Chronique de la Bouquechardière

Courcy, Jean de (b.1340, d.c 1428)
c 1465
Place of production:
Rouen, France
vellum, ink, paint, gold, paper and red morocco leather
Type of object:
Illuminated manuscripts
Accession number:


Jean de Courcy's history of the ancient world was popular with noble patrons in the late 15th century. This is one of a number of similar large-format manuscripts that still survive. Its six miniatures depict the classical world in contemporary guise.

De Courcy was the seigneur of Bourg-Achard in Normandy, from which his chronical takes its name. When he retired from soldiering, he turned to writing a history of the known-world from the great flood of the Old Testament to the birth of Christ organised into 6 books by geographic region. He used French sources and wrote in French to clarify events and provide a moral interpretation.

Although no copies survive from de Courcy's lifetime, around 34 examples of his text date from the late 15th century (see de Chancel-Bardelot, 1999, p. 182). Several manuscripts were made in Rouen, but others were made throughout France. Some appear to have been made for the market, as they have blank coats of arms ready to be filled with the buyer's heraldry. At a time of relative political stability, grand histories written in French rather than Greek or Latin were popular with the French nobility.

The coat of arms that appears in the border of five of the miniatures in the Waddesdon manuscript has not been identified. The arms may not be original. On fol. 153r, there appear to be traces of erasure around the arms. Sometimes, they appear to be painted over the decoration. It may be that this was a copy made for the market as described above. Indeed, its text layout is similar to a copy bought by the bibliophile Jacques d'Armagnac (c 1433-1477) which he had illustrated by his own artists in south-central France (The Hague, Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum, ms.10.A.17, see Morrison & Hedeman, 2010).

Many of the surviving manuscripts are illustrated with similar scenes. One, made for the Rouen judiciary in 1457, was probably made by a related workshop to that responsible for the Waddesdon manuscript (ms. fr. 2685 BNF, Paris). At first sight, the lay-out is very similar, but there are significant differences in the miniature compositions. Whatever its origin, the Waddesdon copy was made by a highly disciplined workshop as both the text and images are produced with a high-degree of similarity which makes it difficult to tell how many craftsmen worked on its production. The workshop may have been responsible for other grand history books (see Delaissé, Marrow and de Wit (1977), p. 246).

De Courcy's moral interpretation is evident in scenes such as the Tower of Babel (fol. 201r). The ruler Nimrod is shown as a warrior emphasising his worldly pride in earthly power which lead to his disastrous attempt to defy God by building a tower that reached the heavens (see 'The Image of Time', 2000). As in the other illustrations, Nimrod is shown in 15th-century armour; the architecture of Babylon reflects the city of Rouen; and the landscape is that of northern France.

For a detailed list of the illustrations and text content, please see the Physical Description tab.

Phillippa Plock, 2017

Physical description

Dimensions (mm):
424 x 316 x 128; 410 x 297 (leaves)
Physical details:
365 folios gathered in 47 quires; bound in possibly Dutch red morocco gilt leather about 1700.

6 miniatures, over half-page size; numerous initials, line endings and borders all in colours and gold.

List of illustrations:

1. The Trinity; Noah leaving the ark; the building of Argos and Athens (fol. 9r)
2. Paris leading Helen to Priam at the gates of Troy (fol. 97r)
3. Foundation of four towns: 'Venyse, Cycambre, Cartage, Romme', by Trojans fleeing destruction of Troy (fol. 153r)
4. Foundation of Babylon by 'Nembroch' and construction of Tower of Babel (fol. 201r)
5. Alexander and Fortune's wheel; Philip with his tutor Aristotle taking over government from Eurydice (fol. 258r)
6. Capture and Sack of Jerusalem by Antiochus (fol. 326r)

Text content:

Prologue of Jean de Courcy's 'La Bouquechardière' and Table of chapters (fols 2r-8r); Book I (fols 9r-95v); Book II (fols 97r-152v); Book III (fols. 153r-200v); Book IV (fols 201r-257v); Book V (fols 258r-325v); Book VI (fol. 326r-363v).
MS 5
Owner's mark
[on fly-leaf, upper left, pencil, Baron Edmond's inventory number]
ROMAINE : 1416
[black label on binding]

[fols 175r, 176v, 177r, pencil, same hand]

[inscriptions erased]
[front fly-leaf and fol. 1r]

ccccxxv A
Tirée de plusieurs celebres Auteurs
et traduite en Français
Chevalier Normand.
[long inscription describing decoration and binding]
[fol. 1r, ink, early 19th C]

No 6
[fol. 1r, upper right, pencil and ink]
[inside front cover, label with printed blue frame, stamped in black ink]


Acquired by Baron Edmond de Rothschild (b.1845, d.1934) before 1879; by descent to his son James de Rothschild (b.1878, d.1957); accepted by The Treasury Solicitor in lieu of taxes on the Estate of Mr James de Rothschild in 1965; given to Waddesdon The Rothschild Collection (The National Trust) in 1990.
Exhibition history:
Exposition de l'art ancient, Trocadéro, Paris, 1879, no. 52

'The image of Time', Calouste Gulbenkian Museum, Lisbon, March-June 2000
Waddesdon (National Trust)
Accepted by HM Government in lieu of inheritance tax and allocated to the National Trust for display at Waddesdon Manor, 1990



A de Ruble; Notice des principaux livres manuscrits et imprimés qui ont fait partie de l'exposition de l'art ancient at Trocadéro; Paris; [n. pub.]; 1879; pp. 31-2, no. 52.
L M J Delaissé; The Importance of the Book of Hours for the History of the Medieval Book; Ursula E. McCracken, Lilian M C Randall, Richard H. Randall Jr., Gatherings in Honor of Dorothy E. Miner, Baltimore, The Walters Art Gallery, 1974; pp. 203-225; pp. 222, 224, fig. 15.
L M J Delaissé, James Marrow, John de Wit; Illuminated Manuscripts: The James A de Rothschild Collection at Waddesdon Manor; Fribourg; Office du Livre; 1977; pp. 229-246, cat. no. MS 11, ill.
Béatrice de Chancel, Les manuscrits de la Bouquechardière de Jean de Courcy, Revue d'histoire des textes, 17 (1987), 1989, 219-290; pp. 225, 229, 257, 263-64, 284-86.
Lilian M C Randall; Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery. Vol.2, France, 1420-1540; Baltimore; John Hopkins University Press; 1992; cat. nos 154, 165.
Béatrice de Chancel; Les manuscrits de "La Bouquechardière" de Jean de Courcy et leur décor; p. 185
Foundation Calouste Gulbenkian; The Image of Time, European Manuscript Books; Lisbon; Fundacao Calouste Gulbenkian - Lisboa; 2000; p. 349, fig. 94 (fol. 201r)
Christopher de Hamel; Les Rothschild collectionneurs de manuscrits; France; Bibliothèque nationale de France; 2004; p. 35, fig. 11d, p. 105.
Scot McKendrick; Between Flanders and Normandy: Collaboration among miniaturists or a case of influence?; John Lowden, Alixe Bovey, Under the influence: the concept of influence and the study of illuminated manuscripts, Turnhout, Brepols (Belgium), 2007; pp. 139-149; p. 145
Elizabeth Morrison, Anne D Hedeman; Imagining the Past in France: History in Manuscript Painting, 1250-1500; Los Angeles; J. Paul Getty Museum; 2010; pp. 255, n. 7

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