Nau, Naulet, Noël: Part II (a fragment of the Chanson de la Grue)

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 37/52

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Noels (Book of Christmas Carols in French), Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 211, fol. 5r (detail)

Last week, we looked at the lively pen-and-ink illustrations in this remarkable anthology of French Christmas carol lyrics from the 1520s, and discovered the lyrics to a poem by the famous Franciscan preacher, Olivier Maillard. This week, we will look at another text within the book, before finishing with a quick overview of some of the splendid penwork initials that embellish the book as well.

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Nau, Naulet, Noël: Part I (a poem by Olivier Maillard)

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 36/52

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Noels (Book of Christmas Carols in French), Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 211, fols. 17v (detail).

As the holiday season approaches, it seems appropriate to devote a pair of posts to a lovely, if little-known gem of the Free Library of Philadelphia’s collection of manuscripts. This charming and well-used manuscript on paper contains an anthology of lyrics for Christmas carols, or Noels, written principally in French and dating to the 1520s.

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A Quire of “Better” Angels (No Pun Intended)

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 32/52

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Book of Hours, Use of Bourges, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 87, fol. 9r (detail)

A few weeks ago, we looked at a Book of Hours at the Free Library of Philadelphia (Lewis E 87) that bears an ownership inscription by Jean Lallemant dated to 1544, but which is fact a noticeably older book, produced around the turn of the sixteenth century. Today, we will inspect the book’s unusual border decoration more closely in an attempt to determine the identity of its illuminator. While the book is missing its eight large miniatures, the cherubs and seraphs in the margins contain just enough stylistic information to allow for an attribution. Or at least, a partial one.

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A Book of Hours Fifty Years Older than Previously Thought

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 30/52

  
Book of Hours, Use of Bourges, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 87, fols. 6v–7r (end of Calendar and beginning of Gospel Lessons)

Sometimes, scholars can become fixated on a dated inscription in a manuscript, which can lead them to ignore other chronological evidence. In a Book of Hours now in the Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 87, the lower pastedown includes a signed ownership note by the prominent Bourges patrician and book collector Jean Lallemant the Younger (ca. 1481–1548), dated to 12 July 1544.

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Lewis E 87, lower pastedown (with detail)

Ever since the publication of the de Ricci Census and the catalogue of European manuscripts in the Free Library, this has been taken erroneously as the date of the book, which is in fact significantly earlier. While the book’s miniatures have been excised, which doesn’t help with establishing a proper date, the script and decoration indicate a date of circa 1490-1510, the heyday of devotional manuscript production in Bourges. The calendar includes obvious references to the capital of the Berry: the feast of Saint William, archbishop of Bourges (fol. 1r, 10 January) and the dedication of the Cathedral of Bourges are both highlighted in blue (fol. 3r, 5 May). Prior to the beginning of the Hours of the Virgin, a rubric on folio 7v mentions the Use of Bourges. Most strikingly, every remaining text page in the manuscript has been decorated with a shaded gold border on the three outer sides, a blue cherub at the outer margin and two red seraphim above and below the text respectively.

Jean Lallemant the Younger or le jeune was a member of a prominent family of Bourges patricians, among which were several bibliophiles.1 His grandfather, Guillaume Lallemant l’aïeul (d. 1474), was a merchant with close ties to the famous banker and purveyor of luxury goods Jacques Coeur, whose great urban residence survives to this day in Bourges. Jean Lallemant the Younger’s father, Jean Lallemant l’ancien (d. 1494), served as receiver general of Normandy, an important post in the kingdom’s financial administration. Our Jean Lallemant the Younger was treasurer general of the Languedoc region of France from 1505 to 1521. Interestingly, he owned several other manuscripts, including a Book of Hours now in The Hague. His older brother, also named Jean, owned a Book of Hours that was dismembered and is held at several institutions, including the British Library in London (add. MS 39641), The Walters Art Museum in Baltimore (W. 459), and the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge (Marlay Cuttings, Fr. 7). The book’s calendar, today in a private collection, is illustrated with putti that share a certain resemblance to those in our book.

In a forthcoming post, we will attempt to prove who painted the charming blue and red angels that populate the margins of our Book of Hours, a task made easier by the earlier date range.


 

Italian with a French Accent: A Prayer Book Made in Occupied Milan?

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 29/52


Prayer Book, Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 207, fol. 2r (miniature of the Annunciation)

Up to this point, many of this blog’s posts have dealt with Books of Hours, those ubiquitous devotional tools of the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance. This week, we are dealing with a type of book that is somewhat harder to classify. While it might resemble a traditional Book of Hours by means of its format, it does not contain the core text–the Hours of the Virgin–that generally defines the genre. Nor does it contain a calendar, Office of the Dead, or Gospel Lessons that we would habitually find in a straightforward horae.

This intriguing and relatively short volume of fifty-two folios, which can called a Prayer Book for lack of a better term, is a good example of a customized, one-off product commissioned to suit the devotional needs of a user who might have already owned a full Book of Hours, or required something more portable. The first four texts contain six-line, abridged versions of the prayers found in the Hours of the Virgin (fols. 1r, 2r, 3r, and 4r), perhaps a kind of aide mémoire to the longer Offices. These are introduced by non-chronological miniatures of the Presentation in the Temple, Annunciation (shown above), Assumption, and Birth of the Virgin.


Lewis E 207, fol. 1r (miniature of the Presentation in the Temple)


Lewis E 207, fol. 3r (miniature of the Assumption)


Lewis E 207, fol. 4r (miniature of the Birth of the Virgin)

The four radiant but somewhat child-like miniatures reflect, at some remove, the soft style championed by Leonardo da Vinci’s followers Marco d’Oggiono and Bernardino Luini in the region surrounding Milan during the first two decades of the sixteenth century. To the four initial abbreviated prayers are added the Obsecro te, with an inhabited initial of the Virgin and Child (fol. 5r), the Missus est and Te deprecor prayers, and finally the Seven Penitential Psalms together with the Litany and other accompanying prayers (fols. 21r–51r), also introduced with an inhabited initial.

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Lewis E 207, fol. 5r (detail of inhabited initial with Virgin and Child)

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Lewis E 207, fol. 21r (detail of inhabited initial with King David in Prayer)

The most innovative aspect of the book, however, is found in the illusionistically painted sprigs of violas, carnations, and other flowers surrounding the four miniatures, painted so as to appear threaded through cuts in the parchment. This clever visual device is much more closely associated with Netherlandish manuscript illumination, particularly work from the so-called Ghent-Bruges school.1

The unusual style of the miniatures and the idiosyncratic texts make it difficult to place the book chronologically. However, a clue might lie in the litany, which includes saints more typical of France, including Denis, Eustache, and Lubin, which might indicate that the book was produced in Milan during the period of French domination, from 1500 to 1512. Such a date would accord well with the style of the miniatures, and provides us with at least some means for anchoring this mysterious book in its original context.

  
Lewis E 207, fols. 40v and 41v (litany including saints Denis, Eustache, and Lubin) 


 

A cicerone’s Cicero

Fifty-two discoveries from the BiblioPhilly project, No. 27/52

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Cicero, Epistolae ad familiares (Letters to Friends), Philadelphia, Free Library of Philadelphia, Lewis E 66, fol. 1r

The recovery of ancient collections of letters provided new stylistic models for humanists eager to break with the old-fashioned Medieval formularies, the stilted writing manuals that had until then structured letter-writing practices. The great poet and text-hunter Francis Petrarch had uncovered Cicero’s Epistolae ad Atticum in 1345 in Verona, but it was only in 1392 that Coluccio Salutati brought to light the entire sixteen books that make up the Epistolae ad familiares. Beyond its exemplary style of Latin prose, this collection of letters provided invaluable historical information concerning the final years of the Roman Republic. The fine humanist manuscript we are looking at today, Free Library of Philadelphia Lewis E 66, contains a complete copy of the Epistolae ad familiares, save for the first four letters of book 16, which appear to have been omitted purposefully.

The text is written in a competent but informal humanistic cursive, somewhat at odds with the more refined tricolor square capitals that mark the beginning of each book. The frontispiece displays the type of bianchi girari decoration intertwined with the gilded initial and set against tri-colored background fills that is the hallmark of well-produced humanist manuscripts and inclunables. The writing of the book was completed in Ferrara on 12 March 1468 by a certain Gregorio Martinello de Buccassolo, as noted in the closing colophon on folio 174v: “M.cccc. lxviij. die xij. Martij Ferrariae hora ui quarta uigesima per me Gregorium de Martinellis de Buccassolo”.


Lewis E 66, fol. 174v

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Lewis E 66, fol. 174v (detail of colophon)

The escutcheon in the lower margin of folio 1r, also surrounded by florid vinework, was never filled-in. During a recent visit to the Free Library’s Rare Book Department with colleagues from the Kislak Center’s Steven Miller Conservation Laboratory, we attempted to use portable UV lighting to decipher what looked like a rubbed inscription in this area, but to no avail. Perhaps further examination with more specialized equipment would allow us to read what looks to be a proper name, perhaps added by a later owner or by the initial owner, in anticipation of the addition of a painted coat-of-arms.

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Lewis E 66, fol. 1r (detail of the unpainted escutcheon under UV light)

Little is known regarding the scribe, Gregorio Martinello, as his name does not appear in any of the usual repertories of names of Renaissance scribes. However, thanks to the wonders of digitized books, we can learn a little more about him. He appears to have been a school master in Finale Emilia, just west of Ferrara, and seems to have transcribed a copy of Federico Frezzi’s epic poem of circa 1400, the Quadriregio.1

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Extract from Pietro Canneti’s Dissertazione Apologetica… Intorno al Poema de’ Quattro Regni, detto altramente il Quadriregio (Foligno: Campana, 1723), 20.