CAT 151. Abraham Bosse. Früeling, from Les Quatre Saisons. Nuremberg: Paulus Fürst, c. 1637-40. Melville Memorial Room, Berkshire Athenaeum.
Melville’s copy of Bosse’s Früeling (Spring) in the German edition published by Paulus Fürst differs tellingly from Bosse’s L’Printemps in the French edition published by Le Blond. The most striking difference is that the image is reversed: the couple on the left side of the image in the German print are on the right side in the French print. The German word for “spring” has replaced the French one in the floral cartouche below the image. To the right and left of the title design in the French edition are four quatrains for rhymed French verse. These have been replaced by four lines of rhymed German verse in the German edition.
Paulus Fürst (1608-1666) was an engraver as well as a publisher, so he may have been responsible for the German-language title and verse that substitute for the French in his print. An inscription immediately above the poetic box in the French version indicates that the print was designed and engraved by Bosse and published by Le Blond “avec Privilège du Roy.” The inscription on the German print lists Bosse as “Inventor” (the artist whose work is being reproduced) and Paulus Fürst as “excudit” (the publisher or “maker”)
As a sequence of German prints from the late 1630s, these four prints that Fürst made from Bosse’s Four Seasons are interesting to compare with the Song of Solomon prints in Melville’s collection that were originally published in Sudermann’s German-language emblem books of 1620 and 1622 (CAT 50-63). Jacob van der Heyden, who engraved most of those images, was a publisher of prints whose business appears to have been acquired by Paulus Fürst.
Whether Bosse’s lovers are on the right or the left of the print, they are enjoying each other’s presence on a lovely spring day. An enclosed garden is awaiting them outdoors should they decide to vacate their cozy alcove and accommodating cupid. The man’s plumed hat and the gestures of the hands and bodies as he extends to her a newly plucked tulip depict this place and time as one most gracious. The last stanza of the French verse declares that a garden, no matter how “charmans,” cannot match the rapture of “ces duex amans” (Duplessis, Catalogue, no. 1082). Melville’s print conveys a similar sentiment auf Deutsch.
I am grateful for having had the opportunity to examine the French edition in the collection of the Dresden State Museum. The French text for each of Bosse’s Four Seasons is published in the complete Catalogue of Bosse’s works published by Georges Duplessis in 1859 (nos. 1082-85 in a total of 1505). The four French prints published by Le Blond are all reproduced in the catalog of the excellent exhibition of Bosse as “savant graveur” that was seen in both Paris and Tours in 2004 (Join-Lambert and Préaud, cat. nos. 151-54). Préaud in a private letter to me surmised that Fürst would have published his German edition in Nuremberg between 1637 and 1640.