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Boccaccio, the great Italian poet and prominent humanist, originally composed this collection of stories between 1355-1360. Conceived as a true encyclopaedia of historical biography, it deals with the fortunes and calamities of famous people starting with the biblical Adam, continuing with mythological and historical figures from Antiquity, and concluding with several of Boccaccio's own 14th-century Florentine contemporaries. Laurent de Premierfait (c. 1380-1418) was a skilled poet who was renowned as the translator of texts by Livy, Boccaccio and Cicero.
This manuscript is a notable addition to the Parisian luxury books associated with artist commonly published under the name of Maître François. There were several artists in the circle of Maître François and their oeuvres are as of yet not fully documented. Recent research has identified the Maître François and the chief associate of his workshop as a father and son team named François le Barbier père and fils. The artist of the present manuscript uses many of the gestures and expressive faces characteristic of the Master of Jean Rolin II, another collaborator of this group. However, the manuscript is not in his hand and is in some ways more like the work of Maître François himself: the use of bright orange colour, for instance, and the competent painting not only of three-quarter faces but also profiles and full-faces suggest a second hand.
The original commissioner remains unknown but in 1518 the manuscript was in the hands of the poetess and translator Anne de Graville, daughter of Louis Malet, Lord of Graville and Admiral of France († 1516) and Marie de Balsac († 1503). At the request of Queen Claude she translated the Romance of Arcite and Palemon from Boccaccio’s Theseida. Anne's celebrated library passed into the d’Urfé collection through her daughter, Jeanne de Balsac d’Entragues who married Claude d’Urfe (b. 1501).