The unhappy end of a very bad fox

Image of foxes disguised as noblemen and a flock of chickens
Jean Bouchet, Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde
Rosenbach MS 197/30, fol.30r
Foxes disguised as noblemen have plans for those chickens.

This is a “very evil fox,” according to Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde, a Middle French poem by Jean Bouchet. Monsieur Reynard had done all the bad things, and now he is paying for it in the very hot place. The manuscript is part of the collection of the Rosenbach of the Free Library.

Bouchet’s text and the nine accompanying miniatures have been digitized and are available online as part of the Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis project funded by the Council on Library and Information Resources. The text and images employ the fox as a metaphor for the vices of contemporary man. They denounce all estates of society: the king, the nobility, the clergy, the merchant class, and the common people. The fox and his friends cavort through the poem polluting a badger’s lair, carrying a flaming torch, dressed as clergymen carrying rosaries, knocking down a church, and dressed as noblemen.

Drawing of the fox's soul, portrayed as a man, boiling in a cauldron, tormented by three demons, while his body floats above.
Jean Bouchet, Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde
Rosenbach MS 197/30, fol.41r
The tormented soul of the fox, “regretting the hour and day he was born.”

Eventually our fox dies and his soul lands in a cauldron of boiling water, “regretting the hour and day he was born.”

Bouchet was a law clerk and rhetorician from Poitiers, France, but this manuscript copy of his text was produced for Philip the Handsome, archduke of Austria, while he was duke of Burgundy and count of Charolais.

A slightly different version of this text was published, with woodcuts, by the Parisian publisher Antoine Vérard in late 1503 or early 1504. The copy in the Rosenbach survives as the only illuminated manuscript of the text.

You can browse the pages of this manuscript here: http://openn.library.upenn.edu/Data/0028/html/ms_197_030.html . The “Technical Help” link on the menu bar provides  information on how to download all the images as jpegs or tiffs.

The Rosenbach of the Free Library of Philadelphia
MS 197/30 Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde

 

Additional images from the manuscript:

Drawing of four foxes described as noblemen.
Jean Bouchet, Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde
Rosenbach MS 197/30, fol.10r
Foxes disguised as noblemen
Drawing of a fox fouling a badger's sett.
Jean Bouchet, Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde
Rosenbach MS 197/30, fol.18v
Bad fox! Fouling the badger’s sett.
Drawing of three foxes taking sledgehammers to a church.
Jean Bouchet, Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde
Rosenbach MS 197/30, fol.24r
Fox and Friends knock over a church.
Drawing of a lion; two unidentified beasts, one armed with bow and sword; a dragon; and a sleeping man.
Jean Bouchet, Les regnars traversant les perilleuses voyes des folles fiances du monde
Rosenbach MS 197/30, fol.35r
Various beasts, a man, and a dragon.