This fascinating leaf comes at the opening of Decade III, book 1 of Pierre Bersuire’s translation of the Histoire romaine (Livy’s Decade IV). Livy, pictured, expresses feeling overwhelmed by the task of the historian. He is dressed in a scholar's robes and sat at a desk, hard at work. Another leaf from the same manuscript is on offer at Dr. Jörn Günther Rare Books: the People of Locri handing over the keys of their city (Decade II, book 4, f. 297).
Pierre Bresuire's translation of Livy's Ab Urbe Condita (27 and 25 BC) was a great feat, as the original text numbers 142 separate books. The result was the first translation of any major classical author into French and remained extremely popular at court even through to the period of King Charles VI (r. 1380-1422), when the parent manuscript for this leaf was produced.
The elegant miniature is a fascinating glimpse into the life of the great scholar, and this is compounded by the small note along the bottom right margin (recto), which informs us of a change in decision for the decoration of this leaf. It reads: un emperur rommain auec un messag’[e] qui puice …[?]…l[i]vree a un roy et un nauire de Rodae (a Roman emperor with a message that then [is] delivered to a king and a ship from Rhodes). The style of the illuminator, Pierre Remiet, is also notable: faces are fleshy and pale, with the figures rendered in demi-grisaille. Remiet illuminated many mostly secular, historical volumes in the vernacular for the French royal court and other highly placed figures in the court’s orbit, including Dukes Jean de Berry and Louis d’Orléans.