French Renaissance Paleography


Southern France, 1515
Pierre Sala, Fables and Other Poems
New York, Morgan Library, MS M.422


This spectacular manuscript contains illustrated fables put into verse by Pierre Sala, a gentleman of the city of Lyons. The manuscript is dedicated to Louise of Savoy and was prepared in about 1515, the year in which her son became King François I. Sala had served as a squire in the households of the two preceding kings, Louis XII and Charles VIII, which occasioned travel to Spain and Italy for him as well as throughout France. In 1515 Sala was nearing the age of 60, and he retired to Lyons, where he had one home in the city and another in the countryside. François I later visited Sala to view his remarkable collection of more than 100 books. It seems doubtful, but legend has it that Sala also acquired antiquities by carrying out archaeological digs in the Roman ruins on his country property.

The Morgan Library holds another manuscript, this one prepared for Sala, the Dits moraux des philosophes, which contains moral sayings of the Greek philosophers transcribed from the Mer des hystoires, a book printed in Paris in 1488. That book, in turn, was a translation of a Latin work compiled in Lubeck in 1475. So Sala’s career as writer and collector demonstrates the porous nature of the relationship between manuscript and print in the years around 1500.