In the second quarter of the fourteenth century, the Parisian bookseller Thomas de Maubeuge organised the production of four manuscripts comprising collected lives of the saints, today known as the French legendary G. In each manuscript, Thomas and commissioners including Jeanne de Flandre and the French king Charles IV decided to rearrange this hagiographic collection, to combine it with Gautier de Coinci’s Miracles de Nostre Dame and the Vie des Pères, or variously to incorporate legends taken from a French translation of Jacobus de Voragine’s Legenda aurea. Such book illuminators working in the Rue neuve Nostre Dame, as Richard and Jeanne de Montbaston, the Fauvel Master and the Master of Thomas de Maubeuge illustrated the hagiographic texts with extensive miniature cycles; in doing so, the craftsmen made these remarkably large volumes feature among the most expensive products of contemporary book trade.
Departing from research on the complex manufacturing processes then characteristic of the commercial Parisian manuscript production, the present study examines the meaning and function of the mostly conventional and formulaic miniatures within the overall structure of the manuscripts. The traditions of illustrated French legendaries and the Legenda aurea in particular serve as a background against which the present study discusses pictorial strategies that allowed book producers and patrons to add or to stress certain layers of meaning in well-known texts. Hence, the illustrations served as a tool to subtly guide individual readers’ reception of the texts. The manuscripts studied each evidently prove subject to a unique concept – or dispositio – that corresponds to the personal wishes of the commissioners and that, more general, mirrors the search of a new form to present the lives of the saints in early fourteenth-century France.
In addition to this transformation of the manuscript genre of legendaries, the corpus also reflects a fundamental change in the ways manuscripts were read as the manuscripts in question reacted to a broader shift from a monastic-contemplative to a scholastic-academic lectio.A catalogue section makes 39 hagiographic manuscripts from before 1350 and their image sequences accessible to future research.
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