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MONSTRELET, Enguerrand de

[Chroniques. Premier livre]

Tournai, 1464

CHRONICLES BY ENGUERRAND DE MONSTRELET : ONE OF THE OLDEST TWO KNOWN MANUSCRIPTS.

A PRECIOUS MEDIEVAL BOOK, PROBABLY WRITTEN & BOUND IN TOURNAI.

WE KNOW :

1. THE COPYIST’S NAME : “THOMAS DE LENOGHE, A CAMBRAI NATIVE ;”
2. THE DATE IT WAS WRITTEN : “JULY 29, 1464 ;”
3. AND, A REMARKABLE FACT, THE BINDER’S NAME : “CAPELIER.”

Folio (395 x 280mm)

Manuscript on paper in brown ink, not title, unpaginated, two columns, 45 lines per page ; written in French in the Northern France patois

COLLATION :1-2712 286 : 330 leaves, which are bifoliums sewn in gatherings of 6 leaves
WATERMARKS : the first one is an anchor surmounted by a cross, rather common in Northern France (see Charles-Moïse Briquet, Les Filigranes : dictionnaire historique des marques du papier dès leur apparition vers 1282 jusqu'en 1600, Leipzig, 1923, Vol I, p. 36). The paper stock is rather homogeneous, as for the lower endleaf which is coming from the same stock. It shows that the manuscript was bound where it was written, and reciprocally

ORNEMENTATION : numerous red ink initials, of various sizes ; chapter titles in red ink ; red underlining

CONTENT : 1/1 and 1/2 : blank, 1/3r : « Selonc ce que dit Salluste », 1/3v : table of content, 1/12 : blank 2/1r : text : « Pour l’an mil et quatre cens. Premier chapitre »… on the 268 leaves of Book 1, the text is comparable to the second manuscript, one of seven of the first group of manuscript (those which only have Book 1. This second manuscript (of seven) belongs to the BnF (Suppl. Fr. 93). They were identified by Louis Douët d’Arcq in his edition of the Chroniques (Paris, Veuve de J. Renouard, 1857-1862, 6 vol., t. I, p. xiii). This second manuscript (of seven) was written in Lille by Olivet du Quesne. Both manuscripts are complete. The collation of our manuscript follows the one of the BnF copy. The latine formula of the colophon, rather common, is also the same

COPIST : the scribe has signed his work at the end : « Je Thomas de Lenoghe natif de Cambray ville seans en l’empire d’Allemaigne accomplis de coppier le present livre le xixe jour de juillet l’an 1464. Scriptor qui scripsit cum Christo vivere possit. Amen ».

CONTEMPORARY SIGNED BINDING BY A BINDER CALLED “CAPELIER”. Tinted parchment on wood, blind stamped décor, rectangular tool WITH THE SIGNATURE OF THE BINDER, several square tools including one with fleur-de-lis, traces of claps

PROVENANCE :
Several handwritten ex-libris, dated from the 15th and 16th centuries are featured on the guard leaves of the binding, can be grouped thusly :

1. The De Clermès family. The oldest mention reads : “Ce livre est à Jehan de Clermès de Canteraine.” It appears a second time : “Ce livre est à Jehan de Clermès.” The De Clermès were an important family of the bourgeoisie in Tournay ; its members had held important positions since the 14th century : the family included great provosts, aldermen, and a few magistrates. A Jean de Clermès, born in 1424, is also known ; he had a son, also named Jean, who lived in the second half of the 15th century and married Françoise Dennetière, daughter of Jacques, lord of the Donq (Annuaire de la noblesse de Belgique, 1867, vol. 20, p. 111).

2. The D’Ennetières family : the following mentions are featured on the guard leaves at the beginning of the book : “Jherosme Dentière,” “Appertient à Jacques Dennetière,” with other words that seem to have been written by the same person : “Spes mea Deus,” “Dieu est mon espoir,” “Godt es myn hoope,” “Ama deum, time Deum,” “Ayme Dieu et crainde Dieu,” “Ce livre apertient Jasques Dennetier, ayme Dieu et crainde Dieu,” “Jeromme Dennetières 1544,” “Hermes,” “Ce livre apertena Jaques Danter quy… …,” “Cateline Dennetier, de cœur entier à tout jamais sans… …,” “Par bon amour / le cueur entyer / Chateline Dennetier,” “Arnoult,” “Autre ne vaie ;” on the guard leaves at the end of the book : “Cestuy qui a fait ce livre je prie et tous ceulx qui la verront, quilz veullent prier pour son âme,” “de Landas” (maybe “A de Landas ?”), “Dennetière.” All these people (Jérôme Dennetière, Jacques Dennetière, Catharine Dennetière, etc.) were evidently members of one famil

3. after the beginning of the 19th century the book joined one of the Princely House of Merode’s libraries.

Enguerrand de Monstrelet was thought to be a bastard born into a noble family. He was born around 1390 in Ponthieu, near Doullens, in western Picardy, and died in 1453. In 1430 he was nominated to the office of bailiff in Compiègne, in the service of John of Luxemburg, who became Joan of Arc’s first gaoler in May of the same year and subsequently sold her to the English. The author of Chronicles witnessed the first encounter between the Maid of Orléans and the Duke of Burgundy, Philip the Good. Monstrelet, through his connection to John of Luxemburg, was thus naturally loyal to the Anglo-Burgundian clan, whose cause he also upheld. In 1444 he became provost of Cambrai, a rich episcopal city located in the Holy Roman Empire, before becoming bailiff in Walincourt (a city to the South East of Cambrai). He is often referred to as Enguerrand de Monstrelet, formerly living in Cambrai, Cambresis.

The job of the historian

Monstrelet is said to have written this great and famous chronicle in Cambrai. The book’s success never diminished. As he wrote in the Prologue, Monstrelet saw his chronicles as the continuation of Jean Froissart’s, whose work covered the period from 1327 to 1400. Monstrelet’s Chronicles built upon Froissart’s work, starting in 1400. He wrote two books, the first of which spans the period between 1400 and the end of the reign of Charles VI (1400-1422) ; the second book narrates the period of French history that ended with the Treaty of Tours (1422-1444). The author even started writing a third book covering the period from 1444 to the death of Philip the Good in 1467 (or later, depending on manuscripts).

The great novelty of Monstrelet’s work lies in the reliability of his sources, which became a model for his successors. At the beginning of Chronicles, he proposes a sort of historiographical pact to the reader, testimony to the birth of the modern historian. Monstrelet sought to make the writing of history and the compilation and cross-checking of sources inseparable. Just like Thucydides, Monstrelet wrote the history of his time, a contemporary endeavor in essence (cf. A. Grafton, What was history ? The Art of History in Early Modern Europe, Cambridge, 2007). The author warns the reader of his potential mistakes :

Et me suis, dit-il, par maintes fois en moi-mesme à penser comment se povet faire, et (…) ay esté enclin à voir et oir telles et semblables hystoires, et y prins voulentiers peine et labeur en continuant à se faire selon mon petit entendement jusques au temps de mon plus mûr asge, pour la vérité d'icelles enquérir par maintes diligences, dont je me suis informé des premiers poins d'icelui livre jusques au dernier, tant aux nobles gens (…) comme aussi au plus vérifiable que j'ay sceu digne des renommez de foy (…) justes et diligens enquêreurs, bien instruis et vrais rélateurs ; sur la récitacion et relacion desquellez (…) en mectait arrière tous rappors que je ay doubté ou espéré estre non prouvables par continuacion pour jamais acteindre le cas, après que sur eulx ay eu plusieurs considéracions et grans dilacions de moi informé comme dessus, et prins mon arrest en la déclaration et rapport des plus vénérables, et les grosser au bout d'un an, et non devant. Je me suis déterminé et conclud de poursuivre ma dessus-dicte matière depuis le commencement de mon livre jusques enfin d'icellui, et ainsi l'ay faict, sans favoriser à quelque parti, ains, à mon povoir, ay voulu, comme raison donne, rendre à chascune partie vraye déclaracion ne sont faite selon ma cognoissance.

The text

The first book of Monstrelet’s Chronicles spans the period from 1400 to 1422. The prologue, which is not divided into chapters, starts abruptly :

Selonc ce que dist Saluste au commencement d’un sien livre nommé Cathilinaire où il racompte aulcuns merveilleux fais darmes des Romains et de leurs adverses parties, tout homme doibt fuir oiseuse et soy exerciter en bonnes oeuvres affin qu’il ne soit pareil aulx bestes…

The historian then introduces himself :

Je Enguerran de Monstrelet yssus de noble generation residens du temps de la compilation de che present livre en la noble cité de Cambray ville seans en lempire d’Allemaigne me suis entremis et occupes de en faire & composer ung livre ou histoire en prose jasoit ce que la matiere requist bien plus hault & soubtil engien que le mien par ce que plusieurs choses y recitées font à peser sicomme les Royalles majestez haultesses & puissances des princes excellence & noblesse en armes dont icelluy sera composé…

After a detailed summary of the two hundred and sixty-eight chapters, the chronicle starts on Easter-day, 1400 :

auquel an finit le darrennier volume de che que fist et composa en son temps che prudent et tres renommé historien maistre Jehan Froissart natif de Vallenciennes en Haynault duquel par ses notables oeuvres la renommée durrera par longtems. Et finira cestui premier livre au trespas du Roy de France de tres noble memoire Charles le bien amé sixieme de che nom lequel expira sa vie en son hostel de Saint-Pol à Paris le xxiie jour d’octobre l’an de grasse mil iiiic & xxii

Several qualities make this manuscript a remarkable copy. We know the name of the copyist, the date it was written and the name of the binder ; the book is part of an uninterrupted chain which links it to a specific region of origin, the County of Hainaut and its capital city, Tournai.

The copyist and the date

The copyist signed and dated the text of the manuscript in the colophon, which is a rare occurrence :

Je Thomas de Lenoghe, natif de Cambray, ville séans en l'Empire d'Allemaigne acomplie de coppijer che present livre le XIXe jour de juillet l'an 1464. Scriptor qui scripsit cum Christo vivere possit. Amen

Thomas de Lenoghe claims he was from Cambrai. No other known manuscript is attributed to him. He seems to mimic the exact phrasing used by Enguerrand de Monstrelet in the book’s prologue. He claims to be a resident of the noble city of Cambrai : ville séans en l'Empire d'Allemaigne (1st leaflet, 2nd column, 9th line from the top). The fact that he was born in Cambrai does not mean that the manuscript was copied there. Rather, it seems likely that Lenoghe mentioned it to emphasize his connection with the author, especially since Lenoghe no longer resided in the archiepiscopal city.

The date of the colophon (July 29, 1464), shows the manuscript precedes the textual tradition of Chronicles. H. Wijsmann’s work has demonstrated that paper manuscripts, typical of meridional Low Countries’ tradition, preceded vellum manuscripts by about thirty year. Vellum manuscripts, more luxurious, started being designed later, toward the end of the century, in a style reminiscent of the art of the illumination practiced in Parisian circles or under the Valois. The chronicle encountered a huge success over the next fifty years, after its continuation (Book III) was added. A big series of manuscripts and four printed editions remain from the period between 1470 and 1520 (Antoine Vérard toward 1500 and 1508 ; Jean Petit and Michel Le Noir 1512 ; François Regnault 1518).

Monstrelet’s Chronicles was thus first read in manuscripts written on paper. H. Wijsmann recorded seven datable paper manuscripts, including the present one, which had remained unknown to him.

In fact only very few surviving manuscripts can be dated before 1470. Four manuscripts can be situated in the 1450s and two in the 1460s (…) All manuscript of Monstrelet’s Chronique and its continuations were initially, in the 1450s and 1460s, written on paper and only in the 1470s do they appear as parchment manuscripts. Thus we see that the production logic of this chronicle does not follow the same pattern as many other texts which were first produced on parchment, and later in greater numbers on paper (…) Monstrelet’s chronicle was still primarily seen as a text of practical use, important to have at hand when trying to understand the current political situation. The chronicle had not reached its final forma and was therefore not ready to be made into luxury manuscripts. (cf. art. cit. infra, pp. 204-205 et 212)

Binding by “Capelier”

The binding was very likely made in the Hainaut region (Tournai). Along with the cities of Valenciennes and Lille, this area in meridional Low Countries was renowned for the vibrancy of its book-making tradition in the 15th century.

The entirety of the binding is original, and it has not been altered since the 15th century.

Following the standard process used for paper manuscripts, the reinforcing strips were sewn with parchment. Two of the reinforcing strips used for this binding include a scholastic text (maybe a commentary on Aristotle), written in 13th-century calligraphy, and music notation, probably from the 13th century as well.

One of the reused pieces of parchment bears the following inscription : “Rente Robert de Tournay sur Loys du Mortier et Arnoul Haneron de XVI lyons d'or par an.” It thus identifies the city of Tournai, or its close surroundings, as the place where the binding was done. The first city clearly refers to Tournai, and the second probably refers to a fiefdom, “Le Mortier,” in the town of Nomain (North of Orchies, near Landas). Haneron is a very common last name in the Hainaut region.

The guard leaf at the back of the book bears the same ink watermark as the paper used for the manuscript. It is thus almost certain that the binder, “Capelier,” who used fragments from Tournai for his bindings, lived in Tournai. This means the present manuscript was not only bound in Tournai, but also written there.

The original binding was blind-tooled, and features diamond-shaped lines and three ironed symbols : a lamb, a fleur-de-lys and a quatrefoil. The famous signature of the binder was also ironed in the binding : “Capelier,” or maybe “Capetier.” However, no binder by the name of either Capelier or Capetier appears in the compilation drawn up by D. Vanwijnsberghe (quoted as a reference below). The name is also absent from the works of Andrée Bruchet, G. Colin, M. Gil and J.-C. Lemaire listing the binders based in the region. The binding, made in Tournai, thus bears the signature of a binder whose only work was this book.

An analysis of the origin : Tournay

It appears the successive owners of this book all originated in Tournai. The front pages, printed on the same paper as the rest of the text, feature a series of mentions which gives us information on the book’s first owners. It should be said that the names are not necessarily those of the owners : it was possible to write one’s own name in a book belonging to a friend. There is no doubt this book was owned by a “Jean de Clermes de Canteraine.” He wrote “Ce livre est à… ” This is also true for a “Jacques Dennetières,” even if it is not clear who Jacques was. Catherine Dennetières’ ex-libris suggest she herself never owned the book.

This book thus belonged to Jean de Clermès (1422-1493), husband of Françoise de Dennetières. They did not have any children. It can thus be inferred that this book was passed on to Françoise’s brother, Jacques Dennetières (1437/1438-1493), or directly to her nephew Jérôme Dennetières (1462/1463-1535). Jérôme had a son, also named Jérôme (c. 1501-1560), who was a clergyman and copyist. He probably signed the book in 1544, in meticulous handwriting. However, the last name to appear in the succession of owners was that of his brother Jacques (1491/92 – 1558), who was closely linked to the Landas family. Jacques was Jérôme’s second son. He was lord of Lassus (North West of Tournai) and Sainghin, and became a magistrate in the city of Tournai. He was knighted by Charles V in 1524. His first wife, Magdeleine de Landas-Chin, died young. She was the daughter of Guillaume de Landas (+1531), who was a money changer in Tournai, and Jehanne Dimenche dit Le Lombard. Jacques remarried Catherine de Chastillon in 1520. They had eight children, including another Jérôme ; Jacques, who became a county magistrate in Tournai ; Catherine ; and Anne, who respectively married two Landas brothers. It can thus be assumed the Catherine whose signature is framed by several hearts is Catherine de Landas, “Chateline Dennetier.” Her husband Jérôme, who was nicknamed “Hermes,” might also have signed using that name. All these owners therefore suggest the book always remained in Tournai or in the immediate vicinity of the Hainaut region.

It should be said that the manuscript was sold in December, 2013, the origin then indicated was “from a great Belgian family,” probably the Princely House of Merode.

Lot number 4 of the same auction was a work named Recueil de 18 plans dessinés et aquarellés, Terre de la Berlière appartenant à Monsieur le marquis d'Ennetières comte de Mouscron, which described the belongings of Frédéric-Joseph, marquis d’Ennetières (1789-1875). It can thus be inferred that the Dennetières (aka d’Ennetières) family ceded its possessions to the House of Merode at some point in history. Nevertheless, this manuscript was always privately owned until it was put on the market in 2013.

Until the 1470s, most of Monstrelet’s manuscripts thus originated in Southern Holland, which is natural since that is where Monstrelet was from and he had also chosen the Anglo-Burgundian side. We know he gave a manuscript copy of Book I of Chronicles – probably on paper – to Philip the Good in 1447. Philip also owned another copy of the book. Some of the biggest names of old Burgundy are among the first owners of Monstrelet’s manuscripts. Just like their master, they sometimes owned several copies of Chronicles : Antoine de Bourgogne, (1421-1504), aka the Great Bastard of Burgundy ; Louis de Bruges, lord of Gruuthuse ; one copy doubtlessly belonged to the Croÿ family (as quoted in an inventory from the 16th century) ; and another copy belonged to Charles II of Lalaing, Engelbert and Philippe de Clèves, Jean de Bergen-Glymes and Engelbert II of Nassau.

Hanno Wijsman did not record any vellum-paper-bound manuscript by Monstrelet before 1470. It was not until 1477 that the final version of Chronicles, including all three books, was compiled (Swiss National Library, MS 37). The final version of the first two books of Chronicles appeared for the first time between 1470 and 1480, gathered in a manuscript kept at the BNF (on paper, Ms. Fr. 2681). Before 1470, only eight paper manuscripts of this text were published, including the present one. Six of them include Book I only, whereas the last two include Book II only. Among the six known full manuscript copies of Book I, all written on paper, two are abridged versions. Two of the four complete known manuscripts of Book I are kept at the BNF (Fr. 6486 et 2683). The present copy is thus one of the oldest privately-owned full manuscripts of Book I ever recorded. It is the only precisely dated copy. No other manuscript by Monstrelet has been put up for sale on the international auction market since 1977.

This paper manuscript, bound by a hitherto unknown craftsman (Capelier), dated July 29, 1464, written by a copyist known to sign his work (Thomas de Lenoghe), and intended for powerful Tournai families, belongs to the oldest known manuscripts by Monstrelet. The study of Monstrelet’s text doubtlessly helped define the definitive stemma of the different versions of Chronicles. It is nonetheless a rare and precious specimen of literary trends in 15th-century France. It also testifies to the reading habits of the sophisticated circle of its first readers, who owned a key piece of medieval literature.

REFERENCES : Hanno Wijsman, “History in transition : Enguerand de Monstrelet’s Chronicque in manuscript and print (c. 1450-Cc 1500)” ;

Reliure : D. Vanwijnsberghe, (« “De fin or et d’azur”. Les commanditaires de livres et le métier de l’enluminure à Tournai à la fin du Moyen Âge (XIVe-XVe siècles) », Corpus of Illuminated Manuscripts, 10), Leuven 2001, p. 267-318 -- Andrée Bruchet, « Quelques reliures estampées signées de la fin du XVe et du début du XVIe siècle de la bibliothèque municipale de Lille », dans Mélanges d’histoire littéraire et de Bibliographie offerts à Jean Bonnerot, Paris, 1954, p. 81-91 – G. Colin, « Lille, centre de reliure à la fin du Moyen Age », Gutenberg Jahrbuch, 1992, p. 352-367 – M. Gil, « Le métier de relieur à Lille (v. 1400-1550), suivi d’une prosopographie des artisans du livre lillois », Bulletin du bibliophile, 2002, 7-46 – J.-C. Lemaire, Les reliures médiévales des manuscrits de la Bibliothèque municipale de Lille, Lille, 2004 ;

Provenance : cf. comte P.-A. du Chastel de la Howarderie-Neuvireuil, Filiation des Dennetières avant leur anoblissement (1280 à 1523), précédée de la critique de lieu origine, Tournai, 1892 (extrait du tome 24 des Bulletins de la Société historique et littéraire de Tournai), p. 31-40 et de son autre art. Généalogie de la famille d’Ennetières. Seconde partie. Les Dennetières après leur annoblissement, Tournai 1906 (extrait du tome 10 de la même revue), p. 7-14