JACOBUS DE VORAGINE (c.1228-1298), Legenda aurea, first volume, in the French translation of Jean de Vignay (c.1285-c.1350), ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
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JACOBUS DE VORAGINE (c.1228-1298), Legenda aurea, first volume, in the French translation of Jean de Vignay (c.1285-c.1350), ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM

JACOBUS DE VORAGINE (c.1228-1298), Legenda aurea, first volume, in the French translation of Jean de Vignay (c.1285-c.1350), ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
[Paris, c.1420]280 x 203mm. 328 leaves: iii paper + 1-418 + ii paper, COMPLETE, original foliation in red roman numerals in centre of upper margins on rectos, catchwords in lower margins of final versos, 34 lines in two columns written in brown ink in a bâtarde hand between four verticals and 35 horizontals ruled in grey, justification: 187 x 61-17-60 mm, pricking for verticals and first and last horizontals, gathering 22, ff.169-176, originally ruled for each bifolio to be used as a folio, rubrics in red, paragraph marks alternately in red and blue, numerous two-line initials in burnished gold with grounds and infills of blue and pink patterned with white leading to hairline sprays of burnished gold leaves and gold and blue fleurons in the adjacent margin, one six-line initial with staves in pink and white on a foliate ground of burnished gold with a blue and white infill below ONE MINIATURE ACROSS BOTH COLUMNS WITH BAR AND PARTIAL BORDER of hairline sprays of leaves and flowers in burnished gold, blue, pink and green (miniature rubbed, smudging to opening border, some wear to some margins, small repairs to several margins, narrow staining to six lines of text f.322v). 18th-century calf, spine tooled in gilt in six compartments, lettered in the second, fore-edges speckled red (some scuffing, small tears at head and foot of spine).


1. The style of illumination shows that the manuscript was produced in Paris around 1420; there are no original marks of ownership and such a popular text may well have been copied and handsomely decorated for the open market.

2. The Jesuit College in Paris, known as the Collège de Clermont from 1564-1683 and then as the Collège Louis le Grand: Collegii parisiensis societatis jesu inscribed in upper margin of f.1. When the Jesuits were suppressed in 1763, the library was ordered to be sold, as authorised by the inscription in the central margin f.1: Paraphe au desir de larrest du 5 juillet 1763. Mesnil.

3. Gerard Meerman (1722-1771): purchased the library of the Jesuit college in 1764; the paper leaves have a Pro patria watermark of Dutch style. The bulk of his manuscripts passed to his son Jean and were dispersed after Jean's death in 1824, when Sir Thomas Phillipps made extensive purchases. Many of the Claremont manuscripts, however, had already left the Meerman Collection, see V. Rose, Verzeichnis der lateinischen handschriften der köninglichen Bibliothek zu Berlin. I die Meerman Handschriften des Sir Thomas Phillipps, 1893, p.iii.

4. Anne Philippine Thérèse, comtesse d'Yve (1738-1814): armorial bookplate inside upper cover, with Ph. for Philippine wrongly following Thérèse. These bookplates were apparently made after her death, probably by Charles van Hulthem, to identify the remarkable collection of an exceptional woman, 'un phénonome sans exemple dans les annales de la bibliophilie' (Bulletin du bibliophile, 1891, pp.242-8). The catalogue which became a sale catalogue, lists this volume as no 3303, when the miniature was already 'un peu altérée par le temps', Description d'une très belle collection de livres rares et curieux provenant de la bibliothèque de Mademoiselle la comtesse d'Yve, Brussels, 1819-20. The Countess was collecting from at least 1765; see C. Lemaire in Archives et bibliothèques de Belgique, LXIV, 1993, pp.317-57, this manuscript p.331.

5. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872): Sir T.P. Middle Hill below lion, stamp inside upper cover with number 199, label on spine. It was among the illuminated manuscripts noted by Durrieu in 1888 ('Les manuscrits à peintures de la bibliothèque de Sir Thomas Phillipps à Cheltenham', Bibliothèque de l'Ecole des chartes, l,1889, no XXI, p.392. British Library, Loan 36/2.


Jacobus de Voragine, Legenda aurea in the French translation of Jean de Vignay, headed 'Ci commence la legende doree translatee de latin en francois par frere jehan de vignay de l'ordre du hault pas. A la requeste de la Royne jehanne de bourgoigne fem[me] du Roy phe[lippe] jadis conte de valoys'; the translator's prologue opens 'Monseigneur saint Jherosme dit ceste autoritee...', f.1; the author's prologue headed 'Com[m]ent le temps de ceste vie est divise en quatre parties. Ou temps du desvoyement. de renouvellement. de reconsiliac[i]on. et de pelerinage.' and opening 'Tout le temps de ceste p[rese]nte vie est divise en quatre p[ar]ties...', f.1v; first chapter headed 'L'advent nostre seigneur' and opening 'Ladvenement de nostre seigneur est fait par quatre sepmaines...', f.2v, text continuing to the chapter headed 'Encores sensuit autre legende de celle meismes assumpcion nostre dame', f.321v, and ending '...et se je nay dit si come je doy je te prie pardonne le moy toy et les tiens', with colophon in red largely repeating the opening heading but with 'le premier livre' partially obscured so that the book could more easily pass as the complete text, f.328v.

Jacobus de Voragine, who became a Dominican in 1244 and died in 1298 after six years as Bishop of Genoa, wrote various works, of which the Golden Legend of the 1260s was the most successful. A compilation to accompany the major feasts in the Church's calendar, the Golden Legend details the lives and miracles of saints and explicates events in the lives of Christ and the Virgin Mary, ordered according to the liturgical year. Since about a thousand manuscripts survive, in the original and in translation, this was evidently the most widely read authority on such matters. It therefore provides an invaluable insight into what was generally known by writers, artists and their patrons. No copy of Jean de Vignay's translation, however, is known to have appeared at auction since 1975.

Jehan de Vignay, a member of the Hospital Order of St Jacques de Haut-Pas in Paris, was a prolific and successful translator. In his Prologue, he says that he had just finished translating the 'mirouer des histoires du monde', also for the Queen, Jeanne de Bourgogne (d.1348), see lot 21, and to avoid falling into idleness had moved onto the Golden Legend. The translation, probably made between 1333-1340, proved very popular and, like the original Latin text, was subsequently expanded with additional feasts. Although the present lot is only the first volume, it includes about two-thirds of Jacobus de Voragine's original text. Excluding Saints Sophia, Timothy, Apollonia and Boniface, it shares many features with the earliest dated manuscript of 1348, Paris, BnF, Ms fr. 241, judged the msot authoritative version of the text, see V. Russell, 'Evidence for a stemma for the de Vignay manuscripts', pp.131-54 in B. Dunn-Lardeau ed., Legenda aurea: sept siècles de diffusion, 1986, the present lot listed p.132. The division at the Assumption, however, suggests that the whole text probably followed a model like that of Paris, BnF, Ms fr. 242, with the date 1402, where 43 additional chapters were added 'according to the use of Paris' in a French translation made by the Carmelite, Jean Golein (c.1325-1403).


The miniature illustrates the translator's prologue and shows the Queen, Jeanne de Bourgogne, surrounded by her ladies and gentlemen, receiving the book from Jean de Vignay, in the distinctive robe of the order of St Jacques de Haut-Pas. The elegant costumes of the Queen's attendants have been updated to the miniaturist's own time, towards 1420, and are typical of the refined depictions of contemporary court life by the Master of the Cité des dames. Apparently a specialist in secular texts, he takes his name from miniatures in five copies of this major work by Christine de Pizan, principally that owned by the Duke of Berry (Paris, BnF, Ms fr. 607). The figure style, the vibrant colouring and even the expressive greyhound relate this miniature to the Master's most ambitious work: the earlier scene of Christine de Pizan presenting her collected writings to Charles VI's queen, Isabel of Bavaria, c.1414 (London, British Library, Harley 4431). For the Master and these manuscripts, see E. Taburet-Delahaye and F. Avril, Paris 1400, les arts sous Charles VI, 2004, esp. pp.125, 243-4.

Each chapter and, for the saints, the preceding etymology explaining the significance of his or her name, is introduced by a large gold initial with delicate sprays of leaves and flowers extending into the generous margins. The parchment, not always of the highest quality, includes a gathering originally ruled for a different project, perhaps reflecting the growing difficulties of supply in Paris as the effects of France's civil wars were intensified by English intervention. Nontheless, in layout, script and illumination, the book is a fine example of the last phase of Paris's golden age of manuscript production.
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