Saturday, 17 October 2020

Cuttings from a Prose Romance in French

In the blogpost two weeks ago I reproduced a miniature from a 14th-century French manuscript, shown above, without saying much about it. It was one of a group of three, sold as lot 2 in the Holford sale, 12 July 1927; here are the other two:

I already knew of two sister-cuttings, and by coincidence, I think I found three more this week.

In March this year, Marie-Laure Savoye published a blogpost in which she identified the subjects and texts of two cuttings at the V&A. She identifies the text on the back of each as coming from two of the 13th-century continuations of the older Roman des sept sages [fr.Wikipedia]; one is from Pelyarmenus [Arlima]:

V&A inv. 813-1894 [Source]

and the other is from Kanor [Arlima]:

V&A, inv. 814-1894 [Source]


This week I visited the Bodleian for the first time in more than a year. One of few the things I looked at was a 'scrapbook' of cuttings and leaves in the Douce collection, MS. Douce d. 13. The very first page has three cuttings from an unidentified prose romance in French:

Bodleian, MS. Douce d. 13, fol. 2r [Source]

I felt confident that they come from the same manuscript as the V&A and Ottley-Holford-Joubert ones, and so I was pleased to subsequently discover that Tilly de la Mare had made the same observation, decades ago, and left an annotation in the reading-room copy of Pächt & Alexander [1]:

The Bodleian site provides good images of the front and back of each cutting, so perhaps someone reading this blogpost can now identify their texts, as they are likely to be from the Sept Sages or one of its continuations. The text is easily legible:

so it will just require a bit of patience to find the corresponding passages in one of the manuscripts, such as Paris, BnF, ms fr. 22550, which is digitised.

Francis Douce (1758-1834), the great collector and benefactor of the Bodleian Library [Wikipedia], probably bought the cuttings in July 1816 from the London bookseller John Simco: in his acquisition notebook Douce records the purchase of "three small illuminations from a MS. of L. de Lac" [2].

Next time I will explore the provenance of the V&A cuttings in more detail.


[1] Otto Pächt and J. J. G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford. 1: German, Dutch, Flemish, French and Spanish Schools (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), no. 594.

[2] S. G. Gillam and others, The Douce Legacy: An Exhibition to Commemorate the 150th Anniversary of the Bequest of Francis Douce (1757-1834) (Oxford: Bodleian Library, 1984), no. 222.

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