“Amadis of Gaul.” Book One


Amadis de Gaule (Amadis of Gaul) is a chivalric romance novel by Rodriguez de Montalvo, who based it on stories that had been circulating on the Iberian Peninsula since the 1360s. The original, in Spanish, was published in 1508. Nicolas Herberay des Essars translated the novel into French, with his own additions and adaptations. Book one of his work was first published in 1540 in this large-format version. The story narrates the adventures of Amadis, the archetype of the knight. The novel was an enormous success, which in part had to do with Des Essars’s decision to divide the narrative into four volumes that were published sequentially, the first time that the element of suspense was knowingly introduced into literature in this way. Des Essars published one book per year, beginning in 1540, and including all the books actually written by Montalvo. The original books and the translations were later taken over by others. King Francis I (reigned 1515−47) and Holy Roman emperor Charles V (reigned 1519−56) praised the novel, which became emblematic of several generations, as it was both a presentation of bygone and romanticized medieval times as well as a how-to manual for the contemporary gentleman. It was in response to the clichés generated by the success of Amadis de Gaule that the great Spanish novelist Miguel de Cervantes (1547−1616) wrote Don Quixote, whose main character aspires to be Amadis. Translated into many languages, the novel gained new recognition when it was adapted for the opera by Lully in 1684, Handel in 1715, Johann Christian Bach in 1779, and Massenet in 1922.

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Denys Janot, Paris


Title in Original Language

Le Premier livre de Amadis de Gaule, qui traicte de maintes adventures d'armes & d'amours, qu'eurent plusieurs chevaliers & dames, tant du royaulme de la Grand Bretaigne, que d'aultres pays

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Last updated: January 8, 2018