|GUILLAUME ALEXIS, Le Passe-temps de tout homme et de toute femme; L’ABC des doubles In French, illustrated manuscript on paper|
With 20 pen drawings (first hand-colored in wash) by an unidentified artist based on the woodcuts in published in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505
France, Normandy, Rouen?, c. 1525-1530
158 ff., complete, bound in a half-pigskin binding over wooden boards
158 ff. (with last leaf blank), followed by 5 paper flyleaves, complete (collation: i8, ii6, iii-xviii8), on paper, with watermark identical to Briquet no. 8707: Lettre P (Silly (Orne), 1519-1520; Rouen, 1521; Lisieux, 1522; Thury (Calvados), 1526; Lessay (Manche), 1529), written in brown ink in a bâtarde script, on up to 23 lines (justification 135 x 90 mm.), unruled but justification in red ink, some quire signatures, traces of catchwords, paragraph marks in alternating red or blue ink, capitals at the beginning of each verse stroked in pale yellow, large opening puzzle initials in red and blue or strictly in red or blue (2- to 3-line high), 20 pen drawings, the first pen drawing highlighted in colored wash (of the period?), a few corrections and words crossed out in text. Bound in a half-pigskin binding over wooden boards (left bare), back sewn on 4 raised thongs, leather blind-stamped with tools of rosettes set in lozenges, brass clasps and catch-plates (Very good general condition).
This is a sort of hybrid work, an intriguing manuscript transcribed and illustrated entirely by hand of a book printed in 1505 by the celebrated Parisian printer-publisher Antoine Vérard. The text presents a roughly contemporary and lively verse translation by Guillaume Alexis of an immensely popular twelfth-century Latin work attributed to Pope Innocent “On the Misery of the Human Condition” also reputedly translated by Chaucer into English. The drawings are, in fact, modeled on Vérard’s woodcuts, but their alluringly spontaneous character and the fluent style of the calligraphy impart a personal charm to the work lacking in the printed editions
|Location of Origin: Europe|
|Medium/Materials: paper, bound in a half-pigskin binding over wooden boards|
|Dimensions: 186 x 140 mm|
|Primary Classification: Antique Books, Manuscripts, and Maps : Illuminated Manuscripts & Leaves|
Printed first in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (no modern edition, although the Prologue is published by Winn, 1997, pp. 384-385). There is a critical edition of the ABC des doubles: see Piaget and Picot, 1899, pp. 10-54.
f. 1, Title-page, “Le passe temps de tout homme et de toute femme”; added below: “Ceulx qui vouldront au long ce livre lire / Le trouveront bien fondé en raison / Aussy le feist le bon moyne de Lyre / Qui d’amours faulces composa le blason.” The title-page of Vérard’s edition provides this same four-line text below the title which praises the value of the work and identifies the author; f. 1v, blank;
ff. 2-4, Guillaume Alexis, Le Passetemps de tout homme et de toute femme, Prologue, incipit, “S’il appartient voir flourir en seigneur / Loz et renom de scavans enseigneurs / Comme gentz plaintz de beaulx ditz et proverbes...”; explicit, “[...] Veuillés laisser et bien vivre / Employer a dieu vos cinq sens.” To be noted: the presence of the Prologue as found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 certainly confirms that the present manuscript was copied from the c. 1505 imprint. The scribe copying the Prologue, initially copied the verses that specifically attributed the Prologue to Vérard: “Tout noble cueur, je Anthoine Vérard / Humble libraire desirant trouver art / D’invencion pour m’essayer a faire...” The scribe then proceeded to scratch out any reference to “Antoine Vérard” or “libraire.” In our manuscript, the verses become: “Tout noble coeur, je / Humble desirant / D’invension pour m’essayer a faire...” ff. 4-5, Table, incipit, “Qui vouldra de chascun chapitre / Scavoir la maniere et le tiltre / Et de la matiere traictable / Il le scaura par ceste table. La table”;
ff. 5-42, Guillaume Alexis, Le Passetemps de tout homme et de toute femme, Book I, incipit, “Ensuit apres le premier livre / Dont le premier chapitre livre”; heading, “Le tiers livre faint mension d’humaine dissolution”; followed by, “Cy finit la table”; f. 8v, incipit chap. 1, “Qui veult la table de ce livre / Scavoir et comment il se nomme / Pour apprendre a humblement vivre / C’est le passe temps de tout homme / Lequel parle de la misere / D’humaine conversation...”;
ff. 42-110v, Guillaume Alexis, Le Passetemps de tout homme et de toute femme, Book II, heading, Cy commence le segond livre / Qui par expres monstre au deslivre / La mauvaise occupation / D’humaine conversation; incipit, “Des hommes troys choses desirent / Qui souvent a peché les tirent...”; explicit, “[...] Et ainsy le temps homme passe. Cy finit le segond livre”
ff. 110v-129v, Guillaume Alexis, Le Passetemps detout homme et de toute femme, Book III, heading, “C’est le tiers livre qui figure l’homme mort et son advanture”; incipit, “L’esperit s’en ira grant erre / Le corps retournera en terre...”; explicit, “Cy finissent en briesve espace / Pour ceulx qui ont passé sept ans... Que quant viendra au trespasser / Puissans tous paradis avoir”;
ff. 129v-157, Guillaume Alexis, L’ABC des doubles, heading, Cy commence le ABC des doubles; incipit, Qui scait dieu de bon cueur amer / Trouve ce monde tout amer...”; explicit, “[...] Escrips l’an que sur terre vins / Mil iiii centz et cinq que vers vins / Tindrent foyres plus de six vingtz // Cy finist le passe temps de tout homme et de toute femme” [published Piaget and Picot, 1899, pp. 10-54]. The date of 1405 is erroneous and should read 1505, likely due to a scribal error. The ABC des doubles is also reproduced after Vérard’s c. 1505 edition of the the Passe-temps, where it follows the main text. The Piaget and Picot (1899) edition of the ABC des doubles is not based on the incunable and post-incunable editions of the work, but rather a hand-copied version found in a poetic miscellany (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 1642, ff. 309-325v, 16th c.);
ff. 157v-158v, blank leaves.
This charming small manuscript copies a post-incunable edition of Guillaume Alexis’s Passe-temps de tout homme et de toute femme, first printed by Antoine Vérard in Paris in c. 1505. Issued in at least five successive editions in the first quarter of the sixteenth century, the Passe-temps enjoyed a prolific early printed tradition with Vérard, a very successful publisher, an astute businessman, and a man of letters (for the breadth of his publishing activities, see Macfarlane, 1900; Winn, 1997). Vérard particularly championed the type of hybrid volume coined “imprimé-manuscrit” by Coq (1982, p. 185), that is, works printed on parchment with painted prints for presentation to distinguished patrons (see also Winn, 1983). The watermarks of our manuscript suggest the copy was written and illustrated in Normandy, perhaps in Rouen, not in Paris. It is clear that the scribe and illustrator (one and same person?) had Vérard’s c. 1505 imprint under his eyes as he produced his copy. He even reproduced Vérard’s Prologue, which contains the name of the publisher and details about his publishing activities (though all nominative references to Vérard are crossed out on f. 2v). However, in style of handwriting and character of the illustrations, this manuscript constitutes a radical departure from the Vérard edition.
There are only four recorded copies of Vérard’s c. 1505 Guillaume Alexis’s Passe-temps (Winn, 1997, p. 385). One famous copy of the Passetemps was presented to Louise de Savoie (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249); its woodcuts are entirely illuminated, and in includes an added miniature of dedication scene depicting Vérard kneeling before Louise. There are notable differences in copies of the 1505 edition, since Vérard evidently intentionally modified his composition and illustration of a given title for specific patrons. Hence, the other three copies are distinct from the Paris copy cited above (these are Paris, Mazarine, Inc. 963; Chantilly, Musée Condé, XII-F- 011; and London, British Library, C. 22. a. 8). Our manuscript is closest to the sequence of uncolored woodcuts found in, for instance, the Mazarine Inc. 963 copy of the Passe-temps. For example, the Mazarine imprint contains the model for the illustration showing Narcissus at the fountain (f. 96) in the present codex. The same holds true for the drawing of the woman killing her child with the intent of eating it (f. 38), painted over in Paris Vélins 2249 (perhaps so as not to displease Louise de Savoie) but included in the Mazarine exemplar. Our man-uscript reproduces 20 out of the 21 woodcuts found in the c. 1505 Vérard imprint, omitting only that depicting the pains associated with childbirth.
The very existence of a manuscript version of the Passe-temps confirms the persistence of manuscript culture in the sixteenth century and the significance hand-copied and illustrated works must have continued to hold for their audiences. We know that the phenomenon of copying printed books was widespread: a great collector such as Raphael de Mercatellis owned many manuscripts directly copied from printed material (see Derolez, The Library of Raphael de Mercatellis, 1979; on manuscripts copied from imprints, see Lutz, 1979 and Reeve, 1983). Bühler goes so far as to state: “Experience has taught me that every manuscript ascribed to the second half of the fifteenth-century is potentially a copy of some incunable....”
Le Passe-temps de tout homme et de toute femme is a lively adaptation in verse by Guillaume Alexis composed in 1460 of the Latin text that was originally written in 1195 by Cardinal Lothario dei Segni, later Pope Innocent III, De contemptu mundi sive de miseria humana condicionis libri III. The Latin treatise dedicated to Pietro Gallocia, cardinal bishop of Porto, near Rome, and describing the history of man’s life from birth to death, was to become one of the most popular and influential works of the Middle Ages, and it was widely disseminated (nearly 700 manuscripts are recorded!). It was organized in three books: the first addresses the wretchedness of man’s conception, the various miseries humans must endure; the second deals with the pleasures, riches, and honors for which humans strive; and the third concerns the putrefaction of the body and the pains of Hell. The history of the “contemptus mundi” tradition has yet to be written, although it was begun by Howard (1969) and carried on by Bultot who planned to study the tradition from its origins into medieval French literature (1963-1964, 1961).
Guillaume Alexis was a Benedictine monk and poet of the late fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries, nicknamed the “Good Monk” (le “bon moine de lyre”). His abbey was located at Lyre in the diocese of Évreux. He became prior of Bussy (in the Perche region of Normandy). It is believed he went on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and died there. The title of his adaptation, the “passe-temps” (literally “hobby” or “pastime”) would appear to announce a light-hearted even carefree work; the full title reads in translation “The care-free pastime (or hobby) of each man and woman.” However, following the original Latin version, Guillaume focuses on the inevitable misery in all walks of life from birth to death and provides biblical examples of figures - Samson, Solomon, David, etc. - who warn against a wide variety of vices.
There are 20 pen drawings, the first hand-colored in wash:
f. 2, Crowned Lady enthroned with a female attendant to her right and two women (old and young) to her left (drawing introducing Vérard’s Prologue) [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, Mazarine, Inc. 963), sig. a2; see plate in Winn, 1997, fig. 5.16b] (Dimensions 87 x 85 mm.). This opening drawing is the only one colored in wash. The seated figure on the throne is indeed a woman, the “trespuissante princesse” (f. 2v) quoted in the Prologue: this is Louise de Savoie. It seems certain that the artist who is responsible for the pen drawings was looking at an uncolored copy of the Passe-temps (and not the dedication copy, colored and modified for Louise de Savoie, Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249). The same “dedication” woodcut is found in another imprint by Vérard, Boccaccio, De la louenge des nobles et cleres dames (Paris, A. Vérard, 1493) (see C.J. Brown , 2011, p. 134, pl. 24);
f. 3, Seated figure (a monk? Guillaume Alexis or the author of the Prologue, Frère Pierre?), copying from a book [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, Mazarine, Inc. 963, sig. a3) and not the reversed modified colored miniature in Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249] (Dimensions 60 x 75 mm.);
f. 22, Servants or peasants toiling; lords passing on horse; preceded by heading: “De la misere des servans et des seigneurs nobles et francz.” [woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. d1v; also found in Paris, Mazarine, Inc. 963, sig.d1v] (Dimensions 76 x 64 mm.);
f. 24, Sister, pilgrim and layperson kneeling, preceded by heading: “De ceulx qui vivent chastement / Des mariés semblablement” [woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. d3; also found in Paris, Mazarine, Inc. 963, sig. d3] (Dimensions 88 x 72 mm.);
f. 34v, Woman in bed, visited by an intruder or allegory of fear, preceded by heading: “Divers songes terriblement / Donnent grant espoventement” [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris Antoine Vérard, c. 1505, (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. e5v; also found in Paris, Mazarine, Inc. 963, sig. e5v] (Dimensions 90 x 74 mm.);
f. 36v, Sick man by the fire, preceded by heading: “L’homme seuffre durent sa vie / Mainte diverse maladie” [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. f1; also found in Paris, Mazarine, Inc. 963, sig. f1] (Dimensions 65 x 70 mm.);
f. 38, Woman killing her child, whom she intends to eat, preceded by heading, “Plusieurs tormens en ceste vie / Seuffre homme ains qu’il desire”; the actual textual excerpt this drawing illustrates is found on f. 39: “D’une femme plaine de raige / Qui mengea son enfant par rage” (Dimensions 85 x 72 mm.). This image of a woman killing a child is not represented in the Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249 copy, nor in the Chantilly, Musée Condé, XII-F-011 copy; found in Paris, Mazarine, Inc. 963, sig. f2;
f. 42v, Scene of courtship, Man and Woman in garden [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. f6] (Dimensions 86 x 73 mm.);
f. 43v, Woman weighing gold (Sin of greed and covetousness) [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. f6v] (Dimensions 80 x 75 mm.);
f. 48, Judges accepting bribes [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. g4v] (Dimensions 75 x 83 mm.);
f. 50, Allegory of Covetousness [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. g5 (Dimensions 80 x 75 mm.);
f. 65v, Greedy Men with their trunk of gold, akin to idolatry, with heading linking greed and idolatry: “L’apostre nous dit qu’avarice / Est des ydolles le service” [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. i6] (Dimensions 75 x 75 mm.);
f. 67v, Men seated around a table, allegory of Gluttony [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. k1v (Dimensions 87 x 75 mm.);
f. 78v, Unfaithful wife caught by her husband in bed with her lover [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. l4v] (Dimensions 84 x 77 mm.);
f. 88v, Delilah cutting Samson’s hair [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. m6] (Dimensions 85 x 78 mm..);
f. 90, Solomon’s idolatry and seduction of foreign women [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. n1] (Dimensions 78 x 76 mm.);
f. 91, Men before a stately building, allegory of Ambition [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. n2] (Dimensions 85 x 75 mm.);
f. 96, Narcissus at the fountain (sin of Pride), preceded by heading, “Les orguilleux oultrecuydés / Ont diverses proprietés...” [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Chantilly, Musée Condé, XII-F-011); found also in Paris Mazarine, Inc. 963, sig. n5v] (Dimensions 85 x 77 mm.);
f. 99, David and Goliath (sin of Presumption and Vanity) [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. o2] (Dimensions 82 x 70 mm.);
f. 130, Man reading in his study (author) [drawing based on woodcut found in Paris, Antoine Vérard, c. 1505 (Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249), sig. s2v] (Dimensions 82 x 70 mm.).
At present, it is not possible to identify the artist responsible for these elegant drawings which, although based ultimately on the Vérard woodcuts, are far from being direct copies of the prints on which they are modeled. Rather they are considerably more refined and drawn free-hand in an accomplished Renaissance style. With respect to their technique, they are not unlike the sketch attributed to Jean Miélot (Paris, BnF, MS fr. 17001) or other drawings in Flemish paper manuscripts that pre-date them by almost a half century. In the case of the present manuscript, the unknown owner possessed a simulacrum of a prestigious printed book by an important printer, yet one which, in its fluent calligraphy and spontaneous drawings, was decidedly more personal even than an illuminated imprint by Vérard.
Edition Paris, A. Vérard., c. 1505: Macfarlane, 179; Winn (1997), pp. 384-394; Moreau, I, 1505, no. 2, Alexis (Guillaume), Le Passetemps de tout homme et de toute femme..., Antoine Vérard, s.d. [c. 1505, according to the publisher’s address and the typographical material], in-4; Bechtel, G., Catalogue des gothiques francais, 2008, p. 20-21, A-145. Four copies are recorded, Paris, BnF, Vélins 2249; Paris, Bibl. Mazarine, Inc. 963; London, BL, C. 22. a. 8 [126 ff.; 30 lines to a page]; Chantilly, Musée Condé, MC 61 (XII-F-011). The woodcuts that illustrate this edition (21 in all) are all reproduced in Tchemerzine, Bibliographie d’éditions originales et rares d’auteurs français..., Paris, 1977, tome I, pp. 88-94. The colophon of the c. 1505 Vérard edition reads: “Cy finist le passe temps de tout homme // et de toute femme. Imprimé nouvellement // pour Anthoine Verard marchant libraire // demourant a Paris devant la rue Neufve Nostre Dame // a l’ymaige saint Jehan l’évan - // - geliste...
Brown, C. Poets, Patrons and Printers. Crisis of Authority in Late Medieval France, Ithaca/London, 1995.
Bühler, C. The Fifteenth-Century Book, Philadelphia, 1960.
Bultot, R. La Doctrine du mépris du monde, en occident, de saint Ambroise à Innocent III, Louvain, 1963-1964.
Bultot, R. “Mépris du monde, misère et dignité de l’homme dans la pensée d’Innocent III,” in Cahiers de civilisation médiévale 4 (1961), pp. 441-456).
Coq, D. “Les incunables: textes anciens, textes nouveaux,” in Histoire de l’édition française, Paris, 1982, vol. I, pp. 177-193.
Guéry, C. Guillaume Alexis dit le bon moine de Lyre, prieur de Bucy, Evreux, 1907.
Howard, D., ed., Lothario dei Segni (Pope Innocent III), On the Misery of the Human Condition, tr. Margaret
Mary Dietz, Indianapolis and New York, 1969.
Lewis, R. E., ed. and tr., Lotario dei Segni (Pope Innocent III), De miseria condicionis humane, Athens, Georgia, 1978.
Lutz, C. E. “Manuscripts Copied from Printed Books,” in Essays on Manuscripts and Rare Books, Hamden, 1975, pp. 129-38.
Macfarlane, J. Antoine Vérard, London, 1900 (repr. Geneva, 1971).
Moreau, B. Inventaire chronologique ds éditions parisiennes du XVIe siècle, I (1501-1510), Paris, 1972. Piaget, A. and E. Picot. OEuvres poétiques de Guillaume Alexis, prieur de Bucy, Paris, Firmin-Didot, 1896.
Idem, Le Passetemps de deux Alecis frères, l’un religieux noir, prieur de Bucy, l’autre cordelier. Poésies palinodiques. Le Passe temps de tout homme et de toute femme. Le Martyrologue des faulses langues, Paris, Firmin Didot, 1899 [Facsimile].
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Invention of Printing: Some Papers Read at a Colloquium at the Warburg Institute on 12-15 March 1982, ed. J. B. Trapp, London, 1983, pp. 12-20.
Winn, M. B. “‘Louenges envers Louise: un manuscrit enluminé d’Anthoine Vérard pour Louise de Savoie,” Livres et lectures de femmes en Europe entre Moyen Age et Renaissance, ed. A. M. Légaré, Turnhout, 2007.
Idem, Antoine Vérard, Parisian Publisher (1485-1512): Prologues, Poems and Presentations, Genève, Droz, 1997.
Idem, “Offerings for the King: Antoine Vérard’s Presentation Manuscripts and Printed Books,” in Manuscripts in the Fifty Years after the Invention of Printing: Some Papers read at the Warburg Institute on 12-13 March 1982, ed. J. B. Trapp, London, 1983, pp. 66-74.
|Provenance: 1. Manuscript copy of an imprint first published under the same title in Paris, by Antoine Vérard, circa 1505 (small in-4 format). There were a number of successive editions (see Editions below). The Prologue reproduced in the present manuscript reproduces verbatim the one found in Vérard’s c. 1505 edition of the the Passe-temps. However, an early reader (likely not the scribe himself) sought to rid the prologue of any reference tothe Vérard edition by crossing out the name placed in square brackets “[...] je [Anthoyne Verard] / Humble [libraire] desirant [trouver art]...” (f. 1v in our manuscript). This manuscript was copied in Normandy, likely Rouen, as suggested by the watermarks present in the paper, by an unknown scribe and illustrated by pen drawings by an unknown artist, perhaps the same person who copied the text. 2. European Continental Collection.|
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