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Text Divisions

Fols. 1–1v, translator's prologue addressed to King Charles V of France: "Ci commence la translacion des Livres de Ethiques et Politiques, translatez par Maistre Nichole Oresme .[1] Le Proheme. En la confiance de l'aide de Nostre Seigneur Jhesu Crist, du commandement de tres noble et tres excellent prince Charles, par la grace de Dieu, roy de France, je propose translater de latin en françois aucuns livres lesquelx fist Aristote le souverain philosophe, qui fu docteur et conseillier du grant roy Alexandre." Fols. 1v–2, Excusacion et Commendacion de Ceste Oeuvre : "Prescian dit, en un petit livre que il fist des maistres de Terente, que de tous les langages du monde latin est le plus habile pour mieulx exprimer et plus noblement son intencion." Fols. 2–2v, chapter titles for Book I: "Ci commence le Livre de Ethiques lequel fist Aristote le philosophe ." Fol. 2v, incipit, Book I: "Tout art et toute doctrine et semblablement tout fait ou operacion appetent et desirent aucun bien." Fol. 221v, Book X, explicit: "Or dison donques et commençons. Ci fine le livre d'Ethiques. Deo gracias." Fols. 222–224v, La Table des Moz Divers et Estranges : "Pour ceste science plus clerement entendre, je vueil de habondant exposer aucuns moz selon l'ordre de l'a.b.c. . . ." Fol. 224v, colophon: "Du commandement de tres noble, puissant et excellent prince Charles par la grace de Dieu roy de France fu cest livre cy translaté de latin en françois par honorable homme et discret, Maistre Nicole Oresme, Maistre en theologie et doien de l'eglise de Nostre Dame de Rouen. L'an de grace m.ccc.lxxii."

The text comprises the full ten books of the Nicomachean Ethics . The second volume, containing the Politics and Economics of this deluxe, library set of Oresme's translations made for Charles V, is in a private collection in France. This manuscript is here identified as B ; see Appendix III.

Structure and Layout

Parchment, 224 fols. ii (modern) + 224 + 2 (1 modern, 1 contemporary): I (1) 8; II (9) 8; III (17) 8; IV (25) 8; V (33) 6; VI (39) 10; VII (49) 8; VIII (57) 8; IX (65) 8; X (73) 8; XI (81) 8; XII (89) 8; XIII (97) 8; XIV (105) 8; XV (113) 8; XVI (121) 8; XVII (129) 8; XVIII (137) 8; XIX (145) 8; XX (153) 10; XXI (163) 6;


XXII (169) 8; XXIII (177) 8; XXIV (185) 8; XXV (193) 8; XXVI (201) 8; XXVII (209) 8; XXVIII (217) 4; XXIX (221) 4

318 × 216 (justification, 208 × 150) mm. Text written in 2 columns, 35 lines, ruled in red ink. Glosses in smaller script in separate columns of differing sizes surrounding text on 4 sides. Prefatory matter, chapter headings, and glossary of difficult words written in 2 columns, 49 lines. Gothic bookhand, unidentified scribe close to Raoulet d'Orléans, brown ink. Catchwords, lower right verso; modern foliation. Book numbers centered in upper margin, in alternating red and blue filigrees; contemporary chapter numbers in alternating blue and red Roman numerals in margins. Alternating blue and red line endings and paraphs. Rubrics indicate the introductory summary paragraph, incipit and explicit lines, chapter numbers corresponding to those in margins, chapter titles, and key words in glosses. Below miniatures at beginning of each book, 4–6-line gold initial, dentellated and foliated. Alternating red and blue 3-line initials for first words of chapters of text; 2 lines for chapter headings. Signature marks, diagrams explaining Félicité (Book I, fol. 5v), various aspects of proportional systems (Book V, fols. 95, 95v, 97, 99, and 100) and in margins the abbreviation for the word note (no .) written by the scribe, perhaps signaling important passages on fols. 6v, 15, 25v, 31v, 41, 70, 73, 81, 98, 122v, 130, 164v, 181v, and 193.

Capital letters stroked in red. Renvois in brown ink stroked with yellow. Drolleries: fol. 1 (nun or monk reading book); fol. 2v (male figure attacking vine). Dragons as upper terminals of initials, fols. 24, 89, 115v, and 177v.

Modern quarter binding by J. M. Marchoul, Belgium, 1970. Red leather spine, wooden boards, two metal clasps.


Eleven, 9 column illustrations, 2 half-page, width of text block; interior tricolor quadrilobe frame; Master of the Bible of Jean de Sy and workshop. Prologue of translator, fol. 1, Charles V Receives the Book from Nicole Oresme (7.2 × 7.2)/Book I, fol. 2v, Charles V Receives the Translation from Nicole Oresme, above left; Charles V and His Family, above right; A King and His Counsellors Attend a Lecture, below left; The Expulsion of a Youth from a Lecture, below right (14.8 × 15.2)/Book II, fol. 24, Superhabondance, Vertu, Deffaute (8 × 7.2)/Book III, fol. 39, Fortitude, Actrempance (7.1 × 6.9)/Book IV, fol. 66, Liberalité, Le Magnanime (7.7 × 6.9)/Book V, fol. 89, Justice légale with Fortitude, Justice particulière, Mansuétude, and Entrepesie, above; Justice distributive, Justice commutative, below (15.2 × 15.2)/Book VI, fol. 115v, Art, Sapience (7.5 × 6.7)/Book VII, fol. 132, Raison, Le Continent, Concupiscence, left; Raison, L'Incontinent, Concupiscence, right (7.3 × 6.5)/Book VIII, fol. 157, Amistié (8.1 × 6.7)/Book IX, fol. 177v, Two Friends (7.3 × 6.9)/Book X, fol. 198v, Félicité (7.6 × 6.9)

A palette of red, blue, gray, and white, sometimes enhanced by gold, is repeated in all but the illustrations of Books VIII and IX, in which more sober tonalities of


gray, green, and rose appear. Distinctive features of the illustrations are the crenellated architectural motif (interpreted as a city gateway) and, in the first half of A , a fleur-de-lis motif as the pattern of the geometric background.


A copy of a document dated 10 December 1371 mentions a payment of 100 livres to Nicole Oresme for his translation of the Ethics and Politics .[2] The patron, translator, and date of 1372 are mentioned in the colophon of this manuscript. In recent publications, scholars are reluctant to accept such a precise dating, as 1372 refers not to the manuscript itself but to the transcription of the translation. Since A is found in Gilles Malet's inventory of the Louvre library dating from 1373 (item A 237 and B 240; see Delisle, Recherches , vol. 2, no. 481, 81), the manuscript must have been completed by that year. On 7 October 1380, following the death of Charles V, his brother Louis, duke of Anjou, took the manuscript, along with its counterpart volume of the Politics and Economics (MS B ), from the Louvre library. Both A and B , examples of the deluxe, presentation copies of Oresme's translations destined for stationary use in Charles V's library, found their way into the collections of the dukes of Burgundy. MS A appears in the inventories of the Burgundian library compiled in Dijon in 1404 and 1420, and again in the one prepared in Bruges about 1467.[3] An even more complete description of A occurs in a third Burgundian inventory dated 1485. The manuscript remained in the Burgundian collections in Brussels until the French Revolution. In 1796 A was taken to Paris, where it stayed in the Bibliothèque Nationale until 1815. After its return to Brussels, the red stamp of the Bibliothèque Nationale, located on the last folio of the volume, was erased and replaced by that of the Bibliothèque Royale.

Principal References[en4]Principal References[4]

Avril, "Manuscrits ," no. 281, 327; idem, La Librairie , no. 202, 117; idem, Manuscript Painting at the Court of France , no. 33, 105; Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique Albert Ier, La librairie de Philippe le Bon , no. 215; idem, Trésors de la Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique , no. 14; Delaissé, Medieval Miniatures , 78–81; Delisle, Le cabinet des manuscrits , vol. 1, 42; idem, Mélanges de paléographie , 260–64, 269, and 273–75; idem, Recherches , vol. 1, no. 55, 254–55, and vol. 2, no. 481; Dieckhoff, Die Parler und der schöne Stil , vol. 3, 116; Doutrepont, Inventaire de la librairie de Philippe le Bon , no. 91, 51; idem, La littérature française à la cour des ducs de Bourgogne , 121–22; Gaspar and Lyna, Les principaux manuscrits à peintures , vol. 1, no. 148, 354–56; van den Gheyn, Catalogue des manuscrits , no. 2902, 334; Grabmann, "Die mittelalterlichen Kommentare," 47; Hoeber, "Über Stil und Komposition der französischen Miniaturen," 193–94; Knops, Etudes ; Masai and Wittek, Manuscrits datés conservés en Belgique , no. A 66, 70; Meiss, French Painting , vol. 1, 73, and idem, French Painting :


The Limbourgs , 418; Oresme, Ethiques ; Panofsky, Early Netherlandish Painting , vol. 1, 36; idem, Hercules am Scheidewege , 150–51; Sherman, Portraits , 38–40; idem, "Representations of Charles V," 91–92; idem, "Some Visual Definitions," 320–30; de Winter, La bibliothèque de Philippe le Hardi , 10, 50, 87–88, 141, 222–25, and 263; idem, "The Grandes Heures ," 803 and 807; Wixom, "A Missal for a King," 164, 168, and 173.


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