Honorat Bovet, Arbre des batailles
Reappearing on the market after 55 years, this large-format deluxe copy of the Arbre des batailles is one of only twenty-five known manuscripts of the work to include the illuminated “arbre de douleur” (tree of suffering or sorrow) frontispiece, which shows the different actors of war on a Wheel of Fortune, as well as the civilians ravaged by it. Nearly all the other copies are in institutional collections. The manuscript was made for a prestigious patron, most likely Odet d’Aydie, gouverneur of Rouen and Caen. A popular treatise presenting the legal and moral principles governing warfare, the work quickly became a “must-have” for princes and knights across Europe. It attained remarkable success: Christine de Pizan, among others, copied liberally from the work, and it was translated into Occitan, Catalan, Castilian, and Scottish dialect. This copy boasts distinguished, virtually continuous provenance, dating over nearly three centuries.
ii (paper, contemporary with the binding) + 152 folios on parchment, modern foliation in pencil, 1-152, complete (i-viii8 ix6 x-xix8 xx2), horizontal catchwords (mostly trimmed), ruled in red ink (justification 189 x 128 mm., column width: 54 and 55 mm.), written in brown ink in cursive gothic bookhand in two columns on 32 lines, capitals touched in yellow, rubrics in red, 1- to 2-line initials and line-endings throughout in burnished gold on grounds divided into dark pink and blue decorated with white penwork, hairline tendrils extending into margins accompany the 2-line initials and are decorated with leaves in burnished gold and flowers and strawberries in colors, two 5-line initials in blue decorated with white penwork, infilled with curving vine in red and blue on burnished gold grounds (ff. 1, 2v), a rinceau border with flowers and acanthus leaves framing the first column on f. 1, ONE LARGE MINIATURE on f. 2v with a full rinceau border with flowers and acanthus leaves, minor loss of parchment in the upper inner corner of ff. 1-3 with no loss of text or decoration, overall excellent condition. Bound in the eighteenth century in brown calf over pasteboard, both covers gold-tooled with double filet frames, spine with five raised bands, gold-tooled with filets and fleurets, entitled “ARBRE DE BATA” in gilt, and a small rectangular paper label with the Phillipps number “4544,” leather very worn, spine loose, fair condition. Dimensions 298 x 203 mm.
1. The style of the miniature on f. 2v suggests that it was painted in Rouen in the 1470s. Nothing immediately reveals the identity of the manuscript’s original owner, but several clues strongly suggest that it was Odet d’Aydie, the elder (c. 1425-1498), lord of Lescun, admiral of Guyenne, count of Comminges, and governor of Rouen and of Caen (see the discussion below).
2. An ownership inscription written in brown ink, dated 1748, and later vigorously crossed out, at the end of the text on f. 152v.
3. Belonged to Sieur Dupré, whose ownership inscription was written on October 4, 1756 in Orléans on the verso of the second front flyleaf: “Ce Livre apartiens aux Sieur Dupré// fait a orleans le 4 octobre 1756.”
4. London, Payne and Foss, a bookseller in Pall Mall from 1813 to 1850; bookseller’s marks in pencil, front pastedown: “129” in ink and “B/V/7” (possibly from Payne and Foss).
5. No. 4544 in the collection of Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), who acquired it from Payne and Foss (Phillipps, 1968, p. 73); his catalogue number is pasted on a small label on the spine and written in pencil on the front pastedown. In addition to our copy, Phillipps owned as many as three more copies of this this text; one of these, Phillipps no. 1093, made in 1397 in Paris, may have belonged to Jean, Duke of Berry, who himself owned two additional copies of the work, one that is British Library, Royal MS 20 C VIII, and another copy that Bovet mentions in his possession before 1394, unless they are one and the same copy (cf. Biu, 2007, pp. 218-219).
6. London, Sotheby’s, Bibliotheca Phillippica: medieval manuscripts. New series, first part. Catalogue of thirty-nine manuscripts of the 9th to the 16th century from the celebrated collection formed, by Sir Thomas Phillipps..., 30 November 1965, lot 27; purchased by G. Heilbrun.
7. Private Collection, France
ff. 1-152v, Ce livre est nommé l’arbre de bataille, incipit, “En cestuy livre aura quatre parties. La premiere sera des tribulations des eglises jadis passées devant ladvenement de Ihesu Crist. Et après la seconde partie sera de la destruction et tribulations des quatre grans Royaumes de jadis. La tierce partie sera des batailles en general. La quarte pacifiera des batailles en especial …. Mais je prie humblement a Dieu que par sa pitie vous doint en tel point gouverner votre Royaume et la sainte couronne quil vous a commise que après la fin il vous admaine et produise a la sainte gloire de paradis. Amen,” Cy fine l’arbre de bataille.
Honorat Bovet, Arbre des batailles; modern editions by Hélène Biu (2004) and Reinhilt Richter-Bergmeier (2017). A new edition by Hélène Biu will be published by Classiques Garnier in 2021. English translation, Coopland, 1949.
The text is divided into four books; books I and II are introductions, providing various points of view from which to consider contemporary wars and chivalry, while the last two books provide the bulk of the work:
ff. 1-2, prologue, with the dedication to king Charles VI of France (r. 1380-1422);
ff. 2v-20v, book I, beginning “Maintenant puis que vous veez comment sur l’arbre de douleur sont deux entre lesquelz est grande discorde et grande guerre sur le saint pape de l’eglise de Romme ...”) interprets recent history in light of the Apocalypse of St. John. There are several references to the Great Schism and the rival popes;
ff. 20v-41v, book II, beginning, Cy ensuit la seconde partie du livre la quele parle des tribulations et de la destruction des quatre grans Royaumes), provides a summary of Roman history dominated by wars, based on Orosius;
ff. 41v-152v, books III and IV (there is no division between the books, and therefore there is no heading for book IV, in our manuscript), begins “La tierce partie du livre. Se c’est chose deue d’entrer en champ pour son droit prouver par son corps, concentrate on war between kingdoms and individuals from a juridical point of view, discussing battles and contemporary customs, legal and moral principles (e.g. “de quel droit vient bataille,” f. 49), as well as chivalry (e.g. “Par quantes manieres ung chevalier est bien hardi,” f. 47). Bovet considers the forces, virtues and strategies for battles, as well as the different actors of war from the Popes and Emperors to the knights and commoners, the paying of wages, taking prisoners (e.g. “En ceste partie demande se par voye de merque ung homme qui n’est en coulpe puet estre emprisonné”, f. 106), asking for ransoms.
Honorat Bovet’s Arbre des batailles exists in two versions, a short version (known in scholarship as “version commune”) and a long version (“version interpolée”). Hélène Biu has identified 84 manuscripts, including our copy, containing the short version, and five manuscripts with the long version; in addition, eight manuscripts contain extracts of the text (Biu, 2021, forthcoming; we thank Dr. Biu for sharing her expertise). The long version differs from the short by including a book retracing European history from 1159 to 1328, concentrating on the succession of popes. In the long version this book is placed before the final book. Biu has convincingly shown that the long version was the original redaction of the text, dating c. 1371-1383, and the book on the popes was not an interpolation that was added later, but instead text that was removed to create an abbreviated version (cf. Biu 2007, pp. 213-220; the forthcoming edition by Biu is of the long version). It was the short version of the Arbre des batailles, as contained in our manuscript, that was more widely diffused.
Hélène Biu has studied the textual and manuscript tradition of this work in great detail (2000, 2004, 2007, forthcoming). Based on the opening phrases to the short version, she has identified four textual families, with several subgroups within the first two families (Biu, 2007, pp. 221-224). Biu places our copy with 15 other manuscripts in family 2A, and within this family in a subgroup that is close to the textual family 3, which was used as the basis of 2017 edition by Richter-Bergmeier.
Honorat Bovet (c. 1350-1409/10) was an ordained monk of the Benedictine abbey of Ile-Barbe, north of Lyon, prior of Selonnet in Provence, and a doctor of canon law. He dedicated the Arbre des batailles, his most important work,to king Charles VI of France (r. 1380-1422), for whom he worked as conseiller du roi. Written in French, the Arbre des batailles made reflections on the juridical implications of war accessible to non-Latinists. It was a popular treatise of legal and moral principles destined essentially for princes and knights engaged in war, and quickly became a “must-have” working manual for a knight. It attained remarkable success: Christine de Pizan, among others, copied liberally from the work, and it was translated into Occitan, Catalan, Castilian, and Scottish dialect as early as around 1400-1460 (Biu, 2007, p. 211); at least six editions were printed in the fifteenth century in Lyon and Paris (ARLIMA in Online Resources). The Arbre des batailles remained in vogue until the sixteenth century.
f. 2v, large miniature (150 x 125 mm.), “arbre de douleur” (tree of suffering/sorrow).
The frontispiece miniature represents “l’arbre de douleur,” as Bovet describes it in his text (f. 2v). The summit is occupied by Fortune turning her wheel, and on the three levels of branches are represented the different actors of the war, as well as the civilians who suffered its ravages. At the top level on the left, the Pope is enthroned with his cardinals and bishops, and on the right, the King with his chancellor, princes, lords, and armies. The second level depicts a battle between two cavalries. On the lowest level the scene on the left represents a duel “en champ clos” illustrating two knights fighting with battle axes while the king and the army watch; Bovet discusses the juridical aspects of duels on various occasions in his work (see ff. 41v-42v, 130-140 in our manuscript). The scene on the right illustrates one of the immoralities of war discussed by Bovet, showing two soldiers about to attack unarmed peasants; Bovet was one of the first to argue for the rights of non-combatants (Kilgour, 1935, pp. 355-356).
Hélène Biu has identified thirty-two illustrated French manuscripts of the Arbre des batailles.Among them, twenty-five manuscripts painted between 1390 and 1490 have the “arbre de douleur” miniature. Our copy can be placed in a further subgroup of eleven manuscripts depicting a tree with several layers of branches surmounted by the personification of Fortune turning her wheel. Five copies in this group, including our manuscript, have no inscriptions, while the six others have inscriptions of Latin excerpts derived from the Bible and Boethius for the different categories of the Tree.
Our manuscript was decorated in the workshop of the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen, the leading illuminator active in Rouen c. 1450s-1480s (see Rabel 1989; Avril and Reynaud 1993). The frontispiece miniature’s finely drawn and clearly arranged composition shares the cool palette of many of his works. Although this is the sole example of Honorat Bovet’s Arbre des batailles known from his prolific production, several features suggest that the frontispiece miniature is based on a model of his own invention. These include the interior setting receding on a green-tiled floor, the landscape with towering hills and rounded bushes, and the clash of horses depicted in a variety of attitudes, along with typical characters such as the hatted man of the lower-left compartment (see e.g. fig. 1; Geneva, Bibliothèque de Genève, MS fr. 160, f. 150). Related to the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen’s refined technique are the strong and steady cross-hatching of gold and white lead, used to precise the modeling of draperies and armors, horses and hills, as well as the “arbre de douleur” itself. Finally, the ornamental decoration proceeds from the same repertoire. The golden brocade patterns, along with the decorative inscriptions adorning the soldiers’ breastplates and the horses’ collars, breechings, and rein covers are identical to those found in the many manuscripts illuminated by the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen and his workshop (see e.g. fig. 2 and 3).
The Master of the Échevinage de Rouen entrusted two distinct artists of his workshop with the illumination of this frontispiece miniature. A close associate of his illuminated the lower and middle register as well as the soldiers of the upper-right scene, while another artist, most likely the young Master of Raoul du Fou, was responsible for the upper register and the soldiers’ faces in the middle-right scene. The first hand is the closest to the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen, as is demonstrated by a volume of Jean de Courcy’s Boucquechardière, now in Paris, BnF, MS fr. 329. Compare for instance, the strongly modeled face of the man standing in the lower-left compartment with those of members of the court of Alexander II of Macedon (fig. 2). Further similarities include the precise rendering of the horses’ anatomy, and the dull expression of soldiers with rounded heads and glittering armors, as seen in the miniature depicting Helen and Paris arriving in Troy in the same manuscript (fig. 3). On the opposite, the short, uneven figures of the upper register, with square-shaped heads, large eyes, and straight noses, are easily distinguished from the style of the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen. These suggest that the second hand could be identified with the young Master of Raoul du Fou, named after a Missal illuminated for Raoul du Fou, bishop of Évreux from 1479 to 1511 (fig. 4; Evreux, BM, MS 99, f. 91; Calame-Levert and Hermant, 2017, pp. 54-55).
Previously known as the Master of the Geneva Latini, the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen was renamed in 1989 after an impressive group of five historical manuscripts illuminated for the library of the aldermen (“échevins”) of Rouen (cf. Rabel 1989). This influential artist recruited many assistants to help him cope with the many commissions he received, among whom were the two illuminators of this frontispiece. In recent years, the Master of the Échevinage de Rouen has been tentatively identified with Jean Coquet, one of the most successful librarians and illuminators of the period (cf. Blondeau, 2014, p. 243). A member of an important family related to manuscript production, Jean Coquet rented a stall in the “cour des Libraires,” a courtyard set before the northern portal of the cathedral where librarians, illuminators, scribes, and bookbinders usually met their clients and sold their merchandise in late-fifteenth-century Rouen (fig. 5; Beaurepaire 1909). Conveniently, the “cour des Libraires” was also adjacent to the library of the Échevinage de Rouen, located on the north end of the cathedral Notre-Dame.
The majority of manuscripts of this work are modest working copies on paper with no illustration, but our manuscript is exceptionally luxurious. Who commissioned it? The lozenge-shaped space framed by foliage and flowers in the margin next to the miniature, undoubtedly intended for the coat of arms of the original owner, is filled with foliage decoration in red and the arms were never painted. (Although a lozenge-shaped escutcheon was typically used for heraldry of a woman, the shape presumably carries no meaning here, since it is unlikely that this manuscript was made for a woman.) A discreet clue is given in the upper margin of f. 57, reveals the original owner of our manuscript. A contemporary inscription in cursive script reads: “Ce present livre apartien” (This book belongs), with the phrase left unfinished. Immediately below the inscription begins a chapter about the “duc de la bataille” who, the text tells us, in France is called “le grant connestable ou le grant maressal.” Within the period of interest in the 1470s, under the rule of Louis XI, the position of connétable de France was held from 1465 until 1475 by Louis de Luxembourg, count of Saint-Pol. Louis in fact owned a manuscript of the Arbre des batailles, but not our manuscript. His copy was illuminated in Brussels by the Master of Johannes Gielemans, around the time of his appointment in 1465, and is now Chantilly, Musée Condé, MS 346. In 1475 Louis de Luxembourg was executed for treason, and the position of connétable appears to have remained vacant until 1483. Although certain modern sources identify Odet d’Aydie, count of Comminges, as connétable de France from 1475 until 1483, he was in fact amiral, a naval position equivalent to connétable, responsible for the marine forces, the defense of the coasts, and jurisdiction over crimes committed at harbors. Like the office of the connétable, amiral was above all an important political role. The placement of the inscription in the margin of our manuscript is thus appropriate for the military rank of Odet d’Aydie; his appointment in 1479 as governor of Rouen and Caen provides the decisive proof that the book was made for him, explaining why it was illuminated at a Rouen workshop.
Odet d’Aydie l’ainé (i.e. the elder, differentiating him from his younger brother of the same name) was a knight from Béarn in Aquitaine, and a favorite of Charles de France, duke of Berry and of Aquitaine, the brother of Louis XI, who secured him the nomination as amiral de Guyenne (Aquitaine) in 1469. According to Jean Favier, Louis XI appointed d’Aydie amiral de France after the death of Charles de France, although other historians maintain that he continued as amiral de Guyenne; either way, the office was significant (cf. Favier, 2001, p. 644; Père Anselme, 1733, p. 859; Chaix d'Est-Ange, 1904, pp. 149-151). In 1472 or 1473 d’Aydie received the county of Comminges, and in 1479 Louis XI appointed him governor of Rouen and Caen.
Pierre de Rohan-Gié, marshal of France, showed a copy of Arbre des batailles to Odet d’Aydie sometime after May 16, 1476, the date on which Rohan was appointed marshal. This meeting happened in Blaye-sur-Mer, a strategic harbor north of Bordeaux, of which d’Aydie was governor. The manuscript they saw is now at Chantilly (Musée Condé, MS 347); it is a modest, unillustrated copy, transcribed on paper in 1462-3 by the cleric Guillaume Bischeri for Jean Deryan, a public notary by royal authority in the diocese of Tréguier in Brittany. Next to the explicit on f. 192 an inscription, partly slashed, reads “Ce presant livre est [...] desoubz sine et le gai[...] Blaye sur la mer p[...] quant elle fut p[...] entre les mains d'Oudet d'Aysie [Odet d’Aydie] par Mons’ le maréchal de Gié, lieutenant pour le Roy en ceste partie la” (d’Orléans, 1900, pp. 285-286). On the last leaf of this manuscript is a copy of a letter from Louis XI written on May 20, 1464 to Odet d’Aydie, whom he calls his “cher et amé cousin” and informs him that a treaty has been sealed with the English by sea and land, and urges him to make sure that English merchants are well received at the harbor in his charge (cf. d’Orléans, 1900, pp. 285-286; and Lenglet du Fresnoy, vol. 2, 1747, p. 412, for the date of the treaty between Louis XI and Edward IV of England). Perhaps d’Aydie’s interest in commissioning a luxurious copy of this text, worthy of his rank as admiral, dates from this encounter with Bovet’s work in Blaye-sur-mer. This luxurious copy, undoubtedly identifiable with our manuscript, was most likely completed around the time he was appointed governor of Rouen in 1479. It remains unknown why he omitted his coat of arms - de gueules à quatre lapins courans d’argent l’un sur l’autre - but perhaps it was thought that bunny rabbits did not confer the powerful image of a military leader which the volume was intended to reflect?
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Arbre des batailles d’Honoré Bonet, ed. by E. Nys, Brussels, Leipzig, London, New York, Paris, 1883 (not an edition, but a transcription of one manuscript only, the copy that belonged to Philip the Good, duke of Burgundy, now Brussels, Bibliothèque royale, MS 9079)
Honoré Bonet and his ‘Arbre des Batailles’, translated into Scottish dialect by Gilbert de la Haye, 1456, edited by J. H. Stevenson, Gilbert of the Haye’s Prose Manuscript: The Boke of the Law of Armys, or, Buke of Bataillis, Edinburgh, London, 1901.