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Oliverius (15th-c.)

Like two other manuscripts that contain the ‘Legiloque’ version of the Dyalogue du pere et du filzVatican BAV 1668 was once in the library of a Celestine monastery (a branch of the Benedictines). A 16th-c. note on f. 82v reads, ‘Aux Celestins de Marcoussis’ (‘To the Celestines of Marcoussis’). The Celestine house at Marcoussis, 17 miles south of Paris, was dedicated in 1408, some years after this manuscript was made. So where was it before?

Drawing of the Marcoussis convent by Louis Boudan (1704), EST VA-91 (4) (Source: / BnF)

Another inscription on f. 82v, this one from the 15th c., provides some tantalizing clues. A note at the base of the folio has been erased, but with the help of a UV lamp I transcribe it as follows: ‘Hunc librum tradidit in custodia quidam homo armoricus (?) natione britannicus vocatus Oliverius […]’ (‘A certain Armorican (?) man, of Breton nationality, by the name of Oliverius […] delivered this book into [our] custody’).

Unfortunately, the word following ‘Oliverius’ is covered by the stamp of the Vatican Library and remains illegible even under UV. The most I can say is that it doesn’t look as though any of the letters have lengthy ascenders or descenders.

Oliver the Breton’s identity remains a mystery, then. But the presence of his name does at least tell us something. Before reaching the Celestines, Vatican BAV 1668 was almost certainly in the hands of an individual rather than an institution.

The Sanguin family (15th-c.)

At least seven surviving manuscripts of the Dyalogue du pere et du filz have an Italian connection. Two of these were made in northern France and later travelled to Italy (by the 16th c. for Florence BR 2756; in the 17th c. for Vatican BAV 1668). A third (Paris BnF fr. 12581) was made in France and annotated by an Italian (even if the volume itself may never have reached Italy). And a further three manuscripts were produced in Italy and later taken to what is now France (in the 15th c. for Paris BnF fr. 726; by the 18th c. for Lyon BDL Mss&R 43 and Paris AN AB/XIX/1730 Haute-Garonne 14).

Italian note on f. 177v of Paris BnF fr. 12581 (Source: / BnF). The note reads, ‘Io amo mellio huomo chabia difalta di denari che denari che abbiano difalta duomo’ (‘I prefer a man who lacks money than money that lacks a man’).

French was an international language of learning in the later Middle Ages, so it’s hardly surprising the Dyalogue circulated in Italy. But these volumes also remind us that French manuscripts continued to cross the Alps long after the medieval period.

Paris BSG 1654 is unique among this corpus in that it seems to have made two transalpine journeys. This extensively illustrated volume was made in Paris in the 1320s. Its contents – didactic and devotional material including the abridged Bible en françois, but also treatises on the crusades – suggest that whoever commissioned it had access to hot-off-the-press translations made for Charles IV’s court (Rouse & Rouse 2013). But at an early date it was in Genoa, where material was added at the beginning and end of the volume.

By the end of the 17th c., however, Paris BSG 1654 was back in France, and more specifically in the library of Senlis Cathedral. The back paste-down provides clues concerning this second international voyage. There we find the names of several members of Franco-Italian banking family the Sanguins. Guillaume Sanguin had moved from Italy to Paris before the end of the 14th c., and two of the names are those of his son and grandson. As for how the volume arrived in Senlis, in the 17th c. two members of the Sanguin family were bishops of that very city (Rouse & Rouse 2013). The Sanguins must have had something to do with it.



Rouse, Richard, and Mary Rouse (2013). Bound Fast with Letters: Medieval Readers, Writers, and Texts (Notre Dame: U Notre Dame P)

Jehane de Mailly, abbess of Berteaucourt (after 1406)

Munich BSB gall. 60 is a multi-part volume, predominantly made up of didactic and devotional works that were crudely copied on paper in the early 15th century. It almost certainly arrived at the BSB from Polling Abbey (Upper Bavaria), which was dissolved in the 19th century. In the 16th century the manuscript belonged to the Celestine monks of Sainte-Croix-sous-Offémont in the Compiègne forest (there’s an ownership mark on f. 74r). But at least bits of it seem to have come from a little further north…

Seal of the first Jehane de Mailly (Source: Ledru 1893, 118)

At the base of f. 16v is a note in a 15th-century hand that I transcribe as follows: ‘Je Jehane de Mailly, hunble abbesse de Bertaucourt, connoissons a avoir eu et recheu de noble home et sage Robert de Vitry le somme de chent sous et .vi. livres parisis’ (‘I Jehane de Mailly, humble abbess of Berteaucourt, acknowledge acceptance and receipt from the noble and wise Robert de Vitry of the sum of 100 sous and 6 livres parisis‘).

A Jehane de Mailly, abbess of the Benedictine abbey of Berteaucourt (in the Somme), is mentioned in documents from 1389 to 1445 (Ledru 1893, 118). She almost certainly wasn’t extraordinarily long-lived; it appears that one Jehane de Mailly was succeeded by another, not that surprising given abbesses were typically from local noble families and Jehane was hardly an unusual name.

A note by one of the Jehanes doesn’t, of course, mean either of them owned this part of the manuscript. In fact, the rest of f. 16v is given over to correspondence dated 1406 of a certain Jehan de Courchelles, chaplain of Frohen (just down the road from Berteaucourt). Was he the owner? And what was his relationship to Jehane?

There’s no evidence that the Dyalogue section of the manuscript was ever in the hands of Jehan de Courchelles, but it, too, probably came from Picardy. The language has a strong north-eastern colouring, beginning, for example, ‘Chest livres est appelés Li Dyalogues pour che que il est fais et ordenez des paroles de deus, ch’est du pere qui sen fil enseignoit et du fil qui au pere demande che qu’i ne set’. Note the use of ch (e.g. chest, for modern French c’est) and sen (for modern French son).



Ledru, Ambroise (1893). Histoire de la maison de Mailly, t. 1 (Paris: Lechevalier)

Sanson, Jacques (1646). L’histoire ecclésiastique de la ville d’Abbeville et de l’archidiaconé de Pontieu au diocèse d’Amiens (Paris: Pélican)

Jehan Aigneaul’s brother (fl. 1510)

A curious inscription on f. 1v of Paris BnF fr. 1136 reads as follows: ‘Celui qui a composé quel livre est sorti de la maison et race des Aigneaux de la ville de Dizon, dont son frere estoit mayre et viconte de la ville de Dizon, l’an de grace mil [cinc] cent dix, bien assurement’ (‘The man who composed (?) the which book was born into the house and lineage of the Aigneaul family of the city of Dijon, his brother having been mayor and viscount of the city of Dijon, in the year of our lord 1[5]10, without a doubt’).

Inscription by brother of Jehan Aigneaul, Paris BnF fr. 1136 f. 1v (Source: / BnF)

The man who penned this note may not have had any doubts, but he leaves us with plenty. He wrote the date 1110, but surely he missed out a five. Did he really mean ‘composed’ in the sense of ‘authored’, the most obvious meaning at the time when the verb composer is paired with livre? Surely this would have been a blatant lie, given this book was over 150 years old at the time. Or might he have been a binder who ‘put it (back) together’?

At least we know a bit more about brother Jehan. Jehan was a dyer, like his father Pierre. He was elected mayor of Dijon eleven times between 1493 and 1504. Some years earlier, in 1473, he was involved in a kerfuffle during his watch duty. He accosted a butcher breaking curfew, only to be attacked by Estienne, the offender’s neighbour, who shouted, ‘Jehan Aigneaul, Jehan Mouton, Jehan Berbis. Fault il que nous soyons gouvernez par un tel tainturier?’ (‘Jehan Aigneaul [Lamb], Jehan Sheep, Jehan Ewe. Do we have to be ruled by a dyer like you?’) Yes, Estienne, you do. For eleven years…



Becchia, Cécile (2013). ‘Filius cum patre. Parenté, alliance et transmission de la charge de vicomte-mayeur à Dijon au XVe siècle’, Le Moyen Age 119, 339-74

Voisin, André (1937). ‘Notes sur la vie urbaine au XVe siècle. Dijon la nuit’, Annales de Bourgogne 9, 265-79

Charlotte de Savoie (c. 1442-1483)

Not exactly a looker, but ‘an excellent princess in other respects’. Such was the view of Charlotte, at any rate, expressed by diplomat and chronicler Philippe de Commines (Scoble 1856, I.80). Born in about 1442, Charlotte married the future king Louis XI in 1451, becoming queen of France in 1461. By ‘excellent princess’, presumably Philippe meant she didn’t cause too much trouble. Her life at the château of Amboise was a quiet one, ‘une existence pieuse vraisemblablement occupée surtout à la lecture d’œuvres de piété et d’édification morale, reflétant un penchant marqué pour la dévotion et la méditation’ (Legaré 2016).

Charlotte de Savoie (detail from Adoration of the Shepherds, c. 1472)

Charlotte’s personal library was certainly impressive. The inventory drawn up after her death lists more than 100 books, most of them religious in nature. Among them is a ‘Legigolle’, that is, a Legiloque, made of paper. This no doubt corresponds to Chantilly BdC 138, copied by Estienne Fauvre in October 1476, according to a colophon on f. 113v. The watermark on f. 116 points towards Bourges as place of production (where Charlotte sourced a number of her books), and a fair few volumes once in Charlotte’s possession are now in Chantilly, having been passed on to Charlotte’s daughter Anne de Bourbon and eventually acquired by the duc de Condé (Legaré 2001, 44; Rouse & Rouse 2010, 122).

Chantilly BdC 138 preserves eight of the 14 works (Dyalogue included) that make up the earlier Legiloque anthologies Chantilly BdC 137, Paris BnF fr. 1136 and Paris BnF NAF 4338, probably made for friends or family of Marie de Bretagne, countess of Saint-Pol (Rouse & Rouse 2010). Is it possible to identify which one (if any) was the source for Chantilly BdC 138?

All three of the Legiloque volumes were meticulously produced, but errors inevitably crept into the copying process. If Chantilly BdC 138 was copied directly or indirectly from any of them, we’d expect at least some of those errors to have been reproduced. In the case of the Dyalogue text, there are plenty of errors that occur in Chantilly BdC 137 but nowhere else (including the omission of the beginning of Q.31). There are also a fair few errors unique to Paris BnF NAF 4338 (such as the non-sensical ‘sainte Eglise de res‘, for ‘nostre mere‘ in Q.21). But there are barely any errors unique to Paris BnF fr. 1136. Of these one could have been easily corrected (omission of ‘na‘ in ‘ne Diex n’est cors, ne n’a semblance de cors’, translating a Latin quotation in Q.7). And the other would probably have been guessable given the context (omission of ‘endormis’ in ‘que tu ne soies endormis’, Q.4). Without errors common to Chantilly BdC 137 and Paris BnF fr. 1136 that aren’t present in the other two manuscripts we can’t be sure, but Paris BnF fr. 1136 is the only surviving Legiloque volume that could be the source for Charlotte’s book.



Legaré, Anne-Marie (2001). ‘Charlotte de Savoie’s Library and Illuminators’, Journal of the Early Book Society 4, 32-67

Legaré, Anne-Marie (2016). ‘Le mécénat artistique de Charlotte de Savoie à Bourges (1470-1483): L’exemple de ses livres à caractère religieux’, in Murielle Gaude-Ferragu & Cécile Vincent-Cassy (eds), «La dame de cœur»: Patronage et mécénat religieux des femmes de pouvoir dans l’Europe des XIVe-XVIIesiècles (Rennes: Presses universitaires de Rennes), pp. 109-21

Rouse, Mary & Rouse, Richard (2010). ‘French Literature and the Counts of Saint-Pol ca. 1178-1377’, Viator 41, 101-40

Scoble, A.R., ed. (1855-56). The Memoirs of Philip de Commines, 2 vols (London)

A lord of Corsant? (16th-c.)

Florence BR 2756, which preserves the Lucidaire, the Dyalogue and the Terre de promission, has tended to be dated to c. 1300 in scholarship (e.g. Giannini 2006, 121). Establishing where it was made, however, has proven trickier: Nixon, for example, suggests the decoration is indicative ‘of a southern or Italian provenance’ (1993, 59); Giannini, on the other hand, points to the north-east of the oïl zone on the basis of the hand and scripta, noting that the decoration bears all the hallmarks of French work (2006, 123).

Medieval parrots in Paris BnF fr. 19093, f. 26r (at the back of the Florence manuscript is an extract of the ‘Novas del papagay’). Source: / BnF.

At the back of Florence BR 2756 are two folios (ff. 71-72) on which sonnets in a Florentine dialect and Italianized extracts from Arnaut de Carcasses’s (Occitan) Novas del papagay and Chrétien’s (French) Cligès were copied. We know that this material was bound with the rest of the manuscript by the 16th c. because someone wrote phrases (mottoes?) in French and Italian on fol. 71 and elsewhere in the volume that include the word ‘Coursant’/’Corsante’. This is no doubt a reference to Corsant (near Mâcon), and suggests the manuscript may have been in the hands of a member of the Andrevet family, who held the lordship of Corsant in the 16th c. The Andrevets had several ties with the court of Savoy. Philibert Andrevet III, for example, who married in 1507, was lord of Corsant and ‘Conseiller & Chambellan’ to Charles, duke of Savoy (Aubert de La Chesnaye Des Bois 1863, 1: 495).

Did Florence BR 2756 arrive in Italy with the Corsant family? Possibly, but there might be an even earlier Italian connection. If we distinguish between the large decorated initials that open the three principal works of the volume (no doubt French) and the smaller plain initials that were added a lot less carefully (and indeed often erroneously), we might note that the latter resemble unflourished initials added to manuscripts in northern Italy (see for example Paris BnF fr. 9685 and NAF 9603). If this manuscript was almost certainly in Italy by the 16th c., there’s also a possibility it arrived even earlier…


Aubert de La Chesnaye Des Bois, François-Alexandre (1863-). Dictionnaire de la noblesse, contenant les généalogies, l’histoire et la chronologie…, 19 vols (Paris: Schlesinger)

Giannini, Gabriele (2006). ‘Il romanzo francese in versi dei secoli XII e XIII in Italia: Il Cligès riccardiano’, in Maria Colombo et al. (eds), Modi e forme della fruizione della ‘materia arturiana’ nell’Italia dei sec. XIII-XIV (Milan: Istituto lombardo di scienze e lettere), pp. 119-58

Nixon, Terry (1993). ‘Catalogue of Manuscripts’, in Keith Busby et al. (eds), Les manuscrits de Chrétien de Troyes / The Manuscripts of Chrétien de Troyes, 2 vols (Amsterdam: Rodopi), 2: 18-85

Johannes de Monte (14th c.)

Cambrai BM 256 (246), made perhaps in the early 14th c., opens with the abridged version of the Bible en françois attributed to Roger d’Argenteuil, with the rest of the volume made up of sermons. We know that before the Revolution it was in the possession of the Benedictine Abbey of Saint-Sépulcre in Cambrai – a note at the top of fol. 1r says as much. But it wasn’t originally made for the monks.

Part of map of Cambrai in 1710, with the Church of Saint-Georges at the centre.

One medieval owner was rather insistent that this book belonged to him. On the front paste-down, he wrote: ‘Iste liber pertinet iohanni demonte’ (This book belongs to Johannes de Monte). On f. 42v he gave a bit more information: ‘Iste liber pertinet Iohanni demon (?) si quis inueniet pro amore dei sibi reddet ad sanctum georgium’ (This book belongs to Johannes de Monte. If anyone finds it, by God’s grace may it be returned to Saint-Georges). A similar note, minus the mention of Saint-Georges can be found in the margins of f. 45r.

It seems plausible that ‘Saint-Georges’ refers to the medieval parish of that name in Cambrai itself. Cambrai had a St George connection from as early as the early 6th c., when Clovis, founder of the Merovingians, established a monastery nearby dedicated to the saint. But it wasn’t until the 11th c. that Cambrai’s church of St George was built (Leduc 2001). Though the building no longer exists, the long Rue de Saint-Georges leads us to where it once stood.

I haven’t found any trace of Johannes de Monte (of Mons?). Might he have been the parish priest of Saint-Georges? His choice of sermons and the Bible en françois as reading material would certainly seem appropriate if so. He was, at any rate, very attached to his book!



Leduc, Christophe (2001). ‘Géographie paroissiale en milieu urbain: L’exemple cambrésien à l’époque moderne’, Revue du Nord 340.2, 359-79

Isabeau of Bavaria (c. 1370-1435)

Christine de Pisan presenting her book to Isabeau of Bavaria. London BL Harley 4431, f. 3r (detail). (Source:

History hasn’t been especially kind to Isabeau, the daughter of a Bavarian duke who became Queen of France in 1385 when she married Charles VI. As Tracy Adams notes, modern scholars’ descriptions of Isabeau have all too often been along the lines of ‘scheming, promiscuous, greedy, neglectful of her children, hungry for power, lacking in intelligence’, all on the basis of little or no evidence (2010, 222).

At the very least, Isabeau’s reputation sits a little uncomfortably with what we know about her literary tastes. Thirty-three books are mentioned in her surviving accounts, the majority of them containing devotional works in French or Latin (Bell 1982). Her library was evidently important to her: she appointed one of her court ladies, Catherine de Villiers, to look after it, and even had special trunks made so her collection could accompany her on her travels (ibid.).

One of the books owned by Isabeau was a copy of the ‘Legiloque’, a compendium of 19 devotional works that included a revised version of the Dyalogue du pere et du filz. Isabeau inherited her copy from Blanche d’Évreux (1330-1398), who was dowager queen of France for several decades after the death in 1350 of her husband, king Philip VI (Rouse & Rouse 2010, 128).

There are three surviving copies of the ‘Legiloque’ (Chantilly BdC 137, Paris BnF fr. 1136, Paris BnF NAF 4338), all sumptuously illustrated by the artist Mahiet, who worked in Paris between the mid-1320s and the 1340s. As Mary and Richard Rouse have shown (2010), the ‘Legiloque’ was compiled for Marie of Brittany, Countess of Saint-Pol (1268-1339). But it is not known which of the extant copies (if any) Marie herself owned. Nor do we know which one was owned by Isabeau, or indeed if hers was a completely different copy that has since been lost.

As the Rouses note (2010), eight of the works that make up the ‘Legiloque’ also survive in a 15th-century volume (Chantilly BdC 138). What hasn’t yet been noted in scholarship, however, is that the particular recension of the Dyalogue that we find in the ‘Legiloque’ is also preserved in four other manuscripts of the late 14th or 15th centuries, three of which (Avignon BM 344, Munich BSB gall. 60 and Vatican Reg. Lat. 1668) belonged to Celestine monasteries at one time or another.

Which of the surviving ‘Legiloque’ manuscripts (if any) was the source for the later copies? Well, this might not actually be the right question, because there’s some reason to believe that the later copies of the Dyalogue actually preserve a text that is closer to the first recension. Consider, for example, the beginning of Q.1: ‘Anciennement n’estoit nuls baptizés devant qu’il eüst aage’ in Paris Arsenal 2059; ‘Et pour ce, biaus filz, tu dois savoir qu’au commencement de la foy crestienne nul n’estoit baptiziez devant qu’il eüst aage’ in Avignon BM 344Munich BSB gall. 60 and Vatican Reg. Lat. 1668; and ‘Biaus fiex, anchienement nus n’estoit baptisiés devant qu’il eüst aage’ in the later copies of the ‘Legiloque’ version. It seems likely that the major restructuring of the Dyalogue on the basis of the seven sacraments took place before it was included in the ‘Legiloque’…



Adams, Tracy (2010). The Life and Afterlife of Isabeau of Bavaria (Baltimore: John Hopkins UP).

Bell, Susan Groag (1982). ‘Medieval Women Book Owners: Arbiters of Lay Piety and Ambassadors of Culture’, Signs 7, 742-68.

Gibbons, Rachel (1996). ‘The Piety of Isabeau of Bavaria, Queen of France, 1385-1422’, in Courts, Counties and the Capital in the Later Middle Ages, ed. Diana Dunn (Stroud: Sutton), pp. 205-24.

Rouse, Mary & Rouse, Richard (2010). ‘French Literature and the Counts of Saint-Pol ca. 1178-1377’, Viator 41, 101-40.

In a manner of speaking…

The Manieres de langage are the earliest surviving model conversations for English learners of French. They were compiled in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, when French was no longer a mother tongue in England but remained an important language to master if you wished to pursue a career in law, business or administration.

Much like the medieval manuscripts that preserve the Manieres, this anthology comprises a selection of model conversations taken from various sources. Like at least two medieval compilers of these texts (see Cambridge University Library, MS Ii.6.17, and Lincolnshire Archives, Formulary 23), we have added English translations to the French text. Our renderings are a collective effort, the product of fortnightly sessions of the Oxford Anglo-Norman Reading Group in Michaelmas Term 2017. Individuals have taken the lead on each model conversation, however, and have contributed their own translation styles.

Thanks go to Oxford University’s Medieval Studies Programme for sponsoring the reading group, to the Leverhulme Trust for enabling us to hold a workshop entitled ‘In Dialogue with the Manieres’ in November 2017, and to the Anglo-Norman Text Society for allowing us to reprint the French text of Andres Kristol’s edition (Manières de langage (1396, 1399, 1415), London: ANTS, 1995).

Oxford was a particularly important centre for the teaching and learning of French in the later Middle Ages, and seems to have played a key role in the dissemination of the Manieres. Reading these little texts more than 600 years after they were first compiled – sitting a stone’s throw from the former site of the Molyn-sur-le-hope inn (see p. 15) – we students of French have found that they still have the capacity to instruct and entertain. We hope that our translations will be of interest and use to those in Oxford and elsewhere.

Pietro Sacco da Verona (c. 1379-1432)

Paris BnF fr. 726 is a large, late-13th-century volume made up of a biography of Julius Caesar (Li Fet des Romains), Brunetto Latini’s encyclopaedic Tresor, and a copy of the Dyalogue du pere et du filz – all copied in a rather small script. Its contents may be in French, but this is an Italian production. In fact, it was one of numerous manuscripts produced by Pisan prisoners who were set to work by the Genoese in the wake of the Battle of Meloria of 1284.

Paris BnF fr. 726, ff. 2r, 5r, 6r, 8r (details) (Source: / BnF)

We don’t know who the original owners of Paris BnF fr. 726 were. In the early 15th century, however, the volume fell into the hands of Pietro Sacco da Verona, who (helpfully for us) wrote his name across the bottom corners of ff. 2r, 5r, 6r and 8r. The date ’22. aug. 1420′ on f. 199v may also be in his hand. Pietro had left Verona to study in Paris as early as 1392, and by the end of the century he seems to have become heavily involved in the book trade there. Buying and selling books could be a risky enterprise, though. Pietro’s clients included Louis, Duke of Orléans, and some rather prestigious English bibliophiles (King Richard II included). This eventually proved a problem in Burgundian-ruled Paris. In 1415 he was brought before magistrates on espionnage charges (he was let off).

We don’t know for sure how Paris BnF fr. 726 reached Paris, but given that Pietro had dealings in northern Italy throughout his later life, it’s at least plausible he himself was responsible.



Avril, François, & Marie-Thérèse Gousset (1984). Manuscrits enluminés d’origine italienne. Vol. 2: XIIIe siècle (Paris: BnF)

Meiss, Millard (1967). French Painting in the Time of Jean de Berry: The Late Fourteenth Century and the Patronage of the Duke (London: Phaidon)

Rouse, Richard, & Mary Rouse (2000). Manuscripts and Their Makers: Commercial Book Producers in Medieval Paris 1200-1500 (Turnhout: Harvey Miller)

Joannes, abba(s) canon(icorum) (?) (15th c.?)

Lyon BDL 43 is a volume of pious material in French, including extracts from the Gospels and a copy of the Dyalogue du pere et du filz. A note at the base of the opening folio tells us it entered the library of the prestigious Collège de Tournon in 1728. At the time, the Jesuits who ran the Collège were acquiring books from far and wide as most of their collection had been destroyed by a fire in 1714.

Entrance to the Lycée Gabriel Faure (formerly the Collège de Tournon)

But where was the manuscript before arriving in Tournon? There is little doubt it was produced in Italy, probably in the 14th century. The script is an Italian rotunda, with the limb of ‘h’ resting on the baseline, ‘u’ instead of ‘v’ at the beginning of words, and uncrossed tironian et signs. And it’s not difficult to spot Italianisms such as che (for que), per (for pour), maniera, spaventer, or çustice. The text of the Dyalogue in this manuscript is also closely related to Paris BnF fr. 726, which is thought to have been produced in Genoa at the end of the 13th century.

The opening folio of Lyon BDL 43 also provides another clue, in the form of a name that appears to read ‘Joannis abba cano.’. Was this John perhaps abbot of a congregation of canons regular? His name also appears in a note in the margin of f. 89v, which reads ‘Joannes | abbalatra’. The text of the Dyalogue at this point compares priests to dogs who guard the Church (Q.37), so perhaps John is affirming his barking credentials (‘latra’ is Italian for ‘bark’).

Noise wasn’t always appreciated by medieval annotators, however. On f. 98v of Avignon BM 344, for example, someone has written ‘frere Guilliaume’ beside mention of the importance of holding one’s tongue (‘garder la langue’).

Berthault de Villebresme (late 15th c.)

Paris BnF fr. 1546 is a large volume of pious texts in French (including the ‘abridged’ Bible en françois). The bulk of it was produced towards the end of the 13th century, but someone must have thought there was scope to make the tome even more pious since a Life of St Julian the Hospitaller was added in the early 14th century.

Paris BnF fr. 1546 f. 221v (Source: / BnF)

At the back of the volume (on f. 221v) we find not one but two late medieval ownership marks. If my transcription is correct, the later one reads: ‘Ce liure (?) est a bertault de villebresme demourant abloys’ (This book belongs to Berthault de Villebresme, who lives in Blois).

Berthault belonged to an up-and-coming bourgeois family based in Blois in the Loire Valley. A lawyer by profession, he became an advisor and emissary to Charles, Duke of Orléans and, in 1461, provost of Blois. After Charles’ death Berthault remained in the service of the duke’s third wife, Maria of Cleves.

L’hôtel de Villebresme in Blois, built in the late 15th c.

Berthault seems to have participated enthusiastically in literary activities at the court of Blois. He took part in the so-called ‘concours de Blois’, and several of his poems have survived to this day. But he is also known as the author of the Geste du Chevalier au Cygne, a prose retelling of earlier chansons de geste about the Swan Knight, legendary ancestor of the crusader hero Godefroy de Bouillon. Berthault dedicated the Geste, which he composed in around 1470, to Maria of Cleves, who herself traced her ancestry back to the Swan Knight.

We don’t know how Paris BnF fr. 1546 came into Berthault’s hands (we’ll save the other ex libris for another time…), but on his frequent trips to Italy on ducal business perhaps it gave him some solace to recall his manuscript with the tale of St Julian, patron of hospitality.



Champion, Pierre, ed. (1911). La Vie de Charles d’Orléans (Paris: Champion)

Emplaincourt, Edmond A., ed. (1989). La Geste du Chevalier au Cygne (Tuscaloosa: U of Alabama P)

Workshop: In dialogue with the ‘Manieres de langage’

24-25 November 2017 (Jesus College, Oxford)

This workshop will explore how model dialogues were used in language instruction in the late Middle Ages. Our primary focus will be on the Anglo-French Manieres de langage of the late 14th century / early 15th century.

Once cited as evidence that French in England was in its death throes at the turn of the 15th century, the Manieres are today more likely to be viewed as testifying to the continued vitality, at least in some quarters, of late varieties of Insular French. Twenty years since Andres Kristol’s edition of the Manieres appeared in the ANTS series, now seems like a suitable time to share current research on these intriguing dialogue texts and to consider directions for future work and collaborations.

Questions we intend to consider include:

  • Do manuscript contexts have further light to shed on the circulation of these texts and on the pedagogical settings in which they were used?
  • To what extent do the Manieres enter into dialogue with other French teaching materials with which they are bound in extant manuscripts (e.g. nominalia, Bibbesworth’s Tretiz, model letters)?
  • What do the Manieres tell us about the sociolinguistic status of Insular French(es) in relation to Continental varieties, English and Latin?
  • To what extent and how do the Manieres attempt to represent everyday speech?
  • How do the authors of the Manieres exploit comedy as a pedagogical device?

There will be presentations by Geert De Wilde (Aberystwyth University), Emily Reed (University of Sheffield), Huw Grange (University of Oxford), and Rory Critten (Université de Lausanne). The full programme is available here.

All are welcome to attend, but for catering purposes particpants are asked to register their interest by emailing by noon on 16 November 2017.