Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections

illumination from Gordan MS 51

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

MS 52 France (Paris?), 1471

JEAN BARTHÉLEMY, Traité de la vanité des choses mondaines


ff. 1-67, incipit, “A la louange et honneur de dieu et contempnement des chouses terriennes, cy conmence vng petit traictie de la vanite des choses mondaines...”, Le premier chapitre qui est le prologue du liure et introduccion de la parole pour thume [sic, for “theume”] donnee par la dame Alacteur du traictier [rubric in black], incipit [main text], “Semblance radieuse figure et clere ymaige de dieu en trinite ... Laquelle nous soit par luy octroye et donnee doulcement AMEN”, parfait et acomply l’an deuant dit le iiiime jour de janiuer mil iiiicccc lxxi AMEN [colophon in black].


Paper. French. 67 folios on paper, reinforced with parchment at the front of the manuscript and in the center of each quire. Watermark, Briquet 1685, Paris 1471 (and similar marks, Neubourg 1471, Cléray 1480). Collation i-iv12 v10 vi10[-10, most likely with later text, see Provenance, below].

No visible ruling or pricking, but full-length bounding lines on all sides in drypoint (justification 170-175 × 105 mm.). Catchwords in bottom inner margin (always at least partly lost to trimming).  Modern foliation in pencil, top outer recto. Quires signed in the bottom outer margin with letters for the quire and Roman numerals for the leaf in the first half of each quire, followed by cross on the first leaf of the second half (some signatures lost to trimming); a second set of signatures slightly higher in the bottom outer margin, with Roman numerals for each bifolium. Dimensions 293 × 207 mm.

Written above the top line in a cursive gothic bookhand. Black rubrics, red two-line initials, one three-line gold initial infilled with white-patterned blue on a deeply lobed ground of blue and dull red with white tracery, with an illuminated panel border in the outer margin with berries and delicate blue and pink flowers with green leaves set in black ink scrolls with gold leaves, (82 × 30 mm.). Marks of early readership can be found in frequent manicules throughout the manuscript (e.g. ff. 15v, 16, 16v, etc.) and one marginal “nota” (f. 16v).

Disbound, with the removal of the boards and spine; still sewn on the original (?) five thongs.


Jean Barthélemy (fl. 1446-1460), Traité de la vanité des choses mondaines (Treatise on the Vanity of Worldly Things). The treatise begins with a short prologue that explains the circumstances of the text’s composition: “A la louange et honneur de dieu et contempnement des chouses terriennes, cy conmence vng petit traictie de la vanite des choses mondaines, fait lan mille iiiic lx a l’instance et honnourable et deuote religieuse seur Jehanne Girad du tres tresreligieulx [sic] couuent de l’umilite de Notre Dame de Longchamp par le plus petit et indigne des mineurs frere Jehan Bertelemy”, (For the praise and honor of God, and the disdain for earthly things, here begins a small treatise on the vanity of worldly things, made in the year 1460 at the request of the honorable and devout nun, sister Jeanne Girad of the very pious convent of the Humility of Our Lady of Longchamp, by the smallest and most unworthy of Franciscans, brother Jean Barthélemy). 

No edition exists of the Traité or any of Barthélemy’s other works, which have never been printed. The Traité has been identified in only four other manuscripts besides this one, all dating to around the same time, in the 1460s and 1470s, shortly following the text’s composition. This manuscript dates to the same period (1471). The text itself is a representative example of late medieval Franciscan spirituality, tailored for a monastic female audience. Barthélemy is indebted to Francsican authors such as Bonaventure and Duns Scotus, reveres the Franciscan founding saints Francis and Clare, and upholds Franciscan ideals of poverty and prayer (Longpré, 1935, col. 1271). As a work in the (French) vernacular, the text would have been appropriate for the female audience of Poor Clares, less likely than their male Franciscan counterparts to be literate in Latin. Clarissan nuns, indeed, were traditionally under the spiritual direction and guidance of Franciscan friars, particularly in the form of sermons and treatises like this one, advocating the religious virtues of discipline, obedience, and the practice of devotional exercises. The Traité, therefore, has particular value as a witness to the approved spiritual diet for female religious in the second half of the fifteenth century, as well as to the continued importance of women as an audience for Franciscan spiritual writing. 

Copied in France in 1471, as indicated by the colophon on f. 67r: “parfait et acomply l’an deuant dit le iiiime jour de janiuer mil iiiicccc lxxi AMEN”, (Finished and completed in the year previously mentioned, the fourth day of January, 1471. Amen). The watermark of the paper (Briquet 1685: Paris 1471), as well as the style of the border on f. 1 (compare, for example, the very similar borders used in the somewhat more deluxe London, British Library Harley MSS 3799-3809, from Paris, 1475) suggest that it was copied in or near Paris, an origin in keeping with the other known manuscripts of this text.

Owned by Frances Vaurelha (b. 1508) in Albi in 1552. A note in Occitan on f. 67v, signed with this name and dated June 15, 1530, relates to the removal of some trees from the main square of Albi: incipit, “L’an vc xxx et xv jorn del mes de Junet foret bayla la comysye as ysols ... tres peyre par mus urai toblar.” Vaurelha was the author of a “journal” of civic events in Albi between 1489 and 1552, some 30 folios long, of which this note forms a part. In this manuscript’s original binding (and at least as late as 1890; see Portal, C. “Notes d’un bourgeois d’Albi au XVIe siècle”, Revue historique, scientifique, et littéraire du Département du Tarn 8 (1890-1891), pp. 229-237, where these notes are described in some detail), the Traité was preceded and followed by a large number of leaves (no longer included with the present, unbound manuscript), on which Vaurelha recorded his journal in the mid-sixteenth century. 3.

Owned by M. de La Tour in 1890 (Portal, 1890-1891, p. 229).

Purchased for Bryn Mawr college from the  Howard Lehman Goodhart Memorial Fund.

Description based, with thanks, on the description provided by Les Enluminures, Ltd.


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Last Update: January 23, 2018