Manuscript discovery sheds new light on Montaigne’s library

May 02, 2013

Researchers from the University of Warwick and the Université François-Rabelais Tours have identified the first manuscript known to have belonged to the eminent French essayist, Michel de Montaigne.

Of Montaigne's celebrated library, thought to have contained around 1,000 books, only 101 are known to have survived. Until now, no manuscript (other than Montaigne's own annotations in printed works) was known to bear the mark of the writer's provenance.

The sixteenth-century manuscript, held at the Herzog August Bibliothek at Wolfenbüttel, contains copious notes by an unknown individual based on lectures on Roman law by the distinguished jurisprudent and historian François Baudouin. Montaigne's Latin signature 'Michaël Montanus' is clearly visible on the manuscript's title page.

Ingrid De Smet of the Centre for the Study of the , University of Warwick, explained the significance of her discovery:

"The identification of Montaigne's ownership of this work is exciting for the study of sixteenth-century French intellectual culture. It confirms Montaigne's legal interests and potentially opens new vistas for the reading of his essays and the understandings of his political views."

Alain Legros of the Centre d'Études Supérieures de la Renaissance, Université François-Rabelais (Tours) added; "Baudouin was known as a moyenneur, a champion of the idea of reconciliation between Calvinists and Catholics at the famous Colloquy of Poissy held in 1561. This lecture course on law at the university was in the same year, as was the publication of his book on the link between the study of world history and law. Later Montaigne will read Baudouin's history of Poland. This particular discovery invites us to look more closely at Montaigne's essays in the light of Baudouin's thinking and writing."

The article, 'Un Manuscrit de François Baudouin dans la librairie de Montaigne', is published in the Swiss journal Bibliothèque d'Humanisme et Renaissance – Tome LXXV- 2013 – pp. 105-111.

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