Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Francois Deserps: The Various Styles of Clothing

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

Francois Deserps: The Various Styles of Clothing

Article excerpt

Francois Deserps: The Various Styles of Clothing, trans. and ed. Sara Shannon, introd. Carol Urness (Minneapolis: James Ford Bell Library, University of Minnesota/University of Minnesota Press, 2001). xv + 185 pp. ISBN o-8 166-401 3-0. £21.50.

Francois Deserps produced his Recueil de la diversite des habits qui sont de pretesent en usaige tant es pays d'Europe, Ane, Affrique, et lues sauvages, le tout fait apres le naturel in 1562, apparently for the instruction of the 8-year-old Henri de Navarre, the future Henri IV. The first edition, published by Richard Breton, is now housed in the James Ford Bell Library at the University of Minnesota; the present volume is a facsimile of this edition. Accompanying the original's 121 hand-coloured woodcuts are short verses describing some aspect of the person or dress portrayed; these are reproduced in Sara Shannon's work, along with a translation of the verse. A useful transcription of the Middle French texts though not, curiously, of Deserps's preface or the dedication - is provided at the end of the work. Despite being ostensibly 'a collection of the various styles of clothing' worn by the inhabitants of Deserps's world, and despite its being frequently cited in modern works on the fashion plate and its prehistory, the value of the Recueil for the twenty-first-century reader is more far-reaching than merely dress. /Vs Carol Urness suggests in her introduction, this work is an intriguing, if unsettling, piece of early ethnography. What matters is not so much the depiction of the clothing or the individuals, but rather the attitude of Deserps to the (usually but not exclusively) non-French Other. …

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