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In the Herzog August Bibliothek, Wolfenbüttel, a manuscript may be found “Chansons français de trois viox” a.k.a. the ‘Wolfenbüttel Chansonnier’. This is the third ‘Loire Valley’ chansonnier in which malacological motifs have been found [1, 2]. The manuscript originated according to Woetmann Christoffersen in 1471 [2]; an earlier catalogue mentions also the year 1401 [3]. The decorations are supposed to have been done in “Bourges?”; they are similar in style to those of the Copenhagen Chansonnier [4]. Like in that manuscript, all snails are stylised.

datering skema

Folio 1r has partly been ripped, but the upper initial is retained. It is made up by two (half-)apes holding an arrow-like branch with a snail on it. The snail is seen side view from the right, the shell is dextral.

HAB 287_f1r_HAB 287_f1r_d

Folio 2v, with the first half of the song “Est il mercy de quoy l’on peust finer”, starts with an initial of a hybrid man covered with a cap (the dextral shell of a snail, seen in right side view).

HAB 287_f2v_HAB 287_f2v_d

On folio 4r the initial ‘T’ is formed by a hybrid man, and an ape holding a branch on which a snail (without shell, or an insect?) with a humanised face is seen.

HAB 287_f4r_HAB 287_f4r_d

Folio 4v, with the text from the song “Tout a par moy affin qu’on ne me voye”, has the initial with a.o. an ape riding the neck of a snail, with a relatively small, sinistral shell.

HAB 287_f4v_HAB 287_f4v_d

Folio 6Av, starting with “N’aray je jamaiz mieulx que j’ay”, shows a malacomorph hybrid as part of the initial.

HAB 287_f6Av_HAB 287_f6Av_d

The initial on folio 11r also has a malacomorph hybrid; the snail-like figure on top is here interpreted as a butterfly.

HAB 287_f11r_HAB 287_f11r_d

On page 12r, the second initial (‘C’) is partly made up by a snail, seen from the right side; the shell is dextral.

HAB 287_f12r_HAB 287_f12r_d

A similar snail is seen forming the second initial on folio 13r.

HAB 287_f13r_HAB 287_f13r_d

Folio 14r has an initial with a hybrid, a bear, and a snail on top; the animal is seen from the right side, with a dextral shell.

HAB 287_f14r_HAB 287_f14r_d

Folio 15r shows the initial ‘T’ formed by a tree trunk, a branch and a snail seen from the left side; the shell is sinistral.

HAB 287_f15r_HAB 287_f15r_d

On folio 16r the second initial (‘C’) is made up by a snail, the shell dextral.

HAB 287_f16r_HAB 287_f16r_d

Folio 16v, part of the song “Nul ne l’a telle, sa maistresse”, has an initial (‘A’) in which a snail is in the middle; it is seen from the left side and the shell is sinistral.

HAB 287_f16v_HAB 287_f16v_d

Folio 23v is part of the song “Mon cueur et moi d’une alliance”. It has an initial with a hybrid and a snail on his head; the snail, with a dextral shell, looks sad 😦 Despite the song ends with “and therefore only you can claim to be the mistress of all my joy” [2].

HAB 287_f23v_HAB 287_f23v_d

The rondeau of the same song, on folio 24r, has an initial ‘T’ with two angry looking jesters, with a snail on top seen from the left side; the shell is sinistral.

HAB 287_f24r_HAB 287_f24r_d

Folio 33r has a malacomorph hybrid with a dextral shell as part of the jester’s hat.

HAB 287_f33r_HAB 287_f33r_d

The second initial (‘C’) on folio 35r is formed by a snail with a dextral shell.

HAB 287_f35r_HAB 287_f35r_d

Initial ‘T’ on folio 36r is a dextral shell, the animal with three (!) pointed ears / tentacles and a humanised eye.

HAB 287_f36r_HAB 287_f36r_d

Folio 38r has an initial ‘T’ with an ape popping out of a flower, with a sinistral snail on top of his head.

HAB 287_f38r_HAB 287_f38r_d

Starting with the text “Je ne vis oncques la pareille”, folio 38v shows a malacomorph hybrid as initial.

HAB 287_f38v_HAB 287_f38v_d

Folio 39v, with the song “Las ay je tort se je me plains”, shows a snail crawling in upright position, an ape stepping on his tail.

HAB 287_f39v_HAB 287_f39v_d

Folio 43r has a snail partly forming the second initial (‘C’); the shell is dextral.

HAB 287_f43r_HAB 287_f43r_d

On folio 44r the initial ‘T’ is made up by a tree trunk and a snail seen from the right side, with a dextral shell.

HAB 287_f44r_HAB 287_f44r_d

Folio 51r has the ‘C’-initial formed by a dextral snail.

HAB 287_f51r_HAB 287_f51r_d

On folio 54r the initial ‘T’ is made up by a malacomorph hybrid man with a dextral shell.

HAB 287_f54r_HAB 287_f55r_d

Folio 55v, with the text “La plus mignonne de mon cueur”, has an initial with a snail standing upright, the shell dextral but the tail is not shown.

HAB 287_f55r_HAB 287_f54r_d

On folio 56r the snail in the initial ‘T’ is sinistral and seen from the left side.

HAB 287_f56r_HAB 287_f56r_d

Folio 58r has an initial with a dextral shell, the snail head is humanised and the animal has two wings.

HAB 287_f58v_HAB 287_f58v_d

Folio 63r shows a mermaid with a snail on top. The shell is dextral.

HAB 287_f63r_HAB 287_f63r_d

Finally, the initial ‘T’ on folio 65r is a malacomorph hybrid, with a dextral shell and a man looking outside.

HAB 287_f65r_HAB 287_f65r_d

In total in this manuscript are 29 malacological motifs, of which six malacomorph hybrids.

Comparing this (WC) and the Copenhagen Chansonnier (CC), some of these themes bear similarity in style (~) or are nearly identical (=):

  • WC f1r ~ CC f18v (two apes with a snail); also some similarity with CC f7r (snail op top); cf. WC f4r.
  • WC f4v, f15r, f44r ~ CC f14r (snail on top of tree trunk); cf. WC f56r.
  • WC f11r = CC f7v (malacomorph hybrid with butterfly).
  • WC f16v =~ CC f10v, f38v (snail in initial A).
  • WC f23v ~ CC f39r (hybrid with snail on head).
  • WC f24r ~ CC f7r (two symmetric figures with snail on top).
  • WC f33r ~ CC f32r (man with snail/shell on head); cf. CC f0v.
  • WC f36r = CC f2r, f30r (snail with pointed ears).
  • WC f39v, f55r ~ CC f16v (snail upright).
  • WC f54r, 65r ~ CC f5r (malacomorph hybrid man).
  • WC f58v ~ CC 31r, f36r (winged snail).
  • WC f63r ~ CC f14v (mermaid with snail).
  • WC f12r, f16r, f35r, f43r, f51r ~ CC f2r, f4r, f15r, f26r (snail(s) as [part of] initial C).

Remains the question why in both chansonniers. likely made in the same workshop, the snail was such a popular figure. Perhaps drawn by a malacologist-‘avant-la-lettre’?

[1] HAB, Codex Guelf. 287 Extravag., 69 ff. http://digilib.hab.de/mss/287-extrav/start.htm (permalink).
[2] Woetmann Christoffersen, P. (2013). The Copenhagen Chansonnier and the ‘Loire Valley’ chansonniers. An open access project. Available at http://chansonniers.pwch.dk/index.html (27.i.2014). See also item #30, #40.
[3] http://bit.ly/1b7tsYe (29.i.2014).
[4] Item #30; see also note 2: Dating and location of the sources.