Manuscripts and memory : Charles V (1364-1380) at Vincennes

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Scott, Kara Desire

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In this thesis I examine the manuscript collection held at the château of Vincennes during the reign of Charles V of France (1364-1380). From the original collection of fifty-six, dispersed after the king’s death in 1380, ten complete manuscripts and one fragment are extant. Through an analysis of the existing manuscripts and information taken from the 1380 inventory of the king’s collections at Vincennes, I consider these manuscripts as a curatorial grouping that forms its own system of meaning, independent of the king’s larger collection of manuscripts at the Louvre. I argue that this collection conveyed a coherent and concerted collection practice, and examine the ways these manuscripts shaped royal identity and animated social memory

Charles V “le Sage” was the third of the Valois kings of France and ruled during the Hundred Years’ War. Interestingly, in this time of relative instability, Charles established what is known as his most lasting cultural achievement, a royal library at the Louvre in 1368. All that remains of Charles’s impressive collection of over a thousand manuscripts are detailed inventories compiled by his court officers as well as a limited

selection of surviving manuscripts.

The royal inventory describes the contents of each volume, the exterior ornamentation and binding, and the interior illumination. Although these records are not detailed enough to reconstruct books that are now lost, it is clear that this collection was extremely luxurious both in the exterior decoration and interior painting. Among the

manuscript paintings in this collection there exists a stylistic continuity, with many of the illustrations either executed by or in the style of Parisian illuminator Jean Pucelle. I maintain that this stylistic continuity, among other characteristics, define these manuscripts as a collection.

Furthermore, I present an alternative model for interpreting the manuscripts at Vincennes that emphasizes how the works functioned collectively. I argue that all of the unifying characteristics of this collection carried meaning for the reader or viewer at Vincennes. This includes the fact that, according to the specifics of the inventories,

virtually all of these manuscripts were originally intended for a reader other than Charles, suggesting a heretofore-unexplored memorial function of the collection.




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