Errors and Omissions: Evidence of Filiation

A systematic comparison between the Alberta manuscript and those contained in the European libraries provided us with insights into their relationships and into the order in which they were produced. This work was inspired and guided by findings reported by Emile van Balberghe and Frédéric Duval in their 1999 edition of Tinctor's treatise.

While the details of the analysis are complex, the gist of the findings is this: the Alberta manuscript was probably the source text for the manuscript in the Bibliothèque royale in Brussels, which was itself thought likely to be the oldest of the texts before the Peel library’s manuscript was known (on dating, see van Balberghe and Duval 11-18). Therefore it probably predates all of the others.

We reached this conclusion by noting (in agreement with Marie Farquhar-Montpetit, the only other scholar to evaluate the manuscript) that the Alberta manuscript was probably produced in the same atelier, or workshop, as the Brussels copy, which belonged to Duke Philip the Good of Burgundy. The two texts appear closely related in many aspects of their production, including their orthography and the illustrations that appear in the introductory list of contents (see Farquhar-Montpetit 80-81).

But because the Brussels text is marred by several errors and (most tellingly) by the omission of certain phrases retained in the Alberta manuscript—phrases that have exact matches in other, later manuscripts—we know that the Peel library’s manuscript could not have been copied from Philip’s. 

Other evidence suggests that the opposite was true: Philip’s manuscript was probably copied from Peel’s. And this raises an intriguing question: if the Alberta manuscript was both anterior to and (as we have argued elsewhere) physically superior to the Brussels manuscript, which was owned by Duke Philip—one of the richest, most powerful, and most respected bibliophiles of his time—then to whom did the former first belong?

Regrettably, we have no solid evidence regarding early ownership. But we do have some theories, as the following pages reveal.

Next: Ownership and Travels Over 550 Years