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Engraved and illuminated marriage charter from Lyon, France

Identifier: MS-0835

Content Description

Derived from dealer description: This collection consists of an illuminated and engraved marriage charter on parchment, created in Lyon, France in June 1623 and measuring approximately 10 x 14 inches. The charter features an ornamental and figurative engraved border enclosing eight lines of calligraphic manuscript text written in brown ink. There are spaces left blank within the text and at the end of the document for the newlyweds' names and the church, date, and priest's signature, written in cursive in yellow ink.

Eight religious scenes are depicted within a border of strapwork and arabesque, angels and putti, with God at top, illuminated in blue, red, green, and gold. The engraved borders contain a scene of the Fall, at the moment that Adam takes the apple from Eve, urged on by the Serpent, while animals romp in the Garden of Paradise in the background and God looks down from on high. At the foot of the text is the marriage of Mary and Joseph, the epitome of a good marriage. On either side the Annunciation is depicted, the Angel being shown on the left and the Virgin with the Holy Spirit on the right. In the four corners are the figures of the four Evangelists, and four musician angels are perched on the upper and lower borders. These scenes, contrasting two weddings and the two archetypal wives, the temptress Eve and the divinely pure Mary, along with the Annunciation and the Evangelists, appear in many Lyon marriage charters.

The text of the document is written in French, and in English roughly translates to: “In the name of the Holy Trinity of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen. I, Jacques Roland, take for my wife and loyally espouse you, Anne of Bourg [sic] and recommend to you my alms as well as God dictates St. Paul the scripture and Saint loy Romme confirms [sic] what God By marriage the man will not separate. Given in Lyon at St. Paul's Church on the first day of June in the year one thousand six hundred and twenty-three by myself, Guilbon [sic] Of the Church.”


  • Creation: 1623 June

Conditions Governing Access

As of December 20, 2018, this collection is unavailable while it undergoes conservation treatment.

Conditions Governing Use

Single copies may be made for research purposes. Researchers are responsible for determining any copyright questions. It is not necessary to seek our permission as the owner of the physical work to publish or otherwise use public domain materials that we have made available for use, unless Johns Hopkins University holds the copyright.

Biographical / Historical

There is currently no biographical or historical information available on the creator.

Biographical / Historical

Historical information provided by the bookseller: Marriage charters were part of a specifically Lyonese wedding ritual and carried intense symbollic meaning. A document containing the briefly worded declaration of marriage was blessed by the priest and given by the groom to the bride along with the traditional thirteen deniers (coins) and a wedding ring. A special coin was often minted for the occassion by wealthier families.

The earliest charter recorded dates to 1465, and the latest known is from 1691. Originally adorned by hand, in the mid-sixteenth century production of these illustrated certificates was taken over by printmakers for whom the charters provided an increasingly lucrative income stream, as the custom spread from the nobility to the merchant class and even to the artisanal and working classes. This broadening of the market entailed a concomitant change in the charters' form and support. The earliest known charters were carefully hand-drawn or printed and illuminated on vellum, with spaces left for the families' coats-of-arms and the central contractual formula inscribed by master calligraphers. Later charters were printed first from woodblocks, and subsequently from copper plates, using standardized iconographical layout, often printed on paper and grossly colored. Nevertheless, throughout the seventeenth century a range of charters at different "price-points" continued to be produced, from luxuriously illuminated charters on vellum, to cheaply printed paper examples with woodcut borders, typographic text, and watercolor coloring. As domestic quasi-devotional objects, possibly kept on walls like religious images, marriage charters were produced in the thousands.


1 Items (1 framed document (21.5 x 17 inches))

Language of Materials



An illuminated and engraved marriage charter on parchment, created in Lyon, France in June 1623. Marriage charters contained a briefly worded declaration of marriage and were blessed by a priest and given by a groom to the bride as a part of their wedding ceremony.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Purchased from Musinsky Rare Books in November 2018.

Processing Information

This collection was procesed in December 2018 by Kristen Diehl.

Guide to the Engraved and illuminated marriage charter from Lyon, France
Kristen Diehl
2018 December
Description rules
Describing Archives: A Content Standard
Language of description
Script of description
Language of description note

Repository Details

Part of the Special Collections Repository

The Sheridan Libraries
Special Collections
3400 N Charles St
Baltimore MD 21218 USA