

The volume contains furthermore various letters by Champier to others, e.g. a letter to Erasmus (Ep. 680a), in which Champier intervenes in his favor in the latter's dispute with Lefèvre d'Etaples over Psalm 8; a letter to Lefèvre d'Etaples followed by Champier's commentary on the Definitiones Asclepii (first published with Lazzarelli's translation in 1507), expressing his attitude to the Hermetic writings. But the book also contains letters addressed to Champier, mainly from other scholars and physicians, among them Alessandro Benedetti and Robert Cockburn, bishop of Ross (cf. A. Broadie, James Liddell on Concepts and Signs, in: “The Renaissance in Scotland: studies in literature, religion, history and culture”, A.A. MacDonald, et al. eds., Leiden, 1994, p. 82; see also J. Durkan, Robert Cockburn, bishop of Ross and French humanism, in: “Innes Review”, IV, 1953, pp. 121-2.).

The volume closes with Catalogus preceptorum, patronorum, familarium et auditorum, in which Champier lists his teachers, patrons, friends and students.

Though some scholars believe the work to be printed either at Basel or at Venice, it was in fact printed at Lyon, where the two printers Johann Froben and Jean Divineur were active for several Lyonese publishers such as Luxembourg de Gabiano, Jacques Giunta and François Fradin.

Symphorien Champier, was born into a bourgeois family at Saint-Symphorien-sur-Croise, near Lyon and studied at the University of Paris before 1495, when he matriculated at the medical school of Montpellier, which granted him his doctorate in 1504. He taught liberal arts in Grenoble and took a doctorate in theology in 1502. In 1509 he was appointed physician to Antoine Duke of Lorraine, who brought him to Nancy. Champier followed the duke several time to Italy, where he was involved in the battles of Agnadello (1509) and Marignano (1515). During his stays in Italy he won recognition as an academic teacher from the University of Pavia. In 1519 he became an alderman in Lyon, and for the last twenty years of his life he was at the center of the cultural Renaissance of that city, while simultaneously promoting the study of medicine by helping to found the College of the Holy Trinity and sponsoring translations of, and writing commentaries on, the works of Hippocrates and Galen. In the 1530s he was involved in a controversy on the merits of Greek and Arab medicine with the German physician Lorenz Fries and also with the botanist Leonhard Fuchs. Michael Servetus, who was his student, wrote a defense of Champier against Fuchs, In Leonardum Fuchsium Apologia. Defensio pro Symphoriano Campeggio (1536). Champier became more and more hostile to Arabic medicine and in Clysteriorum campi contra Arabum (this work was ironically put by Rabelais in his library of Saint-Victor), he even goes so far to advise his readers to refrain from reading the Arabs. With over fifty titles to his credit, Champier was a very prolific author, editor and compiler. His most important writings were in medicine, pharmacy, philosophy, and occultism, but he also worked in theology, history, biography, genealogy, poetry, patristics, and many other fields. The famous scholar printer Etienne Dolet remarked in his Commentariorum linguae latinae (Lyon, 1536): ‘From the schools of the physicians these rushed to the battle: Symphorien Champier, Jacques Dubois, Jean Ruelle, Jean Cop, François Rabelais, Charles Paludan. From all sides this serried band of doctors made such inroads into the camp of the barbarian that, wherever they stood, no place was left to the enemy' (cf. B.P. Copenhaver, Symphorien Champier and the Reception of the Occultist Tradition in Renaissance France, The Hague, 1978, pp. 45-86; see also R. Cooper, Les derniers année de Symphorien Champier, in: “Réforme, Humanisme, Renaissance”, 47, 1998, pp. 25-50).

Adams, C-1323; Index Aurelienis, 135.510; Universal STC, no. 145128; P. Allut, Étude biographique sur Symphorien Champier, Lyon, 1859, pp. 201, no. XXVII (“un des livres les plus rares de Champier”); J. Baudrier, Bibliographie Lyonnaise, Lyon & Paris, 1904, VI, p. 98; A. Pettegrew & M. Walsby, Books Published in France before 1601 in Latin and Languages other than French, Leiden, 2011, p. 385, no. 60685.