A unique image

The first text, the Dit du Barisel, is preceded by the only illustration in the codex.

Paris, BNF, fr. 837 (pre 1300), f. 1ra
Reproduced by courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France: http://gallica.bnf.fr/?lang=EN

The illustration is in the form of a large historiated initial (?). The image inside the initial depicts a seated figure in a chair on the left, in what appears to be a hooded gown. On the right, another figure kneels before him, holding forth an object that resembles a book. The scene could relate to the story of the  Dit du Barisel. However, it could also be depicting something quite different. In this period, it was not uncommon for a manuscript’s commissioner to be portrayed in the opening pages of a codex. This illustration could therefore be read as a depiction of the presentation of the finished book to its patron and may provide some clues about the identity of the original patron of BNF, fr. 837. Owing to the unfortunate wear and tear, the faces of the figures are no longer visible. However, the attire of the seated figure suggests a possible ecclesiastical connection.

You can find out more information on the significance of the manuscript’s first text, the Dit du Barisel, here.

Uniformity despite diversity

Despite the diversity of the content, there is an incredible level of uniformity in the presentation of this codex. To learn more about the heterogeneous reading material in BNF, fr. 837 click here.

A single scribe transcribed the whole manuscript, presenting the text in two columns throughout and only leaving a small amount of blank space between items. In this space, the scribe marked the end of each piece with an explicit (?), which included a ‘title’. In the fourteenth century, one of the manuscript’s owners added additional titles before each item. You can learn more about the marks left by the different readers of this codex here.

At the start of each item, a large champie initial (?) marks the beginning. The colours used and style of champie initial led Alison Stones to associate this codex with the Hospitaller Master and his entourage.

In addition, smaller red and blue decorated initials (?) are also used.

Paris, BNF, fr.837 (pre 1300), ff.23v-24r
Reproduced by courtesy of Bibliothèque nationale de France: http://gallica.bnf.fr/?lang=EN

Unlike the other texts in BNF, fr. 837, one item in the codex is preceded by an illustration – find out more here.