Quills of Clerks

The Parliament in Paris houses a treasure of scribal drawings and doodles in the margins of their acts   

The National Archive of France houses a treasure of charters, documents and court proceedings originally part of the Royal Archive and the Archive of the Parliament of Paris. Parts of it dating from the 1254 it covers the period up to revolution. It the collections scholars may find a nearly endless series of pleads, deliberations and sentences passed by the supreme royal court plus recordings of all sorts of public administration.

Apart from the obvious value of these sources as regards the machinations of medieval and early modern government, the acts and documents hold a large number of tantalising drawings and illustrations.

The most famous one is of course the drawing attributed to Clement of Fauquembergue, who accompanied his report on the capture of Orleans with a “portrait” of Jeanne D’Arc – obviously rendered as a very feminine figure, she is fighting under the banner of IHS – Jesus – and is carrying a heavy sword.

Although most of the drawings are ornamental in character and entwined with capitals, some are regular portraits while other clerks professed to drawing dragons, lions, rabbits other beasts. The heyday of all these drawing were from second part of the 14th century.

A small exhibition at Lille offers visitors a tiny view of what is only a small part of these very amusing pieces of art, which shows just how much illumination was not just something, which was carried out in the quiet scriptoriums of monasteries. Definitely there existed a secular art of doodling of which – alas – so little is preserved.


Plumes de greffiers: La Lettre et l’image dans les archives du Parlement de Paris.
Université Lille 2 Droit et Santé, Biliothèque
01.10.2012 – 26.10.2012


Images du pouvoir royal: Les chartes décorées des Archives nationales, XIIIe–XVe siècle
by Ghislain Brunel.
Paris: Somogy éditions, 2005


Parlement de Paris – Chronique des recherces dans des archives

Bibliographie du Parlement de Paris



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