French Renaissance Paleography


17th century
“A nosseigneurs de la Cour des Aydes [calligraphy sample: mock legal document].” In Choix artistique de modèles manuscrits des grands maîtres calligraphes français anciens et modernes
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Wing MS oversize ZW 11 .708,no. 1581


This mock document presents an appeal supposedly brought to the Paris Cour des Aides (Court of Aids) in a matter of debt inheritance. The scribe used the handwriting style of Louis Barbedor, author of two calligraphy copybooks. As a member of the corporation of maîtres écrivains jurés in Paris, Barbedor belonged to a group of experts who taught handwriting and also examined documents, signatures, and accounts suspected of forgery in the courts of justice. When the Parlement of Paris standardized handwriting models in 1633, Barbedor’s lettre financière (or ronde) was selected as one of the two standard scripts. Our later document thus exemplifies a script used in many kinds of official documents.

Here we find a complex fictional case, using improbable proper names based on the repetition of fundamental writing strokes (minims and curls). On behalf of the estate of Pierre de La Renouveauviere, Antoine de Mommiromouvant requests payment of 647 livres from Jacqueline de Vaumirouvieux to honor a debt contracted by her father, Edme de Guermouvois, and passed on to her upon his death. Jacqueline refuses to pay the sum, and presents evidence that Edme did incur a debt of 647 livres, but that the amount is owed to the royal treasury, rather than to Pierre’s estate, because of Edme’s work as a tax collector in Vaumommoré and Sainct-Amour.

A model for this document, “A Nosseigneurs de Parlement,” appears in Barbedor’s large Escritures financiere, et italienne-bastarde dans leur naturel, first published in 1647. In the edition from circa 1660 that we have digitized, that plate appears on page 6/manifest.