IntroductionThe Roman de la Rose and Christine de Pizan in the Digital Age
This issue of Digital Philology celebrates the merger of two digital repositories of medieval manuscripts, one devoted to the Roman de la Rose, the other, to the early fifteenth-century author and bookmaker, Christine de Pizan (1365–c.1430). The three essays in Part I illustrate how debates initiated in the original text of Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun are carried on in several fourteenth-and fifteenth-century Rose manuscripts. The two essays in Part II study how digital technology enriches our understanding of Christine's masterpiece, her Queen's Manuscript, London, British Library, MS Harley 4431, and her Livre des fais d'armes et de chevalerie.
With the widespread availability of digitized data, researchers in the humanities are going about their work in new ways than they did, let's say ten years ago, when travel to archives and manuscript libraries was often still the only way to examine a medieval artifact. Instead, we can now access digital facsimiles of primary materials directly through online repositories, archives, and databases. This is particularly valuable for medievalists, who often had limited access to the manuscript collections they wished to investigate, be it for financial or organizational reasons, when travel was unaffordable or difficult to fit into a busy schedule or for material reasons, where manuscripts were damaged or too precious to share with the research community. The bulk of the digitization efforts of literary materials has been led by manuscript libraries and repository holders. However, digital humanists have also contributed significantly to providing resources in a digital format to humanities researchers. [End Page 1]
This issue of Digital Philology: A Journal of Medieval Cultures celebrates the amalgamation of two digital repositories of historically linked manuscripts from the French Middle Ages: the seminal work of medieval literature, the Roman de la Rose, and works by the early fifteenth-century author and bookmaker, Christine de Pizan (1365–c.1430). The well-known Roman de la Rose, composed by Guillaume de Lorris and Jean de Meun in the thirteenth century, was and continues to be the subject of much debate and criticism. In particular, Jean de Meun's continuation (c. 1269–78) caught the attention of the late medieval author Christine de Pizan, who engaged in a lengthy epistolary debate with her contemporaries on the merits and shortcomings of this work (1401–02). Both these digitization and archival projects were initially born out of the desire to make manuscripts available not only for research but also for teaching purposes. A pioneer in this domain was Stephen G. Nichols, James M. Beall Professor of French and Humanities at the Johns Hopkins University, and one of the contributors to this issue. In 1996, Nichols launched the prototype site Roman de la Rose: Digital Surrogates of Medieval Manuscripts, a precursor of the Roman de la Rose Digital Library.1 A crucial next step was the formation of a partnership with the Bibliothèque nationale de France in 2007, made possible with funding from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.2 The aim of this alliance was to digitize all 127 Rose manuscripts held in Paris and in French municipal and university libraries by 2010. The site now contains a total of 146 of the more than 300 extant Rose manuscripts including many that are held in collections outside of France. The team at JHU has tagged the illustrations of well over half of those manuscripts. Manuscript descriptions have been prepared in three levels of detail: a bare bones description, a detailed physical description, and a description based on images and written sources. Four manuscripts have been fully transcribed and three contain partial transcriptions. Future plans of this project foresee connecting this site with other sites of important medieval corpora.
The manuscripts of Christine de Pizan constitute one such corpus. The first Christine website was devoted to her masterpiece, the so-called Queen's Manuscript.3 This manuscript, which bears the shelf mark, London, British Library, MS Harley 4431, is the most extensively and luxuriously illuminated of the four extant collections of complete works that Christine assembled for patrons at the French royal court.4 With 398 folios, each folio having a front and a back, a recto and a verso, the Queen's Manuscript is the equivalent of an 800-page book and contains 30 texts authored by Christine. A passage in the dedicatory epistle she composed expressly for the volume lends credence to the idea [End Page 2] that Christine supervised the execution of its extensive iconographic cycle (132 miniatures) and overall design.5 It has been accepted by many scholars that the Queen's Manuscript was penned by one scribe only, though as early as 1967 this view has been put in question, arguing that in addition to Christine herself at least one more scribe was involved.6 Christine likely offered the book to the French queen, Ysabel de Bavière, as a New Year's Day gift in 1414. The site dedicated to Harley 4431, the Making of the Queen's Manuscript, continues to be developed and maintained at the University of Edinburgh by a team of scholars working under the direction of James Laidlaw,7 who is the co-author of one of the contributions to this volume.
Another site devoted to Christine's works is the Christine de Pizan Digital Scriptorium.8 This site, established by Christine McWebb with funding from the Ontario Ministry of Research and Innovation, currently houses digital images of all manuscripts of the author's works held at the Bibliothèque nationale de France, including detailed codicological information and other metadata. Through a partnership with the Bibliothèque nationale de France, McWebb and her team were able to add the digital surrogates to the library's digital collection Gallica9 (without metadata) and create a sister site to the 'Roman de la Rose' Digital Library at Johns Hopkins University. The ultimate objectives of the project are twofold: first, to make available all of Christine's extant "presentation copies" (those produced by her in her own scriptorium), as well as all the manuscripts of her texts produced by others; second, to link these manuscripts both to the original Roman de la Rose website maintained by JHU's Sheridan Libraries and to websites devoted to other texts and authors. This amalgamated site has the new URL manuscriptlib.org and is called Digital Library of Medieval Manuscripts.10 It currently is in a beta state, and will be developed further.
The Digital Library of Medieval Manuscripts presently also includes the Bible historiale portal.11 It will soon be linked to the Mellon-funded project entitled Machaut in the Book,12 maintained at Stanford University, and on the International Machaut Society site.13 The principal investigators of the Machaut project are Deborah McGrady, University of Virginia, and Benjamin Albritton, Stanford University; members of their team are listed on the first website. The Digital Library of Medieval Manuscripts will present data using the shared canvas model that members of the team have developed and which will allow for a high degree of interoperability with other repository sites that also use this model such as e-codices,14 containing 1,749 digital surrogates of manuscripts held by archives in that country. [End Page 3]
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The amalgamation of these projects into one central repository allows researchers to effectively conduct comparative and intertextual research. Undoubtedly, this type of research is central to many humanists' scholarly activities, though scholars often struggle with practical issues of finding efficient and effective means to carry this out. The so-called bookwheel invented by Agostino Ramelli in the sixteenth century, which was based on a design already in use during the Middle Ages, is an early example of knowledge integration on a material, pragmatic level:
The wheel enabled a scholar to easily consult an array of volumes by placing them on rotating shelves and then turning the wheel from one volume to another, thereby allowing for a proto-hypertextual reading of pertinent texts, akin to moving from one hypertextual link to the next when we consult resources online. We have manuscript evidence that medieval writers used a simplified form of the bookwheel. Christine de Pizan herself is depicted in front of her book carousel in Bibliothèque de Genève ms. fr. 180, fol. 3v15 dating from the second half of the fifteenth century. In theory, this was a revolutionary approach to intertextual research. In practice, the wheel was a complex construction of gears and counterbalances, and had disappeared from use by the early eighteenth century. It stands as a conceptual model to describe the intertextual and interactive reading that the Digital Library for Medieval Manuscripts affords to researchers.
The newly expanded site at manuscriptlib.org will further facilitate comparative and intertextual research.16 Users will be able, for example, to compare Christine's manuscripts with those of her near contemporary, Guillaume de Machaut (1300–77), and with those of the Roman de la Rose in a user-friendly and coherent manner, since all resources will be made available in the same format on one and the same site. The articles in this issue represent excellent examples of archival work made possible thanks to the creation of The Digital Library of Medieval Manuscripts.
I. The Roman de la Rose: The Ongoing Debate
The theme of debate ties together the three essays in this section of the volume.17 All three illustrate how debates initiated in the original two-part Roman de la Rose are carried on in several fourteenth-and fifteenth-century manuscripts. The second Rose author, the scholastically-minded Jean de Meun, had set himself up in opposition to Guillaume de Lorris's more graceful courtly narrative, peppering his text with debates about free will and determinism, the growing influence of the mendicants, [End Page 5] and the proper use of a human's reproductive organs, to mention just a few of them. In her contribution to this volume, described below, McWebb deals with how one manuscript prolongs the debate on human reproduction.
In 1401–02 the Rose was the subject of a public debate that pitted three royal secretaries (Jean de Montreuil and the Col brothers) against Christine de Pizan. It is not surprising that the Rose spawned such heated controversy. According to Eric Hicks, "If the Romance [of the Rose] fit so easily into the debate, it is because the debate was already in the romance" (Hicks xix).18 Christine, who lacked her opponents' university education, was an unlikely debater. But, surprisingly, her arguments received the backing of no less an authority than Jean Gerson, chancellor of the University of Paris and the chief canon of Notre Dame. Christine later noted that her superior reasoning powers showed just what a "mere woman" like herself could do when she was "armed" with a correct understanding of the "doctrine of Holy Church" (Hicks 132).
As the contributions attest, conceptualizers frequently took Gerson's judgment of Christine to heart when they attempted to update later Rose manuscripts. Walters shows how the Christianized version of the Rose present in the fifteenth-century Français 24392 draws from other manuscript influences to correct Jean de Meun's misogyny and make him more acceptable to women readers. But manuscript planners were already reacting critically to Jean in Meun in the fourteenth century. As Nichols's contribution illustrates, one such planner harnessed Jean's dialectic of les contraires choses to enter into debates on women (and to reflect upon post-lapsarian humanity in general). Like all the articles in this section of the Digital Philology Special Issue, Nichols calls upon digital technologies to make his point.
The author of the first piece is Lori J. Walters, who has contributed to the Roman de la Rose and The Making of the Queen's Manuscript websites. Walters currently alternates her time between Florida State University, where she is the Harry F. Williams Professor in the Department of Modern Languages and Linguistics, and the University of Toronto, where she is a Visiting Scholar at the Center for Medieval Studies. She has published widely on the manuscript context of medieval literature, in particular on the Roman de la Rose and the texts of Chrétien de Troyes and Christine de Pizan. Walters's essay, "Remembering Christine de Pizan in Paris, BnF, fr. 24392," develops a line of thought she began to explore in "The Foot on which He Limps: Jean Gerson and the Rehabilitation of Jean de Meun in Arsenal 3339" [End Page 6] (Digital Philology 1.1, Spring 2012). There she argued that the manuscript's conceptualizer sought to rehabilitate Jean's professional reputation in response to criticisms lodged by Christine and Gerson in the Rose Debate. Her present object of study, Français 24392, contains the same four texts and an almost identical miniature of Jean de Meun as the earlier Arsenal 3339. These are, in fact, the only two manuscripts known to display this striking depiction, in which Jean, repenting on his deathbed of having composed the Rose, is surrounded by a group of approving clerical and secular figures, who, unexpectedly, include a queen and other aristocratic ladies.
The notable addition to Français 24392 is a glowing tribute to Anne de Bourbon (1461–1522), wife of Pierre de Beaujeu and the eldest daughter of King Louis XI. Anne was famous for exercising a regency government on behalf of her brother, the future King Charles VIII. Among her sterling qualities, Anne is celebrated as a second Christine de Pizan. How and why the anonymous poet makes this comparison is the subject of Walters's two-part essay. In it she marshals manuscript evidence from Anne de France's library, especially the regent's tailored copy of the Roman de la Rose, to shed new light on the work of Anne and Christine in supporting and legitimizing the late fifteenth-century, heavily Bourbon Valois monarchy. Part I investigates the place and significance of the encomium in Français 24392, offers a tentative identification of its author, and discusses how manuscripts present in Anne's library preserved Christine's memory. Part II hones in on the Christianized version of the Rose present in Français 24392, showing how it draws from other manuscript influences to rehabilitate Jean de Meun while it sets up Anne as an eloquent female mentor and patron in the line of Christine and Anne's royal forbears.
Walters concludes that the encomium poet's explicit comparison of Anne's eloquence to Christine's is a fitting cap to a collection indebted to the author's active promotion of the regency that France's Queen Ysabel de Bavière (r. 1389–1422) had exercised in support of an earlier dauphin, Louis de Guyenne (1397–1415). Louis died before he could be crowned, as did his brother, Jean de Touraine (1398–1417). Out of Queen Ysabel's six sons, Charles, the future Charles VII, was the only one to live long enough to mount the throne. He managed to do so with the considerable help of Joan of Arc, whose efforts on his behalf Christine had seconded in her Ditié de Jeanne d'Arc of 1429. Overall, Walters's essay highlights how female court figures contributed to the realization of French monarchical aims, which they did, in the examples she studies, by strengthening the biological, intellectual, and spiritual [End Page 7] capital of the French royal line.
Two appendices follow Walters's essay. She is the author of Appendix I, "Miniatures in Paris, BnF, fr. 24392, a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript of the Roman de la Rose." Molly O'Brien prepared Appendix II, "Miniatures in Paris, BnF, fr. 12595 and BnF, fr. 380, Two Early Fifteenth-Century Manuscripts of the Roman de la Rose owned by Jean de Berry." O'Brien completed an MA in French and Francophone Studies at Florida State University in May 2014. In 2015–16 she taught English at Paris IV Sorbonne, as a prelude to doing doctoral work in French at Princeton University.
Christine McWebb is the author of the volume's second essay. Director of Academic Programs at the University of Waterloo Stratford Campus, she is also Professor of French at the University of Waterloo. Since joining the University of Waterloo in 2003, McWebb has been actively involved in the Digital Humanities, directing the internationally known MARGOT project.19 MARGOT is a long-term research endeavor devoted to publishing fully searchable editions of both generally inaccessible texts from the French Middle Ages and the Early Modern period (the Ancien Régime) and of texts in connection with a specific project from the same time period. The MARGOT research team supported the creation of the Christine de Pizan Digital Scriptorium. McWebb has published extensively in the areas of late medieval literature and culture, the interaction between text and iconography, scientific discourse in literature, and Digital Humanities.
In "Lady Nature in Word and Image in Jean de Meun's Roman de la Rose," McWebb examines the iconographic depictions that illustrate two of the most pervasive debates in Jean de Meun's thirteenth-century Roman de la Rose: the first revolves around the successful and guaranteed regeneration of the human species and the second centers on the proper use of (sexual) tools. Both of these controversies hinge upon Jean de Meun's characterization of the allegorical figure Lady Nature, which, as we have seen, Walters has identified as a key actor in Français 24392. McWebb undertakes a comparative analysis of iconographic depictions of Lady Nature in two fourteenth-century manuscripts, Chicago 1380 and Sainte-Geneviève 1126, and in the fifteenth-century Français 24392. Her analysis reveals new interpretative textual linkages, such as the rapprochement of Lady Nature's confession with Pygmalion's creation of his female statue. McWebb's piece is an illustration of the ability of digital technology to facilitate comparison between manuscripts located not only in different libraries in the same country, but also in countries on separate sides of the Atlantic. [End Page 8]
The author of the third essay in our Special Issue is Stephen G. Nichols. He has written or edited some 26 books on the Middle Ages, including From Parchment to Cyberspace: Medieval Literature in the Digital Age (2016); Romanesque Signs: Early Medieval Narrative and Iconography (1983, 1985, & 2011), for which he received the MLA's James Russell Lowell Prize; Rethinking the Medieval Senses (2008); The Long Shadow of Political Theology (2011); and Spectral Sea: Palimpsests of Mediterranean Culture in European Literature (2017). Nichols holds an honorary Docteur ès Lettres from the University of Geneva, and was decorated Officier de l'Ordre des Arts et Lettres by the French government. In 1991 the Council of Editors of Learned Journals honored The New Philology, which Nichols had conceived and edited for the Medieval Academy of America. The Alexander von Humboldt Foundation awarded him its Research Prize in 2008 and again in 2015. We are especially pleased to have Nichols, the co-founder of Digital Philology,20 as a contributor to this Special Issue.
Nichols opens his chapter, "Codex as Critic: One Manuscript's Dialogue with the Romance of the Rose," by considering how digitization has dramatically transformed the way we read the literature of the period. He then turns his attention to Manuscript 525 of the Bibliothèque Municipale de Dijon, a poetic miscellany assembled in Paris some time between the years 1355 and 1362 by a scribe named Mathias de Rivau. To a pre-existing copy of a version (c.1335) of the Roman de la Rose followed by four short works, Matthias added (c.1355–62) a collection of thirteenth-and fourteenth-century moralizing poems, which share moral, philosophical, or religious themes frequently expressed in dialectical terms reminiscent of Jean's contraires choses. In identifying the Rose as the motivating force and the principle of inclusion for all the other works in Dijon 525, Nichols echoes observations made by Walters regarding Arsenal 339 and Français 24392.
But Nichols delves deeper into the complexities of Dijon 525. He observes that the character of the finished manuscript was determined by the Rose and the four short works immediately following, which develop the Rose's debate about women. These four texts are rarely found elsewhere. Its version of the Epistre des femes is distinctive; the Motet des femes (O bicornix / A touz jours / Virgo Dei genitrix) is unique to this manuscript. Nichols argues the determinant role of the four short texts on women for the inception of Mathias's project.
Unlike earlier scholars who labeled these texts antifeminist, Nichols sees them as contributing to an ongoing dialogue on human self-improvement. Reading by means of les contraires choses provided to all [End Page 9] members of the human line—men as well as women—the reflection needed in order to progress towards happiness in this work and salvation in the next. Besides proposing an alternative to the traditional secular / sacred dichotomy, Nichols insists upon the distinction between misogyny and antifeminism, objecting, rightly, that the latter term is anachronistic, "leading readers to project modern ideology back onto medieval texts."
Nichols superbly illustrates how Dijon 525 enters into an ongoing, ethically informed "debate on women." Readers of the time apply their insights about these issues to their real-life behavior, as Walters's article makes clear. The encomium to Anne de France found on the final folios of Français 24392 praises the illustrious regent for having modeled her actions on mythological and historical characters she had read about in the books by Christine lining her library's bookshelves, as well as on the virtuous and eloquent example projected by the author herself. Taken as a whole, Dijon 525 offers an especially intriguing example of a fourteenth-century critical reaction to the most popular vernacular work of the period. It suggests that the famous Rose debate between Christine de Pizan and Jean Gerson, speaking for the "prosecution," and the Col brothers articulating the defense, had deep roots in the literary, social, and political culture of the fourteenth century.
II. Essays on the Digital Christine
In the next two essays, we turn our attention to how digital technology enriches our understanding of Christine de Pizan as author and book producer. The first piece highlights her supervision of the famous Queen's Manuscript, Harley 4431. The second piece surveys all the manuscripts of Christine's Livre des fais d'armes et de chevalerie, which comprises those produced by Christine's scriptorium and by others. Enlisting available print and digital resources, the piece prepares the way for a digital edition of the as yet unedited Fais d'armes.
In "Patterns and Fingerprints in British Library, Harley 4431," James Laidlaw and Charles Mansfield give an update on the preparation, for digital access, of Harley 4431. James Laidlaw is Honorary Professorial Fellow, Division of European Languages and Cultures, University of Edinburgh and Emeritus Professor of French, University of Aberdeen (Scotland). His research focuses on Middle French language and literature with particular reference to Eustache Deschamps (c. 1340–1404), Christine de Pizan (1365–c.1430) and Alain Chartier (c. 1385–1430), and he is the director of the team working on The Making [End Page 10] of the Queen's Manuscript. Charles Mansfield has been a lecturer at Plymouth University (England) since 2009. Along with Christine Reno, Mansfield is a member of the team responsible for the site.
The article of Laidlaw and Mansfield provides valuable documentary background on the structure and features of the manuscript. Discussions of the use of XML, the extensible mark-up language, and the technologies surrounding text encoding provide a useful starting point for two audiences and purposes. It both instructs scholars on ways to use the site and offers reflections for project teams who will conceivably face similar problems digitizing large corpora. This piece, with its explanation of the use of the software search tool, Loceme, makes a valuable contribution to the growing field of data mining in Digital Heritage Management. Digital technology gives us new tools for the creation of scholarly editions. The Making of the Queen's Manuscript website provides a means to produce editions of Christine's texts. In the majority of cases Harley 4431 is the author's last and final iteration of her texts, whose production Christine supervised in their entirety. We note that folios 2c–2d of the Table des dictiez en general, contains, exceptionally, an entirely new text, the only—or the sole surviving—prologue that Christine composed to head her numerous large collections. Searchable draft editions of each of the thirty texts in the collection are, or will soon be, present on the website.21
The career of the final contributor to the Digital Philology Special Issue, Christine Reno, Professor Emerita at Vassar College, has been marked by her intimate involvement in the making of editions, both electronic (as a member the Making of the Queen's Manuscript team) and in printed form (the eminently authoritative L'Advision-Cristine). In her piece, "The Manuscripts of the Livre des fais d'armes et de chevalerie," Reno at once builds upon the spadework done by the acknowledged grande dame of Christine studies, Charity Cannon Willard, and looks forward to the creation of a digital edition, which, as she concludes, could "give an even more detailed picture of the textual tradition."
Reno calls upon digital technologies to locate all the manuscripts of the Fais d'armes (1410). However straightforward this strategy may seem, it is essential for assessing the manuscript tradition and for solving some of the problems about the text that have plagued earlier studies. For example, it remedies the varying estimates of the number of surviving copies given by earlier scholars. Reno's study serves as a prelude to an inquiry into the way that some manuscripts suppress the author's identity. The recent interest in early printed editions of Christine de Pizan's works has led to the assumption that in 1488, the French publisher [End Page 11] Antoine Vérard was responsible for "erasing" the female author from the text of the Fais d'armes and substituting an unidentified male voice. However, scholars had long ago pointed out that some manuscripts of the Fais d'armes also altered the work in this fashion. No one has described with precision the ways in which Christine's text has been changed in the process of removing the author from her text. In her article, Reno studies all of the known surviving manuscripts of the Fais d'armes in order to catalogue which ones in fact retain the female author and which ones do not. She also tries to pinpoint the time and place at which the erasure of the female author first occurred. This will help future studies determine precisely how that erasure was brought about and its implications. Reno's study will prove essential for a future edition of this work, one of the few of Christine's that still awaits a modern critical edition. It also points the way to treating some of the most vexed questions concerning authorship and views about women during the medieval and early modern eras.
The contributors to this issue demonstrate what can be done with digital repositories. Just as the authors of the Machaut Digital Philology issue had done with Machaut, their work uses twenty-first century tools to restore the Roman de la Rose and Christine de Pizan to their medieval milieu. The articles in this volume enable us to begin to grasp how the Rose and Christine were understood in their original historical context.
2. In addition to the initial 2004–06 Mellon Foundation grant awarded for this project, Nichols received a second Mellon Fellowship in 2010–13 and a Mellon Emeritus Research Fellowship in 2010.
5. A transcription of the Middle French dedication and its translation into English and Modern French is available at: <http://www.pizan.lib.ed.ac.uk/> (Translations of Prologue.rtf.) None of Christine's other large collections have specially composed dedicatory letters. For more on Christine's structuring of the Queen's Manuscript, see the section "Ordonnance" in Walters, "The Prologue."
6. Gianni Mombello argues that a change in signatures in Harley 4431 as well as inconsistencies in scribal hands identified on folios 48 and 51 are proof that at least two scribes were involved in the making of this manuscript (Mombello 200). Sandra Hindman contradicts Mombello's argumentation citing Christine's evolving calligraphy, which would explain the change in style [End Page 12] identified on folios 48 and 51 (Hindman 109). James Laidlaw then offers confirmation of Mombello's conclusion, first in 1987 (Laidlaw, "Christine de Pizan" 66–67), and now in their contribution to this volume, where he together with Charles Mansfield, using online concordance tools, suggest strongly that, in fact, more than one scribe must have been involved in the transcription of the text (in "Patterns and Fingerprints in British Library, Harley 4431," section III 'Scribal Footprints'). For views supporting this argument, see also Parussa and Laidlaw (Laidlaw, "Christine and the Manuscript"). We also refer to the Album Christine de Pizan (Ouy et al. 325–26, 340) which attributes the text, rubrics and running titles to hand X, the corrections to hands X and X' (Ouy et al. 325–26); they identify both hands as Christine's.
7. This is a truly collaborative undertaking. See the list of participants on the website.
17. This section is inspired by McWebb's Preface (xi–xv) and Earl Jeffrey Richards's introduction (xxi–xxxvi) to Debating the Roman de la rose.
18. This is Walters's translation, as well as is the following quotation from Hicks.
20. Nichols and Nadia R. Altschul founded DPh in 2012.