The Works of Francis Rabelais

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by François Rabelais

François Rabelais (c. 1495-1553) was a physician, priest, and notable writer.[1] He began his career as a humanist and was well studied in the classics.[2] Around 1521, he became a priest, but broke his vows in 1530 to study medicine.[3] He was one of the first, if not the first, physicians to dissect the human body.[4] In 1532 he became head physician at a hospital in Lyons, and he began to write.[5]

Rabelais’s writing is famous for its bawdy, satirical nature.[6] His style is so distinct, the Oxford English Dictionary includes the adjective “Rabelaisian” to describe writings with “earthy humour, [a] parody of medieval learning and literature, and [an] affirmation of humanist values.”[7]

His most famous works are the Gargantua-Pantagruel series, four books published from 1532 to 1535.[8] Framed as chivalric romances, these books use the theatrical language of vaudeville to satirize heroic works, traditional pedagogy, and humanist ideals.[9] He grotesquely caricatured people in a playful way, in a style extensively imitated by seventeenth and eighteenth century French writers.[10]

Bibliographic Information

Author: François Rabelais

Title: The Works of Francis Rebelais, M.D.

Published: London: Printed by J. Hughs for J. Brindley and C. Corbett, 1737.


Evidence for Inclusion in Wythe's Library

Listed in the Jefferson Inventory of Wythe's Library as Rabelais. 5.v. 12mo. 2d. wanting and given by Thomas Jefferson to his son-in-law, Thomas Mann Randolph. Later appears on Randolph's 1832 estate inventory as "'Rabellais Works' (4 vols., $2.12 1/2 value)." We do not have enough information to conclusively identify which edition Wythe owned. George Wythe's Library[11] on LibraryThing indicates this, adding "English translations in five volumes were published at London in 1737, 1738, and 1750." The Brown Bibliography[12] lists the 1750 edition based on the copy Jefferson sold to the Library of Congress.[13] The Wolf Law Library purchased the 1750 edition.

Description of the Wolf Law Library's copy

Bound in contemporary full calf bindings, blind tooled and gold ruled. Purchased from Book Den East.

View this book in William & Mary's online catalog.


  1. “Francois Rabelais, M.D.,” The British Medical Journal, 1, No. 4814 (1953), 831.
  2. “François Rabelais,” Encyclopædia Britannica Online (Encyclopædia Britannica Inc., 2013- ), accessed October 28, 2013.
  3. Ibid.
  4. “Francois Rabelais, M.D.,” The British Medical Journal.
  5. Ibid.
  6. “François Rabelais,” Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  7. “Rabelaisian, adj.,” Oxford English Dictionary (OED Third Edition, June 2008), accessed October 28, 2013.
  8. “François Rabelais,” Encyclopædia Britannica Online.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Dorothy S. Packer, “François Rabelais, Vaudevilliste,” The Musical Quarterly, 57, No. 1 (1971), 127.
  11. LibraryThing, s. v. "Member: George Wythe," accessed on November 13, 2013,
  12. Bennie Brown, "The Library of George Wythe of Williamsburg and Richmond," (unpublished manuscript, May, 2012) Microsoft Word file. Earlier edition available at:
  13. E. Millicent Sowerby, ""Catalogue of the Library of Thomas Jefferson 2nd ed. (Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1983), 4:444 [no. 4333].