This more or less fictitious account of a true princely feast differs appreciably from Rabelaisian novels.
The digital edition of this “sciomachie”, a scholarly term that Rabelais translated from Greek as “mock battle”, was based on its sole publication in 1549 (Lyon, Sébastien Gryphe) in accordance with the copy of the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek of Munich (Ital. 448, Google Books), and with the copy of the Public Library of Tours (Fonds Marcel Rés. 3542, ex libris by Anatole France). The Tours copy precedes the Munich copy and has two slight graphic differences which were corrected in the Munich copy, the latter also bearing two capital Rs. The printer left a blank for the name of the second son of the king, Louis, whose birth is celebrated in the text. The name appears written in pencil in modern handwriting.
Rabelais offers the narrative of a feast he presumably attended in Rome in March 1549 in honour of Louis' birth. (Louis d'Orléans would die in October.) The narrative comes in the form of a so-called letter to the Cardinal of Guise. Manipulation of the testimony is probable. Rabelais' text was largely inspired by the entry of Henri II into Lyon in 1548 and the accompanying fireworks, but also by the “diableries” in the mystery plays. It was preceded by two versions in French, taken from an Italian narrative published earlier the same year by Antonio Buonaccorsi, a source for Rabelais' text. This narrative is characterised by numerous Italianisms (see François Moreau's notes in Rabelais, Oeuvres, Pléiade, 1994, p. 1725-1726, and R. Cooper, Rabelais et l'Italie, 1991, p. 70-71).
Marie-Luce Demonet, July 2015