LIVIUS, TITUS (59BC-17AD). First Decade of the Histoire Romaine, the French translation of Pierre Bersuire, ILLUMINATED MANUSCRIPT ON VELLUM
Illuminated by Remiet Perrin.
LIVIUS, TITUS (59BC-17AD). Premiére Décade de l'Histoire Romaine, traduction en Français de Pierre Bersuire, manuscrit enluminé sur vélin.
[Paris, vers 1390]
Enluminé par Remiet Perrin.
400 x 300mm. 306 leaves: 14(bound out of original sequence, should follow 2), 212, 33(of 4, lacking final blank once foliated xvi), 4-1812, 198, 20-2712, 283(probably of 8, gathering divided at the end of the first Decade, final verso with offsetting from the miniature opening the second Decade), text of first Decade COMPLETE, original foliation in red roman numerals in upper outer corner runs xvii-xx, i-xv and xxi-cccvii, modern pencil foliation 1-306 followed here, catchwords towards lower corner of final versos, binder's signature marks inner upper corner of first folios, two columns of 49 lines in a lettre bâtarde in brown ink between four verticals and 50 horizontals ruled in plummet, justification: approximately 285 x 180mm, an additional pair of horizontals for running titles, running titles and rubrics in red, one-line initials alternately of red or blue with contrast flourishing of black or red, two-line initials alternately of blue or burnished gold with elaborate flourishing of red and black, ELEVEN LARGE ILLUMINATED INITIALS accompanied by bar borders of gold, pink and blue with trefoil and ivy-leaf sprays into the margins, FOUR MINIATURES in colours and gold and with diapered or chequered backgrounds (smudging to miniature on f. 208, occasional very minor smudging to other illumination). 18th-century red morocco gilt with a triple fillet, floral stamps at the corners and central cartouche with the arms of a marquess, spine gilt in seven compartments with floral and foliate stamps and a black lettering piece (small loss of leather at foot of spine, extremities and surfaces slightly rubbed).
1. The manuscript was undoubtedly produced in Paris at the end of the 14th century, and from the circumstances of the commission of the translation -- at the command of the King of France -- and the known owners of other copies, it seems most likely that this too was made for a royal or noble patron.
2. There are three erased ownership inscription in the upper and lower margins of the opening folio, one apparently reading 'Ex libris Ston' and another 'Ex Bibliotheca L...'.
3. The armorial bearings on the upper cover show the crown of a marquess above a quartered shield supported by two gryphens.
4. Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), Middle Hill, Cheltenham, Ms 265 and 863: his stencil inside upper cover and labels on spine. The manuscript presumably remained in Gloucestershire until the Robinson brothers bought the remaining part of the Phillipps collection in 1946.
5. Robinson brothers: their Bibliotheca Phillippicca bookplate inside upper cover
Bersuire's 'mos estranges', the explanation of terms difficult to translate or understand from the Latin, addressed to Jean le Bon, King of France ff.1-4v; List of the rubrics for all three Decades of the Histoire romaine ff.5-19v; La premiere decade de Titus livius in the French translation of Pierre Bersuire, prior of St Eloi in Paris ff.20-306v
In his prefatory explanation Bersuire (d.1362) makes clear that he has undertaken the translation of Livy on the command of the King who, like 'tous excellens princes' wished to 'encercher at savoir les vertueus fais et les notables euvres des princes anciens...par lesquelles ils conquisirent jadis les pays...ediffierent empires et royaumes...et deffendirent et gouvernerent et tinrent par grans successions et par longues durees'. The King was not the only French prince who sought to learn from classical precedent and it is known that several copies, other than the dedication copy, were made for members of the royal family. One (Paris, Bibliothèque Sainte-Geneviève, Ms 777) was completed around 1370 for Charles V, le Sage, and has his signature on the final folio. Bersuire's translation continued to enjoy great popularity with French royal and noble patrons throughout the late 14th and early 15th centuries.
This first Decade was not produced as a discrete volume: the final verso carries an offset from the miniature with a coronation that opened the second Decade. No doubt the weight and unwieldiness of the entire work caused its subdivision but, should the subsequent section survive, there can be no doubt in matching them together.
The style of the miniatures in this Histoire romaine has been identified with that of Perrin Remiet, an illuminator who was in the service of Charles V by 1368 and was still working for his son Louis d'Orléans in 1398. The documented artist can be matched to an illuminated manuscript, a copy of the Pèlerinage de Vie Humaine (Paris, BnF, Ms fr.823), on the basis of a marginal instruction addressed to 'Remiet': F. Avril, Bibliothèque de l'École des Chartes, cxxvii (1969), pp.307-308 and Les Fastes du Gothique (1981), pp.338-339.
Four leaves from another, but dismembered, copy of Bersuire's translation attributed to Remiet are known: Sotheby's 5 July 1965, lots 186-188, 187 reappearing at Bonham's 28 March 1974, lot 71, and 186 again at Sotheby's 5 December 1994, lot 21, and a fourth In Les Enluminures I (1992), no 21. These leaves have been dated c.1390 and, although not duplicating the illustrations of the present volume, the common approach to composition, figure and drapery style suggests that they were produced at a similar date. Recently three further manuscript copies of the Histoire romaine to have issued from Remiet's workshop at various points of his career have been discussed; one a complete copy of the text that was owned by Jeanne de Navarre, daughter of Charles VI of France and wife of Henry IV of England (Paris, BnF, Ms 269-272) and another, that in style and layout is particulary close to the present volume, a copy of Decades II and III that was owned by Jacques, grandson of Louis de Bourbon, comte de la Marche, King of Hungary, Sicily and Jerusalem (Paris, BnF, Ms fr.268): M. Camille, Master of Death (1996), pp.112-114.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows:
f.20 Presentation miniature: Bersuire kneels and offers his work to the king attended by his counsellors (Book 1)
f.208 Consuls watch as Marcus Curtius, shown as an armoured knight, rides his horse into the ravine in the middle of the Forum (Book 7)
f.230 Messengers delivering letters to the consuls telling of the assembly of the Antians and Privernians (Book 8)
f.252 Samnite legates suing for peace (Book 9)
Each book also opens with a large illuminated initial and a text-height border. The other books open on folios 53, 89v, 127, 157v, 185v and 280.