The purpose and significance of festival books
In conclusion, we should ask – why were such records created? Some were, of course, standard reports of ambassadors to their princes. Others were official records published by Town Councils to preserve for posterity the splendour and generosity of their cities. Others were published as reminders to princes of their obligations, like the series of entries created for the future Philip II into the Low Countries in the mid sixteenth century. The records might be lavish productions such as those issued by order of Louis XIV to mark his supremacy in magnificence over all other princes in Europe. Others were distinctive political contributions declaring to the world that courts were in close alliance with each other, such as the German princes in the first decade of the seventeenth century.
Whatever the purpose of Festival books, they merit serious study. They were frequently illustrated by expert and sometimes great artists – Stefano della Bella, Jacques Callot, Israel Silvestre. Bibliographically they are significant, often representing major productions by famous printers like Antonio Blado in Rome, Christophe Plantin in Antwerp, Guillaume Roville in Lyons, or Robert Ballard in Paris. Moreover they afford insights into key dynastic events – but also it must be stressed, into historical psychology. Many of these volumes are extremely rare, and the convenience and ease of access made possible by a project such as Renaissance Festival Books is of incontrovertible value. Truth or Fiction, imaginary triumphs or real events, or something of both, these books are self-conscious fabrications which reveal dedication to record making and rare imaginative powers.
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