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: gallica.bnf.fr / 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.

 

Bibliography

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)