Portraits from the French Renaissance and the Wars of Religion

André Thevet: Edward Benson, trans. & Roger Schlesinger, ed.


Available for the first time in English, these thirteen selections from André Thevet’s Les vrais pourtraits et vies des hommes illustres offer a glimpse of France during a time of great upheaval. (EMS 3)

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Early Modern Studies, Vol. 3

Available for the first time in English, these thirteen selections from André Thevet’s Les vrais pourtraits et vies des hommes illustres offer a glimpse of France during a time of great upheaval. Originally published in 1584, Thevet’s collection contains over two hundred biographical sketches, detailing the lives of important persons from antiquity to the sixteenth century. Edward Benson and Roger Schlesinger have translated and annotated Thevet’s portraits of his contemporaries and divided them into three categories: monarchs, aristocrats, and scholars. Additionally, an extensive introduction places the work in context and describes the critical attention that Thevet and his writings have received. Together these portraits provide a history of sixteenth-century France as the country underwent tremendous change: from an intellectual renaissance and its first encounter with the New World to the Protestant Reformation and the Wars of Religion that followed. France was irrevocably altered by these events and Thevet’s account of the lives of individuals who struggled with them is indispensable.


Translator’s Acknowledgments
Editor’s Acknowledgments
Map of France
Map of Northern Italy
Genealogy of the French Royal Family from Louis IX to Henri IV

François I, King of France (1494–1547)
Henri II, King of France (1519–1559)
Charles IX, King of France (1550–1574)

Gaston de Foix, Duke of Nemours (1489–1512)
Philippe Chabot, Admiral of France (1480–1543)
Guillaume du Bellay, Sieur de Langey (1491–1543)
François de Lorraine, Duke of Guise (1519–1563)
Anne de Montmorency, Constable of France (1493–1567)
Michel de L’Hospital, Chancellor of France (1505–1573)
Charles de Lorraine, Cardinal (1524–1574)
Blaise de Monluc, Marshal of France (1499?–1577)

Guillaume Budé, Parisien (1468–1540)
Guillaume Postel (1510–1581)

Works Cited
Suggestions for Further Reading
About the Translator and Editor


About the Translator:

Edward Benson taught French and film at the universities of Rhode Island, New Mexico, Western Illinois, and Central Missouri. He retired in 2006 from the University of Connecticut. His previous publications are Money and Magic in Montaigne and Portraits from the Age of Exploration.

About the Editor:

Roger Schlesinger is professor emeritus at Washington State University. He has published four books: Global Passages, In the Wake of Columbus, Portraits from the Age of Exploration, and Andre Thevet’s North America.


Benson and Schlesinger’s book offers a richness on many levels. There is a broad historical survey to introduce Thevet and his portraits in their historical context. Benson provides a translator’s introduction before each entry. There are also a long bibliography and suggestions for further reading. This work will be a help to students and to all English-speaking readers who desire a deeper experience of early modern French texts.

Sixteenth Century Journal

Benson’s lucid translation has captured the cadence of Thevet's original French. Schlesinger's introduction traces the historical context of Thevet’s life and work.... The additional apparatus in this translation are invaluable to students of early modern France. Each biography is preceded by a brief summary providing context to each person. The explanatory footnotes are also very informative and comprehensively detailed. Students and scholars will find this text very helpful in understanding the political, intellectual, and cultural history of Valois France.

Renaissance Quarterly

The book is very well put together, with the original engravings and marginal notes mirroring the original edition, complete with a scholarly appartus explaining difficulties in the original French. The book is a welcome addition to the bibliography of sources available in English for the teaching of the history and literature of sixteenth-century France, and makes for enjoyable reading. The bibliography, organized thematically, as well as the maps and genealogy clearly designates Benson and Schlesinger’s Portraits from the French Renaissance and the Wars of Religion as a useful teaching aid and textbook for scholars and students of sixteenth-century France everywhere.

H-France Review

The introduction in this English edition provides a balanced picture of the events and developments surrounding the Wars of Religion... Expertly translated and carefully annotated, this English edition provides an excellent introduction to the history of sixteenth-century France.

Catholic Historical Review

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