French Renaissance Paleography


Meursault,[1] 15 March 1616
Double contrat de mariage entre les familles Berugnot et Baptauld
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT folio Greenlee MS 478


Marriage, in medieval and Ancien Régime France, was serious business. Before a man and woman married, they would have a notary draw up a marriage contract, not only to set the details of the dowry, but also to protect the rights of the bride and determine her share of her family’s patrimony. As such, the marriage contract was an act of succession.

The marriage contract was usually drawn up at the bride’s residence, in the presence of members of both families, who would sign the official legal document, or minute. In the following days or weeks, the signatories would receive a copy of the marriage contract, signed only by the notary, called expédition. While the minute was the official document, kept by the notary, the expédition was usually preserved by families with other important papers, and could be used in litigations. As the expédition represented the essence of the marriage contract, it was generally a solemn document, often written on a large piece of parchment, a noble and expensive material, in a beautiful and ornate handwriting.

The marriage contract presented here appears to be an unsigned contemporary copy made on paper for the family of Jeanne Berugnot. It is likely a copy of the expédition, made for safe-keeping. The document is fairly long and complex, because it involved two marriages between members of two families: Philippe Berugnot marries Nicole Baptauld, and his sister Jehanne marries Nicole’s brother Jehan. Both families lived in Meursault, and were wine growers.

For examples of expéditions of marriage contracts on vellum, see: Epédition du contrat de mariage de Guillaume Lobeyrie et d’Anthonie Anglade, __Expédition du contrat du mariage de Catherine Lobeyrie et Jean Favy_, _ and Expédition du contrat du mariage de Jean de Jardon et de Françoise de Rochefort. For copies of marriage contracts on paper, within the nobility, see Marriage contract of Sauveur de Lombard and Antoinette de Geoffroy and Mariage d’Annet d’Anglars et d’Anne de Rochegude/manifest.