Originally executed in 1481 for Louis de Bruges, Seigneur de Gruthyse, a copy now in the Bibliotheque Nationale in Paris, this compendium is also known, with occasional variations, in three other versions – one made for Philip of Cleves, now in Vienna, another at Yale and that sold in Germany last month.
The illustrations in all four are similar and those in the Reiss example and that at Yale are attributed to the same artist, called the ‘Bruges Master of 1482’.
Among the works that this example of c.1490 contains are Honoré Bouvet’s influential ‘L’arbre de batailles’, along with French translations from the original Spanish and English of Diego de Valera’s ‘Mirror of True Nobility’ of 1441, and ‘The Order of Battle in the Court of Chivalry’ by Thomas Woodstock, first Duke of Gloucester and Constable of England.
In generally excellent condition, the manuscript is now in a 20th century blind-tooled calf binding over wooden boards that incorporates the original backstrip and, possibly, back cover.
Its first owner was Claude de Neuchâtel-Bourgogne, Seigneur de Fay (c.1449-1505), but in much more recent times it has been in the extensive collections of Martin Bodmer and passed through the hands of such well-known dealers as Kraus and Breslauer. Since 1999, however, it has been in the library of a Belgian collector.
Estimated at €300,000, it sold in the end for €840,000 (£724,140).