Joan of Arc
New York: The Century Co., 1931. Oblong folio (10 by 13 inches), original decorated cream cloth, colored endpapers, all edges red. A near-fine copy. Item #1094
"OPEN THIS BOOK WITH REVERENCE, MY DEAR CHILDREN, IN HONOUR OF THE HUMBLE PEASANT GIRL WHO IS THE PATRONESS OF FRANCE"
Early American edition of this pictorial biography of Saint Joan of Arc—gloriously illustrated by Boutet de Monvel on every page. A lovely copy.
Tried and executed by the English in 1431, the legend of Joan of Arc has grown with the centuries. Pronounced innocent by the Inquisition in 1456, Joan was declared a martyr, adopted by the Catholic League in the sixteenth century wars against the Ottoman Turks, and named the national symbol of France by Napoleon in 1803. The English long regarded her as a witch but fascination with Joan surged in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries in Britain and America as she was celebrated by Southey, Carlyle, De Quincey, Twain, Lang, Shaw, Sackville-West, Churchill and many others. The Maid of Orleans "thus may be legitimately claimed not only as a patron of France, but of all those holy men and women who have been vilified in their own time in the hope of eventual vindication" (Robert Ellsberg). With a brief Introduction (dated, "B. M. / APRIL, 1896") by the artist: "Open this book with reverence, my dear children, in honour of the humble peasant girl who is the Patroness of France. Her history will teach you that in order to conquer you must believe that you will conquer. Remember this in the day when your country shall have need of all your courage." After the carnage of World War I, the Holy See saw Joan as a potential emblem of Catholic unity and moved to erase any lingering Gallicanism, ease tensions with French Catholics, and repair relations with the Third Republic. "In 1920, Benedict XV canonized Joan of Arc, a symbolic gesture much appreciated after the complete rupture between church and state under Pius X. The government of France sent representatives to the canonization ceremony, a symbolic gesture much appreciated by the other side" (John O'Malley). Joan of Arc's Feast Day is May 30 (the day she was burned at the stake) and she is also the patron saint of Children. Printed in France for distribution in America. O'Malley, A History of the Popes: From Peter to the Present, Ellsberg. All Saints: Daily Reflections on Saints, Prophets and Witnesses for Our Time.