Werewolf transformation in the manuscript era.
In the Renaissance there was a great outpouring of engraved and woodcut images by French and German humanist and polymath writers on demonology depicting what we might call broadly witchcraft and demonic possession. Some of this art appeared in books, and some was in anonymous broadsheets relating to Inquisitorial trials like those of the French werewolves Pierre Burgot and Michel Verdun and the German Stubbe Peeter. (1) The most important of these books were Jean Bodin's (1530-1596) De la demonomanie des sorciers (1580); Claude Prieur's (d. ca. 1596) Dialogue de lycanthropie, ou transformation d'hommes en loups (1595); Jean de Nynauld's De la lycanthropie, transformation etextase des sorciers (1615); and Beauvois de Chauvincourt's Discours de la lycanthropieou de la transformation des hommes en loups (1599), as well as the arch collector of lycanthropie tales, Henri Boguet of Saint-Claude, in Burgundy's Discors execrable des sorciers (1602) and the German Johannes Weyer's (1515-1558) De Praestigiis daemonum et incantationibus. All were especially fascinated by werewolves, among other instances of the demonic irrupting into human life. (2)
As part of this Renaissance humanist interest in demonology and in portents (such as comets and monstrous births), werewolves naturally received the attentions of woodcut artists and engravers. For example, lycanthropie trials, human-werewolf encounters, and even transformations were often shown in broadsheets, pamphlets, and books. These images ranged widely in character. For example, in 1508 the Swiss humanist Johannes Geiler von Kaiserberg (1445-1510) preached in Strasbourg Cathedral on the third Sunday in Lent a sermon on superstitions in which he mentioned, among several other examples, werewolves and quoted Vincent of Beauvais and William of Auvergne; this sermon was later published, probably from memory, by another writer, Johannes Pauli, in Die Emeis (The Ants, 1516). It featured a dramatic woodcut by Hans Weiditz of an urban werewolf attack (see Fig. 1). (3)
A similar but far more gory scene appeared in the work of Lucas Cranach the Elder (1472-1553) (who, incidentally, did a very fine portrait of Geiler). His woodcut of 1512, now in the New York Metropolitan Museum, shows a werewolf devouring his prey in a field of ravaged bodies, presenting him as a still-human figure in an animal posture (see Fig. 2). Werewolves even appeared among depictions of the monstrous races from Pliny's Natural History, such as pygmies, anthropophagi, cynocephali, Arimaspians, Blemmyae, Essedones, and Hyperboreans in the German Esopi appologi siue mythologi cum quibusdam carminum etfabularum additionibus Sebastiani Brant, a collection whose second part gives a variety of fables, proverbs, riddles, and portents adapted from classical and folk sources, each with an accompanying woodcut (see Fig. 3). (4) One such fable shows the story of certain Arcadians of the Xanthus family chosen by drawing lots and turned into werewolves after hanging their clothes in trees and swimming across a pond during the ancient festival of Lykaia. Their story will occupy us shortly.
The rich interchange among certain French manuscript painters of the mid- to late fifteenth century, chiefly the eminent Valois court artist Robinet Testard, and Continental engravers like the Housebook Master, as well as various playing card makers, woodcut artists, and printmakers, is well known. Indeed, manuscript painters in France and elsewhere borrowed from graphic media and were borrowed from: scenes, architectural elements, iconographic topoi such as the World Upside Down, and images of animals, birds, and flowers moved freely between the works of such painters as Testard or the anonymous but witty and ingenious French illustrator of the Livre des simples medicines, now Brussels, Bibliotheque Royale MS IV. 1024, and graphic media artists such as Israhel van Meckenem and the Initial Masters. (5)
Given this pattern of cross-fertilization between manuscript artists and those working in graphic media, one would expect to see evidence of copying of medieval lycanthropic miniatures by the woodcut makers and engravers just mentioned. Thus a significant question for students of the early book, especially in France, is why the many depictions of werewolves in the early to mid-sixteenth century are not based on any late-medieval manuscript miniatures or other representations of werewolves, (6) but rather appear to have been created from whole cloth. Surely so fascinating a visual moment as a man's transformation into a werewolf begged for depiction as much before the age of print as after it.
To judge from recent scholarship on lycanthropy, (7) moreover, seemingly no encounter with a medieval werewolf, no transformation, no ecclesiastical trial was depicted by medieval artists with the exception of the werewolves of Ossory in Gerald of Wales's Topographia Hibernica from around 1220, illustrated in a British Library codex, MS Royal 13.B.viii, fol. 18r (see Fig. 4), and its Bury copy from around 1320 in Cambridge University Library MS Ff.1.27. This story, in brief, tells of a priest traveling to Ulster who meets a distraught male werewolf in the woods who still retains reason, speech, and even religious faith. The werewolf asks him to give the Eucharist to an aged, dying female werewolf, who is human under her wolf skin and utters human cries. The gift of the Eucharist returns the woman to her human condition. (8) Significantly, no werewolf image made before the sixteenth century appears in the illustrations for Gael Milin's extensive Les chiens de Dieu, cited in note 1, and chapter 3 of Milin's book. "Images medievales du loup-garou" does not refer to a single manuscript, or indeed, intend the word "images" to mean visual representations. In short, werewolves seem absent from the visual history of the handmade book.
Werewolves do appear in the illustrations of an anonymous Middle French translation of the lengthy Reductorium morale by the Benedictine and humanist Pierre Bersuire. Begun in 1320 and largely finished by 1343, the Reductorium in sixteen books was a preachers' encyclopedia intended to help clerics compose sermons by supplying instructive and attention-getting stories drawn from a variety of learned and traditional folkloric sources as well as from personal experience and hearsay. It gives classical myths, marvels, and wonders a moralizing or allegorical slant, tying them to the Bible and to various works of spirituality. Thus each element of a myth or marvel is examined in bono and in malo, producing a work of very considerable length. (9)
Its fourteenth book, treating marvels and wonders found in fifty-six different geographic regions and countries and in the natural and created world--for example, birds, bodies of water, and buildings--was excerpted (or may have been found as an excerpt) and put into French about 1390 by a clerical translator. Three of the four known luxurious manuscripts of this treatise, copied between 1427 and 1485, and sometimes titled Livre des merveilles du monde or more commonly Secrets de l'histoire naturelle (here called Secrets of Natural History), and treating countries and regions arranged alphabetically, depict werewolves and their transformation, although, as mentioned above, the pictures have not been treated by modern students of lycanthropy. These artistic treatments of the werewolf's transformative moment and how they go far beyond the theological comfort level of the written text they illustrate are my subject here. By making these miniatures and their cultural context more available to scholars, I hope to right the present imbalance between the primarily textual treatments of medieval lycanthropy and the possibilities for equally fascinating iconographic ones and show the bold and innovative character of the artists who painted these werewolves.
Learned and theological debate over the likelihood of human transformation into wolves--or other nonhuman forms--extends from the ninth-century Canones episcopi attributed to Regino of Prum, and its elaborations in book 19 of Burchard of Worms's (965-1025) Correctorsive medicus, through works by Gerald of Wales (1146-1223), Gervaise of Tilbury (1150-1228), and William of Auvergne's De Universo (1180-1249), and on into the books of the sixteenth- and seventeenth-century humanists mentioned above; it even finds its way into rabbinical commentaries of the late Middle Ages, such as that of Eleazar ben Judah of Worms. Indeed, at least with regard to Gerald, Gervaise, and William, Manfred Bambeck can justly speak of a sort of twelfth-century werewolf Renaissance among speculative writers as well as poets. (10)
The orthodox Christian (and to some degree rabbinic) position--so ably charted by Caroline Walker Bynum in her insightful study Metamorphosis and Identity--was that such transformation is impossible and that both the person who believes he is a werewolf and those who claim to see him as such are victims of diabolic illusion or of a willing pact with the Devil. (11) A minority popular or folkloric view that such transformations can and do happen--often through lunatio or lunar power--was codified by Gervaise in his Otia imperialia (1214) who was the source for much of Bersuire's werewolf lore. (12) Narrative treatments of werewolves, such as Marie de Frances Bisclavret and its variants, admitting such transformations' apparent existence but without speculating further, also attribute them to enchantment. (13)
In this context, it may be useful to offer some background on Pierre Bersuire's life and times in order to explain his fascination with metamorphosis generally and werewolf legends in particular. He was probably born about 1290 in Saint-Pierre-du-Chemin, in the modern Department of the Vendee in Western France in the region of Pays de la Loire, and died in 1362. (14) As his family was noble but without fortune, Bersuire entered religious life early, as was customary for landless sons, apparently first joining the Franciscans and then transferring through papal dispensation to the Benedictines. (15) Recognized by his contemporaries as a monk, he is shown as tonsured in an author portrait in a manuscript of his works, for example, in a deluxe copy of his French translation of Livy, now in Australia, made from Francesco Petrarch's (1307-1374) reconstruction of the Latin text. (16) He speaks of his birthplace reverently and often in his works ("in mea vero patria Pictavia"), (17) and he is fond of anecdotes about its folklore, its marsh birds, its weather, and its bell towers. It would be only natural for him to be particularly responsive to Gervaise of Tilbury's retelling of folktales from the Auvergne about werewolves and particularly to one such tale heard directly from an Auvergnat informant. (18)
By about 1320, Bersuire was associated with the newly formed papal court at Avignon. As a humanist it was natural that he would gravitate to the papal palace, rich in books and a gathering place for cultivated men, where he remained active in the papal curia as a scholar for a good part of his life and where he wrote his chief works. Of particular importance with regard to the papal palace at Avignon was the prevalence of protohumanist thought and the congregation there of poets, artists, and scholars with humanistic interests, especially related to Ovid's Metamorphoses.
At the Avignon court, Bersuire was the protege and a member of the household of the humanist Pierre des Pres (d. 1361), a papal vice-chancellor and later a cardinal. Other important humanist contacts at the papal court and outside it were the bibliophile Richard de Bury and the classicizing writers, mythographers, and poets Thomas Waleys, Louis Heilingen, Phillipe de Vitry, and Francesco Petrarch, who gathered in Avignon in part to use the magnificent papal library. (19)
As was common among churchmen during this period, Bersuire eagerly sought benefices for their income, and after receiving several minor ones, in 1349, he was preferred to the important office of chamberer of Notre Dame de Colombes in the diocese of Chartres, bringing him closer to Paris, where he finally moved. There was trouble, however, almost immediately over the revenues of this benefice, because the incumbent, one Gauthier, a vindictive and conservative cleric, had arranged for his cousin to have the income, and eventually Bersuire found himself accused of and for a period imprisoned and tortured for heresy in 1350 and 1351. Though the precise nature of these accusations of heresy is not clear, it is probable that Gauthier and his ally, the bishop of Paris, used Bersuire's open fascination with Greek and Roman myth and ancient philosophic writing as well as his close ties with contemporary classicizing humanists against him. The actual charges seem to have involved Bersuire's interest in "forbidden sciences" and magic.
Were the bishop of Paris to have looked carefully into book 14 of Bersuire's Reductorium, he would have found support for the charges, for there are numerous examples of magical and Ovidian transformation, in addition to stories of werewolves. Bersuire discusses in considerable detail various forms of transformation in chapter 3, on England, chapter 9, on Brittany, and chapter 18, on Ethiopia, as well as in chapter 57, on the human body (although he usually cautiously dissociates himself from the reality of such bodily changes). In England, for instance, the sea is translated to the heavens, and Merlin turns stones into dancers. In Brittany, men turn themselves into beasts, while in Ethiopia men become storks. In chapter 57, men are physically changed to women and women to men.
Bersuire was particularly vulnerable to episcopal charges of excess interest in the pagan gods and their deeds, because book 15 of the Reductorium was a reworking of Ovid's Metamorphoses, which recounts, as the word "metamorphoses" suggests, the transformations of gods and mortals into animal or other nonhuman shapes. (20) For example, in book (1), Ovid describes how the god Jupiter's omniscience was tested while visiting the palace of Lycaon, king of Arcadia. After being served a dinner of the flesh of a hostage, Jupiter turned Lycaon into a wolf as punishment, and Lycaon roamed the world ravening and howling unceasingly. (21)
We can, then, situate Bersuire's stories of werewolves against the background of the charges of heresy made against him and in relation to a lengthy career as a translator of the Roman historian Livy and as a reteller of Ovidian myth. Indeed, in Secrets of Natural History, Bersuire's interest in antique gods, myths, religious practices, and transformations is everywhere apparent, though the translator of his work into French has skipped many of these passages in the Latin original, perhaps because he felt ill at ease with Bersuire's classicizing humanism. Nonetheless, there are fifteen places in the text where Ovid's myths and stories of transformation are offered in illustration of a point, and there are many other neutrally presented references to the worship of pagan deities in various temples in Greece and Rome.
Just as fascinated by and uneasy about the possibility of werewolf transformation as any of the later humanists mentioned at the beginning of this article, Bersuire grappled strenuously with the orthodoxy of their putative existence. He was torn between the popular or folkloric belief in the actual transformation, as described, for example, in Ovid's Metamorphoses, and the "official" philosophic and religious denial of human-into-nonhuman transformation.
Bersuire's detailed accounts of werewolves occurring throughout the Secrets--as they were filtered through his translator--show a striking tension between his humanistic fascination with pagan antiquity and his Christian concern as a Benedictine monk for the inviolability of human status and the criteria distinguishing man from animals. Ultimately, however, he could not accept the reality of werewolf transformation, though one of his three main sources for book 14, Gervaise of Tilbury's Otia imperialia, did. The illustrators, showing remarkable artistic freedom, apparently followed Gervaise and popular or folkloric accounts when conceiving and painting their miniatures in some of the manuscripts of the Secrets of Natural History rather than be bound by Christian orthodoxy.
Bersuire signals his particular interest in werewolf transformation openly elsewhere in the Reductorium. Though Ovid's Metamorphoses may seem at first unlikely material for a preaching aid, book 15 of the Reductorium is devoted to its fables. As mentioned above, in his book 15, Bersuire opens
with his own moral interpretation of the ur-werewolf Lycaon, whose fable serves as prologue to the stories of human-animal transformations in the Metamorphoses. Lycaon, turned into a werewolf byjove, represents the Jews whom God made fugitives, eternally wandering the earth because of their sins against the flesh of Christ during the Passion and Crucifixion. Significantly, by means of this Christian morahzation, Bersuire avoids committing himself to the truth or falsity of Lycaon's very realistically described transformation yet retells the story with considerable detail.
He was more specific in book 14 of the Reductorium. Throughout its seventy-five chapters (one topic Bersuire treated in two chapters is made one chapter by the French translator), werewolves are discussed more frequently and in greater detail than any creature save the lion and the elephant, and the stories are longer than those of the transformations already mentioned in England, Brittany, and Ethiopia. And he brings these stories very close to home by situating three of them in his own region of France.
Let us then consider these stories in detail, with some comparison between Bersuire's Latin, his source for some of the stories in Gervaise of Tilbury's Otia imperialia, and the French translator's changes to these to see the raw material that the artists had to work with and to guide them in their depictions. Three werewolf narratives occur in book 14 of the Secrets, chapter 22, on Gaul. Apparently quoting from memory or using notes rather than referring to a manuscript copy of Gervaise's work, Bersuire retells two contemporary werewolf stories from the Otia and one unfamiliar popular or folkloric narrative of an entire werewolf family gathered from an informant. He implies that he is picking these stories from among an array of similar examples known to him: "infinita alia sunt exempla," he says (book 14, 599).
The first werewolf story mentions an actual historical person, Pons de Chepteuil or de Capdeuil, a crusader and troubadour, who possibly died in 1227, not so distant from Gervaise's lifetime:
Gervaise says that in Auvergne are some men who are of very strange condition. For at certain times of the year they are transformed into enraged and hungry wolves. And Isidore alleges and claims in his book on transformations that it is possible that certain men by real transformation, and not by fantastic fiction and melancholy imagination, sometimes lose their human estate and are mutated and changed into the size, manner, and condition of a wolf and ravenous beast, losing the noble condition of sweet human nature. Isidore recounts just such a case that happened in the Auvergne in the Diocese of Clermont. And he says that in this country was conceived and born a most noble and worthy knight named Rambault de Pulet, who was ruined and disinherited from his lands as much by the power of men at arms as by force of law, through another knight who was his enemy, who was called Ponce de Capitol. But because of the great grief and desolation that this noble knight experienced when he saw himself thus banished and deprived of his lands and his honor, he felt such despair and such heaviness of heart that he fled in the dark of night through the wastelands and thickets and through the high mountains, to the point that he forgot that he was a rational human being. And he was transformed into a ravenous, greedy wolf, and he strangled small children, and he did the same to grown men when he could overcome them. And because of the great cruelty of this wolf, the good men of the lowlands left their dwellings and went away with their children and all their goods, to live in strong-walled towns. And then it happened about this time that the wolf attacked a carpenter in the woods. And the carpenter fought back so fiercely that he cut off one of the wolf's feet. Then, when this wolf saw his foot cut off in this way and the great quantity of blood which gushed from his body, at this very hour he regained his human form and his original nature and condition and was a man just as before, and most humbly he thanked the carpenter, telling him that by him he was delivered from his wretched wolf nature and that he had come back to the state of the noble disposition and condition of a human being. And this knight said to the carpenter that for all those who have been transformed into the form of a wolf, it is their sovereign remedy to suffer the cutting of one or another of their members and to render a great spilling of their blood, and by this they would lose the nature and form of a wolf and regain their proper human nature. (22)
The second story in chapter 22 also concerns a named person, one Calcevayra--whose name is corrupted from the name of the castle in Gervaise's Latin, though it seems to go back to an antique lycanthropic tale in Petronius s Satyricon (para. 62). This story of a sunbather turned into a werewolf through the loss of his clothing--a topos common to many stories of werewolf creation--offers a different explanation for transformation than the familiar one of lunar causation:
Gervaise gives us another example on this subject and says that near a castle called Calcebara, which is near Viviers, it happened that there was a man of the region who was accustomed at certain times to strip himself nude at the foot of a mountain and leave his clothing there, and then lie totally naked in the sand, and there he would turn and toast himself in this sand. And in doing this he lost his human form and was transmuted and transformed into a wolf. (23)
In the third story of French werewolves--which has no literary source--we learn that
it came about in Auvergne that a knight who was passing through a wood was attacked by an old wolf and two young cubs. It so happened that in defending himself, he killed the old wolf, and he continued onward and went on his way, and at the edge of the woods he met an old woman who was carrying some raw meat and other foods in her apron. The knight recounted his adventure to this woman with good will and with the intention that she should avoid the path of the two cubs. Then the good woman began to weep in great sorrow. And she said to the knight that this wolf he had killed was her husband and that the two cubs were her two children. And she said that at certain times they became wolves, as he had seen, to whom she would bring some food to eat. (24)
Other, less detailed and contemporary stories occur in the rest of the Secrets. A legend in chapter 47 of the Secrets derived from Solinus and Pomponius Mela, about the mysterious region of Scythia, or inner Asia, involves werewolf transformation by or near water, a common, liminal feature of such stories, where water was a type of frontier separating two worlds or two species, animal and human, in this case human and wolf:
Solinus says that in Scythia, among the other nations of people in the region, there is a province called Neutrie through which flows the river Borriscenes, and on the banks of this river live people who are of such nature that on certain days of the summertime, when they pass through the waters of this river, they are transfigured and become wolves and live only on raw flesh. And they remain in this state for a certain period of time and then, when their term is finished and completed, they return and regain their human face and condition. (25)
In chapter 73 of the Secrets, on Portents, men swimming across a pond as part of the Lykaia festival were ritually transformed into werewolves in Arcadia, again, as in the previous example, for a limited period of time:
Pliny says that in Arcadia there was a pool. And when some men were led beyond this pool and were, by chance, lying about and wallowing in the sands, they were changed and transfigured into the shape of wolves. And if for a period of nine years they refrained from eating human flesh, after the ninth year they reverted to their own human nature and condition. (26)
This material is followed by a lengthy discussion of how Christians should interpret the transformations:
With regard to this, Saint Augustine speaks in ... The City of God.... And he says that the Arcadians foolishly believed that men who went beyond the lake mentioned above were changed and converted into wolves. But St. Augustine, through a long argument, shows these opinions to be the work of the Devil and contrary to all reason, without finding there any appearance of truth. But it is all full of fantastic and damnable illusion, as has been said and told above in the chapter on Gaul.... And as to the responses that could be offered regarding the stories just given, the chief response that comes to mind and pertains is this one: that the Devil obscured their vision and deceived them in order that they not see clearly, to make them fall into diverse errors. (27)
In one way or another, Bersuire's five lycanthropic marvels all treat some of the subject's major motifs, such as full-time and part-time werewolves. The naturalistic explanation of temporary werewolves assumes that their condition results from some tremendous mental shock such as loss of loved ones or economic disaster that changes the genetic makeup, we might say, of the subject. The three Auvergnat narratives also contain other, equally familiar and intertwined motifs: the werewolf Rambault's madness because of his neighbor's malign actions, his original noble nature, his return to human form, speech, and penitent state of mind through a wound accompanied by the loss of a large quantity of blood, the Auvergnat sunbather's loss of human clothing, which distinguishes men from animals, leading to a loss of humanity, and the werewolf family's seasonal, perhaps lunar transformation, a cause as old as Propertius's Elegies. The word "lunatio," or its Old French counterpart "lunaison," seems to indicate the power of the moon over humans on certain critical days during the new and full moons. For example, Milin mentions such lunar transformation in the Vita of the Breton saint Ronan, where the saint is accused of transforming himself "per interlunia" into a werewolf. There the word seems to mean "at the moment of the new moon" or "under the new moons influence." (28)
We see, then, that a thematically linked collection of stories, contemporary and ancient, leads to Bersuire's consideration of the problems of orthodoxy that these accounts raise and offers an opportunity for novel artistic renderings of werewolves. Since the human forms of these werewolves were in flux, whatever the cause, lunar or other, they were ideal and highly dramatic subject matter for the artistic depiction of transformation as the artists responded to the Middle French text of the Secrets either directly or, more probably, through notes and other indications made on the parchment by the manuscripts' designers, or by a mix of both methods.
For this reason, the translator of Bersuire's book 14 is also important to my argument, since in the act of translation he often subtly imposes his own responses to Bersuire's Latin on the question of human-to-animal transformation. Accordingly, his changes show us the state of late fourteenth- or early fifteenth-century attitudes toward lycanthropy. For this translator does not merely put Bersuire's Latin into French, but in a positive way he often adds personal predilections, idiomatic phrasings, and features that make him as much an adapter as a translator of the original Latin. And in a negative way, his omissions and often willful changes to the original are also a sign of his sensibility and result in a different text in some respects from the one that would have been before the eyes of a reader of Bersuire's Latin. Thus, as we see below, while the translator's French may not add significant details to the stories of transformation in the Secrets, by the simple fact of putting the marvels in relief, largely free of comment, and focusing on what is concrete and dramatic in them, he sets the stage for the artists' rendering of these events for a secular audience desiring primarily titillation and visual gratification rather than morally improving matter.
Moreover, this translator is of considerable interest in the history of the French translations of scientific, ethical, historical, and other Latin works that came about through the patronage of Charles V of France (1338-1380). (29) Under his aegis the royal library of over 1,200 volumes was gathered and made easily accessible to members of his administration. (30) In fact, Charles was very partial to luxuriously illustrated versions of these translated texts of exactly the sort that the French Secrets is, with its fifty-six large "menu" style miniatures. Menu pictures give synopses of the contents of the chapters they illustrate, showing by an assortment, usually in a landscape, of animals, people or natural phenomena, the marvels discussed in the chapter.
Although Jean de Vignay (1283-1340) set a precedent for books such as the Secrets with his translations of the Golden Legend, Vincent of Beauvais's Speculum maius, the Itinerarium of Odoric de Pordenone, and the Chess Book of Jacobo de Cessolis, the great wave of translation activity came toward the end of the fourteenth century and it is there we should probably place our translator.
Besides the better-known translators most closely associated with Charles, such as Nicole Oresme (1320-1382), (31) Raoul de Presles (1316-1382), and Jean Corbechon, who translated the De proprietatibus rerum of Bartholomaeus Anglicus in 1372 in a magnificently illustrated manuscript, there were others, less eminent, but the range of their work is significant for the wide vernacular interests of the period. Among these can be mentioned Jacques Bauchant (d. 1396), who translated the pseudo-Senecan Remedies of Fortune, Denis Foulechat, who translated John of Salisbury's Polycraticus in 1372, Jean Daudin (d. 1386), who translated Petrarch's Remedies of Fortune in 1372, Jean Golein (1325-1403), who translated among other works Durandus's Rationale, and Simon Hesdin (d. 1383), who was responsible for an enormously popular translation of Valerius Maximus's Diets and Sayings of the Philosophers. (32) As Aden Kumler notes, 'Aided by such talented translators ... Charles V initiated an unprecedented program of translations from Latin to the vernacular." (33)
It is in the immediate historical aftermath of this program that we must situate the translator of the Secrets. Unfortunately for students of medieval translation, he says very little about himself. His dates of activity must lie between 1343, when Bersuire's Latin text was completed and circulating, and the appearance of the first extant manuscript of the Secrets in 1427. Linguistically, the style and orthography of the French point to a date late in the fourteenth or early in the fifteenth centuries, and this translator cites no author later than those used by Bersuire.
Thus, absent any personal comments, our knowledge of this translator and his attitude to the Latin source, especially as expressed in Bersuire's werewolf stories, comes from a brief Prologue that appears only in New York, Pierpont Morgan Library MS M.461, a version of the Secrets copied about 1460, midway between the earliest extant manuscript in 1427 and the latest in 1485, (34) and from the way the translator's French reshapes the Latin original. Let us, then, spend a moment with this Prologue for the light it can shed on the purpose of the Secrets as a compilation and for the translator's attitudes toward Bersuire's text, as these factors may have influenced his reworking of the werewolf material.
It is possible that this Prologue was not the work of the translator but was created in the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio's workshop around 1460 to amplify a deluxe copy of the work. The Prologue does not appear in the earliest manuscript, Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS fr. 1377-1379, nor in the early printed editions of the Secrets. (Stubs of excised matter appear in the quiring of the latest manuscript of the Secrets, and the book has no index, which may indicate that the Prologue and Index were originally there). Against these points must be set the fact that the author of the Prologue, whoever he was, had a clear sense of the alphabetically arranged content of the Secrets and knew that it abridged the extensive moralizations of the Latin original.
The author of the Pierpont Morgan Library Prologue never alludes to Bersuire by name or to his source, the Reductorium morale. Yet in a key sentence he does indicate that he is radically shortening a homiletic Christian work and that his own version differs markedly in content and emphasis from the original: "Et selon le texte de la lettre a lentencion des acteurs en delaissant la morale exposicion qui estplainne dannuieuseprolixite" (And [they are presented] according to the literal text intended by the authors, leaving aside the moral exposition [of Bersuire] which is full of tedious prolixity; my translation, Morgan MS M. 461, fol. 2v).
We can also add to our store of information about the translator a passage in the Prologue relating to his motivation and trepidation in undertaking the work:
Et jassoit ce que ceste charge me soit assez pesante a porter. Touteffoiz quant je considere le fait qu[e] ce peut ensuivir, charite a esmeu mon couraige a translater ce petit livre de Latin en Francois affin que les lisans puissent avoir congnoissance des merveilles et diversites de ce monde. [And I have come to believe that this will be a heavy charge that I must bear. Yet when I consider the effect that can follow, charity has roused my courage to translate this small book from Latin into French in order that those reading it can have knowledge of the marvels and the diversity of this world.] (Morgan MS M.461, fol. 2v)
Suggestively, the phrase "small book" indicates the translator may have been using an independent copy of book 14 rather than consulting book 14 of an entire manuscript of the enormous Reductorium, and so may have known little or nothing about the scope and purpose of Bersuire's work. Moreover, the remark about abridging his Latin original because of its "tedious prolixity" has a concreteness and edge that does suggest a genuine voice and view of a specific audience clearly not that of preachers.
Just as the translator feels he is in a position to modify or abridge his original according to his own lights, he also feels free to show a certain skepticism about the material he is translating, and often reveals a degree of discomfort about Bersuires stories of bodily transformation; in chapter 3, on England, after the particularly amazing story of transformation of the sea to the heavens cited above, he adds his own view that the marvel can perhaps be attributed to the illusory work of devils.
Sometimes he inserts personal opinions into Bersuire's text without comment, and this is apparent only by direct comparison of the Latin and French. The most extended expression of such views--and possibly a subtle rebuke of what he regarded as the excesses of Bersuire's classical humanism and apparent naturalism--comes in chapter 67, on the Wonders of Herbs:
Item dit Plinius que ung docteur appelle Paniche le grant hystorien allegue et dit que les anciens et loppinion des philozophes les predecesseurs fut aveugle qui disoient quil nestoit chose possible ou faisible sur terre qui par force derbes ne se puent faire et acomplir qui auroit la congnoissance des herbes ad ce propres et convenables. Et quant a moy il me semble que ceste oppinion pas nest creable, mais est tres predjudiciable a la verite de nostre seigneur, foy, et creance. Toutesfoiz ledit Paniche le Grant nous met avant aucuns cas qui advindrent selon celle folle oppinion par la vertu et force de certaines herbes. Et dist quil est une herbe appellee baalan pour la vertu de laquelle herbe ung petit dragon qui estoit octis et mort seulement par la touchment dicelle herbe fut ressuscite et revint de mort a vie. [Pliny says that the learned man called Paniche the Great Historian alleges and says that the ancients and the opinion of the philosopher who preceded him were blind when they said that there was nothing possible or feasible on earth that could not be done or accomplished by the power of herbs, by one who would have the applicable and appropriate knowledge of herbs. And as for me, it seems to me that this opinion is not credible, but is very prejudicial to the truth of our Lord, faith, and belief Nevertheless, the said Paniche the Great puts before us some cases that occurred, according to this foolish opinion, by virtue and force of certain herbs. And he says that there is an herb called Balaan by whose power a small dragon, which had been killed and had died, was resuscitated and came back to life from death, by means of only a touch of this herb.] (Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS fr. 22971, fol. 87; my translation and emphasis.)
There is no such botanist mentioned by Pliny, and Bersuire actually attributes the idea that herbs have divine powers to Xanthus, one of Pliny's botanical sources. Elsewhere in book 25 of Pliny's Natural History, mention is made of both a plant named panaces, and Panada, Asclepius's daughter, though not in the section from which Bersuire is working.
Paniche, then, seems a constructed voice; the idea for the name probably derives from Panacia and relates to the idea of panacea or all-healing. Apparently the translator, dismayed by a naturalistic "folle oppinion" that could diminish God's power, adds this story and, not content with what he found in Bersuire, may have searched the Natural History for help in making it up. Thus Paniche, the translator's creation, dramatizes his negative response to Bersuire's discussion of the absolute power of herbs by presenting an artificial buffer figure, one that historicizes and paganizes Bersuire's contemporary view, rhetorically weakening its authority.
I mention above as a motive for deletions of details and insertions of opinion the translator's suspicion of his author's classical humanism, especially as it relates to bodily transformations. His practice of removing most traces of Bersuire's personality and asseverations of direct experience may relate to this desire, coming partly from a belief in impersonality and anonymity as Christian and clerical virtues and partly from a desire to keep certain of Bersuire's wonders at the level of hearsay rather than objective truth and so to diminish their power.
For example, in the following case relating to gender transformation, the translator is as much an adapter as he is translator. In chapter 59 of Bersuire's book 14, which differs in number slightly from the position of the corresponding chapter in the Secrets, the Benedictine attests, as he often does, to the truth of a marvel he has heard, in this case from a Dominican, who vouches for the event, where a girl changes gender and lives a long time that way after being married (book 14, ch. 59, 636). The translator makes the subject of the impersonal verb "dit" Gaius Julius Solinus (mid 3rd century AD) and one of Bersuire's three main authorities, who has been mentioned in connection with an earlier item in the paragraph instead of the Dominican friar. Thus, in the French there is no longer Bersuire's contemporary and direct source to attest to the truth of the story. It is possible that the translator wished to dissociate this story from the Dominican order. But the willful shift in grammatical subject is consistent with his practice in the Paniche quotation of associating transformation stories with antique rather than contemporary sources in order to detract from their reality.
With these sorts of changes and truncations in mind, let us see how the translator alters the werewolf stories in Bersuire. The first of the Auvergnat stories in book 14, chapter 22, that of Rambault de Pulet, is introduced in the Latin by the general belief ("ponit Gervasius") that certain men at certain times change into wolves. Bersuire skips Gervaise's attestation of veracity and adds a reference to Isidore of Seville's Etymologiae, book 11, chapter 4, "de transfer mat is "on men changing into werewolves not in fiction but in fact. This is the story later told in chapter 73 of men turned into werewolves during the Arcadian festival of Lykaia. The Isidore reference, however, is not in Gervaise. Bersuire then moves, as does Gervaise, to the story of Rambault, and follows Gervaise detail by detail, through Rambault's madness and rapine, the villagers' response, the meeting with the woodcutter, the loss of the paw, and the general claim that werewolves are changed back into human form by such mutilation. The wording, however, differs enough to suggest he was not quoting from direct consultation of the relevant passage.
Bersuire introduces the Auvergnat sunbather story as a concrete illustration of his elaboration of Isidore of Seville's remarks, for after the remark about "quidam homines, non fantastica fictione, sed vera & formali transmutatione, transmutantur in lupus" (certain men, not in the fictions of fantasists, but truly in bodily form are changed into wolves; 14:599), he cites the Otia ("Gervasius hie ponit exemplum; Gervaise gives an example here") and tells the story. Gervaise adds the detail that this transformation occurs whenever there is a "new moon," but Bersuire says more vaguely, "certo tempore," "in a certain time."
Bersuire next introduces the story of the werewolf family with the assertion in his own voice: "infinita alia sunt exempla nam & ego audiui a quodam Arvernigena" (infinite are the number of other examples which could be offered, and I have heard from a certain Auvergnat; 14:599). After the story of this family, he again speaks in his own voice: "igitur cum per haec & alia exempla dicta mutatio appareat esse vera, therefore by this and other examples the said transformation appears to be true." The translator, however, blunts the vividness of Bersuire's language ("Gervaise tells us of another example on this subject"), without offering a clear sense of just what aspect of the subject he means, reducing the sharpness of Bersuire's account of transformation in general.
In rendering these three stories, the translator makes a number of interesting changes to them. He adds the general claim about the residents of the Auvergne ("there are some men who are of very strange condition"), attributing this to Gervaise. Neither he nor Bersuire invokes the moon as a traditional cause of transformation, though Gervaise clearly gives this ("perlunationes mutantur"). As noted above, of particular significance is the extensive pseudo-Isidorean addition made by Bersuire and followed by the translator, though Bersuire correctly identifies the passage in the Etymologiae as a chapter and the translator calls it a "livre" Isidore's Etymologiae often circulated in extract form, so it is possible that the translator recalled a book of Isidorean extracts on transformation. All Isidore says in the chapter is that certain men who swim across a marsh in Arcadia are changed into wolves. Bersuire adds the idea of "real transformation," which the translator amplifies to a far greater degree.
In chapter 22, on Gaul, before telling the story of the Auvergnat sunbather werewolf, as we saw above, Bersuire pauses for a moment, summing up his view of the number of werewolf narratives (14:599), though he does not commit to the absolute veracity of such transformations. Moving into his final story of French werewolves, (37) the translator adds the detail about the woman's apron and fleshes out the story with a more logical explanation for their conversation, the knight's desire to warn her about wolves in the woods (not in the Latin original), and the final detail that she brought food to the werewolf family. Significantly, the translator deletes from the second French tale the claim of apparent truth, the entire remark about the infinite number of examples, and the Auvergnat source that introduce the third example.
Similar changes occur in chapter 47, on Scythia (chapter 48 in Bersuire), with a slight elaboration of Bersuire's details. For example, Bersuire says the transformations occur "in certain times of the year," which the translator renders more concretely as "summer time." And Bersuire says that for a "specific period" they are wolves and then recover their original form. This, however, is much amplified with the addition of the werewolves eating flesh, a detail not found in Bersuire, and of an increase in the length of time the Scythians stay as werewolves.
In chapter 73, on Portents (in Bersuire, this is chapter 75), men crossing over water as part of the Arcadian Lykaia festival are transformed into werewolves, for a limited time, as in the previous example. The translator improves the story with small details of a realistic sort. Fie adds the phrases "by chance" and "lying about," but he drops altogether Bersuire's more fairy-tale-like "pristinis vestibus ... vestiebantur, in their original garments" (14:668).
Bersuire introduces this section on the Arcadian werewolves with a lengthy moralization on the life of man compared to rivers. He then cites Pliny, book 8, chapter 22 (correctly 8:34) in the general discussion of wolves among many other animal as support for how human transformation into wolves should not be believed in, referring the reader to "what I had said above," in chapter 22. He then offers the Arcadian story, speaking of the men's transformation "in luporum effigiem" (14:668; emphasis added). Bersuire gives a detailed retelling of the Plinean story, mentioning the nine-year period of abstention from human flesh, after which the werewolves are returned to their original human state and even find their original clothes in the trees where they had left them. Bersuire abridges Pliny considerably, for the Roman author notes such details as how the person is chosen by lots, as well as the species of tree on which the clothes are hung. Bersuire continues on with more material from Pliny about the Lykaia, until he moves to the discussion paraphrased from Saint Augustine.
Both Bersuire and the translator give the same story, ascribing it to the Vita of Saint Hilary of Poitiers, to illustrate more fully with a hagiographic exemplum this issue of demonic deception at work in apparent bodily transformations. The exemplum offered by the translator, however, is considerably more detailed than that given by Bersuire, as if the translator went to a different source from the one Bersuire used:
A story is told that is written in the life of Saint Hilary, where he says there was a father who led his daughter to this holy man and said to him, "Sire, see my daughter who has become a mare by my enemies' power of enchantment. Thus I beg you of your grace that it might please you to pray to God for her, that she might be returned to her original human condition." For the father and mother and all the girl's companions believed she had become a mare. Then the saint said to them, "I do not see a mare here, but I see a beautiful girl." And the father and all the others said that they did not see a young girl but saw a mare. For the Devil had enchanted their eyes in this way by a strong dose of faerie. Then the holy man prayed God that he would illuminate their eyes with clear faith and pure understanding. And immediately they saw quite clearly and recognized their daughter, who was in her proper state of womanhood and not a mare. (35)
This story seems intended both to illustrate Saint Augustine's remarks on diabolic deception and to rebut other, more contemporary claims of human transformation, in this case those of Gervaise of Tilbury. "Demonic possession" explanations for transformation, however, were popular among sixteenth-century authors.
Since Bersuire makes Gervaise one of the three "doctors," along with Pliny and Solinus, on which the fourteenth book of the Reductorium is based, it is obviously awkward that Gervaise believes in the reality of human-animal transformation and attests to it from his own experience: "in England we have often seen men change into wolves according to the phases of the moon One thing I know to be of daily occurrence among the people of our country, certain men are changed into wolves according to the cycles of the moon." Bersuire, however, offers an argument from antique and Patristic authority, citing, in addition to Saint Augustine, the irrefutable Pliny, who said that it is impossible for a man to be changed into an animal. Thus there are two lines of argument that Bersuire and later his translator lay out: the reality of transformation as exemplified by the stories borrowed from Gervaise, and the contrary and orthodox idea that it is a diabolically induced illusion.
Bersuire, followed by his translator, attempts to refute Gervaise, at least in the matter of transformations. We recall that Gervaise of Tilbury is the source for the marvel of the sea translated to the heavens in Bersuire's book 14, chapter 3, on England. Bersuire takes issue with Gervaise as he does with that author's belief in the reality of werewolves:
For truly, saving the honor of this very learned doctor Gervaise, according to nature it is impossible to believe in these two marvelous occurrences mentioned above. For even Aristotle in his authoritative experience does not recite or touch upon similar cases, but it could well be that by chance those to whom these marvelous things happened were deceived by some diabolical illusions or something similar. (36)
That Bersuire and his translator were troubled by the truth of these werewolf legends is clear from the story in chapter 22, introducing several points of view about them and trying to mediate among these. The textual explanation is in keeping with Bersuire's humanistic approach to other mythological themes:
Pliny addresses this question of transformation ... entirely rebuking, reprehending, and dismissing Gervaise's opinion; he says that it is impossible for a man to be changed from a man into an animal. Thus the aforesaid [Lykaian] transformation does not occur in a physical sense, but it occurs in a moral sense to many who ought to live reasonably as men but instead live like wolves or dogs. Cicero speaks of this in his book of offices and asks what difference there is between men who are changed and transformed into beasts and men who have bestial morals and manners. And he says that the men who have human faces and forms, and who forget reason and abandon all the virtues of good morals in order to obey the dictates of sin, behave like gluttons and gourmands who live only to fill their bellies. And such men are regarded as wolves and pigs; the overproud become lions; the greedy become leopards; the lustful are monkeys. (37)
By this moral and metaphoric explanation, Bersuire is able to use his love of classical learning and retain his Christian principles in dealing with the clearly fascinating (to him) topic of human-into-animal transformation.
The translator follows Bersuire's attitudes toward this topic closely, but is considerably more insistent than Bersuire on the fabulous quality of some of the stories. Moreover, by removing Bersuire's assurances of truth from many stories and assigning the authority for such stories to a pagan, non-contemporary, or nonreligious source, he diminishes the validity of many of the marvels and wonders in Bersuire's book 14. In small ways, then, the translator makes these tales more dramatic (the woman's apron full of food) and interesting to the reader, while at the same time undercutting the truth of transformation.
On the basis of these changes, it seems that the French translator of book 14 of Bersuire's Reductorium largely differs from his Latin original in writing for a bourgeois elite or aristocratic audience rather than for an ecclesiastical one. To appeal to a secular audience, he strips from Bersuire's chapters on wonders and natural history all of the extensive moralization the Benedictine added so lovingly and which made the Reductorium useful to preachers; instead the French translator strives for a more dramatic and human-centered work of interest to the armchair traveler, though still with an improving purpose, as his attitude toward Bersuire's naturalism makes clear.
It is evident from this discussion that though the translator did not significantly alter the stories of transformation in the Secrets, by the addition of a number of concrete and dramatic details, which may have come naturally through the flexibility of the vernacular, he prepares for the artistic treatment of transformation aimed at a secular audience desiring titillation and visual gratification and not much concerned with subtle questions of scholastic orthodoxy.
The four known manuscripts of the Secrets were illustrated by three eminent court artists, the Master of Marguerite d'Orleans, The Master of the Geneva Boccaccio (who did two of them, one possibly for King Rene d'Anjou), and Robinet Testard (for Louise de Savoie.) Their large miniatures illustrate the geographical portions (56 chapters of the work's 73; the last 17 being devoted to wonders of nature), so there is no artistic rendering of chapter 73's Arcadian werewolf transformation and related discussion. As Testard did not include werewolves in his pictures at all, the following remarks pertain only to the Master of Marguerite d'Orleans and the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio.
Since the manuscripts and artists of the Secrets of Natural History are relatively little known, it may be useful to give a brief account of them. Eberhard Konig attributes the banner-like ink and watercolor drawings of the oldest example, Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS fr. 1377-1379, to a master who was named after his main work, the magnificent Book of Hours once in the possession of Marguerite d'Orleans, now Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS lat. 1156B. (38) This Horae, painted around 1430, is well known for its extraordinary scenic borders. Indeed, certain features of this artist's paintings for the Secrets, such as the camels of the miniature for the chapter on Egypt (fol. 30v), were exported with relatively little change to that Horae in the border of the depiction of Saint Marguerite (fol. 176). Likewise, the miniature showing the war between the Pigmies and the cranes in the chapter on Pygmee (fol. 33) also corresponds to the scene of the Mission of the Apostles in the same Horae (fol. 148).
As a relatively cosmopolitan traveling artist, the Master of Marguerite d'Orleans was active in different cities: probably in Paris about 1425, in Bourges, where he illuminated the Secrets around 1427, in Rennes, about 1430, probably in Angers about 1440, in Poitiers about 1450, and again in Angers about 1460. From his more than thirty-year period of creativity, eleven of his manuscripts are currently known. (39)
The second artist was responsible for the conception and much of the execution of the two copies of Bibliotheque nationale de France MS fr. 1377-1379. These are the much more luxuriously produced New York, Pierpont Morgan Library MS M. 461 and a fragmentary codex of the Secrets once owned (or perhaps still owned) by the Charnace family of Paris. In recent years this artist has received considerable attention. (40) This master is named after a copy of Giovanni Boccaccio's De casibus virorum illustrium in the French translation of Laurent de Premierfait, illuminated about 1460 and preserved today as MS fr. 191 in the Geneva Public and University Library under the title Des cas des nobles hommes etfemmes. (41) In 1955 Jean Porcher offered the name Master of the Geneva Boccaccio for the artist, an attribution that has now been widely accepted. (42) At present twenty-seven manuscripts can be attributed to him. (43)
There is much evidence that the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio was theologically sophisticated and fully aware of Christian orthodoxy. For example, he was involved in the decoration of several liturgical books, such as Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS fr. 166, a Bible moralisee. (44) He was just as adept at depicting pagan legends, as indicated by the derivation of his name from a work describing famous persons, both historical and mythical.
How do the two artists of the three manuscripts with werewolf illustrations, the Master of Marguerite d'Orleans and the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio, handle transformations? Though the Auvergnat and Scythian werewolf stories occupy a considerable part of their respective chapters, the two miniaturists who illustrated these legends did not treat them proportionately, though this may have been owing to the pressures of the "menu" picture style format more than anything else.
Because of the length of the chapter on Gaul and the number of marvels discussed, the menu pictures of the two artists would be overburdened if each event were equally touched upon. Accordingly, the miniature for Gaul in the earliest known copy of the Secrets, Paris, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS fr. 1377-1379, reflects interesting choices among the three Auvergnat stories, showing the fact but not the process of transformation (see Figs. 5 and 6). The Master of Marguerite d'Orleans paints a more or less human but semi-erect, hairy and wolf-headed man on a crag who must be the dispossessed knight Rambault de Pulet of the first story.
As can be seen in Figure 6 detail, clearly this master is sensitive to Rambault's mixed nature as described in the details of the chapter's story, for his werewolf haunts the margins of civilization in moody isolation. Such werewolves seem modeled on the madman in the woods whom we meet in contemporary romances such as Chretien de Troyes's Lancelot and Yvain, for the story of Rambault follows the romance pattern, with loss of human identity and attendant self-awareness, apparent loss of language (since Rambault speaks to the woodcutter only after his paw is cut off and he is returned to a human state), eating raw meat, no longer walking erect, and losing the use of tools such as his chivalric weapons. These factors, as much as his madness, remove him from his former chivalric culture, hinted at by the background of spires and other architectural features that contrast with his mountainous habitat. This mix of locales, then, must figure both his savage behavior and his later repentance after losing his paw. No transformation is shown, either of Rambault becoming a wolf or of his returning to human status. The conception of this portion of the miniature is entirely in the present moment; Rambault has neither past nor future.
Surprisingly, in Pierpont Morgan Library MS M.461 (Fig. 7), painted by the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio, a much more sophisticated manuscript in all respects than the one from which it was copied, the artist depicts in his menu painting not the Rambault story but only a somewhat generic wolf in the Auvergnat tale of the knight who kills the werewolf in the forest whose cubs flee. Unlike the creature in the previous image, the animal painted does not stand erect or show any human traits at all.
It appears then, that the French werewolf stories did not especially exercise the artists' imaginations with their possibilities for the representation of man becoming wolf or wolf becoming man. Since these key transformative moments were clearly stated in the chapter's text and formed a considerable part of the story, it is hard to see why they were ignored and the werewolves treated in a pedestrian manner, unless the large number of marvels in the chapter simply required a greater simplicity of treatment for each.
In contrast, the werewolves in chapter 47, on the mysterious region of Scythia or Inner Asia, are far more imaginatively handled by both artists than those in the Auvergne (see Figs. 8 and 9 detail). The artists of the three Secrets manuscripts with werewolves depicted this marvel before and after, following the actual process of transformation in a dramatic way. The copy done by the Master of Marguerite d'Orleans shows men on the far bank of the river in ordinary clothes but in animal poses, biting or eating a human victim. They are presumably in the earliest stage of transformation and, like the figure in the Cranach scene (see Fig. 2), still retain their human form, while on the near bank their werewolf counterparts are shown as an ordinary wolf and a human-headed wolf in the process of transformation back to human status. The detail shown in Figure 9 gives a better sense of the werewolves' appearance. Presumably, depicting one werewolf with an animal head and one with a human head shows the temporal process of return from animal to human status. Since there are numerous men becoming werewolves in Scythia, the painter can show each in a different state without implying that the illustration is more than a snapshot of one moment in time.
As noted above, we know of two manuscripts of the Secrets illustrated by the Master of the Geneva Boccaccio. The second copy (see Fig. 10), once in the possession of the Charnace family of Paris, is now of uncertain whereabouts and deserves a moment's discussion. In its early sale history, it was defective at front and rear, consisting of sixty-five leaves, and had only twenty-three of the original fifty-six miniatures remaining, done in a pale watercolor or wash. When I photographed it at the home of the then-owner, Baron Jean de Charnace, at Chateau d'Aulnoy, Coulommiers, Seine-et-Marne, in the region of lie de France in 1973, it measured 300.5 x 230 mm and consisted of folios 32 to 97, with more lacking of the beginning than of the end. Thus the codex contained only chapters 23 to 54, covering Germany to Thrace.
Although the manuscript was shown publicly at the Paris Exhibition of 1955, there is not a great deal known about it. At one time it had a Breton connection; on folio 87 it bears a name, "Jehan Bregerault," apparently that of an early owner, possibly a cleric living in Rennes in the sixteenth century. A search of the Schoenberg Database of Manuscripts at the University of Pennsylvania adds no information to this.
In 1897 the manuscript was sold with the collection of the Parisian architect Pierre Henri Gelis-Didot. Later, it formed part of the collection of the art historian Comte Paul Durrieu and came into the possession of the Charnace family through the marriage of Durrieu's daughter Gabrielle to Baron Gautier de Charnace. His descendant, Jean de Charnace, was the owner in 1973.
At the death of Baron Jean de Charnace in 2004, according to someone familiar with the contemporary manuscript market who wishes to remain anonymous, the codex, along with other manuscripts from the collection, seems to have passed into the possession of a consortium of American dealers headed by Bruce Ferrini of Akron, Ohio, which attempted to sell the work at auction. Ferrini filed for bankruptcy in 2005 and died in May 2010. Ferrini was familiar to rare book dealers and museum curators as someone who bought manuscripts or acquired them on speculation and then broke them up, selling the individual leaves (for example, leaves of the Coptic Gospel of Judas) on eBay and in other places; consequently, the chances of the Charnace Secrets remaining whole at the present time may not be good, unless it was returned to the Charnace family. Another opinion is that it did not go to Ferrini for sale with the other Cbarnace manuscripts but stayed with a branch of the Charnace family, where it may remain. (45)
The Scythian werewolves of the Charnace manuscript closely resemble, as do those of Morgan M.461, those of its model, Bibliotheque nationale de France MS fr. 1377-1379; in an unusual development one of the riverine figures wears a hairy or wolf-skin-like jerkin that is still distinctively a piece of human costume, as is also the case in the other copy, the Morgan Secrets. This animal jacket illustrates the artist's perception of the dual nature of the werewolf; he has not lost his humanity entirely nor has he yet fully assumed his animal condition during transformation; his animal nature, as with the Ossory werewolf mentioned at the beginning of this article, can be taken on or off like a garment and is figured by the jerkin. (46)
Given the fact that there are many treatments of werewolves in the late Middle Ages, ranging from William of Auvergne's extended theoretical one in De universo (Qualiter maligni spiritus vexant et decipiunt homines) down to the narratives Bisclavret, Melion, Arthur and Gorlagon, (47) and others, all un-illustrated as if not to commit to the reality of the story, it is remarkable that the artists of the Secrets not only accepted the existence of werewolves but boldly went so far as to assert the reality of their transformation by depicting it. It could, of course, be argued that as artists they did not know of or did not care about Christian orthodox views of werewolf transformation, or possibly had some oral knowledge of Gervaise of Tilbury's view of werewolves and were willing to go far beyond the author of the Secrets in accepting the truth of human-animal transformation for the purposes of creating a dramatic miniature. Certainly, it is fortunate for the history of the early book that they decided to defy the strictures of the author they were illustrating and to paint werewolves at all.
As noted above, both the exclusively medieval textual focus on werewolves, their appearance in lais, romances, and the like, and the discussion in modern lycanthropic scholarship have largely obscured their iconographical importance. The existence of these hitherto unknown (or perhaps under-known) werewolf depictions suggests that already in the fifteenth century illustrators were considering the problem of human-to-animal transformation. Presenting these unusual werewolf miniatures to a wider scholarly audience will certainly create a more balanced and nuanced knowledge of the artistic and literary medieval treatments of this fascinating topic.
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|Title Annotation:||p. 35-59|
|Author:||Friedman, John Block|
|Publication:||The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2014|
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