Kathleen Kamerick

title.none: Rouse and Rouse, eds., Manuscripts and Thier Makers, Vol. 1-2 (Kathleen Kamerick)

identifier.other: baj9928.0110.012 01.10.12

identifier.issn: 1096-746X

description.statementofresponsibility: Kathleen Kamerick, University of Iowa,

publisher.none: .

date.issued: 2001

identifier.citation: Rouse, Richard and Mary Rouse, eds. Manuscripts and Thier Makers: Commercial Book Producers in Medieval Paris, 1200-1500. Turnhout: Brepols, 2000. Pp. 7, 410. 217.00 EUR. ISBN: 1-872-50141-9.

type.none: Review

relation.ispartof: The Medieval Review

The Medieval Review 01.10.12

Rouse, Richard and Mary Rouse, eds. Manuscripts and Thier Makers: Commercial Book Producers in Medieval Paris, 1200-1500. Turnhout: Brepols, 2000. Pp. 7, 410. 217.00 EUR. ISBN: 1-872-50141-9.

Reviewed by:

Kathleen Kamerick
University of Iowa

Manuscripts and Their Makers investigates the lay book makers--"illiterati and uxorati" as they were described--who first appear in the documentary evidence in the thirteenth century, and who produced manuscripts for a commercial trade until overtaken by print at the end of the Middle Ages. The Rouses are indefatigable researchers whose fine collection of essays, Authentic Witnesses: Approaches to Medieval Texts and Manuscripts (Notre Dame, 1991) argued that medieval texts must be considered in relation to the physical context of the manuscripts in which they are found. This new work--a uthoritative, inventive, and complex--is comprised of twelve essays that elaborate and extend this point by examining manuscript makers and their methods of production. Each essay can be read on its own, but together the twelve document the strong continuities of place, people, and techniques that characterized medieval Parisian commercial book production.

In the Introduction the Rouses spell out five themes that link these essays together and that constitute their most important overall findings. The first focuses on the geographic center of the book trade in the Rue Neuve Notre-Dame. Created in the early twelfth century, this street became the most important area for the production and sale of books in Paris, and almost every essay contributes information about libraires, illuminators, scribes, parchmenters, and others booktrade artisans who lived and worked here. The Rouses summarize their extraordinarily detailed findings about the Rue Neuve Notre- Dame with a map that shows each house and many of its residents over three centuries. To emphasize the continuity of place, they trace the occupants of one house beginning with the parchmenter Raoul Joseph in 1231 through many generations of libraires to the sixteenth-century printer Estienne Groulleau who used the address in his imprint.

This geographic centralization of the commercial booktrade was critical to the methods developed for producing manuscripts, a second theme linking these essays together. These books were made by neighbors and by families--such as the husband-and-wife team Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston who are the subject of Chapter 9--that is, by people who either shared living and working quarters, or lived near one another on the Rue Neuve Notre-Dame or on other streets where book makers clustered. Because these people made books for their living, they needed to make them as fast as possible. This simple fact of commercial production demanded that the work of copying, illuminating, gilding, flourishing, and so on, be divided among many artisans who worked in close physical proximity. A libraire, who organized a manuscript's production, passed out individual quires to different scribes and illuminators in order to expedite the work, and the workers chosen would likely be family members and neighbors. Families stayed in the booktrade for many generations, and several genealogical charts underscore the importance of family as a basic unit of production. The need for fast production and the collaborative nature of commercial books can explain many of their characteristics, such as changes in scribe and illuminator from one quire to the next, or the mediocrity of pictures turned out in large quantities by professional illuminators.

The dominant role of the libraire in the commercial book trade is the Rouses' third major theme, and several essays describe the careers of individual libraires in rich detail, from Nicolas Lombard in the mid-thirteenth century to Andry le Musnier in the second half of the fifteenth century. Libraires were lay men and women who sold books, and also contracted to produce books for patrons. In Paris the university regulated libraires, but they were not restricted to university students and masters for trade, nor was their output limited to scholastic texts.

The Rouses illustrate the complexity of the libraire's work by demonstrating the number of people who worked on particular manuscripts. In the five extant volumes of a glossed bible made for Gui, bishop of Clermont, for instance, the Rouses distinguish the hands of three scribes, six flourishers, and four illuminators. A libraire parceled out the work, gave instructions to many artisans, provided the capital for expenses, and advertised for more clients. Every libraire could also, as a matter of course or when needed to finish a project, practice one of the books crafts, acting as a scribe or illuminator, for instance. This fluidity in roles and the acquisition of multiple skills are hallmarks of the early commercial booktrade. The fourteenth-century libraire Thomas de Maubeuge was a university stationer who rented out quires of academic books to students for copying, but he also organized the making of complex and richly illuminated books for wealthy patrons, like the Grandes chroniques de France made for a royal functionary, or the three "nearly identical manuscripts" (I. 189) containing the Vie des saints and the Miracles de Nostre Dame, one made for King Charles IV, another for Jeanne de Flandres, and a third possibly for Mahaut d'Artois. Similarly, Jeanne de Montbaston swore oaths to the university as an illuminator and then, when widowed, as a libraire, and the Rouses consider it probable that her husband Richard also performed both roles. The mid-fourteenth century scribe Raoulet d'Orleans was one of a few men named "ecrivain du roi", who seemed to serve the king as private libraires. Raoulet managed the production of a Bible historiale, and wrote verses for it, sometimes acted as copyist for manuscripts he produced, but also worked as a scribe under the management of another libraire.

The relationships between libraires and clients show similar variety and fluidity, and a fourth theme in these essays examines the nature and demands of the book buyers of Paris. The growth of medieval Paris and its position as a royal capital meant that the royal family, members of the court, the nobility, traveling bishops, government administrators, and wealthy merchants, lived there or came there on business, forming a new market for luxury manuscript books. The importance of the French court to the commercial trade is exemplified by the Somme le roi, whose production and dissemination the Rouses treat in Chapter 6, drawing special attention to the interactions between patrons and book makers. They examine seven illuminated manuscripts of the Somme le roi that are linked by the uniformity and intelligence of their pictures, a product, the Rouses suggest, of written instructions composed by a spiritual adviser to Philip IV. How these instructions were kept for the twenty- year period when the seven manuscripts were made, or who issued them or in what form, remain puzzles. The authors emphasize here, as elsewhere, the additional work needed to understand better medieval book production.

The Somme le roi also shows the commercial trade's role in disseminating vernacular literature, the fifth major theme. Written in French, the Somme was a text of moral instruction first intended for a lay noble audience that eagerly commissioned deluxe copies. By the mid-fourteenth century, however, the Somme had become a "banal product" (I. 171) of the Parisian booktrade that was responding to demand for illustrated vernacular books. The later manuscripts of the Somme contain more and smaller pictures with no tie to the original written instructions. The Somme le roi, like the vernacular collections of saints' legends discussed in Chapter 7, were staples of a commercial trade that relied far more on wealthy lay people than on university masters and students. Chapter 11 underscores this point by showing how book makers lost many of their most important clients when the chaos of civil strife rocked Paris during the reign of Charles VI (1380-1422), and wealthy and noble patrons left Paris or simply had less time or interest to spend on luxury goods. The career of libraire Regnault du Montet, who traveled to England to collect money for a book sold to the Earl of Rutland, shows that book producers sought new markets as royal and noble patronage faded in Paris.

This survey of the Rouses ' five major themes cannot do justice to their exhaustive researches on many individual manuscripts, their suggestions and conclusions about the identities of authors and illuminators, or their unparalleled knowledge of the processes of manuscript production in this period. Among their many achievements here is the Biographical Register in volume two, a "documented list of men and women active in any of the several metiers that constituted the lay commercial booktrade in Paris" (II. 7) from the early thirteenth to the late fifteenth centuries. The Register names about twelve hundred people with what is known about books they worked on, where they lived, their spouses and other relations, and the documents in which they appear. In conjunction with the detailed studies of individual libraires, scribes, and illuminators in volume one, this Register gives individual identities to members of the booktrade. No longer a mass of anonymous artists and scribes, these men and women begin to emerge as complex figures about whom more remains to be discovered, as the authors point out.

To give substance to the lives of these book makers, all available sources are mined for information, including of course the textual and artistic evidence of manuscripts, but also the instructions to scribes and artists, records of payments due, advertisements about scribes, corrector's marks and other information left in manuscripts' colophons, flyleaves, and texts. Just as importantly, however, the Rouses make good use of the records of Paris that show property ownership, tax payments, legal disputes, and any other matter which might involve a book worker. In Chapter 5, for instance, the Rouses exploit the record of a sale of Gratian's Decretum, tax records, and royal accounts in order to sketch the lives of thirteenth-century illuminators Honore d'Amiens and his son-in-law Richard de Verdun. Using this evidence, they make a strong, if admittedly incomplete, case for identifying these two men as two well-known Parisian illuminators of the period known only as 'Honore' and the 'Papeleu Master'.

Our understanding of manuscripts can be immeasurably enhanced by knowledge of the social world of their makers. Nowhere is this point more clear than in the discussion of the illuminators Jeanne and Richard de Montbaston. The Montbastons' illuminations "have been examined as a tool for textual interpretation" (I. 252), but this "tool" can easily mislead. The Rouses argue that because the Montabastons were paid for the number of their pictures, not the quality, they always worked in a hurry. Reading the text was a luxury for which they had no time and perhaps little ability. Jeanne may indeed have been unable to read, as she seemed to rely on sketches (clearly illustrated) to tell her what to paint. The results were often pictures with little connection to the text, or which show "outright misapprehension of the text". (I. 254) Such insights should inform discussions about the relations of image and text in commercially produced manuscripts, showing that at times it might be more productive to focus on readers' reception of images than on their harried creators' intent.

Not everyone will agree with all of these arguments of course, but anyone who works with manuscripts will want to read this work. There are themes only touched on here that one wishes the Rouses treated in more detail. The relationship between the university and the commercial booktrade emerges gradually through the twelve essays, and yet one essay focused on this topic would usefully consolidate the information. Similarly, several essays along with the Biographical Register enumerate the contributions of many women in the booktrade, but an essay devoted to this topic might clarify women's position in the trade and contribute to our knowledge of urban working women.

In these exceptionally well-produced volumes, the Rouses provide generous amounts of material as the basis for further studies, as well as highlighting issues and asking questions that beg for more research. The appendices in volume two are crucial to what the Rouses clearly regard as an ongoing enterprise. These appendices provide texts (usually in Latin or French with an English translation) and lengthy discussions of details in the essays; among them are the accounts for making a glossed Bible, a corrected transcription of a note of sale, a lengthy written instruction for an illuminator, and lists of manuscripts that can be identified as the work of particular illuminators. Because references to these appendices appear only in the notes, however, they are less fully integrated with the text than are the notes, maps, and illustrations.

Volume two also contains one hundred and eighty-two black-and- white illustrations that are crucial to the text. These illustrations make arguments visually that the Rouses state verbally in the essays; they show methods of work, relationships of images and texts, distinctions between pen flourishers or scribes, marginal accounts and instructions, and more. With this abundant visual and documentary evidence, the Rouses show how every detail of a manuscript contributes to our knowledge about the conditions of its production and the identity of its makers.