Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Poet's Notebook: The Personal Manuscript of Charles d'Orléans (Paris BnF MS Fr. 25458)

Academic journal article Medium Aevum

The Poet's Notebook: The Personal Manuscript of Charles d'Orléans (Paris BnF MS Fr. 25458)

Article excerpt

Mary-Jo Arn, The Poet's Notebook: The Personal Manuscript of Charles d'Orléans (Paris BnF MS fr. 25458), Texts and Transitions 3 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2008). xxii + 200 pp.; 30 black-and-white illustrations; ? colour illustration; 8 tables; CDROM. ISBN 978-2-503-52070-4. euro80.00.

On Charles d'Orléans's release from captivity in 1440, he brought back to France a book of eighteen or nineteen quires containing poetry composed during his twenty-five years in England; this book remained with him until his death in 1465, when it had expanded to fill thirty-eight quires. It has since become one of the most fascinating, and also one of the most perplexing, medieval manuscripts, presenting puzzles of mise en p age ^ ordering, numbering, and copying practice. Until now, scholars have been obliged to depend largely on the substantial work of Pierre Champion, author of the only full-length study of the manuscript (1907), who established what is still the standard edition of the poems (1923-7). Mary-Jo Arn undertakes a major re -evaluation of Champion's findings in her outstanding study, remarkable for its painstaking detail, its methodological precision, and the new insights offered into the poet's thinking about his poetry as a collection. Champion's conclusions, drawn sometimes from textual rather than codicological evidence and from proceeding verse form by verse form, are challenged by Arn's 'stratigraphie' examination of the book's physical composition, analysing its development copying stint by copying stint to generate a biography of the book and 'a chronicle of [Charles's] poetic journey' (p. 166). After a meticulous description of the manuscript in its current state, helpfully illustrated by a series of tables visualizing details of composition and content, subsequent chapters present data pertinent to each of four copying stints, stretching from the late 14308 to early 14608, culminating in a concluding section exploring the implications of this new material. …

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