“The Cackles of the Birthing Mother”: Printed in an Edition of Just 76 Copies

[Caquets de l’Accouchée]. Recueil General des Caquets de l’Accouchée. Ou discours facecieux, où se voit les moeurs, actions, et façons de faire des grands et petits de ce siècle. Le tout discouru par Dames, Damoiselles, Bourgeoises, et autres. Et mis par orders en viii. apres-dinées, qu’ ells ont faict leurs assembles, par un Secretaire qui a le tout ouy et escrit. Avec un Discours du Relevement de l’Accouchée.

[Metz, Lecouteux & Nouvian], “Imprimé au temps de ne se plus facher, 1625” [i.e. 1846 or 1847]

Small 4to. (3), 4-268 pp, (2), plus lithographed frontispiece. Bound in original publisher’s printed brown boards, skillfully rebacked with original spine laid on.


Very rare 19th century reproduction of a fabled rarity of French literature, the collection of gossip heard around the birthing table known as the ‘Caquets de l’Accouchée’. Each of the 8 caquets was originally published separately over the course of 1622, and collected together for general publication in 1623. Of the handful of fascicles and editions printed from 1622 to 1625, we have traced just one in US libraries, at Wisconsin.

Kirk D. Read (Birthing Bodies in Early Modern France, p. 13) calls the Caquets de l’Accouchée “a complicated mix of parody, manifesto, particular history, and social commentary [...] penned anonymously and by at least two separate authors, [it] uses the birthing body as its framing device.” The 19th century editor of the present edition (the first to be published since 1625) identifies himself only as ‘L. H. F.’ at the rear of the book. In his 12-page afterword, he gives a brief account of the work and the bibliographical efforts to describe it, noting that it has become an impossible rarity even at auction, where a copy has recently sold for 245 fr. According to the final leaf, this edition was printed in just 76 copies.

OCLC shows a handful of copies in European libraries and US copies at Yale and Northwestern.

Gay-Lemonnyer IV, 982. Brunet IV, 9817. Cf. also Valerie Worth, “Les caquets de l’accouchée : la représentation de la maternité dans la littérature fictive (c. 1475-1622)” in Female Saints and Sinners (2002), pp. 251-265; and Kirk D. Read, Birthing Bodies in Early Modern France: Stories of Gender and Reproduction (2011), pp. 19-24.

Art.-Nr.: BN#54444 Schlagwörter: , ,