Joseph’s Platonic Courtship, With 7 Plates from the School of Rubens

Galle, Cornelius / Puget de la Serre, Jean. Les Saintes Affections de Joseph et les Amours Sacrées de la Vierge.

Brussels, Godefroy Shoevarts, 1631.

Small 4to. (16) ff, 288 pp, (2) ff [including terminal blank]. With added engraved title-page signed C. Galle after N. van Horst, vignette on title-page, 2 portraits of the dedicatee and author signed L. Vorsterman after van Horst, and 4 full-paged engravings. Contemporary velum with later gilt-and-black title label on spine. Early ownership inscription on title-page; Belgian monastic ex-libris on front pastedown as well as gift inscription in French from a father to his son. Binding slightly chewed; repaired closed tear in lower right corner of title not affecting text. Withal a pleasant, broad-margined copy, mainly very good.


Rare first edition of this curious re-telling of the courtship, marriage, and subsequent adventures of Joseph and Mary, illustrated with fine engravings by Cornelius Galle and two artists from the circle of Rubens. Puget de la Serre here strongly imitates the style of romantic fiction popular during this era, inviting his readers to consider the Biblical tale in a new light; for example: “le bon Joseph estoit gisant dans le lict, comme acablé soubz le doux fardeau de ses peines, travaillant sans cesse son corps, pour mettre son esprit en repos, & desja ses austeritez ordinaires aprez avoir dompté sa force, n’ayant peu vaincre son courage le reduisoient peu a peu aux abois…” (p. 215).

The author (1594-1665) was the private chaplain to the exiled Marie de Medici, and produced a large number of devotional works, some (eg the Breviaire des Dames) clearly intended for women. The title-page here also hints at a female readership: two demurely dressed women, perhaps nuns, hold portraits of Mary and Joseph as well as lilies, as a symbol of the chastity of their holy marriage. The vignette on the letterpress again reinforces this theme, depicting Joseph presenting his wife with the flower.

Both of the engravers Lucas Vorsterman (1595-1675) and Nicholas van Horst (1598-1646) worked closely with Rubens and his workshop in Antwerp. The Hollstein volume on Vorsterman suggests that only the two portraits in this volume were engraved by Vorsterman, and that the four plates may be attributed to a very young (16 years old!) Cornelius Galle II, Willem Collaert, or Pieter de Jode II.

There appear to have been several issues of the present work, with differing collations; it is also commonly found incomplete. OCLC shows US copies of the present issue at Dayton and Kansas; Notre Dame has a copy of the 183 pp issue, lacking both the title and frontispiece. COPAC shows a copy at the British Library with 183 pp; Durham holds a copy with 188 [i.e. 288, as here?] pp.

[Old] Hollstein Vol 43, #s 169 & 208; cf also Hymans, Lucas Vorsterman: catalogue raisonné de son oeuvre, #175.

Stock Code: BN#53555 Tags: ,