BOCCACCIO, Giovanni (1313-1375). De claris mulieribus. ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON PAPER. [France, probably Besançon, ca. 1464-1470]
Chancery 4o (216 x 145 mm). 169 leaves: 1-1312 1413(of 14, xiv blank cancelled), COMPLETE. Two sets of signatures in the lower margins of recto pages in the first half of each quire: capital letters and arabic numerals in the ink of the text, lower-case letters and roman numerals in the rubricator's red ink; vertical catchwords in the inner margin on the last verso of each quire set off by underlining and flourishes in red, contemporary foliation in arabic numerals in the ink of the text. 27 lines written in humanistic script in brownish-gray ink on 27 horizontal lines and between two vertical lines ruled in plummet, justification: 140 x 74 mm, prickings visible in the outer margins of each leaf. 106 two- or three-line Lombard initials alternately blue flourished red or red flourished gray-blue, each followed by one line of display capitals in the ink of the text slashed and underlined in red, red capital strokes. Chapter titles in the margin in the ink of the text, underlined in red with red or blue paragraph signs, the same titles inserted in spaces in the text by another hand writing with a different shade of red ink. One 7-line illuminated historiated initial in blue with white tracery on a shaped burnished gold ground, depicting the author presenting his work to the dedicatee, Andrea Acciaiuoli, accompanied by a border of burnished gold ivy leaves on black hairline stems, incorporating blue and gold acanthus, sprays of mauve blossoms, colored flowers and fruits, and an archbishop's coat-of-arms. Written on paper with a watermark resembling Briquet 14184, a type used principally in the Netherlands and eastern France, including the Franche-Comté. (Faint dampstain to upper and lower blank margins, occasional light foxing, slight abrasion to faces in miniature, mostly marginal smudges to f. 133r.) Modern blind-tooled calf by Deborah Evetts, preserving many deckle edges and two flyleaves from the previous binding; cloth drop-back box also enclosing the previous binding of 19th-century quarter roan.
Provenance: copied, probably in Besançon by a French scribe, for Charles de Neufchatel (1439-1498), archbishop of Besançon (elected 1463, installed 1464, exiled 1480): coat-of-arms, f. 3v -- scattered early marginalia -- [Royez, Parisian bookseller, sold between 1823 and 1826 to]- Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), ms. 2862: his inkstamp on old flyleaf and ms. number inscribed on pastedown of old binding; sale, Sotheby's 5 June 1899, lot 219 (to Leighton) -- [Sotheby's 19 June 1921, lot 421, to Malton] -- [Angus and Robinson, Sydney, Australia, sold to] -- C. A. Pearl, Paddington, Australia: K.V. Sinclair, Descriptive Catalogue of Medieval and Renaissance Western Manuscripts in Australia, Sydney 1969, pp. 427-429 -- [Alan G. Thomas] -- [Christie's London, 21 June 1978, lot 253]
Contents: table of contents, with folio numbers added in the margin by the second rubricator, ff. 1r-3r; text, ff. 3v-169v.
This manuscript, though written in a humanistic bookhand, was probably copied in Besançon in the mid-15th century or early 1460s. The paper stock on which it is written is found in use in the Low Countries and Eastern France, and the illumination is French. The scribe was probably French as the display lettering is not Italian in character.
The codex was made for Charles de Neufville, archbishop of Besançon, who was elected in 1463 and installed in 1464, and who lived in Besançon until he was exiled in 1480. Charles took considerable interest in the liturgy of Besançon and in the provision of liturgical books for the diocese. A two-volume missal illuminated for him is now in the Auckland Public Library (Med. MSS. G.138-139; cf. M. M. Manion, et al., Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in New Zealand Collections, Melbourne 1989, no. 18), and two Pontificals made for him are still in Besançon (Besançon, Bibl. mun., MSS. 115, 116, 117, and Besançon, Bibl. mun., MS. 138). After taking up residence in Normandy, where he served as administrator of the diocese of Bayeux from 1480 until his death in 1498, Charles commissioned a breviary (Besançon, Bibl. mun., MS. 69) from the workshop of the Maître de l'Échevinage de Rouen, one of the last products of that workshop. He was also responsible for the first printed editions of the Besançon breviary (Basel 1479, GW 5282; Basel 1480, GW 5283), the missal of the diocese (Salins 1485; CIBN M-410), and other liturgical texts for the use of Besançon.
Several manuscripts bear witness to Charles's interest in secular literature. In addition to the present codex, he owned two Virgil manuscripts (BnF, MSS. lat 7945 and 8455), one of which he inscribed in 1480 to Lyenard des Potos of Besançon (cf. L. Delisle, Le cabinet des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque impériale, vol. 2, p. 339).
Illumination: The illumination of the present manuscript can be assigned to 1464-1480 based on the dates of Charles de Neufchatel's career, and probably to the 1460s based on its affinity with other work done in Besançon during this period. The style of the miniature is close to that of a Pontifical illuminated for Charles de Neufchatel's cousin Antoine de Neufchatel, who was bishop of Toul from 1461 (Besançon, Bibl. mun., MS. 157); in fact, the setting of the dedication miniature in the Boccaccio and the poses of the figures resemble the setting and the poses of the two principal partipants in the pontifical's miniature of tonsuring (cf. Manion, New Zealand, fig, 67).
References: V. Branca, Tradizione delle opere di Giovanni Boccaccio, vol. 1, Rome 1958, p. 97, vol. 2, Rome 1991, pp. 14, 61; V. Branca, Boccaccio visualizzato, Turin 1999, vol. 3, pp. 321-322.