French Renaissance Paleography


Low Countries, 1425-1450
Chroniques de Jean Froissart, vol. 1
Chicago, Newberry Library, VAULT Folio Case MS 37.1


Though Jean Froissart began his career as a poet and continued to compose verse works throughout his life, he is best known for his great historical work, the Chroniques. This monumental text is an account of the major events and battles that occurred in Western Europe from the ascension of King Edward III of England in 1327 up to the death of Edward’s grandson and successor, Richard II, in 1400.

Froissart was born in Valenciennes around 1337. He entered the service of the counts of Hainault and later became a clerk of the court of Queen Philippa, wife of Edward III. In his role as clerk, he traveled frequently and undertook diplomatic missions on the queen’s behalf. After her death in 1369, Froissart returned to Hainault, where he began to chronicle the events of the previous half-century. The Chroniques draw on numerous existing historical sources (Les Grandes Chroniques de France, Les Vrayes Chroniques de Jean le Bel, _La Vie du Prince noir _by Herald Chandos, etc.) but Froissart also made extensive use of oral sources, namely vivid descriptions of events provided by participants and eyewitnesses.

Wars, funerals, ceremonies, and royal entries feature prominently in the chronicle, indicating that it was primarily intended for an aristocratic audience. Over 100 manuscripts of the Chroniques survive today as a testimony to the text’s popularity in the later medieval period and to Jean Froissart’s reputation during his lifetime. Although it includes occasional errors in chronology and geography, Froissart’s Chroniques is still considered one of the most important sources for the history of Europe in the 14th century, especially the Hundred Years’ War.


-Ainsworth, Peter F., and Godfried Croenen, eds. The Online Froissart. Version 1.5. Sheffield: HRIOnline, 2013. Last accessed July 26, 2017. -Froissart, Jean. Chroniques. Livre I (première partie, 1325-1350) et livre II: rédaction du manuscrit de New York, Pierpont Morgan Library M.804. Edited by Peter F. Ainsworth and George T. Diller. Livre de poche; Lettres gothiques. Paris: Librairie générale française, 2001. -Froissart, Jean. Chroniques. Livre III: du voyage en Béarn à la campagne de Gascogne; et livre IV: années 1389-1400. Ed. Peter F. Ainsworth and Alberto Vàrvaro. Livre de poche; Lettres gothiques. Paris: Librairie générale française, 2004. -Lefèvre, Sylvie, and Gillette Tyl-Labory. “Jean Froissart.” In Dictionnaire des lettres françaises, ed. Georges Grente, Geneviève Hasenohr-Esnos, and Michel Zink. Paris: Fayard, 1994, 771-76.