Boccaccio's Decameron - Codex Paris

Ms. 5070 - Bibliothèque de l'Arsenal (Paris, France)

Alternate Titles:

El Decamerón de Boccaccio, Arsenal Decameron, Decameron de Bocaccio, Boccaccios Decamerone, Boccaccios Dekameron

Facsimile edition
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$ 6,950
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Codiology

Alternate Titles

El Decamerón de Boccaccio
Arsenal Decameron
Decameron de Bocaccio
Boccaccios Decamerone
Boccaccios Dekameron

Type
Extent / Format

790 pages / 40.0 x 28.5 cm

Origin
Date
1445-1450
Style
Genre
Content

French translation (or rather paraphrase) of the Decameron of Boccaccio, preceded by three Tables: Table des nouvelles, Table des choses remarquables, Table des chansons

Language
Patron

Philip the Good (1396 - 1467), duke of Burgundy

Artist / School

Author: Giovanni Boccaccio (the Tuscan Italian of the original was translated into French by Laurent de Premierfait, from 1411 to 15 June 1414)
Illuminator: Master of Guillebert de Mets and the Master of Mansel

Illustrations

A framed double scene at the beginning of each one of the 100 stories and numerous decorated initials

Former owners

Bourgogne Library in Bruxelles (Belgium)
Count d´Argenson
Marquis de Paulmy

Short description

One of the most important works of world literature in one of the most marvelous manuscripts of the 15th century: the famous collection of novellas of Giovanni Boccacio’s Decameron from the mid-14th century was translated into French by Laurent de Premierfait and illustrated with wonderful miniatures. The presumed commissioner of the work was Philipp the Good, Duke of Burgundy, a lover of splendid manuscripts. Guillebert de Mets copied the French text into the wonderful manuscript and his famous miniaturists, the Master of Guillebert de Mets and the Master of Mansel, marvelously designed it. The miniatures belong among the most beautiful Flemish works of art from that golden age of illumination and makes the French edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron a true treasure for the lover of splendid manuscripts.

Facsimile editions available

Description

Boccaccio's Decameron

One of the most important works of world literature in one of the most marvelous manuscripts of the 15th century: the famous collection of novellas of Giovanni Boccacio’s Decameron from the mid-14th century was translated into French by **Laurent de Premierfait and illustrated with wonderful miniatures. The presumed commissioner of the work was Philipp the Good, Duke of Burgundy, a lover of splendid manuscripts. Guillebert de Metscopied the French text into the wonderful manuscript and his famous miniaturists, the Master of Guillebert de Mets and the Master of Mansel, marvelously designed it. The miniatures belong among the most beautiful Flemish works of art from that golden age of illumination and makes the French edition of Boccaccio’s Decameron a true treasure for the lover of splendid manuscripts.

Great Flemish Illumination

Splendid, ornamental bordures frame the 790 pages of the manuscript, the text’s voluptuous, gorgeous, and consistent script in red and black ink adorns the entire work. Numerous decorative initials, colored and embellished with gold, enliven the text. Also, the magnificent miniatures at the beginning of each of the 100 stories speak for themselves in their outstanding artistic quality and captivating originality. Always found in the upper-half of the picture is a figurative scene that illustrates the text. In wonderfully spatial scenes, delicate, elongated figures with flowing garments perform with expressive facial features and gestures. The miniatures are surrounded by exuberant filigree borders of ornamental arabesques. These bordures of impressive originality are a characteristic of the great art of the masters of Guillebert de Mets.

Two Masters of Their Trade

The marvelous miniatures and the artistic embellishment of the manuscript originate from the Master of Guillebert de Mets and the Master of Mansel. Both were probably active in Ghent. Clear influences of their Flemish provenance are to be found in their works. However, influences of French and particularly Parisian illumination are also clear. Both have been immortalized in numerous high-quality works from their hand. That the miniaturists of the French Boccaccio manuscript were of Flemish origins is evidenced by the fact that on some pages in the manuscript, the explanations of the pictorial subjects are written in Flemish. The scribe of the text was Guillebert de Mets, as is noted in the book’s colophon. Guillebert of Mets was the scribe and copyist and was active as a librarian for Philip the Good among others.

The First French Translation of the Literary Masterpiece

The French text of the Decameron by Boccaccio came from Laurent de Premierfait, a humanist poet and translator. Premierfait was counted among the best translators of his day, he translated works from Aristotle, Seneca, and Cicero and was employed by King Charles VIII and Jean Duc de Berry. He translated the Decameron into French, as is noted in the manuscript, from 1411 to the 15th of June, 1414. The splendid manuscript with his translation was made in the years 1445-50, probably for Philip the Good (1396-1467), Duke of Burgundy. It remained in the library of the Dukes of Burgundy until 1748. It was then purchased by the Duke of Argenson, who in turn gave it to his nephew, the Marguis de Paulmy, whose coat of arms is depicted on the binding.

A Masterpiece of World Literature

Giovanni Boccaccio’s (1313-1375) famous collection of novellas has been regarded as a masterpiece since the Renaissance. The Decameron – roughly translated as “ten-day-work”, originated in the mid-14th century. The magnum opus of the Italian humanist poet had an influence on European- and world-literature that is impossible to overstate. It was received and imitated by significant authors, e.g. Geoffrey Chaucer, Miguel de Cervantes, Goethe, Shakespeare, and Balzac. The Deacameron belongs to the canon of – Italian – literature to this day. The collection of novellas consists of 100 stories that, according to the framework plot, are told over the course of ten days by a group consisting of seven women and three men. The group has fled from Florence, where the Plague was raging. Boccaccio gives a wonderful glimpse into the society of the 14th century. With his simultaneously entertaining and informative Decameron, he became “the founder of the prosaic narrative tradition in Europe.”

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