Marie de Cotteblanche

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Entry by Anne R. Larsen, 2005

Marie, daughter of Guy de Cotteblanche, a lawyer of the Parlement of Paris, and Catherine Hesselin, who were married on 13 February 1517, was probably born in 1520. Her family's first recorded ancestors were referred to as burghers from Mayenne (in the XIVth century). Guy de Cotteblanche, one of the first of his family to settle in Paris, died in 1540, while his wife lived on until 1577. Marie had a sister, Marguerite. Little is known of Marie herself, other than that which La Croix du Maine asserts in his Bibliothèque (in which Cotteblanche is mistakenly called Costeblanche; see infra "M.C. préfacière...", p.111): this "Parisian lady, well schooled in Philosophy and Mathematics" had "translated three Dialogues by Pierre Messie", printed "in the year 1566, when she was flourishing in Paris". The dedication to Marguerite de Saluces, wife of the Field Marshall of Termes, indicates, among other things, that she was indebted to her for her knowledge of Italian, though we are not really sure how. It also opens a window onto the intellectual complicity and genuine feelings of sisterhood shared by the two women, similar to the intellectual and emotional ties that linked Camille de Morel and her mother Antoinette de Loynes, or the Dames Des Roches' mother-and-daughter team. Marie de Cotteblanche does not seem to have published other works. She must have died before 1584, when La Croix du Maine's Bibliothèque appeared, because he speaks of her in the past tense.

Her Three Dialogues of M. Pierre Messie... are the partial translation of the book Diálogos o Coloquios by Pedro Mexia (or Mejía, 1497-1551), the Castilian humanist, chronicler, cosmographer and astronomer. This collection, containing a total of six dialogues, had been published in 1547 in Seville and become a bestseller: more than thirty editions in different languages came out between 1566 and 1593, including Marie de Cotteblanche's version, the first in French. Marie might have wished to translate these three dialogues for several reasons: the author was renowned in astrology and mathematics; the genre, the Ciceronian dialogue, was well adapted to the vulgarisation of knowledge, a major humanist preoccupation; and the scientific content allowed the scholar to show her mastery of the subjects discussed and to meet the expectations of numerous learned court ladies and the upper urban classes who were fascinated by astronomical studies (see infra "M.C. préfacière..., p.114). Moreover, Pierre Messie's writing contained Latinist spelling, numerous technical terms and neologisms, a veneration for etymology, and an abundance of Greek and Latin sources, all of which must have reinforced Marie's love for "reading good books" (Dedicatory epistle, Trois dialogues, f.2-v). Finally, the task of translating gave her the opportunity to show off her linguistic skills, for while translating from the Spanish, Marie de Cotteblanche also used Alfonso d'Ulloa's Italian version of Pierre Messie's dialogues, and her text contains notes in the margins comparing the two languages. Her dedication nonetheless plays down her virtuosity in order to highlight her identification with the Italianate elite ("M.C. traductrice...", p.220).

Marie de Cotteblanche's translation was greatly appreciated: no fewer than twenty-nine editions appeared between 1566 and 1643, either as small individual volumes or accompanying Claude Grujet's translation of Pierre Messie's Diverses Leçons, or else included in the complete edition of Messie's dialogue published by an unknown translator in 1592. Her memory was preserved thanks to several brief entries by Marguerite Buffet (1668), Joseph La Porte (1769); Boudier de Villemert (1779) and Louise de Kéralio (1786), who were all dependent on La Croix du Maine. Marie was then completely forgotten and rediscovered only in the 1980s.

(translated by Michelle Sommers)


- 1566 : Trois dialogues de M. Pierre Messie, touchant la nature du Soleil, de la Terre, et de toutes les choses qui se font et apparoissent en l'air, Paris, Federic Morel.

Selected bibliography

- Berriot-Salvadore, Evelyne, «Les femmes et les pratiques de l'écriture de Christine de Pisan à Marie de Gournay», Réforme, Humanisme, Renaissance, 16, 1983, p.52-69.
- La Charité, Claude, «Marie de Cotteblanche, traductrice de Pierre Messie, ou l'espagnol en filigrane de l'italien», in Jean-Philippe Beaulieu (dir.), D'une écriture à l'autre: les femmes et la traduction sous l'Ancien Régime, Ottawa, Presses de l'Université d'Ottawa, 2004, p.211-227.
- Larsen, Anne R., «Marie de Cotteblanche: préfacière et traductrice de trois dialogues de Pierre Messie», in Anne R. Larsen et Colette H. Winn (dir.), Études littéraires, 27-2, 1994 («Écrits de femmes à la Renaissance»), p.111-119.
- Id., «Writing in the Margins: Marie de Cotteblanche's Preface to Her Translation of Pierre Messie (1566)», Allegorica, 19, 1998, p.95-103.


- «Marie de Cotteblanche, sous des apparences d'humilité, cherche sans doute à modeler sa persona de traductrice sur celle des officiers du roi qui, pour parfaire leur connaissance de l'italien, se livrent à la traduction. Étonnamment, l'apparente humilité de cette dédicace, de sa méthode comparatiste et de ses grands scrupules philologiques, ne sert qu'à rehausser le prestige sociopolitique qu'elle revendique implicitement, par le biais de l'italien, valorisé à la cour, au détriment de l'espagnol, langue de l'ennemi honni» (Claude La Charité, «Marie de Cotteblanche: traductrice...», voir supra, choix bibliog., p.220-221).

Marie de Cotteblanche
Also known as Marie de Costeblanche
Birth date Around 1520
Death Around 1580
Biographical entries in old dictionaries
Dictionnaire Pierre-Joseph Boudier de Villemert
Dictionnaire Fortunée Briquet
Dictionnaire Hilarion de Coste
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