In 2017, President Thomas Sullivan generously allocated $100,000 to the University Libraries to support acquisitions in the humanities. At the recommendation of College of Arts and Sciences faculty from the departments of History, Romance Languages, Religion, and English who specialize in medieval Europe, Special Collections was able to purchase an extraordinary sixteenth-century manuscript which the specialty bookseller Les Enluminures had just put on the market.
Les roys de la très crestienne maison de France (The Kings of the Very Christian House of France), written in French, is an illuminated manuscript on parchment that probably originated in northern France, possibly Paris, between 1500 and 1525. It lists each king and the dates and key events of his reign, beginning with legendary King Pharamond and ending with just a heading for Louis XII, who ascended to the throne 1497-1498. The dealer’s description compares our manuscript to the only other known copy, held by the Bibliothèque nationale de France, and suggests that with its elegant script, decorated initials and red velvet binding, our copy may have been made for a person close to the royal family.
The faculty members who recommended the purchase believe that the stunning manuscript has enormous potential for teaching and research at UVM. They regularly use our collection of medieval manuscripts as teaching tools, and see this very accessible manuscript as a great addition. It is tailor-made for a seminar that Charles-Louis Morand-Métevier will be teaching next spring on royal chronicles in the late medieval/Renaissance period. It will also be a good building block for a TAP course that Sean Field hopes to teach in 2019, “Medieval History through Manuscripts.” At the same time, UVM will be participating in a program sponsored by Les Enluminures, “Manuscripts in the Curriculum,” that will bring a curated collection of manuscripts to campus for use in several courses. Special Collections Director and Rare Book Curator Jeffrey Marshall and Charles Briggs will teach a seminar designed around our manuscript holdings, including the new Les roys de la très crestienne maison de France.
Several UVM faculty members plan to begin work on an edition of the manuscript text. Collating our copy with the one at the Bibliothèque national de France would allow the production of a critical edition. In the future, Special Collections will add the manuscript to our Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts digital collection.
This article also appears in the latest issue of our newsletter, Liber.