Nouv. Acq. Fr. 10032, Dances for men and women

Nouv. Acq. Fr. 10032
Angelus loquitur

The book contains 29 different texts, including both the men's and the women's Danse Macabre.

The men's Danse Macabre has no headline, but according to the table of contents at the beginning of the book, the title should be »La Danse Machabree«.

The women's Danse Macabre starts by — almost — revealing the name of the author: »Sensuit la dance des femmes composee a paris par & «, but we're never told the name, just an ampersand, and this goes for the table of contents as well as the text itself.

The age of the manuscript is next to impossible to comment on, due to its unknown provenance.

The Provenance of the Book

The ownership of this manuscript is quite nebulous. It was part of the so-called Barrois collection, which means it may very well have been a stolen item.

The English Fourth Earl of Ashburham had in a short time built up an impressive book collection. In broad terms, he had bought four collections for a total of approx. 4,000 books. Among these were 1,923 volumes in the Libri collection, and 702 books he had purchased in 1849 from Joseph Barrois for £ 6,000 pounds sterling.

The Earl has probably been in good faith since he published catalogs with detailed descriptions of the books from his four new collections. The manuscript on the present page was included in the second part of the catalog: » Part the second: Comprising a collection formed by Mons. J. Barrois«, where it got the number ccccxl (many sources say 340). The description of the 29 texts in this manuscript is almost six pages long.

These thorough descriptions enabled the French librarians to identify large parts of the collection as stolen books. Barrois had often split the books and rebound them to disguise their origin, but the French nevertheless were confident that they could recognize much of their property.

This was where the earl's benevolence ended. He was not prepared to hand over his expensive acquisition to France, and after his death the collection passed to his son. This fifth Earl of Ashburham was in frequent correspondence with the French, and he delivered some of the manuscripts, but he was not prepared to separate from his father's collection, even though the French offered him double the amount of what his father had paid for the stolen goods.

In 1884, the Italian government purchased the entire Libri-collection with the exception of 100 books. These 100 books, along with 66 books from the Barrois-collection, were given to the French in 1888, but the rest were sold by the Earl at an auction in 1901. The present manuscript had no. 490 in the sales catalog.

The French traveled to Sotheby's (at that time called Sotheby, Wilkinson & Hodge) at 13 Wellington Street and bought 60 of the books. These new acquisitions ("nouvelle acquisition") were divided by language, and the books in the French language were assigned names from Nouv. Acq. Fr. 10031 to 10043.

Jacques Antoine Dulaure

As will be seen from the above, it is hopeless to specualte about where the book originated. The various sources can't even agree on whether the book had no. 340 or 440, whether Barrois was named Joseph or Paul, and whether he was born in 1784 or 1780. Besides this, no one is saying that the entire Barrois collection was stolen. After all, the French could only prove ownership of 66 volumes.

However, there is a neglected clue in the book »Histoire physique, civile et morale de Paris« from 1823 by J. A. Dulaure.

The author tells us that he once owned a manuscript, which featured both men and women: »Je possède un manuscrit où se trouvent deux pièces composées à Paris, l'une intitulée la Dance macabrée, et l'autre la Dance des femmes«.

If this manuscript is one that we know of, and it hasn't "disappeared" in the mean time it would have to be either: Fr. 25434, Fr. 1186, Fr. 995 or NAF 10032. Only these five contain both dances.

He also says that the manuscript started with an angel that spoke Latin verses: »Dans la première pièce un ange ouvre la scène, et dans des vers latins expose des peintures qui excluent, dit il, le luxe, la pompe et les vanités de ce monde; puis suit le prologue, […]«

We only know these Latin texts from Fr. 1055, Fr. 14989, Fr. 25550, Lat. 14904 and NAF 10032, and it's only the latter two, Lat. 14904 and NAF 10032, which state that the words are spoken by an angel.

The duchess is quoted for: »J'ay des amis, argent, chevaux« This would be from the Ms. Fr 1186, Ms. 25434, NAF 10032 or Haag 71 E 49, because the others say: »Iay des amis: et grant cheuance«.

The duchess' next line is: »Solas esbats gens à devis. etc«. This excludes the Fr. 1186, which has »Soulas esbatz a grant deuis«

Apart from this, many manuscripts could be excluded if we were to examine their ownership through the centuries. For instance, the Fr. 14989 arrived at the royal library between 1792 and 1802 and could thus not have belonged to Dulaure. By the same reasoning we can probably exclude the manuscripts from the St. Victor Abbey.

It seems fairly certain then, that Dulaure has once owned the NAF 10032. Unfortunately Dulaure doesn't give us any further information about the manuscript: Where did he acquire it from, and where did it go?

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