Saturday, 19 September 2020

The Antiphonary of Marguerite de Baconel


In a previous post about Brölemann manuscripts, I listed the provenance of the Antiphonary of Marguerite de Bacovel [sic], of which this is a slightly revised version:
  • Written and decorated for Marguerite de Bacovel, of the Carthusian nunnery of Mont-de-Sainte-Marie, Gosnay, Pas-de-Calais [French Wikipedia], apparently started in 1539, and finished in 1542, by Louis de Villechecq, vicar of the convent
  • The Carthusian nunnery of Sainte-Anne-au-Désert, Bruges, of which the first six nuns came from Gosnay [French Wikipedia]: “aen de Chartreusinnen vase Brugge”
  • M. Marguier, antiquities dealer (including molluscs), of Paris, according to:
  • Henry-Auguste Brölemann (1775–1854); by descent to:
  • Mme Etienne Mallet (1853–1929); sold at Sotheby’s, 4–5 May 1926, lot 16.
  • Louisa Dexter Sharpe Metcalf (1866–1959); presented in 1947 to:
  • The John Carter Brown Library, Providence, RI; sold at Sotheby’s, 18 May 1981, lot 12
  • Christie’s, 25 November 1992, lot 17
  • Dr Jörn Günther Antiquariat: offered in his Katalog und Retrospektive (1993), no. XVI.
This week I discovered that the manuscript has been cut up.

By chance, I found that a single leaf is recorded (but with no image) at the University of Calgary:

Alerted to this fact, it was a simple matter to find a few other leaves: two were sold by Paulus Swaen in an auction from 12 to 18 May 2010, as lots 91360 and 91361:


One leaf was auctioned by Leslie Hindman, Chicago, the previous year, on 28 July 2009:


The fact that the Swaen and Hindman leaves appeared on the market in quick succession in 2009 and 2010, less than ten months apart, suggests that it may have been broken up shortly before. 

EDIT, 20 September 2020:

Jörn Günther has been in contact and kindly tells me that after he had the manuscript for sale in 1993, he sold it to Bruce Ferrini. It was therefore doubtless Ferrini who was responsible for breaking it up. Ferrini was in financial trouble in the years before his death in 2010, which may be relevant if the book was broken in, or shortly before, 2009, as I suggest in the paragraph above.

I contacted the University of Calgary, and Allison Wagner kindly sent me images of their leaf. It turns out to be the one that was auctioned in 2009, and was donated to the library.

Whoever broke the manuscript apparently told buyers of individual about its Bacovel origins, and Swaen mentions that it came from the Carter Brown Library, so was aware that it had been intact until relatively recently. What are not mentioned, either in the recent auction descriptions or in my recent blogpost, are all the details on which the earliest provenance is founded, so it is perhaps worth repeating them here, derived from the 1981 Sotheby's and 1992 Christie's catalogues.

First I must explain that Sotheby's read the name as Bacovel, but Christie's and Jörn Günther Antiquariat as Baconel. I do not know which is correct, as I have not seen the manuscript, but I suspect that Baconel is right, both because it is a well-documented family name in Picardy, and because the later sellers made a conscious decision not to follow the spelling of the Sotheby's catalogue. I will therefore spell Marguerite's name with an "n".

Several calligraphic initials include inscribed scrolls:

  • (fol. 22r) "Marg"
  • (fol. 25v) "de | ba|co|el | 1539"
  • (fol. 157v) "de | ba|con|el"
  • (fol. 158r) "Mar|gue|rite de | bac|con|el"

The first codicological unit (sixteen quires of 8 leaves followed by one of 6 leaves) ends with "Scriptum 1539".

The volume has "additions in at least two other hands, ending with a detailed colophon":

“Ce livre est a l’usage de soeur Marguerite de Baconel religieuse professe de la maison du Mont Ste Marie lez Gosnay. Et script par frere Loys de Villechecq, vicaire de ladite maison et profes des chartreux les al’be 1542”

Descriptions of the complete volume had about 150 illuminated initials and eight historiated initials:

  • (fol. 1r) The Nativity
  • (fol. 22v) The Marriage of the Virgin
  • (fol. 84r) The Three Maries at the Tomb
  • (fol. 98v) Pentecost
  • (fol. 103v) Angels holding the Sacrament
  • (fol. 129r) A Procession
  • (fol. 146r) The Assumption
  • (fol. 156v) All Saints

The All Saints page has been reproduced more than once, in colour (a detail is at the top of this post):

and the Procession in black-and-white:

I would be interested to learn of the whereabouts of any of the single leaves. Most of them will presumably look like the leaves sold by Swaen:


Addendum, 20 September 2020:

Joseph Bernaer has been in touch and kindly shares the following information:

The death in 1544 of “Margarita de Bacconnet et Elizabeth de Habart, moniales domus gosnay” is recorded by John Clark, ed, The Villeneuve Necrology, III: 1536-1585, Analecta Cartusiana, 100:27 (2003), p. 48.

Dom Louis de Villebecq held the post of vicar from 1532 to 1556 (see Thomas Jerome, “Entre apogee et déclin: vivre sa foi au Grand Siècle, dans les chartreuses féminines, 1570-1715” (PhD, 2014), no. 27 in his list of the vicars of Gosnay).

Carol Steyn, “The Music Manuscripts of the Nuns of Mont-Sainte-Marie de Gosnay”, Moines et moniales dans l'ordre des chartreux: L'apport de l'archéologie, Analecta Cartusiana, 245 (2007), pp. 327-34, at 328-9, records that Loys de Villebecq was also the scribe of National Library of South Africa, Cape town, Grey collection MS 3.c.23, and MS CII 817 in the Archives of the Grande Chartreuse. She gives a description in The Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Grey collection of the National Library of South Africa, Cape Town, Manuscripts 2.a.16 – 3.c.25, I, Analecta Cartusiana, 180 (Salzburg, 2002), pp. 233-37.

I may add that another Gosnay manuscript is at the Bodleian: MS. Lat. liturg. f. 28 (catalogue description).

Addendum, 21 September 2020; more information from Joseph Bernaer:

Louis de Villebecq entered the charterhouse of Abbeville, named the Charterhouse of Saint Honoré [fr Wikipedia]. After he was vicar in Gosnay he return to Abbeville where he was prior 1556-1557; he died in Abbeville one year later, on 24 April 1558.


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