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Walters Ms. W.314, Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (French translation)

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Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (French translation)

Text title
Liber Iste intitulatur In Latino Bocacius De casibus virorum et mulierum illustrium


Supplied name: Jean Lamelin

Known as: Jehan Lamelin

Known as: Johannes Lamelin


This manuscript contains Jean (also known as Johannes) Lamelin's abridged French translation of Giovanni Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium (On the Fates of Famous Men). The contents, including the colophon, are very closely related to the autograph work of 1431 by Lamelin (Paris, Bibliothèque Mazarine, 3880), which is the only other known copy of this text, and it is likely that the Walters manuscript was directly copied from Lamelin's original work. The original date of 1431 has been copied in this manuscript's colophon, which long led to the assumption that the Walters manuscript was produced at that time. However, four fanciful inhabited initials are an element unique to this copy, and they help localize and date the manuscript. The style of the drawings is related to that of the Wavrin Master, an artist active in Lille in the third quarter of the fifteenth century, suggesting Lille as a place of production, and the fashionable clothing worn by the figures can be dated to 1465-1475. Watermarks in the paper likewise date the book to ca. 1470.


Ca. 1470 CE


Lille, France (French Flanders)





Literary -- Prose


The primary language in this manuscript is French, Middle (ca.1400-1600). The secondary language of this manuscript is Latin.

fols. 165r to 165r:
  1. Transliteration: Icy finent les histoires abbregeez et les reprehentions contre les vices et admonestemens pour les vertus extrectez au long du livre de iehan bocace de certald florentin des fortunez des nobles hommez et femmes lequel livre de bocace fu translate de latin en franchois par laurent famillier et clerc de noble et saige homme iehan chanteprime conseiller du roy de franche nostre sire le samedi xiii (superscript "e") iour de novembre l'an mil iii (superscript "e"). Et lesdis ("est" crossed out) extrais fais et a complis par moy, iehan lamelin conseiller en parlement le xxiii (superscript "e") iour du mois de octobre l'an mil iii (superscript "e") xxxi Jan Bocace (below and in red)
  2. Comment: Note: the colophon appears to have been copied wholesale from its earlier exemplar, complete with dates, which has lead to the misunderstanding that this book was written in 1431 as the colophon states; the watermarks of the paper used to make the manuscript show this copy of the text was not written until ca. 1470

Support material


Fifteenth-century laid paper, heavy weight and high quality; two slightly different watermarks, a "P" with a split at the descender (e.g. fol. 2), and a similar "P" with a quatrefoil above (e.g. fol. 89); watermarks help date book's production to ca. 1470; flyleaves made of later antique laid paper with a slightly blue hue


Foliation: i+170+i

Two sets of foliation: earlier inaccurate pencil foliation, middle of top margins; modern pencil foliation, upper right corners, rectos (used here); note that throughout Randall's catalog entry she uses the term "page" rather than folio when discussing the book's contents, but the manuscript is not paginated


Formula: i, 1(2), 2(8,-3), 3-21(8), 22(8,+9), i

Catchwords: None

Signatures: None

Comments: Quires begin on fols. 1(1), 3(2), 10(3), 18(4), 26(5), 34(6), 42(7), 50(8), 58(9), 66(10), 74(11), 82(12), 90(13), 98(14), 106(15), 114(16), 122(17), 130(18), 138(19), 146(20), 154(21), and 162(22); in quire 2, the third folio has been cancelled


20.9 cm wide by 27.9 cm high

Written surface

13.5 cm wide by 19.5 cm high

  1. Columns: 1
  2. Ruled lines: 30-32
  3. Ruled in plummet

fols. 1r - 170v:
  1. Title: Liber Iste intitulatur In Latino Bocacius De casibus virorum et mulierum illustrium
  2. Incipit: Chy commenchent aucunnez nottablez exortations et histoires abregees de iehan bocace
  3. Contents: Fol. 3r: First prologue; fols. 3r-v: Second prologue; fols. 3v-18r: Book 1 (nineteen chapters); fol. 19r: Prologue for Book 2; fols. 19r-36r: Book 2 (twenty-three chapters); fols. 37r-56v: Book 3 (nineteen chapters); fols. 58r-73v: Book 4 (nineteen chapters); fols. 75r-88v: Book 5 (twenty chapters); fols. 90r-110v: Book 6 (fifteen chapters); fols. 112r-127v: Book 7 (nine chapters); fols. 129r-144v: Book 8 (twenty-three chapters); fols. 146r-164r: Book 9 (twenty-seven chapters); fols. 164v-165r: Conclusion; fol. 165r: Scribal colophon; fols. 166r-169v: Table of contents
  4. Hand note: Littera batarda cursiva
  5. Decoration note: Four inhabited initials, with figures drawn in brown and red pen (5 to 7 lines); decorated initials with pen flourishes at other major divisions in text (2 to 6 lines); red initials mark beginnings of chapters (2 lines); occasional line fillers in red ink; text in black ink


fol. 58r:

  1. W.314, fol. 58r
  2. Title: Initial "C" with drawing of a man
  3. Form: Inhabited initial "C," 7 lines
  4. Text: Book 4

fol. 75r:

  1. W.314, fol. 75r
  2. Title: Initial "S" with man in profile
  3. Form: Inhabited initial "S," 6 lines
  4. Text: Book 5

fol. 90r:

  1. W.314, fol. 90r
  2. Title: Initial "F" with woman in conical hat
  3. Form: Inhabited initial "F," 6 lines
  4. Text: Book 6

fol. 112r:

  1. W.314, fol. 112r
  2. Title: Initial "A" with a squirrel and a hare
  3. Form: Inhabited initial "A," 5 lines
  4. Text: Book 7


The binding is not original.

Early nineteenth-century French binding, dark blue paper over card; gilt patterns on spine, with gold inscription on salmon colored paper: "NOBLES HOMMES ET FEMMES MANUSCRIT 1431"; three labels from collections on spine: 112 (ca. 1800), 501 (ca. 1850) and W.314 (Walters number)


Likely created in the Lille region of France, ca. 1470; localization based on influence of illumination style of the Wavrin master, active in Lille; date is later than that recorded in colophon, 1431, which copies exemplar but is not possible given the dating of the watermarks, which place the manuscript no earlier that 1460-1470

Owned by monastery by 1556; ownership inscription in top margin of fol. 3r reads: Ffrater Johannes de muer monachus sancti Andree me habet 1556"

Jean-Baptiste-Joseph Barrois, owned by 1849; his manuscript number, 501, on spine, and also in pencil on front pastedown, along with inscription "Cor Sub (?) Sept 1849/old worm holes"

Bertram, fourth earl of Ashburnham, purchased from Barrois in 1849

Julius D. Ichenhauser, purchased from Ashburnham sale at Sotheby's, London, on June 10, 1901, for £22.10; this information, as well as the sale number for the book, 65, noted on the front pastedown

Henry Walters, Baltimore, likely purchased from Ichenhauser between 1901 and 1931


Walters Art Museum, 1931, by Henry Walters' bequest


De Ricci, Seymour, and W. J. Wilson. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Vol. 1. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1935; p. 848, cat. no. 517.

Gathercole, P.M. Laurent de Premieirfait's Des cas des nobles hommes et femmes. Book I, Translated from Boccaccio, A Critical Edition Based on Six Manuscripts. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Studies in the Romance Languages and Literatures 74, I968; p. 62.

Bozzolo, C. Manuscrits des traducion françaises d'oeuvres de Boccace XV siècle. Padua: Medioevo e Umanismo, 1973; pp. 173-174.

Burchmore, David W. "The Medieval Sources of Spenser’s Occasion Episode." In Spenser Studies: A Renaissance Poetry Annual. Volume 2. Edited by Patrick Cullen and Thomas P. Roche, 93-120. Pittsburgh: University of Pittsburgh Press, 1981; p. 119.

Kristeller, Paul O. Iter Italicum. Vol. 5. London: Brill, 1990; p. 212.

Randall, Lilian M. C. Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery. Vol. 3, Belgium, 1250-1530. Baltimore and London: Johns Hopkins University Press in association with the Walters Art Gallery, 1997; pp. 353-356, cat. no. 271.

Branca, Vittorio. Boccaccio visualizzato: Opere d'arte d'origine francese, fiamminga, inglese, spagnola, tedesca. Turin: Giulio Einaudi Editore, 1999; p. 101, 365.


Principal cataloger: Randall, Lilian M.C.

Cataloger: Herbert, Lynley

Editor: Herbert, Lynley

Conservators: Owen, Linda; Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Emery, Doug; Noel, William; Schuele, Allyson; Tabritha, Ariel; Toth, Michael B.; Wiegand, Kimber


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.