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Jean Corbechon, Livre des propriétés des choses, folio 13r

Jean Corbechon, Livre des propriétés des choses, c. 1415

MS 251, Folio 13r 

Paris, France

This manuscript is one of the most sumptuous surviving copies of a popular medieval encyclopaedia. Designed to provide both knowledge about the world and moral guidance, it was widely shared throughout Europe.

De proprietatibus rerum (On the Properties of Things) was written in Latin by Bartholomew the Englishman in around 1240, and was then translated into French 130 years later by Jean Corbechon, who was Charles V of France's chaplain. Corbechon produced the French version at the command of the king who was an avid bibliophile (someone who really likes books). Commissioned by Amadeus VIII, Count of Savoy (1383-1451) and grandnephew of Charles V, this spectacular copy of Corbechon’s text was illuminated by the Master of the Mazarine Hours in Paris c. 1415.

The Museum’s collection of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts is one of the best its kind in a public museum. It spans the period from the ninth to the  sixteenth century and represents all major schools of European illumination. The vast majority of medieval painting was created on the pages of illuminated manuscripts. This painting has survived well as it was less exposed to the elements and protected between solid covers. Manuscripts preserve their original pigments fresh and largely untainted by later treatment or neglect. They are a rich source of information on all aspects of contemporary life, and also serve as portable galleries of paintings.

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