Secret des secrets [Secret of Secrets], in an anonymous translation
In French, illuminated manuscript on parchment
France, perhaps Arras or Tournai, or Paris (?), c. 1320
1 historiated initial and border by an anonymous artist in the style of Jean Pucelle
This is an illuminated manuscript of what has been called the “most popular book in the Middle Ages” and in an early French translation apparently unrecorded elsewhere. The text claims to be an extended letter from Aristotle to his former pupil Alexander the Great, written to offer the prince advice on how to govern and live well, although here the manuscript focuses more on the physical well-being of the ruler than on governance. Of portable size, illuminated with a fine historiated initial and border and many gold leaf initials, and written in an accomplished script, the present copy stands out in the wide-ranging manuscript tradition; it offers an unusually early and distinctive example of a popular text that was surely made for a special person.