The Petit Livre D’Amour, a Miniature Book From the 16th Century
Tiny poems and illustrations comprise the ‘Little Book of Love’ by Pierre Salas, who especially created it for Marguerite.
The Little Book of Love was conceived in the 16th century by the poet Pierre Salas, who made it especially for his beloved future wife, Marguerite Bullioud. It only measures 12×9 cm and it is written with gold ink, accompanied by the beautiful illustrations of an artist who identifies himself as the “Master de la Chronique Scandaleuses”.
The book describes the relationship between the author and the woman he loves, before presenting the rest of the book: 12 “iconologues”; a combination of prose and poetry on the left side page, which includes the initials M, for Marguerite and P, for Pierre (something like the irresistible teenage art of writing romantic initials anywhere), and on the right page the corresponding image, which is an allegorical representation of courtly love. Five of these refer to love, the others to moral subjects. But instead of being overly cheesy or overly sweet, the author portrays a more realistic image of love. His metaphors are able to exalt beauty while retaining poetic wit and a critical distance before the vulnerable state of his lover.
Among the books best moments is the beginning of the “iconologues” sections, where Pierre tells Marguerite that he wants to put her heart in a daisy (a play on words in French), and that his thoughts will always be with her. On the opposite page we see a man literally placing his heart in a giant daisy. There is something innocent in the praises he makes that make the book endearing.
The last two pages present a portrait of Pierre, painted by the court’s painter and friend, Jean Perréal, accompanied by a spectacular page with writing. The book was held in a supremely decorated case with green and golden flowers, engraved with the initials P and M. The rings in the corner of the box were to put a chain and suspend the book from her lover’s belt.
Today, a book like this seems unimaginable. Who has the time and patience? Who has gold ink? But, as is the case with epistolary correspondence, this form of communication is part of the affective historical memory, is one of the most delicate ones.
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