Book Series Texts and Transitions, vol. 3

The Poet's Notebook

The Personal Manuscript of Charles d'Orléans (Paris, BnF MS fr. 25458)

Mary-Jo Arn

  • Pages: 202 p.
  • Size:160 x 240 mm
  • Illustrations:30 b/w, 1 col., 8 tables b/w.
  • Language(s):English, French
  • Publication Year:2009

  • ISBN: 978-2-503-52070-4
  • Hardback
  • Available
  • ISBN: 978-2-503-56200-1
  • E-book
  • Available


"Arn makes a solid contribution not only to late-medieval studies in general and Auréliens in particular, but also to all scholars who wish to take on the daunting task of codicological studies and their implications for literary criticism."

(K. Casebier, in Philological Quarterly 88/3, 2009, p. 337-340)

"[...] outstanding study, remarkable for its painstaking detail, its methodological precision, and the new insights offered into the poet's thinking about his poetry as a collection."

(H. Swift, in Medium Aevum LXXIX, 2010, p. 148-149)

"Arn need not be so modest [...]: her endeavor is excellent in its clarity, depth, and detail, and a highly entertaining read. Generously, she provides ample material here for future scholars to build upon."

(Emma Cayley, in Speculum 85/3, July 2010, p. 632)

"(...) thorough codicological investigation of BnF MS fr. 25458 has long been needed. Mary-Jo Arn triumphantly fills this gap with an invaluable study that will benefit literary historians and textual scholars alike. (...) It offers important insights into fifteenth-century book culture. In a broad sense, it is a major work of literary scholarship in its own right. Finally, it is a powerful statement of the fascination and the value of codicology." (A. Armstrong, in: The Medieval Review, 09.09.14)


This study of Charles d'Orléans's personal manuscript of his poetry — the first in nearly a century — paves the way not only for a new edition of the duke's œuvre (by Mary-Jo Arn, John Fox, and R. Barton Palmer) but for a new view of it. Following the first complete modern description of the manuscript, this study reconstructs the history of the manuscript, copying layer by copying layer. Codicological observations supplemented with palaeographical, historical, art-historical, and textual information reveal the approximate sequence of the manuscript’s composition, which in turn allows a re-dating of the manuscript and some of the poems in it. Charles saw lyric form differently than did his predecessors and contemporaries, a view made manifest in the poet’s own numbering of his poems. He mixed his complaintes with ballades and his rondels with chansons, each pair of forms in a numbered series, but never presenting the longer alongside the shorter forms. The analysis of the manuscript’s construction corrects the current physical disorder of the later chansons and rondels, as well as that of the ‘En la forest de longue actente’ series (including the lyric omitted from the standard edition) and re-evaluates the handful of English poems in the manuscript. In the end, we come to understand the relationship between the visual ‘messiness’ of the manuscript and the poet’s strong concept of lyric order. The technical aspects of the study are clarified by many tables and fascimile pages; the interactive CD contains an index of first lines that can be sorted in various ways to reveal a variety of kinds of manuscript relationships.