27 Mar 2012
Jean-Luc Deuffic

L’Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César : le manuscrit Rennes Métropole 2331 de Tanguy du Chastel

© Rennes Métropole – Histoire ancienne jusqu’à Cesar – Les armes de Tanguy du Chastel –

La Journée du Centre d’Etude des Textes Médiévaux  (CETM), 5 avril 2012, aux Champs Libres (Rennes) sera entièrement consacrée à : L’Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César
Manuscrit récemment acquis par la Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole – Soulignons ici la politique exceptionnelle en matière d’acquisition de manuscrits médiévaux de la bibliothèque rennaise, et ce depuis l’arrivée en 1982 de Marie-Thérèse Pouillias, enrichissements continués par Mme Sarah Toulouse, actuelle conservatrice en chef.


11 heures
§ Conférence-présentation du manuscrit de l’Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César
14h 30
§ Michelle Szkilnik (Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle) : « Qui a écrit l’Histoire Ancienne jusqu’à César ? »
§ Catherine Croisy-Naquet (Paris III-Sorbonne Nouvelle : « Les trois rédactions de l’histoire ancienne, leurs choix et leurs enjeux » 
§ Hélène Tétrel (Brest) : « L’Histoire Ancienne et les versions islandaises du Brut ».
Entrée ouverte à tous, mais places limitées.

[France, Brittany], 1474 – 345 x 250 mm. 376 leaves : 1-478, catchwords along the inner ruledvertical in the lower margin of final versos, irregular modern pencil foliation, two columns of 41 lines in brown in a cursive bookhand between four verticals and 42 horizontals ruled in pink, justification : 250 x 168mm, rubrics, text capitals touched yellow, paragraph marks and line-endings in red or blue, two-line initials alternately of blue or red, guide letters often remaining, THIRTY-THREE HISTORIATED INITIALS with single burnished gold bars and partial borders of hairline tendrils with terminals of leaves and disks in burnished gold and painted leaves and flowers between larger sprays of painted fruit and flowers, initials 4-9 lines high, staves usually of gold on grounds of pink and blue patterned with white, THIRTY-FOUR SMALL MINIATURES framed in liquid gold or pink-red with single burnished gold bars and partial borders, mostly placed outside the text block in the lower margins, ONE LARGE ARCH-TOPPED MINIATURE IN SIX COMPARTMENTS divided and framed in burnished gold with FULL-PAGE ARMORIAL BORDER and historiated initial (opening folios, including large miniature rubbed, slight flaking in a few miniatures, lower corners missing f. 2-5). 18th-century English calf gilt. Beginning at the Creation this great chronicle incorporates Biblical history into narratives of the empires of Babylon, Ninevah, Thebes, Troy, Macedon and Rome. Its anonymous author, writing for the châtelain of Lille between 1208-1213 also directly points the moral lessons to be drawn from the past by didactic poems that introduce and then intersperse his prose narrative. He intended to bring his history up to the present day but his task was never completed: the text ends abruptly during Julius Caesar’s Gallic Wars as he erects a temple to Jupiter. The work proved enormously popular, fuelling and satisfying the burgeoning demand for classical and middle-Eastern history in the vernacular, essential knowledge for an educated gentleman of the day. There are about 70 manuscripts that preserve the text in whole or part and it was printed in Lyon c. 1480. Extraordinarily, there is no complete modern edition of this work that was so important in popularising ancient history and interpretating the classical past (M.-R. Jung, ‘La légende de Troie’ en France au moyen âge, 1996, pp. 334-357).
This copy is of considerable interest in preserving the original text comparatively intact. The prologue and 22 chapters in verse, known from 13th-century copies in Paris (BnF, Ms Fr. 20125) and Vienna, (ÖNB, cod. 2576) were rapidly dropped to focus on the narrative history; most unusually, this copy still has some moral verse commentaries. The continuing desire for the past to inform the present is shown by the scribe’s interpolations of his own reflections: on f. 195v he relates the destruction of Rome by Brennius to le temps ou vous estes maintenant. mil iiijc. lx et. xiiij, showing that he was at work in 1474. A further distinctive feature of this recension is the retention of Book I — from the end of the 13th century, the material from Genesis was commonly omitted — and the abrupt termination of Book XI. From the 14th century, this was standardly replaced by the Livre des faits des romains to continue the history of the Roman Empire to a more logical termination. This manuscript can be added to the six listed by Jung as having Books I-XI without the Livre des faits des romains either present or intended ; of these only the copy in the Pierpont Morgan Library, MS 212-213 can be dated to the 15th century. It is, therefore, likely that this manuscript was copied from a much earlier exemplar, as borne out by the miniatures which preserve the antique charm of an earlier age. The ms’s first owner, Tanguy du Chastel also owned a profusely illustrated 14th-century copy, with no verses and Book XI replaced by the Livre des faits des romains, which may have come from his wife’s family (Lot 20, Chester Beatty Sale, Sotheby’s 6 June 1932 ; Cimelia, H. P. Kraus, Catalogue 165, 1983). Moreover, he commissioned a copy of a vastly expanded version, from which two volumes survive in the New York Public Library, with miniatures by the same hands as the present lot (Spencer Ms 41, J. J. G. Alexander et al., The Splendor of the Word, 2006, p. 371-5). The illuminators of the Histoire ancienne and the Spencer manuscript, who could appropriately be named the Masters of Tanguy du Chastel, continue the traditions of artists employed by the ducal house of Brittany from the mid-15th century (see F. Avril and N. Reynaud, Les manuscrits à peintures en France 1440-1520, 1993, nos 94-95). The broad-faced figures are idiosyncratically proportioned to give the essentials of a scene, usually limited to the main protagonists against formalised settings, often with patterned backgrounds. This direct treatment of ambitious visualisations of antiquity results in an appealing sequence of scenes with wide-ranging subject matter.The early manuscripts are illustrated by both historiated initials and small miniatures within the text: small miniatures below the text are more of an Italian than a French convention, although the model used here cannot be identified with any surviving Italian manuscript. It apparently belonged to the oldest iconographic type: the Creation miniature over an historiated initial of God enthroned derives from the earliest conventions for illustrating the text, as seen in a Parisian copy of the second quarter of the 13th century (Brussels, KBR Ms 18295). Traditional patterns are also followed in such scenes as the death of Hector, f. 133v, or Alexander kneeling before the name of God, f. 253 (D. Oltrögge, Die Illustrationszyklen zur ‘Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César’ 1250-1400, 1989). The soldiers remain in 13th-century armour, with cylindrical helmets, loose surcoats and chain mail, while even the elephants and castles reflect an earlier iconographic tradition. Since painters usually modernised their patterns, the archaic forms may have been deliberately retained to give a sense of the past and of distant, exotic countries. Although fearsome monsters like the Sphinx, the Theban Tiger and the Minotaur, f. 91v, 112, 117v, have lost their awfulness over the centuries, the miniatures strikingly represent the continuum of history as then understood. Text and illustrations together afford direct contact with mediaeval perceptions of the classical and middle eastern heritage and their changing emphases. These can be charted from c. 1210, when the original text was compiled, through its various modifications up to 1474, the date of this extensively illustrated copy commissioned by a leading bibliophile and member of the French court.
The subjects of the miniatures are as follows :
f. 1 Large miniature in six compartments : God separates darkness from light ; creation of the sun and moon ; creation of land and sea ; creation of plants ; creation of animals, birds and fish ; creation of Eve ;
f. 4v The Lord cursing Cain ;
f. 7 Noah and his family look out from the Ark at the birds and animals coming aboard ;
f. 8v The drunkenness of Noah ;
f. 10v Shem, Ham and Japheth and their descendants, including the giant Nimrod ;
f. 11 Nimrod supervises the building of the Tower of Babel ;
f. 31 Lot and his family are led by an angel from Sodom, which collapses in flames on the inhabitants ;
f. 45 Jacob receives Isaac’s blessing ; in the background Esau returns from the hunt ;
f. 57 Esau and Jacob place Isaac in his tomb ;
f. 68v Pharoah dreaming of the lean and fat kine ;
f. 71 Jacob gives his sons money to buy corn in Egypt ;
f. 71v Joseph orders his brethren to fetch Benjamin ;
f. 82 Joseph and his brethren place Jacob in the tomb ;
f. 89v Oedipus hung up by the ankles ;
f. 95v Polynices and Etiocles, as armed knights, fight on horseback ;
f. 112 The ‘Tiger’ raised by Antigone and Ismene of Thebes ;
f. 119 Queens Marpesia and Lampeto lead the Scythian women to battle ;
f. 119v The Amazons putting men to flight ;
f. 123 Hercules killing Cacus ;
f. 123v Jason and the Argonauts aboard ship ;
f. 133v Achilles kills Hector ;
f. 141 Penthesilea leads her troops, one on a camel, to Troy ;
f. 142 Penthesilea fights Pyrrhus ;
f. 158v Dido kills herself on the towers of Carthage as Aeneas sets sail ;
f. 160v The Minotaur ;
f. 174 Aeneas leads his troops against Turnus ;
f. 209 A city welcomes Holofernes with music and surrenders its keys ;
f. 236 Fortune turning her wheel ;
f. 237 Alexander fights Indian troops in castles on elephants ;
f. 241 A terrible beast with three horns which attacks Alexander’s troops ;
f. 250v Alexander and King Porus of India fight on horseback ;
f. 279 The two-headed statue of Janus watches those who bring the arms of the conquered to his temple and those who come to arm themselves from the common store ;
f. 299 Scipio and Hannibal fight on horseback ;
f. 338v Marius knocks Jugurtha from his horse ;
f. 339 Jugurtha taken captive to Rome in a chariot.

The subjects of the historiated initials are as follows :
God seated on the rainbow f. 1 ;
Cain killing Abel f. 4 ;
the three men, as angels, are welcomed by Abraham f. 29 ;
the sacrifice of Abraham f. 35v ;
Joseph and Potiphar’s wife f. 65v ;
Pharoah gives Joseph a chariot when he makes him ruler of Egypt f. 70 ;
Joseph reveals his identity to his brethren f. 77 ;
Jacob rejoices to have news of Joseph f. 78 ;
Jacob before Pharoah f. 80 ;
King Ninus f. 84 ;
King Laius and Queen Jocasta of Thebes f. 89v ;
Oedipus and the Sphinx f. 91v ;
the Minotaur eating one of his victims f. 117v ;
Hercules and Theseus capture the Amazons Menalippa and Hippolyta f. 121 ;
Pelleus tells Jason to fetch the Golden Fleece f. 123v ;
Aeneas’s ships leave Troy f. 149 ;
three men build Rome f. 182 ;
Brutus is elected first consul f. 188 ;
the infant Cyrus, abandoned to wild beasts, is rescued f. 202 ;
Cyrus’s son Cambyses becomes king f. 208 ;
Judith cuts off the neatly night-capped head of Holofernes f. 211v ;
Nectanebus, Alexander’s father according to some, and Olympias, his mother f. 229 ;
Alexander kneels before the name of God on the tablet of gold held by the High Priest of the Temple in Jerusalem f. 235 ;
the beast with two heads f. 243v ;
games held at Tarentum so that the Romans take the city by surprise f. 259v ;
soldiers in castles on elephants arrive to help Tarentum f. 260v ;
Romans and Carthaginians fight on horseback f. 264v ;
Hannibal plans to avenge his father’s death f. 281v ;
a writer at his desk f. 300v :

© Rennes Métropole

the Carthaginians deliver up their armour to the Roman ships f. 311v ;
Mithridates receives a Roman messenger f. 358v ;
Pompey enters Rome in a chariot f. 369v ;
Roman senators ? bearing swords f. 370.

© Rennes Métropole  – Source

1. Tanguy du Chastel (d. 1477) and his wife Jeanne Raguenel de Malestroit : on f. 1 his arms are in the centre of the border and hers in a lozenge to the right ; their initials are intertwined in the side border. The Breton noble, Tanguy du Chastel, was grand écuyer to both Charles VII and Louis XI. With an apparently insatiable appetite for illuminated manuscripts, he commissioned new books and exploited royal favour : in 1476 he received many of the books confiscated from Jacques d’Armagnac, duc de Nemours, inheritor of much of the duc de Berry’s library.
2. Library of the château of Anet : seventh manuscript listed in the catalogue drawn up after the death of Anne de Bavière, princesse de Condé as ‘orné de miniatures très singulières’, Catalogue des manuscrits trouvez après le décès de Madame la Princesse, dans son Château Royal d’Anet, 1723.
3. William Bragge (1823-1884) : his sale, Wellington St, London, 7 June 1876. In Paris since 1872, Bragge returned to Birmingham in 1876 when his French business venture failed.
4. Jonathan Peckover (1835-1882) of the Quaker banking family : his armorial bookplate.
5. The Hon. Alexandrina Peckover (1860-1948) : pencilled note ‘left by her uncle Jonathan Peckover who died Feb 8th 1882’. Alexandrina was the second daughter of Jonathan’s elder brother, the noted book-collector Alexander, created Lord Peckover of Wisbech in 1907.
6. Alexander Peckover Doyle Penrose (1896-1950) : armorial bookplate. He was the son of Alexandrina’s elder sister Elizabeth and James Doyle Penrose of Watford and brother of the surrealist painter Roland Penrose ; for a photograph of these two owners with family members, see A. Penrose and A. MacWeeney, Home of the Surrealists, 2001, p. 12. Lot 20 in the Peckover Sale, Sotheby’s, 3 December 1951.
7. William Foyle (1885-1963) : his leather bookplate ; lot 86 in The Library of William Foyle, Christie’s, 11 July 2000.8. Michael Sharpe : his leather bookplate
8. Vente Christie’s 11-13 juillet 2000 [ lien ]

Sur les manuscrits du couple du Chastel / Raguenel voir l’excellente étude de Roseline CLAERR : \”Un couple de bibliophiles bretons du XVe siècle : Tanguy (IV) du Chastel et Jeanne Raguenel de Malestroit\”, publiée dans les Actes du colloque de Brest 2004 : Le Trémazan des Du Chastel, du château fort à la ruine.
Voir également notre contribution : Jean-Luc DEUFFIC, \”L’évêque et le soldat. Jean et Tanguy (IV) du Chastel, à propos des reliques de saint Pelade … et de leurs manuscrits\”, dans Le pouvoir et la foi au Moyen Age, PUR, 2010, p. 299-316 (p. 307-308).


Bibliothèque Rennes Métropole [ lien ]
Manuscrits numérisés de Rennes Métropole [lien]
L’Histoire ancienne jusqu’à Cesar, sur ARLIMA – Manuscrits et bibliographie –
Data.BnF [lien]
Voir la thèse d’Emilie Maraszak : Figures et motifs des croisades : l’étude des manuscrits de l’Histoire Ancienne jusqu’à César, Acre, 1260-1291, sous la direction de Daniel RUSSO [ lien ]

Jean-Luc Deuffic, Les manuscrits de Jean du Chastel, évêque de Carcassonne (+ 1475) [ lien ]


Sarah Toulouse, \”Les manuscrits médiévaux de la Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole\”, dans De Bibliotheca Publica, Mélanges offerts à Marie-Thérèse Pouillias, Rennes, 2007, p. 95-99.

Quelques exemplaires …

§ Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Cod. Bodmer 160 [E CODICES]
§ London, British Library, Egerton 912 [lien BL]
§ London, British Library, Royal 20 D I [lien BL] – Exemplaire du roi de France Charles V, enluminé par Perrin Remiet
§ London, British Library, Stowe 54 [lien BL]
§ New York, New York Public Library, Spencer Collection 041 [DIGITAL SCRIPTORIUM] – exemplaire de Tanguy du Chastel [armes]
Un exemplaire avec les armes de Jeanne Raguenel, 2 vol. 185 + 149 f., 397 x 283 mm, se trouve actuellement dans une collection privée (voir R. Claerr, p. 186-187)
§ Oxford, Bodleian Library, Douce 353 [LUNA]
§ Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 246, 1364 [GALLICA]
§ Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 250, XVe s. [GALLICA]
§ Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 256, XVe s. [GALLICA] – Exemplaire du duc de Berry
§ Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 1386, XIVe s.  [GALLICA]
§ Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 12586, XIII-XIVe s. [GALLICA]
§ Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 15455, XVe s. [GALLICA] – Au f. 1, armoiries, fascé d’or et de sable (pour un membre de la famille de Coëtivy).
§ Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 17177, XIVe s. [GALLICA]
§ Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, français, 20125, XIIIe s. [GALLICA]
§ Philadelphia, University of Pennsylvania, Rare Book and Manuscript Library, Lawrence J. Schoenberg Collection — Manuscript ljs017 [ en ligne ] – exemplaire d’Yvon du Fou – Voir Jean-Luc Deuffic, \”Les manuscrits d’Yvon du Fou, conseiller et chambellan de Louis XI\”, dans Notes de Bibliologie (Pecia 7, 2009), p. 221-245.
The Hague, KB, 78 D 47 [Medieval Illuminated Manuscripts]

Livres précieux, manuscrits et imprimés, faisant partie de la bibliothèque de M. Ambroise Firmin-Didot – 1883, lot 34 :

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