‘Un étrange moyen de séduction’: Anne de Graville's Chaldean Histories and her role in literary culture at the French court in the early sixteenth century

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This article considers a little-known manuscript – the Chaldean Histories – that was offered to Anne de Graville, author, bibliophile, and lady-in-waiting to Claude of France, by her husband Pierre de Balsac around 1507–10. The manuscript contains a partial translation into French of Annius of Viterbo's Antiquities, first published in Rome in 1498 and purporting to be ancient texts relating the history of the world around the time of the Flood. Although previous scholars have noted the close reliance on the Antiquities by Jean Lemaire des Belges in his Illustrations de Gaule et singularités de Troyes (1511–13), the translation offered to Anne is unknown. Here I argue that Anne's personalized manuscript and translation predates Lemaire des Belges’ work, indicating that she and Pierre were early players in an emerging courtly interest in translated works relating to antiquity. In addition, I suggest that the choice of text and the manuscript's frontispiece by a leading court artist showing Anne receiving the book meant that it was designed to appeal to, and likely shaped, Anne's interests in literature and translation which are later evident in her own library and writings for the French queen, Claude.


Original languageEnglish
JournalRenaissance Studies
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Jun 2015