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.

Behold our one-hundredth manuscript — an amazing Dutch hybrid!

We’ve reached a major project milestone, with one hundred Western European medieval and early modern manuscripts now online in our Bibliotheca Philadelphiensis curated collection. The images and metadata are hosted by the Penn Libraries’ OPenn repository.

This represents a little less than 25% of the 450-plus manuscripts that will eventually be digitized and placed on OPenn. Currently more than half of the manuscripts have been imaged, with cataloging undergoing refinement and quality control.

All the BiblioPhilly images are free for the downloading in glorious high resolution or leisurely leafing through with a page-turning interface on the Library of Congress’ ViewShare site.

Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis MS E 257, Book of Hours.
Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis MS E 257, Book of Hours.

The actual one-hundredth manuscript, Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 257, is remarkable in a number of ways. Let us count them:

First, it’s written in Middle Dutch — unlike many of the Latin or French Books of Hours collected in Philadelphia-area institutions.

But wait — there’s lots more! It was displayed as part of PACSCL’s 2001 exhibition, “Leaves of Gold.” Curator and catalog editor James R. Tanis [1] explained the many other ways this manuscript is special:

“Uncommon in several respects, this Dutch Book of Hours begins with the Hours of the Trinity, which, like the more common Hours of the Eternal Wisdom, are almost exclusively found in manuscripts from the northern Netherlands. Three different mediums meet in this unusual opening. On the right is a traditional, fully illuminated opening initial in the so-called aubergine style, with accompanying border decoration. In the upper right corner of this page a colorful bird looks down on a monkey riding a dog in the lower margin. On the facing page a very simply drawn and colored GnadenstuhlI (Throne-of-Grace) Trinity is surrounded by a metal-cut border. The popular monkey appears in the lower border, with a deer to the left of the miniature and a bird to the right.

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