École des chartes » ELEC » Notariado público y documento privado: de los orígenes al siglo XIV » Notaries and notarial practice in medieval Brittany
[p. 772]

[p. 773] Notaries and notarial practice in medieval Brittany

The arrival of notaries public in the medieval duchy of Brittany and familiarity with their functions in not clearly signalled until the very end of the thirteenth century. On 18 February 1299 Henry, bishop of Nantes, who had joined other bishops from the metropolitan diocese of Tours for a provincial synod, found that his traditional place in these gatherings had been occupied by the bishop of St-Malo. Bishop Henry, normally a reasonable and generous man (as later gifts to his see show), was anxious not to delay proceedings over such a trivial matter. But lest it be taken as an unfortunate precedent, diminishing his rights, he summoned «Judicaelus Rivalloni Notarius Venetensis Diocesis» to register his protest in the proper form of a public instrument, stating his claim to occupy the third seat on the archbishop’s right, alongside the bishop of Angers1. Just over two years later, the chapter of Dol, briefly forgetting its pretensions to [p. 774] metropolitan status which even at this late date were far from being quashed, sought permission from the same archbishop of Tours, Renaud de Montbazon, to proceed to the election of a new bishop, having requested «Juliotus Guiberti Clericus Dolensis Sacri Romani Imperii auctoritate publicus et Curiae Dolensis Juratus Notarius» to prepare their petition in instrumental form2. These seem to be the oldest known Breton instruments, though Breton notaries can be traced back a little further. «Judicaellus Rivalloni dicti Sotii de Erdeven, clerico in minoribus ordinibus constituto, Venetensis diocesis», the scribe of the first instrument, for instance, was licensed to practise as a tabellio after due examination by papal chaplains on 15 December 1291, the day after Herveus Radulphi de Spineto of the diocese of St-Pol de Léon, a few months after the first appointment of clerks from the dioceses of Quimper and Dol as notaries, and some twelve years after the first known Breton public notary, Radulphus de Augham of St Malo, was admitted along with six other men (including three English clerks) after examination on 22 December 12793. Thereafter records, most surviving haphazardly, since there are now no medieval Breton notarial registers, reveal the presence of notaries from the remaining Breton dioceses. The flurry of appointments by Nicholas IV in 1290-1 of clerks from Dol, Quimper, St Pol de Léon and Vannes, has been mentioned. Boniface VIII appointed a notary from Rennes in 1299, Clement V gave Daniel, bishop of Nantes permission to appoint two tabelliones in 1309 and two more in 1312, the same year that two clerks from St-Brieuc were licensed4. Whilst the only name missing from this list of the nine Breton bishoprics, Tréguier, did not produce any known notaries until 1364, though here surely the vagaries [p. 775] of the evidence are all too obvious. For amongst the earliest Breton episcopal regulations concerning notaries in ecclesiastical courts are the synodal statutes of Jean Brun, bishop of Tréguier, 1371-8, issued shortly after his appointment, which suggest abuses requiring remedy that must have developed over a considerable period5.

Indeed additional synodal statutes, together with the legislative concern of dukes of Brittany from the time of John III (1312-41), to which reference will be made later, are sufficient to indicate that notaries and notarial practice, despite an apparently slow start, had become commonplace by the mid fourteenth century. The demand for their services may partly be attributed to the litigious quality of Breton society in this period, but it also follows well-established general patterns. In the course of the thirteenth century not only had courts, both ecclesiastical and lay, developed for the settlement of disputes, but the demand for gracious jurisdiction in non-contentious affairs had encouraged the production of documentary evidence delivered under official seals and other modes of authentication6. The need for trained clerks to staff the courts and other opportunities to earn a living writing documents, with the growth of commerce, for instance, encouraged Bretons to learn the notarial art, obtain official credentials and practice publicly just as men did elsewhere. «Les notaires de cour laie pullulaient en Bretagne au XIVe et au XVe siècles. On se plaignait de leur ignorance et de leur rapacité», wrote Marcel Planiol many years ago, though his investigation was limited to their institutional or legal role in the writing of contracts and he surprisingly neglected, given an otherwise comprehensive survey of the administration, the place of notaries public in the duchy7. Nevertheless in the [p. 776] account which follows, the debt to Planiol’s pioneering work is heavy, as will be obvious from discussion of the origins of gracious jurisdiction in Brittany. For this prelude to true notarial forms may be summarised briefly before moving to a more detailed account of the various types of notaries in Brittany, their numbers, functions and particular practices, together with some comment on their social position.

Recent work on the origins of gracious jurisdiction, though modifying the classic accounts for France of Paul Fournier, A. Giry and A. de Boüard, by providing through careful regional studies, a more detailed and varied pattern and a preciser chronology, has not notably altered the broad outlines of this earlier work8. Whereas in the late twelfth and through the thirteenth century, the south saw the revival of the public notariate (there were already thirty notaries practising in Toulouse c. 1200)9, in the north the demand for documents authenticated by public authority was first and foremost answered by church courts. Here the specific emergence of the Official as the bishop’s chief legal officer from c. 1180 has been recognized as a critical stage in the story. Spreading from the provinces of Reims, Sens and Bourges, his utility was such that the appointment of officials quickly followed throughout northern France — the region of droit coutumier — in the next couple of generations. Whilst shortly afterwards officials substituted for their personal seals with which they had first authenticated letters, a seal of their court, an impersonal administrative seal. «Vers 1235», writes M. Bautier, «toutes les curies diocésaines et archidiaconales de la France du Nord possédaient leur sceau»10. Furthermore, within a very few years, another [p. 777] seal, often the double of the official’s counter-seal, was being used alongside the earlier one, especially for the purpose of guaranteeing contracts11.

The stages by which this evolution occurred in Brittany have partially been traced by Planiol, though his account may be refined in some particulars12. In the province of Tours, it was at Le Mans in the 1190s that the official made his début. At Tours itself a certain Master Aymerius was named as official in 121113. In Brittany proper the bishop and archdeacon of Rennes appear jointly to have had an official by 1213, one Guillaume de Pincé, who had already been active in other capacities in the diocese from at least 1197, and he may well have acted as official14. There was certainly an official at Tréguier in 1217 and at Corlay in the diocese of Quimper by 1219, whilst Gaufridus de Cancellis was acting (gerens vices) in the bishop’s stead at Nantes in the same year and Jean Bonimunt was his official in 122315. At St-Malo in 1229 Guillaume Piel was the official, though his diocesan four years later sought papal permission to appoint a new one. But having been told this was unnecessarily formal even if he wanted more than one, the bishop appears to have divided his diocese to create two officialités16. At St-Brieuc in 1230 Alain de Plogonoit was acting as allocatus, that is as a legal officer equivalent to or [p. 778] synonymous with the official, here probably in the secular court for the administration of the bishop’s temporalities, whilst master Jean de Plogonoit, almost certainly a relative, was the bishop’s official in 123317. Four years later «Rualenus, presbiter de Ploagat, alloquatus domini episcopi Trecorensis» issued letters relating to the tithes of Goudelin and in 1262 Jean de Châtel Audren was styled «clericus, officialis seu allocatus… archidiaconi Trecorensis»18. Indeed, the only Breton diocese for which no thirteenth-century evidence proving the existence of an official has yet been discovered is the very poor one of St-Pol de Léon. Elsewhere not only the bishop but, as in the case of Rennes, almost all archdeacons also appointed officials or alloués.

Thus, according to Planiol, Nantes had two officialités (Nantes and Guérande) as did St-Malo (St-Malo de Beignon and St-Malo de l’Isle) and Dol had five (Dol, Lannion, Lanmeur and Lanvollon in Brittany and St-Samson in Normandy) to cope with its widely dispersed estates and many enclaves within other dioceses19. But this by no means exhausts the list of Breton officialités. In St-Brieuc, for example, there was the court of the archdeacon of Penthièvre, and there was an additional one at Dinan in the diocese of St-Malo20. In Tréguier diocese, where the most famous of all Breton officials and later patron of lawyers, St Yves Helori, practised in the late thirteenth century, his volume of the Decretals serving the additional function of a pillow at night, there was also the court of the archdeacon of Goëllo and of the archdeacon of Tréguier at Guingamp21. The bishop of [p. 779] Quimper had an official at Corlay, probably identical with the later official of Poher and Quintin, whilst in 1246 a certain Daniel was described as «persona ecclesie de Lanuithgat, allocatus domini episcopi et archidiaconi apud Corle», when he attached the «sigillo curie de Corle» to a grant transferring certain rights to the abbey of Bon Repos22.

It would be possible to bring together more information on the senior personnel of these various ecclesiastical courts than has been attempted here. Sooner or later the surviving evidence also reveals that such courts (like that at Corlay) had their own seals and that the normal sequence had been followed in substituting this for the personal one of the official23. But whether under that older mode of authentification or the later, more impersonal one, very markedly from c. 1230 until the early fourteenth century, ecclesiastical authorities — bishops, archdeacons, officials, alloués and vice-gerents — provided a much appreciated and heavily used service in dispensing gracious jurisdiction in Brittany as they did elsewhere. From the late thirteenth century it also became increasingly common for the clerks who wrote letters to add their signatures24. Among such figures there may have been some early notaries public, but with the exception of Judicael Rivallon of Vannes, who wrote the first known Breton instrument in [p. 780] 1299, it is not possible to make any secure identifications in Brittany between these curial clerks and fully accredited notaries.

Lay authorities only began to rival the church’s gracious jurisdiction in the duchy from c. 1270. The origins of the Breton seneschalcy courts, like that of the seneschals themselves, are still obscure, and at least in some cases must be pushed back into the eleventh century. But for most, evidence for the appointment of seneschals only becomes abundant in the thirteenth century and until the 1270s most issued documents under their own personal seals25. A fine late example of such practice is the recitation in 1272 of the terms of a lease by the prior of Montonac to Berthelot de la Roche, esquire, under the personal seal of Rivallen du Temple, seneschal of Nantes, whilst another similar document was sealed in 1274 by Pierre Cortheys «allocatus domini ducis Britannie apud Henbont», who may be identified with Pierre Corteres, seneschal for the duke at Ploërmel in 125926. But within a few years a seal of jurisdiction replaced the personal seal of these ducal officers and by 1300, as ducal accounts show, this seal could be farmed in Brittany just as it was in other regions27. This led to abuses which a ducal ordonnance (to be dated c. 1334-41) sought to remedy by stipulating that holders of seals in ducal courts were to be officially appointed28. But the farming of seals [p. 781] and writing services, what normally appeared in accounts under the heading Clergie or sceaux et papiers, now became a common feature of all administrations, representing a small but constant source of income, as it did of dispute, for the rest of the Middle Ages and beyond29.

As M. Bautier’s researches have shown, chronologically these developments in Brittany may be fitted into a broader pattern, whereby the use of such seals of jurisdiction can be seen to have spread to north-western France, not as might first seem likely, directly from the royal demesne, but largely by imitation of the practices encouraged by Alphonse of Poitiers in his apanage, bringing with them an increase in the demand for genuine notarial skills30. For in an ordonnance issued on 29 November 1270 he had given a particular impulse to a system which combined the notarial habits of the Midi with that of the authentic seal of the north: «In primis volumus et ordinamus quod in qualibet castellania ubi tenuntur assizie, duo notarii publici ordinentur ex parte domni comitis vel de jam creatis assumantur qui ibi maneant…», and in the same year seals for the jurisdictions at Poitiers, Fontenay-le-Comte and St-Maixent appeared. Furthermore, Alphonse’s example was to be partially imitated in a famous, much discussed, royal ordonnance of 1280, as well as copied by several leading Poitevin nobles who had estates lying towards the marches of Brittany: the lords of Parthenay (1270), Lusignan (1275), Thouars (1277) and Mauléon (1280) all had such seals by the dates indicated31.

It is thus noteworthy that the first evidence for lay seals of jurisdiction [p. 782] in Brittany comes not from the ducal courts but from those of one of the duke’s leading vassals, Alain, viscount of Rohan. For when on 20 February 1276 Jean, sire des Forges and his wife gave tithes they derived from St-Rivalain de Melrand to the abbey of Bon Repos, the document recording this gift was given under the contracts seal of Porhoët, together with those of the donors32. But the sigillum ad contractus was soon used extensively in ducal courts as well. An early example comes from Dinan in March 1278 where the impression shows the arms of Duke John I [Dreux (checky), a franc canton ermine] with the legend «S. I. DVCIS. BRITANIE. DINANO AD. QTCT»33. It was the model that became standard throughout the medieval duchy, with appropriate modifications in legend according to the locality of the court or changes in the ducal arms34. Where the duke’s leading vassals held their own contracts seal, they usually substituted their own arms for the ducal ones35.

As for the spread of this more formal system, a number of documents from the Vannetais issued between 1279-81 are either sealed «sigillo nostro quo utimur ad contractus de Elrayo», i. e. of the ducal court of Auray, or with «sigillo curiae nostrae ad contractus de Veneto» for Vannes36. By 1282-3 courts in northern Brittany were also operating with jurisdictional seals. An exchange of lands between the Chastel and Penhoët families was concluded «teste sigillo nostro quo utimur apud Leon. A contractus» on 23 July 1282, and the seal used then is described by Dom Morice as bearing the arms of Duke Peter Mauclerc (1213-37), in other words similar to that already described from the Dinan example of 127837. An acknowledgment [p. 783] of debt by Olivier de Bocenit in March 1283 was given under the seal of the courts of Lamballe, Moncontour and Jugon, which was later usually termed the «sceau des contrats de Penthevre» and of which Robin du Chastel was the bearer (porteur) in 131338.

Further courts at Ploërmel (1287) and a whole host of additional localities in the years 1288-91 (Broërec, Carhaix, Guérande, Hennebont, Morlaix, Nantes, Quimperlé and Rennes) possessed their own jurisdictional seals; clearly this was now the norm in the duke’s administration. Whilst there are also some further early examples of seigneurial courts following suit. Geoffrey Conan «allocatus vicecomitatus de Rohan et de Porhoet» issued letters in 1286 under the seal of his court, which was in all likelihood the same as that already cited in 1276. It may physically have been taken from court to court as necessary for in 1293 it was described as «sigillo quo utimur ad contractus in feodis et curiis nostris», but it is more probable that each separate court in the lordship had been furnished with its own matrix of the Rohan-Porhoët contracts seal to deal with increasing business39. To the south of the Loire at Bouin, Johannot de Rozel «clerc, garde dou seau des contras dont l’en uset en Boing par noble home Girart Chabos, chevalier, sire de Rais e de Macheco» provided a vidimus on 24 February 1334 of letters of his lord which had originally been issued on 1 October 1303 «testmoing nos seaux dont l’en use pour nous en Boing en contraz»40. «Toutes les juridictions», states Planiol discussing the contracts seal, «en étaient pourvues dès le commencement du XIVe siècle»41. Whilst the Breton evidence certainly bears out A. de Boüard’s contention that until c. 1300 in northern France there is little indication that the notary public had begun to function independently of jurisdictional seals. A nice example is provided by the vidimus of a charter of Duke Conan IV (1170) for the abbey of Begar, [p. 784] issued by Geoffroy, dicti Megnellou, clerk of Guingamp, imperial notary, under the contracts seal of Guingamp on 23 March 130542.

But matters were to change radically in the next few years. First, although ecclesiastical courts continued to deal with much secular business for the rest of the Middle Ages and were recognized in Brittany as being to a certain extent superior to lay courts, even capable of modifying rulings given there, much of their gracious jurisdiction passed to lay courts43. Whilst at the same time in both types of court, amongst the personnel public notaries appear. They also began to act independently, issuing instruments under their individual signa, following faithfully the diplomatic forms and conventions now firmly established by papal and other formularies44. An early example in the duchy is an instrument drawn up on 12 July 1327 by «Radulphus Barbaton Clericus Nannetensis Diocesis publicus auctoritate Imperiali Notarius» who had been asked to prepare a vidimus of letters of Thibaut, lord of Rochefort, originally delivered on 3 February 1327 and recording terms relating to the foundation of the Carmelite house at Nantes. This the notary did «in platea sancti Petri Nannetensis» in the presence of duly summoned witnesses before whom «praemissas litteras vidi, tenui, legi & palpavi, et de eis cum Magistro Petro de Severac in suprascriptorum presentia collationem feci et exinde presens publicum instrumentum manu propria scripsi, signo meo solito signavi rogatus»45. It may be suspected that like all the other Breton notarial signs which I have seen, this consisted of the traditional design based on a cross, though elaborated with appropriate individual flourishes, emblems, devices or names. Allusions to the arms of Brittany (ermines) were not infrequent later in the century, especially [p. 785] amongst those notaries employed in the ducal administration, as may be seen from the examples in Plate 146.

Fully accredited notaries by apostolic or imperial authority of Breton origin are scarce in our records before the mid fourteenth century, nor have any notaries of foreign, especially Italian, extraction been found practising there in this early period47. Public notaries always remained a small proportion of all clerks at work for ecclesiastical as well as lay authorities. For example, of 58 clerks whose signatures are recorded in the fourteenth-century cartularies of the bishopric of Quimper on documents ranging in date from 1305-99, only thirteen are at present known definitely to have been authorized apostolic and/or imperial notaries, though it may be suspected that a number of others were so qualified48. Amongst the notaries used by the ducal administration during the same period it is perhaps not a surprising that there was a higher proportion of apostolic and imperial notaries employed49. But if the Quimper evidence can be accepted as more representative of lesser jurisdictions (and in the absence of systematic publication of other episcopal records this is still uncertain), at least one, more usually two or three public notaries were practising simultaneously in the courts of the officialités of the diocese in the early part of the century. Whilst by the latter half five, seven or more may be found contemporaneously, serving indiscriminately the [p. 786] bishop, his officials or the cathedral chapter. A vidimus, given in the form of letters issued by the official of Quimper under the «sigillo magno contractuum» on 17 March 1377, «in auditorio curie Corisopitensis, hora causarum ipsius», was delivered in the presence of no less than six advocates in that court (some known otherwise as notaries) and five named notaries, whilst a sixth drew up the actual letters of vidimus and a seventh collated these with the original50. Earlier in 1352, Judicellus Bouquin, imperial notary and notary of the court of Quimper, together with Merien de Rosporden who is simply described as «notarius juratus» of that same court, had compiled the first Cartulary of Quimper on the bishop’s instructions and their work of transcription was checked by Johannes Briencius, another clerk and notary of Quimper diocese who was also an imperial notary, Master Guillaume de Kemperele, canon of Quimper and «public notary» and Dom Alain Paillart, priest51. In the equivalent court at Vannes on one occasion in 1398 six notaries and advocates were simultaneously present52. Whilst there were many other notaries, especially by papal appointment, now active elsewhere in the duchy outside the officialités.

A rough impression of rates of recruitment of «apostolic» notaries in the duchy, at least, can be gathered from papal registers. Using published calendars a small table has been compiled (Table 1). Most of the earliest appointments down to the pontificate of Clement V have been mentioned. The registers of his successor, John XXII (1316-34), show the appointment of nineteen notaries in six Breton dioceses ten of them (two each) at the general discretion and favour of the bishops of Dol, Quimper, Rennes, St-Brieuc and St-Pol de Léon, the other nine specifically named in the papal letters53. In addition Master Geoffroy du Plessis, chancellor of Tours who was also an apostolic notary himself, received permission to appoint two tabelliones [p. 788] for Duke John III on 6 July 131754. Benedict XII (1334-42) appears to have appointed only three Breton notaries, whilst the published registers of Clement VI (1342-52) and Innocent VI (1352-62) reveal no such appointments55. Out of more than 840 notaries licensed by Urban V (1362-70) only 15 were Bretons56. The distribution between dioceses perhaps appears somewhat surprising with Quimper providing most notaries and the small, poor and remote diocese of St-Pol de Léon producing as many as the much richer dioceses of Nantes and Rennes. The few notaries produced by Dol (on account of its small size) and by Tréguier and Vannes are in line with some other indications about relative ranking in the fourteenth century in the numbers of students at university, for example, where Vannes in particular was notably deficient, despite the importance of the city itself as a centre of ducal administration57.

Licences to appoint and appointment of Breton Apostolic Notaries 1277-13701
Breton dioceses2
D N Q R StB StM StP T V Total
Nicholas III (1277-80) 1 1
Nicholas IV (1288-92) 1 2 1 1 5
Boniface VIII (1294-1303) 1 1
Clement V (1305-14) 4 1 1 2 1 9
John XXII (1316-34) 2 6 2 4 1 4 19
Benedict XII (1334-42) 2 1 3
Urban V (1362-70) 3 6 3 1 1 1 15
Total 3 7 17 7 6 4 7 1 1 53

1 No Breton notaries appear to have been appointed by Martin IV (1281-5), Honorius IV (1285-7), Benedict XI (1303-4) and Clement V (1342-52), whilst the published registers for Innocent VI (1352-62) and Gregory XI (1370-8) are at present incomplete and unhelpful for tracing notaries.

2 D = Dol. N = Nantes. Q = Quimper. R = Rennes. StB = St-Brieuc. StM = St-Malo. StP = St-Pol de Léon. T = Tréguier. V = Vannes.

[p. 788] In the mid fifteenth century, during the pontificate of Nicholas V (1447-55), six out of the nine Breton dioceses are again represented in 29 known papal appointments, but the balance now seems to have swung a little more in favour of the eastern dioceses of Nantes, Rennes and St-Malo, though Vannes also had four nominees. However in the absence of other systematic publications of papal registers relating to Brittany too much should not be built on such a narrow base58. [p. 789] What Nicholas V’s letters do show, however, is that the duke, although he was himself now creating notaries (as will be seen in more detail below), still occasionally petitioned the pope for particular individuals. Both Peter II (1450-7) and his uncle, Constable Richemont, requested in 1453, for example, the rather premature appointment of Thibaut de Rieux, a seventeen year-old cousin of the duchess, otherwise described as a clerk of St-Malo diocese, as an apostolic notary59. Nor is there any evidence that the number of such notaries in the duchy was declining in proportion to «imperial» notaries at the end of the Middle Ages. Obviously to practise in ecclesiastical courts, an apostolic title was a valuable qualification and, almost as a matter of course, many ambitious clerics whose ultimate ambitions lay in obtaining high office, acquired notarial qualifications as a step towards this later goal60.

The process whereby Bretons obtained appointment as notaries by imperial authority remains obscure in the absence of an equivalent to the papal registers. The subscription by «Dionisius Yvoneti Venet. Diocesis publicus auctoritate almae urbis Notarius» in 1312 suggest that some at least had sought their imperial mandate from the prefect of Rome, one of the Emperor’s delegates in the appointment of notaries61. But which other authorities were approached — for the number of imperial notaries in Brittany is not markedly inferior to that of apostolic ones — it has not been possible to discover. In some cases it can be shown that a notary acquired the two qualifications on separate occasions, several years apart. Pierre d’Orenge, clerk of Nantes and imperial notary as early as 1358 received papal approval after examination by Peter, cardinal of St Anastasius, in November 136862. Hervé de Stagno parvo, who first described himself as a [p. 790] clerk of Quimper and an imperial notary in an instrument of 1360, also received a papal licence some years later in 1367 when he was additionally described as married. In an instrument of 6 December 1376 he used his full style as an apostolic and imperial notary, but he was not always so scrupulous and in an instrument a fortnight later he omitted to mention his imperial status, just as earlier he had omitted his papal title63. One of his colleagues in the bishop’s service at Quimper, Alain Runbran, acquired his titles in the opposite order. In 1376-7 he was simply an apostolic notary, but in 1379 he rejoiced in both titles which he used for several years since he was certainly still active in 139764. At the same time it may be suspected that some Breton notaries who appear simply as «public notaries» did in fact possess these specific qualifications. In any event they had had to register their signa and take the requisite oaths in the jurisdictions where they practised.

This was one of the regulations laid down by Jean Brun, bishop of Tréguier, in his 1371 statutes and many of his colleagues issued similar orders, but it was set out most fully with regard to ducal courts in Peter II’s great reforming ordonnance of 25 May 1451, though he was here largely elaborating on one of his father’s ordonnances of 1424. Tabellions were to sign their letters «afin que l’en puisse savoir la faute qui y sera, si aucune y est» and each court was to keep «ung livre de parchemin» in which notaries and passeurs were to record their signatures «afin que si debat estoit de leurs signes et passemens [p. 791] on en puisse faire comparaison». Their competence and good reputation had to be established both by examination of their technical knowledge and by finding pledges. Registers of contracts were to be kept «afin que si les parties perdoient leurs lettres ils en puissent avoir recours par autant desd. registres»65. In effect, all the elements for a properly established public notariate were here. Fully qualified notaries by virtue of their apostolic and imperial titles could practise throughout the duchy whilst under the watchful eye of ducal officials and ecclesiastical authorities all other notaries had to establish their credentials before being allowed to act.

Whilst the employment of notaries, whether by apostolic or imperial authority, in church courts in Brittany from c. 1300 in increasing numbers can hardly cause any surprise and will not be discussed further here, their opportunities for service in lay administration deserve more attention. In the accounts for the period 1307-11 of Roland le Lombard, executing the very complex will of John II (1286-1305), there are payments like one «A Jamet de Vern pour escripture, 100s et dut faire quatre instrumenz publique pour convenance faite o lui de l’inventoire de la Tour n(eu)ve» and «a Johan Saliou publique notaire pour son service quil fit entour les besoignes de mortuages, 60s», which hint at the role they were to play subsequently66. While amongst the earliest still surviving Breton public instruments, there is a little group of three drawn up in 1315-6 by «Jametus de Verno alias dictus Morin clericus Redonensis diocesis apostolica auctoritate publicus notarius» all of which again concern continuing problems of executing John II’s will (Plate 2)67. Almost twenty years later Jamet [p. 792] de Vern was still practising his notarial skills at Nantes68. More often than not by then when a particularly solemn, impartial and correct record of proceedings was required, not simply in an ecclesiastical matter, but also for secular affairs, it had become fairly customary to summon a public notary to prepare an instrument.

The apogee of this use by Breton lay authorities of notaries public is apparently reached in the late fourteenth century when John IV (1364-99) made extensive use of instruments69. Many of them simply recorded routine matters of administration — the terms of a contract with a merchant of Bordeaux over the farming of the ducal brefs de mer, the homage of vassals, the cession of lands or offices and so on70 but a large proportion of surviving instruments from this duke’s reign concern matters of the highest political consequence. Naturally they included public affirmation of contracts and agreements with leading vassals, both lay and ecclesiastical, symbolic or ceremonial acts like capitulations or entrées, but most importantly relations with his sovereign, the king of France, and were connected with the duke’s often tortuous diplomacy71. Public notaries were essential members of most embassies, being called upon to record the different stages of negotiations as well as final treaties72. Often prior to the despatch of such embassies or during the course of discussions where the duke [p. 793] himself was present, he secretly recorded in instrumental form, declarations which were intended to protect him against acceptance of terms forced upon him by adverse circumstances. On 28 October 1380, for example, in the earliest of these secret instruments, John IV declared that if he were shortly to agree a treaty with the king of France, it would be through fear and not because he voluntarily wished to infringe the terms of an alliance with Richard II of England, to whom he acknowledged a deep debt of gratitude, in a document that was probably designed to be used to placate Richard and his council if that were necessary73. Naturally, when he did actually agree to the terms of the second treaty of Guérande, Charles VI of France likewise wanted to give more open publicity to John’s promises so he, too, had the ceremony whereby the duke agreed to keep its terms recorded in an instrument74.

Another volte face, in accepting Clement VII as pope, was explained in an instrument setting out the reasons which had led John to make his decision, but also reserving his right to revise it in the light of further information, whilst at the same time the duke affirmed his belief in one God, one church and one pope75. In another instrument of 4 October 1384 there was recorded the deliberations of the ducal council over the difficult decision as to whether John, count of Penthièvre, was to be permitted to pay homage for his late mother’s lands, or whether these were to be seized, as in fact they were76. Subsequently several other instruments concerning negotiations over the [p. 794] fate of the count of Penthièvre and his allies, were compiled as a complicated sequence of political events unfolded and John IV continually sought to preserve his independence of action when he feared undue pressure from his sovereign to come to terms. Immediately prior to the negotiations which took place at Tours in 1392 (intended to solve both the internal disputes between the duke and Penthièvre and to restore amicable relations with France by arranging a marriage alliance) once again John IV had instruments prepared excusing himself in advance from accepting decisions which were contrary to his real interests77. No other duke was to make such extensive use of the public instrument for political ends in this fashion, cloaking under an impartial and widely recognized diplomatic form, powerful statements designed to protect or bolster his own position. Recourse to the services of notaries public for this purpose reflects creditably on their acknowledged universal standing78. To an extent it also reflects the still under-developed state of the ducal chancery in technical terms and as an office for propaganda.

This deficiency was shortly to be made good79. As a result, thereafter, though the ducal administration continued to have much business recorded in instrumental form (and indeed many leading chancery officials were fully qualified public notaries even in the late fifteenth century) most business could be dealt with by increasingly formal routine methods. As for the «political» or «propagandist» use of instruments, these were largely restricted to recording ducal and other homages, important agreements with bishops and other ecclesiastics [p. 795] and to certain ceremonial and diplomatic circumstances of a solemn kind. Late examples concern such matters as Francis II taking an oath on the cross of St-Laud in 1477 for Louis XI, the agreement of the Breton Estates in 1486 to support the succession of the duke’s daughter Anne, her own declaration that she would not marry Alain, lord of Albret, the terms of her marriage treaty with Charles VIII in 1491, and Anne’s confirmation that the king had not ravished her80. But John IV’s habit of recording dissent in this public manner was also occasionally imitated by ducal vassals. In 1427, for example, Alain VIII, viscount of Rohan and his eldest son, Alain, lord of Porhoët, declared instrumentally that the consent which Porhoët had given to a recent Anglo-Breton treaty, had been given under force «ad terribiles suasiones Domini Ducis Britannie» and «coactus et compulsus… per vim & metum ipsius atque terrores, comminationes et minas»81. But such individual protests were infrequent in the fifteenth century in comparison with late fourteenth-century Breton practice.

What is perhaps of more general significance in this period is rather the increasing numbers of notaries in Breton society at large, many of them attached to local courts, seigneurial and municipal administrations and often possessing limited formal notarial or legal qualifications. It was this development which the duke tried on numerous [p. 796] occasions to control by various legislative measures. As noted above the title or description «public notary» was already current early in the fourteenth century. Some of these «public notaries» may have been from an early stage ducal appointees, though the absence of letters creating notaries from the reigns of John IV and John V is perhaps significant, and clear evidence for the duke exercising this particular sovereign right is not abundant until the chancery registers surviving from the late fifteenth century provide it82. Then a man might be instituted by the duke, his chancellor or by high officials such as seneschals, as notary in a particular court or receive a general mandate as did Alain Le Floch on 24 June 1466 to practise as a secretary, notary and passour in all courts within the duchy. So did Guillaume Lequemeren on 6 September 1468, whilst earlier that year Daviet Misseur had been instituted secretary, notary, passour and tabellion83.

Both these later titles were of some antiquity. Their addition to the description of Misseur’s functions obviously implies a distinction from the more common generic one of notary. The evidence suggests that passours and tabellions in Brittany were essentially synonymous with notaries attached to a particular court in which they had taken an oath and (at least in the fifteenth century) where they had registered their official signatures or merches. These were kept in a book or on a parchment or paper sheet which was supposed to be displayed publicly in the court84. And although unfortunately no examples have survived it can be assumed that registers were kept. An early case of such a licensed court notary is Guillaume Avoisan, clerk and «tabellion juré» of Roland, lord of Dinan, who in 1315 drew up a document in favour of the abbey of Boquen to whom Guillaume Meloche and [p. 797] his wife had renounced certain rights, whilst another was Dom Yvo de Goezec who was described five years earlier as «tunc tabellionem curie Corisopitensis», the secular court of the bishop of Quimper, where it is clear that in both cases they were acting exactly like an ecclesiastical official or public notary85. Passour (or passeur) was the vernacular equivalent of the Latin tabellio, occurring when that language is first used administratively (from around 1320, for example, in the records of Quimper diocese)86.

In effect, during the reign of John III there occurred the formalisation of the Breton equivalent to the royal tabellionages. For in his ordonnance of c. 1334-41, it was decreed that to prevent fraud contracts were in future to be drawn up «es lieux solempniaulx, ou nos contracts sont et seront establis de par nous, pour passer lesd lettres devant tabellions illecque ad ce deputez de par nous», unless those making them were so debilitated that they could not make the journey (or had some other sufficient cause), when the tabellion might go to their residence to complete the contract87. In 1369 Guillaume Trinquant, clerk and notary, was described as «passeur des registres et lettres de la court de Rennes», a position which may be equated with that possessed twenty years later in Poitou by Nicholas Berthomé «clerc juré, noctaire et passeur de la court du seel estably aux contractz en la ville, chastellenie et ressort de Fontenay le Comte»88. By the late fourteenth century the proliferation of various descriptions — «tabellion et passour», «notaire et tabellion», «notaires et passeurs», «passeurs et notaires» and so on — not always used with absolute consistency, warns us against making too fine a distinction between different clerkly functions in a Breton context89. But the most frequent [p. 798] indication of their presence for any transactions, apart from the actual document given under an appropriate jurisdictional seal, is the brief note hors de teneur «Passé» followed (or preceded) by a simple signature, without an elaborate signum, even when the clerk was a fully qualified public notary (Plate 3)90. Whilst a proper scale of fees charged for their services was established by John III and in the fifteenth century endorsements were supposed to be added to the document to indicate the fee exacted91.

Recognizing all this as traditional practice, John V’s ordonnance of 1424 made it normative: «Pour eschiver es faussonneries que on fait es lettres et par especial au pais de Treguer et de Gouellou, en contrefaisant la main des passeurs quant ils sont mors, ou autrement, a este ordonne que doresnavant quant aucuns notaires et tabellions passeront lettres ou contrats qu’ils fassent mention par qui elles sont escriptes»92. Whilst much of the surviving evidence for Breton tabellionages and their functionaries concerns efforts to improve their efficiency, honesty and procedures. Ducal seneschals, for example, who were chiefly responsible for appointing notaries to such courts, were castigated by Peter II for their laxity in examining suitable candidates, accepting bribes and delegating their authority in this matter to others93. Despite considerable efforts by the ducal council, supervision of notaries at large in the duchy remained difficult, while the status of the duke’s own notaries remained ambiguous. In 1464, for example, Francis II had to confirm that letters given to a Spanish merchant by the contracts court at Nantes, signed by notaries of that court, were delivered by public notaries, so that they might be used outside the duchy94. But fraud, deception, delay and counterfeiting by [p. 799] notaries are all charges frequently met with in the surviving chancery registers during his reign (1458-88) and the ducal council was kept moderately busy dealing with such matters95.

By now, of course, every court in the duchy required the services of notaries, whilst the opportunities for private practice in both town and countryside had become numerous for both the restricted service of writing documents and also for taking on legal business more generally. This is a large subject which can only be touched upon briefly here for the evidence for notarial activities, though extensive, has to be pieced together from widely scattered records in the absence of systematic minutes or protocols for the medieval period. The first to have been recognized as such are the papers of Sixt Nevouet, a notary in the seigneurial court of Les Huguetières at St-Philbert de Grand Lieu, who lived in some style in a house «couverte de tieulles» from which he conducted much of his business in the «grand rue qui conduit du portail de St. Philbert au cymetiere»96. For in addition to working at Les Huguetières, as the minutes relating to both his professional and private affairs for the period 1466-97 show, he had acquired clients among other local lords as well as his neighbours at St-Philbert, necessitating the keeping of a horse for the extensive travelling that his professional services entailed97. His son Pierre and [p. 800] other descendants were to continue practising at St-Philbert long after him, when later records appear to have been more systematically kept than in the days of Sixt98. Yet these are little different from many documents surviving in seigneurial archives, chance alone preserving them together more or less intact. There are, for instance, aveux and other estate documents drawn up between 1444-76 for Roland and Jean, lords of Chef du Bois and Coëtreven in the diocese of St-Brieuc, which survive as minutes on paper quires in almost exactly the same form as those redacted by Sixt Nevouet, except that they were not compiled by one notary but by a small group whose services were clearly called upon consistently by these two lords99.

Analysis of the extensive surviving seigneurial fonds from the late medieval duchy would reveal the existence of similar groups of rural and urban notaries earning a modest living100. Whilst a little more light is thrown on their activities in some larger lordships when regulations, like those promulgated by the duke generally, were occasionally issued. In 1468, for instance, Jean, lord of Malestroit, delivered to his officers in the lordship of Largoët en Elven, comprehensive instructions on their working practices which «affin que nully ne puisse ignorence pretendre» were to be copied by «les notaires et clercs d’office» into all the relevant estate records. These were to be signed by those responsible for issuing documents, ordering specific actions and verifying accounts both in the seigneurial chambre des comptes as well as in other seigneurial courts101. As a result, in many of these great lordships high standards were maintained and the technical [p. 801] expertise of the clerks and notaries employed is demonstrated by the clarity and order of their accounts and other records102. But until more work is done it will be impossible to say how many notaries were employed, how may were able to build up a varied clientele like Nevouet, and how much overlap there was between seigneurial and ducal personnel103.

By the end of the Middle Ages, then, notaries had established a modest but secure niche in Breton society and some further remarks on their origins, training, qualifications, rewards and social position may be appropriate. In the fourteenth century the majority of Bretons who claimed to be notaries by apostolic and/or imperial authority seem initially to have been unmarried clerics not in orders, though papal licences were granted for appointment without specific limitations or allowing a combination of qualities104. Similar variety appears in the fifteenth century, though of the 29 Breton notaries created by Nicholas V one alone was described as a priest, whilst only one other was probably in major orders at the time of his appointment, the dean of Aubigné105. Yet from an early point besides clerics of different hues, secular notaries are also encountered. At Rennes Jean George, who was styled a public notary in a document of 1324, later more fully described himself as «civis Redonensis publicus imperiali auctoritate ac curie Redonensis juratus notarius» (1333)106. [p. 802] But the overwhelming majority of fully qualified fourteenth-century Breton notaries retained clerical status, even though some of them now married, including figures like Master Hervé le Grant and Master Guillaume de St-André, both of them apostolic and imperial notaries, who rose high in the service of John IV and occasionally cooperated to draw up public instruments together (Plate 4)107.

As for the origins of notaries, lack of information on them in most cases before they appear exercising their art, suggests in general their modesty, though these were as likely to be in the Breton countryside as in the towns and from noble as well as commoner or burgess stock. Of Nicholas V’s appointees, three were from acknowledged noble or knightly families and five had university degrees, which (given the cost of legal courses in particular) is often indicative of origins in the middling or upper ranks of society108. A survey of matriculation lists from late medieval French universities (there was no university in Brittany until the foundation of Nantes in 1460) reveals several examples of academically qualified notaries. Some of the clerks in the ecclesiastical courts of Quimper, for example, may be previously traced at Paris university109. Master Hervé le Grant, originally from the same diocese and mentioned briefly above, provided additional facts on his own notarial training when he testified at an inquiry at Nantes in 1411110. Then aged 51 years, he said it was 38 years since he had first come to Nantes where he lived with his uncle, Pierre Gravillon, captain for Simon de Langres, bishop of Nantes (1366-82), of the episcopal castle (or rather manor) of Sucé. The young Hervé had also spent [p. 803] much time with Master Geoffroy le Fèvre, who for forty years and more, was one of the leading notaries in the duchy and from whom, it may be safely assumed, Hervé first learnt the skills he was to need as a notary and obtained that entrée into ducal service in which he was eventually to rise to secretary and archivist111. Before this he had rounded out his practical training by studying canon law at Angers where he was a scholar in 1378 before returning to Brittany in ducal service in 1379112. From that point his career was closely linked with the fortunes of the ducal house as he went on embassies, attended the ducal council, reorganized the ducal archives and emerged as one of the leading propagandists for the ducal regime. As a cleric he had first aspired to higher office in the church, but forsook this path when he married Guillemette Mauléon, from one of the leading burgess families of Nantes. Though apparently dying childless, Hervé seems to have been succeeded as keeper of the ducal archives by a nephew, Pierre Piedru, who ended his days as bishop of St-Malo (1435-49)113.

Many of the features of Le Grant’s career could be paralleled in the experience of other Breton notaries, even those who did not enjoy the good fortune of Hervé in having relatives and patrons well placed in episcopal and ducal service. A contemporary, Jean Loppin, for instance, who became a notary in the episcopal court at Vannes, had learnt his skills by attending a local grammar school at Landaul, taking up school teaching himself and, then, by chance encounter with officers of the bishop’s court, who gradually gave him financial [p. 804] and legal business to transact114. Another contemporary Master Roland Poencé, had served for fifteen years in various seneschalcy courts, before becoming alloué at Guingamp and secretary to Charles de Blois, duke of Brittany (1341-64). Later he had also been appointed seneschal of Cornouaille for that duke, upon whose death his career seems to have run into the sands. It was then that he fell back on his notarial skills for when he deposed at the inquiry into the sanctity of Blois in 1371 he described himself as aged about 53, a married clerk and notary and native of the parish of Goudelin in the diocese of Tréguier115. Fifteen other notaries from Brittany either gave testimony or helped to draw up the final copy of this enquiry, in addition to notaries from neighbouring provinces also present at Angers116. On a less happy occasion, the investigation into the crimes of Gilles de Rays in 1440, a team of at least six notaries was required to compile the judicial record117. Whilst a good example of the duke calling on the services of notaries from outside Brittany is provided in 1448 when Francis I summoned notaries from Tiffauges and elsewhere to come to assist in the long-standing debate over the status of the marches between Brittany and neighbouring provinces118. By now many were married men and, as the example of Sixt Nevouet and his relatives shows, established a family tradition of notarial practice. An [p. 805] early example is provided by the Bloez family of Quimper-Jean Bloez was active as a notary in episcopal service between 1383 and 1402, whilst in 1412 we find Y. Bloez and in 1420 Jean Bloez junior acting in a similar capacity119.

The acquisition of notarial skills through practical experience or by more formal methods (model letters serving as examples advertising his skills from a writing master at Nantes in 1464 survive), potentially opened up wide opportunities for personal advancement in late medieval Brittany120. Gacien de Monceaux, who first appears as a ducal secretary in 1394 and was described as treasurer of Rennes, licenciate in laws and imperial notary in a instrument of 1398, later became bishop of Quimper (1408-16), though he may have started his career with certain advantages as his family was well connected amongst the leading citizens of Nantes121. Gilles de la Rivière had the good fortune to have Jean de la Rivière, chancellor of the duchy (1450-7) as his uncle. He was appointed an apostolic notary as early as 1453 and rose steadily to become vice-chancellor of the duchy, dean of Nantes, archdeacon of Rennes and protonotary of the papal curia in 1488, whilst for a brief interval in the following year he was promoted to be chancellor by John, lord of Rieux, before ceding his place to Philippe de Montauban122. Jean Calloët of Tréguier, was [p. 806] also extremely well qualified as a doctor of both laws, priest of Tréguier, cantor and canon of Quimper and papal protonotary when he drew up an instrument in 1502123. But the majority of notaries whose fortunes have been traced so far demonstrate more modest rewards like those enjoyed by a group kept fairly busy in the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries by the demands of the ducal administration.

This included Jean de Rippa, Pierre d’Orenge, Jamet Lamourroux and Jean Halouart, all from Nantes, Jean Lotodé from Rennes, Yvo Tuich and Alain Scahunec from Quimper and Jean le Taillandier, originally from St-Malo, but who founded a chapel in the cathedral at Vannes in 1379124. They were active both in ducal service and private practice as notaries, but they also held other positions, canonries, clerkships and so on, so that it is finally difficult to decide on the sources of their wealth. That this could be considerable is shown by the fairly lavish dispositions Pierre d’Orenge was able to make in his will (1395) though it should be remembered that d’Orenge was also a canon of Nantes. Legacies in money amounting to at least 300 écus, 100 gold francs and 431.10s in current Breton money, together with 401. in rents, are mentioned, along with extensive movable wealth (including «quatuor libri meorum, viz. Breviarum, legendam auream, bibliam et Ystorias Scolasticas» given to his notary nephew, Pierre Moitié, Medietari), two houses, one of which he had himself built, and he also left instructions for the despatch of pilgrims to pray and make offerings for his soul at Mont St Michel and St James de Compostella (Plate 5)125.

[p. 807] It is perhaps not surprising that when regular taxation came to be levied in the duchy, the status of notaries should be questioned since on account of their clerical background and learning they might have grounds for exemption. Effectively many did initially gain such exemption by holding office in the ducal or seigneurial administrations as advocates and clerks126. But, as in the Dauphiné where the profession of notary was vile according to Guy Pape, such claims to exemption in Brittany were theoretically quashed by Peter II’s ordonnance of 1451, unless the notary was of authentic noble stock. In future, notwithstanding letters of ennoblement or enfranchisement «avocatz, clercs, tabellions ou autres gens de practique, extraits de routiere condition» were to contribute to «toutes taillees, aides et subventions quelconques, mises ou a mettre sus pour le bien de la chose publique de nostre pais», emphasising their commoner status127. Yet Peter II and his successors, like earlier dukes, continued to make exceptions to this general rule by granting individual patents of nobility and enfranchisement to those whose main services were notarial, provided that they were also prepared to serve in arms. On 8 April 1468, for example, a ducal mandate referred to the recent imposition of a forced loan (prest) on various categories not contributing to a fouage, including «tant juges, advocaz, clercs, notaires et autres gens de practique de court deglise et seculiere» unless they were serving in person128. Whilst some families managed to combine the pursuit of clerical and military rewards simultaneously like the Mauhugeon family who produced a master of the ducal artillery and several other soldiers as well as a succession of clerks, notaries and secretaries in ducal, ecclesiastical and (after the annexation of Brittany by France) royal service129. In the interlinked worlds of finance, the law and [p. 808] administration, success bred success as the work recently of J-P. Leguay, Henri Touchard and Jean Kerhervé has demonstrated. Humble though many of the Breton notaries undoubtedly were, they fitted into the same milieu130.

As this survey has shown, the notary public was slow in making his appearance in Brittany, reflecting the under-developed economy and administration of the province until the late thirteenth century. There was nothing comparable in Brittany at this point with that «effrenata multitudo» of notaries condemned by the archbishop of Reims in statutes of 1269 or the «confusa multitudo» which so annoyed Philip IV in 1301131. Nor has any direct link been discovered with Italian notarial practice, which often first introduced northern regions to the range of uses notaries might serve; rather Bretons themselves travelled outside the duchy to gain notarial credentials, as they travelled to find other forms of learning132. But after 1300 the public notary gradually became a reasonably common figure and, if ignored in the Très ancienne coutume (c. 1312-25), his actions were then regulated in increasing detail by a series of ducal and episcopal orders. Alongside the fully accredited apostolic and imperial notaries exercising their profession universally though chiefly in ducal and ecclesiastical employment, there were appointed by a variety of public authorities a whole range of notaries. Whilst there may have been many who first simply assumed this role on their own initiative and practised with little or no supervision, despite attempts to get them to register in appropriate courts or to encourage them to get official [p. 809] qualifications133. At the outset a clerical monopoly and still at the end of the fifteenth century a frequently assumed profession by clerics, the notariate in Brittany had nevertheless been secularised. Its most successful practitioners though continuing to work under the authority of a jurisdictional seal had begun to make modest fortunes and found dynasties, forming part of the greater body of the emerging noblesse de robe.

Apart from the political use of the public instrument, especially by the ducal administration at the end of the fourteenth century, there is little that is novel about the Breton notary’s activities and his assumption of an active legal role. Nor are there any very special features about notarial diplomatic in the duchy. Standards of latinity and general accuracy seem to be well though conservatively maintained to the end of the fifteenth century134. The majority of engrossments are carefully executed, with notarial signa from the same hand retaining an often remarkable consistency over many years. It is interesting to speculate on what Breton notaries made of some of the more advanced instruments emanating from the papal curia towards the end of our period — masterpieces of minute humanist calligraphy as well as of ornate latinity135. The answer is probably not much since they seem to have continued in their well-worn ways136. But the notaries [p. 810] themselves were to remain what they had become by 1500, an influential and numerous body of men, whose services were essential to the effective running of public administration and the affairs of private clients. It is an influence that still persists and which, perhaps, justifies, this essay on the origins of the notariate in Brittany137.

[p. 811]
Plate 1. — Notarial signa of Guillaume Guidomar, Alain Scahunec and Yvo Tuich, 17 February 1393 (ALA, E 166 n.° 18).
[p. 812]
Plate 2. — The earliest surviving Breton public instrument, by Jamet de Vern, 15 July 1315 (ALA, E 23 n.° 67).
[p. 813]
Plate 3. — Vidimus under the contracts seal of Nantes by Jamet Lamoroux and Jean Halouart, 9 May 1405 (ALA, E 166 n.° 14).
[p. 814]
Plate 4. — Notarial signa of Guillaume de St-André and Hervé le Grant, 31 December 1387 (ALA, E 166 n.° 4).
[p. 815]
Plate 5. — Notarial signa of Pierre d’Orenge and Hervé le Grant, 26 January 1392 (ALA, E 166 n.° 13).

1 Dom P.-H. Morice, Mémoires pour servir de preuves à l’histoire ecclésiastique et civile de Bretagne, 3 vols. Paris 1742-6, cited as Preuves, i. 1128. For Henry’s legacy to the chapter of Nantes of a «pulcram mitram esmallis et aliis lapidibus preciosis ornatam valoris ducentarum librarum monetis currentis una cum baculo pastoralis» see letters of his successor, Daniel, 22 Feb. 1317 (Archives départementales de la Loire-Atlantique, cited as ALA, G 142).

2 Preuves, i. 1173. For Dol cf. B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, Les papes et les ducs de Bretagne, 2 vols. Paris & Rome 1928, i. 32-42, 181-5.

3 Les registres de Nicolas IV, ed. Langlois, Paris & Rome 1886-93, nos. 2573, 3641, 4513, 6304 (Judicael) and 6.306; Les registres de Nicolas III, ed. J. Gay, Paris & Rome 1898-1938, no. 597 (Radulphus) and cf. C.R. Cheney, Notaries Public in England in the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, Oxford 1972, p. 31.

4 Les registres de Boniface VIII, ed. G. Digard et al., Paris & Rome 1884-1939, no. 2979; Regestum Clementis Papae V, ed. Monks of Monte Cassino OSB, Rome 1885-1892 and Index (1957), nos. 262, 2815, 2846, 6015, 8028-9, 8721.

5 Paris, Bibliothèque nationale, cited as BN, MS. latin 9093 f. 11, 10 Dec. 1364, instrument by Thomas Fabri, clerk of Tréguier, imp. not; Preuves, ii, 51-3 and 84-5 (statutes), see also below n. 116.

6 P. Fournier, Les Officialités au Moyen Âge, Paris 1880 is the classic account. He cites the «Advisam styli curie Briocensis» (BN, MS. latin 1458). For «Statuta synodalia Nannetensia» c. 1409-18 see ibid. MS. latin 1597 and for the regulations of the Official’s court at Nantes in 1498, ALA G 64.

7 M. Planiol, Histoire des Institutions de la Bretagne, new edn. by J. Brejon de Lavergnée, vols. Mayenne 1981-5, iv. 341-6 (quotation p. 345) and cf. iii. 265-73 for ecclesiastical jurisdiction in Brittany.

8 Fournier, op. cit.; A. Giry, Manuel de Diplomatique, Paris 1894 and A. de Boüard, Manuel de Diplomatique française et pontificale, 2 vols. Paris 1948.

9 John H. Mundy, Urban Society and Culture. Toulouse and its region, in Renaissance and Renewal in the Twelfth Century, ed. R. L. Benson & Giles Constable, Oxford 1982, p. 234.

10 R.H. Bautier, Origine et diffusion du sceau de juridiction, Académie des Inscriptions, comptes rendus (1971), 304-21 which cites all the important earlier work in an outstanding synthesis (quotation, p. 309); see also A. Friedlander, Le premier sceau de juridiction gracieuse dans le Midi: Le «Sigillum Curie Biterris» (1233), Bibliothèque de l’école des chartes, cited as BEC, CXLIV (1983), 23-35; L. Carolus-Barré, L’exercice de la juridiction gracieuse dans les prévôtés de Crépy-en-Valois et la Ferté-Milon, 1281-1335, Bulletin philologique et historique (jusqu’à 1610), année 1981, 93-171.

11 Bautier, art. cit. p. 308; see also J. M. Roger, Gardes du scel et notaires dans la prévôté de Bar-sur-Aube (fin du XIIIème-milieu du XVIème siècles), Bull. phil. et. hist., année 1974, 11-72.

12 Op. cit., iii. 266-7.

13 Fournier, op. cit., p. 313 for «A. officialis Turonensis» in 1215. Master Aymerius was already acting as official in 1211 (Rennes, Bibliothèque municipale, MS. 228, cartulaire de St-Melaine, f. 54v; there is a convenient nineteenth-century transcript of this arranged in chronological order in Archives départementales d’Ille-et-Vilaine, cited as AIV, 1 F 501. For this document see 1 F 501/1 no. 92).

14 A. Guillotin de Corson, Pouillé historique de l’archévêché de Rennes, 6 vols. Paris & Rennes 1880-6, i. 139 and 151. For undated letters which he issued with Guillaume, seneschal of Rennes see Rennes, B. m., MS 288 f. 27r (= AIV, 1 F 501/1 no. 75).

15 Anciens évêchés de Bretagne, ed. J. Geslin de Bourgogne & A. de Barthélemy, 6 vols. Paris & St-Brieuc 1855-79, cited as AE, iv. 71 for R. official of Tréguier; ibid., vi. 158-9 and 163 for G. official of Corlay; Preuves, i. 844 (Gaufridus); BN, MS. latin 5480, cartulaire de Fontevrault, i. 431 (Bonimunt).

16 AE, iii. 65 (Piel); Planiol, iii. 266 citing Gallia Christiana XIV, Instrumenta, column 239, the reply of Gregory IX, allegedly 1239. The marginal note in GC attributed the letter to 1236 but it was «Datum Laterani, iii cal. junii, anno septimo», i.e. 30 May 1233.

17 AE, iv. 88 and 97; Planiol, iii. 266 for allocatus in a Breton context.

18 AE, iv. 104 and 162.

19 Planiol, iii. 267.

20 AE, iii. 245 (Penthièvre, 1253); Lettres et mandements de Jean V, duc de Bretagne, ed. R. Blanchard, cited as Lettres de Jean V, 5 vols. Nantes 1889-95, no. 63 «maistre Pierre de la Cadouere, se disan official pour l’archediacre de Dinan» (1405).

21 Monuments originaux de l’histoire de S. Yves, ed. A. de la Borderie et al, St-Brieuc 1887, p. 46 «libro suo decretorum cum tabula ad caput apposito pro alio pulvinari»; cf. also A. de la Borderie, Les dates de la vie de Saint-Yves, Études historiques bretonnes, deuxième série, Paris 1888, pp. 83-116 and L. Duval-Arnould, Note chronologique sur Saint Yves de Tréguier, Analecta Bollandia, XCII (1974), 409-424 for his career, starting as Official of Maurice, archdeacon of Rennes c. 1280 before moving to Tréguier. AE, iv. 158 (Goëllo) and vi. 206 (Guingamp).

22 Preuves. i. 1276-8 (Poher and Quintin, 1317); AE, vi. 178 (Daniel).

23 The court of the Official of Quimper already had a seal in July 1242 (Abbé Peyron, Cartulaire de l’église de Quimper, cited as Cart. Quimper, Quimper 1909, no. 59), whilst «Tudoguoredus miles senescallus Domini Episcopi Corisopitensis in regalibus suis» delivered letters on 21 Feb. 1250 «Actum publice in plena curia seculari Domini Episcopi Corisopitensis coram nobis…» (ibid., no. 93). The court of the official of Nantes certainly had a seal in 1245 (AE, vi. 177), and impressions survive from 1257 (ALA, H 34, H 56-57, E 161 no. 16).

24 Cf. A. de Boüard, Manuel, ii. 256-8. Letters of the Official of Vannes were written by G. Bort in 1292 (Cartulaire général du Morbihan, ed. L. Rosenzweig, cited as Cart. Morbihan, Vannes 1898, no. 432). The earliest such signature in the Quimper records is 1305 (Cart. Quimper, no. 158). In the cartulary of St-Melaine it is 1296 (Rennes, B.M., MS. 288 f. 80v = AIV, 1 F 501/2 no. 285). In the fourteenth century clerks at Quimper sometimes added «cognosco» or «recognosco», together with other brief notes like «collacio facta est» but such additions are rare. Their absence makes identification of early clerks and notaries particularly difficult (cf. M. Vleeschouwers-Van Melkebec, Notaires d’officialité dans la diocèse de Tournai au XIIIème siècle, Horae Tornacenses (1972), 79-94 for a region where annotation is more helpful).

25 Planiol, iii. 427-54, for seneschals.

26 Cartulaire de Notre Dame de Montonac, ed. P. de Berthou, Vannes 1964, no. XXXVIII; the prior also took the precaution of getting Berthelot’s obligations copied in letters of the Official of Nantes on 6 Feb. 1272 (ibid., no. XXXIX); Cart. Morbihan, nos. 303 and 354. Cortheys was a burgess of Hennebont (ibid., no. 379, 22 Feb. 1280).

27 ALA, E 20 and 23; extensive extracts have been published in Recueil d’actes inédits des ducs et princes de Bretagne, ed. A de la Borderie, Rennes 1889 and Nouveau recueil…, ed. La Borderie, Rennes 1902. In addition, considerable income was also generated by the ducal brefs de mer, sealed letters of guarantee and safe-conduct, issued in various ports both within and outside the duchy (cf. H. Touchard, Les brefs de Bretagne, Revue d’histoire économique et sociale, XXIX (1956), 116-40). These brefs were already being distributed at La Rochelle in 1207 (Rotuli Litterarum Patentium, ed. T.D. Hardy, London 1836, i. 73a and 77a), whilst it is significant that there is no mention of income from other seals in the earliest ducal accounts (B. A. Pocquet de Haut-Jussé, Le plus ancien rôle des comptes du duché, 1262, Mémoires de la société d’histoire et d’archéologie de Bretagne, XXVI (1946, 49-68).

28 La Très ancienne coutume de Bretagne, ed. M. Planiol, cited as TAC, ed. Planiol, Rennes 1896, pp. 345-55. Its date is indicated by the ducal style «Jehan, duc de Bretaigne, conte de Richemont, visconte de Limoges», for John III succeeded his uncle as earl of Richmond in 1334.

29 Cf. M. Chauvin, Les comptes de la châtellenie de Lamballe, 1387-1482, Paris 1977, pp. 224-7; J.-P. Leguay, Un réseau urbain au moyen âge: Les villes du duché de Bretagne aux XIVème et XVème siècles, Paris 1981, p. 134.

30 Bautier, art. cit. There were notaries by papal authority at Limoges in 1258, Périgord in 1259 and Angoulême in 1264 (Les registres d’Alexandre IV, ed. C. Bourel de la Roncière et al. 1902-53, nos. 2496 and 3026; Les registres d’Urbain IV, ed. J. Guiraud & S. Clemencet, 1901-58, no. 1863).

31 Cf. L. Carolus-Barré, L’ordonnance de Philippe le Hardi et l’organisation de la juridiction gracieuse, BEC, XCVI (1935), 5-48; idem L’organisation de la juridiction gracieuse à Paris dans le dernier tiers du XIIIè siècle; L’Officialité et le Châtelet, Le Moyen Âge, Livre jubilaire (1963), 417-35.

32 Cart. Morbihan, no. 369, letters signed by «G. du Guyh»; later letters given in the court of Porhoët were signed by G. Boinc (no. 406) or G. Bouic (no. 408) in 1283-4, when such signatures were still very rare on Breton documents.

33 AE, iv. 376 after the original (Archives départementales des Côtes-du-Nord, cited as ACN, H fonds de St. Magloire de Lehon).

34 Cf. Planiol, iv. 344, n. 17; ALA fichier photographique des sceaux.

35 ALA, E 148 no. 13, 13 Dec. 1401, a good example of the contracts seal of Clisson; ibid., no. 25, 1 July 1406, contracts seal of Châteaubriant; ibid., E 228 no. 10, 3 May 1346 (Ancenis), ibid., H 29 no. 17, 7 Aug. 1308 (Machecoul).

36 Cart. Morbihan, nos. 377, 379, 382-4, 389-90, 392, etc.

37 Preuves, i. 1064-5.

38 AE, iii. 286; Preuves, i. 1236.

39 AE, vi. 208; for the ducal seals in the 1280s see specially ALA, E 20 nos. 7 and 8; ibid., H 7 March 1288, for an extremely fine impression of the Dreux arms on the contracts seal of Nantes.

40 Cartulaire des sires de Rays, ed. R. Blanchard (cited as Cart. Rays), Archives historiques du Poitou, XXVIII (1898) and XXX (1899), i no. CLXXXVI; ALA, H 26 for impressions of the Bouin seal in 1313 and 1317.

41 Planiol, iv. 344.

42 AE, vi. 133-4, after a seventeenth-century transcript.

43 Planiol, iii. 271 citing TAC, ch. 326 «ou cas que la justice seculiere seroit trop rigorouse, la justique de l’Iglise y devroit metre atrempement à quanques elle pourroit de reson le faire, especialment en amendes qui sont hainouses, sanz faire tort en nul cas».

44 Cf. A. de Boüard, Manuel, ii. 205-25; Cheney, op. cit., esp. pp. 95-134 provides valuable comparative material.

45 Preuves, i. 1345-6.

46 In late fourteenth-century Brittany it was fairly common for two or three notaries to add their signa to important instruments (Plate). Giry, op. cit., 604-8 for a brief discussion of signa and cf. Cheney, op. cit., pp. 102-3, 108-10.

47 H. Nelis, Les origines du notariat public en Belgique (1269-1320), Revue belge de philologie et histoire, ii (1923), 267-77 emphasised the importance of Italian example in this region.

48 Bishop Alain an Gall ordered the compilation of a cartulary during a St. Luke’s day chapter, probably on 18 October 1351. It was completed by May 1352 and kept upto date for the rest of the fourteenth century (BN, MSS. Latin 9890-2, edited as Cart. Quimper). The authorized notaries are Johannes Alani Fabri (active 1320-8, nos. 189, 221); Guido de Cozkaer (1333/4-39, nos. 171-2, 275); Guillaume de Kemperele (1337-52, nos. 258, 328); Petrus de Mezros (1328-47, nos. 263, 286); Judicellus Bouquin (1347-54, nos. 285, 328); Herveus de Stagno Parvo (1352-77, nos. 326, 357); Merien de Rosporden (1352, no. 328); Johannes Briencius (1352-71, nos. 328, 344); Guillaume Carnificis (1360, no. 333); Alain Runbran (1376-97, nos. 356, 431); Henry Quentrec (1377-92, nos. 357, 409); Alain Scahunec (1381-1408, nos. 365, 483); Thomas Episcopi (1384, no. 380).

49 A remark based on the evidence of surviving public instruments.

50 Cart. Quimper, no. 357.

51 Ibid., no. 328.

52 Cart. Morbihan, no. 634.

53 Jean XXII (1316-1334), Lettres communes, ed. G. Mollat, 16 vols. Paris 1904-47, nos. 3036, 19688, 19723, 19904, 41233, 42043, 47307, 54224, 56882, 56902, 58866, 62613, 62805, 63676.

54 Ibid., no. 4269. Reg. Clement V, no. 5394, 27 May 1310 for his appointment; for his foundation of the college of Marmoutier at Paris in 1332 see Preuves, i. 1362-6.

55 Benoît XII (1334-1342), Lettres communes, ed. J.M. Vidal, 2 vols. Paris 1903-11, nos. 6925, 8641 and 8645.

56 Urbain V (1362-1370), Lettres communes, ed. P. Gasnault et al, 9 vols. Paris & Romae 1954-83, nos. 6717, 6765, 6804, 12054, 15385, 18012, 18014, 18043, 18060, 20404, 20409, 20435, 20481, 24882.

57 Cf. Michael Jones, L’enseignement en Bretagne à la fin du Moyen Âge: quelques terrains de recherche, Mémoires de la société d’histoire et d’archéologie de Bretagne, LIII (1975-1976), 33-49, esp. tables pp. 48-9.

58 Lettres de Nicolas V (1447-1455) concernant la province ecclésiastique de Tours d’après les registres des archives vaticanes, ed. E-R. Vaucelle, Paris 1908, nos. 44, 51, 144, 157-8, 189, 234, 270, 382, 463, 572, 576, 718, 721, 862, 989, 1023, 1028, 1047, 1093, 1102, 1153, 1221, 1226, 1298, 1313, 1330, 1333 and 1376. In addition several Bretons who were already notaries are mentioned (e. g. nos. 53, 452, 549, 628, 699, 699, 1043, 1392, 1475 and annexe 7). The breakdown by diocese is St-Malo (8), Nantes (6), Rennes (5), Vannes (4), Quimper (3), Dol (1), with two associations not stated.

59 Ibid., no. 1376.

60 Cf. ibid., nos. 53, 136, 148, 452, 745, 862 and 1226.

61 Preuves, i. 1242-3 and cf. Cheney, op. cit., p. 84.

62 G. Mollat, Etudes et documents sur l’histoire de Bretagne (XIIIème-XVIème siècles), Paris 1907, pp. 146-55, including a copy of an instrument drawn up by Pierre D’Orenge «in mei notarii publici» on 7 March 1357 «secundum usum computationis ecclesie Gallicane» (i. e. Easter style, therefore 1358 n. s.) at the chapel of Notre-Dame de St. Philbert de Grandlieu, relating the terms of an agreement between Girard V, lord of Rays and Robert Paynel, bishop of Nantes, together with testimonial letters from the Official of Nantes confirming «quod Petrus d’Orenge clericus Nannetensis diocesis, est et reputatur notorie esse notarius publicus auctoritate imperiali quodque ad ipsum tanquam ad personam publicam recurritur pro instrumentis publicis conficiendis et paussandis in civitate et diocesi Nannetensibus et insuper certificamus quod signum et subscriptio quibus instrumentum publicum cui presentes sunt annexe est roboratum», dated 1 June 1363. Urbain V, Lettres communes, no. 24882, 20 Nov. 1368, for the licence granted to Pierre D’Orenge, priest of Nantes, after examination.

63 Cart. Quimper, nos. 333, 337-8, 344, 347, 355-6 for instruments by Hervé; an original survives in BN, MS, latin 9093 f. 11 (1364); Urbain V, Lettres communes, no. 20409, 27 Jan. 1367, mandate for the Official of Tréguier, at request of Geoffrey, bishop of Quimper, to grant a faculty to Hervé, described as a married clerk of Quimper.

64 Cart. Quimper, nos. 357, 359 and 431; for a surviving instrument by Runbran see ALA, E 151 no. 16 (1396).

65 TAC, ed. Planiol, pp. 409-10 and cf. p. 393. Both these ordonnances were edited earlier in Preuves, ii. 1152-61 and 1582-91.

66 ALA, E 20 no. 16 m. 2 (entries omitted in La Borderie’s edition, above n. 27).

67 ALA, E 23 nos. 65-7 and Plate. They describe the withdrawal of money and jewels from sealed coffers in the Tour Neuve at Nantes. In the earliest, reproduced have, the abbé of Prières, one of John II’s executors, protested against what he considered a misuse of these funds, but John III justified his actions on the grounds that they were to be used «pro necessitate et deffensione tocius regni Francie» (no. 67, 15 July 1315).

68 ALA, G 1, Register of documents and transcripts relating to the bishopric of Nantes, including an original instrument by Jamet de Vern containing a copy of the sentence of the bishop confirming that wine seized from the Hospital of St. John had been taken by right of banvin, 21 February 1334. This was just one episode in a long series of disputes over this right.

69 Recueil des actes de Jean IV, duc de Bretagne, ed. Michael Jones (cited as Recueil Jean IV) 2 vols. Paris 1980-3, i. 13, 47 and Table analytique. Record of more than forty such instruments survives.

70 Ibid., nos. 338, 380, 435-6, 457, 491, etc.

71 Ibid., nos. 322, 349, 360, 388, 437, 487-9, 646-7, 795-8, 802-4, 818 and 972. Michael Jones, Ducal Brittany 1364-1399, Oxford 1970, for the duke’s policies.

72 AIV, 1 E 12 no. 9, copy in 1396 of an earlier instrument by Master Hervé le Grant, ap. and imp. not., clerk of Quimper, of the record of an embassy in England in May 1384 (cf. Preuves, ii. 456-6); ibid., 486-9 for an embassy sent to the court of France to obtain possession of Rethel in April 1385, recorded instrumentally by Salomon Lesquel, ap. not. of Léon in a copy of 2 July 1391; ibid., 543-7 for another embassy from France in 1387, whose deliberations were recorded instrumentally by Hervé le Grant and Master Guillaume de St-André, ap. and imp. not. of Nantes (ALA, E 166 no. 4, 19-31 Dec. 1387).

73 ALA, E 104 no. 1, instrument by Jean Heraut, ap. and imp. not., priest of Rennes (partially published in Preuves, ii. 294-6; Recueil Jean IV, no. 349). B.A. Poquet du Haut-Jussé, La dernière phase de la vie de Du Guesclin. L’affaire de Bretagne, BEC, CXXV (1967), 178-9 for a brief discussion of these political protests.

74 ALA, E 92 no. 6, instrument by Geoffroy le Fevre, ap. and imp. not. of Léon, Jean de Curia, ap. and imp. not. of Léon and Jean Moysan, priest, ap. and. imp. not. of Nantes (= Preuves, ii. 301-2; Recueil Jean IV, no. 360).

75 ALA, E 55 f. 140v. fifteenth-century copy of instrument by Guillaume de St-André, ap. and imp. not. of Nantes, 30 March 1383 (published in N. Valois, La France et le Grand Schisme, 4 vols. Paris 1896-1902, ii. 372 n. 3, cf. Recueil Jean IV, no. 437).

76 ALA, E 151 no. 14, instrument by Hervé le Grant, ap. and imp. not. of Quimpe and Guillaume de St-André, ap. and. imp. not. of Nantes (partially published in Preuves, ii. 480; in full in Recueil Jean IV, no. 521).

77 ALA, E 8 nos. 2 and 3, original instruments, and E 91 fos. 41r-44v, early fifteenth century copy, of an instrument, all drawn up by Pierre d’Orenge, ap. and imp. not. of Nantes, of which only the last is published in Preuves, ii. 578-80; cf. Recueil Jean IV, nos. 795-7. In the first John IV protested secretly about plans to marry his son to the daughter of Charles VI, and in the second, he denounced the financial terms for that marriage and declared he would later feel himself free of obligations agreed through fear (20 and 24 January 1392).

78 Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, art. cit. p. 179 n. 3 refers to similar protest by Pope Benedict XIII in 1399 and 1401 (cf. Valois, op. cit., iii. 219-21, 452).

79 Michael Jones, The Chancery of the duchy of Brittany from Peter Mauclerc to Duches Anne, 1213-1514, Landesherrliche Kanzleien im Spätmittelalter (Münchener Beiträge zur Mediävistik und Renaissance-Forschung 35), Munich 1984, pp. 681-728.

80 Preuves, iii. 311-5, 500-4 (cf. ALA, E 147 nos. 14 and 15); Preuves, A. Leroux de Lincy, La vie de la reine Anne de Bretagne, iv. 208; e 711-5, for which sea also H. Omont, Minute du contract de mariage de Charles VIII et d’Anne de Bretagne (6 décembre 1491), Annuaire bulletin de la société d’histoire de France, LIII (1916), 156-62. The minute survives (BN, MS. Nouv. acq. française 11.339) but the original instrument does not. It was given under the contracts seal of Tours by Pierre Bourreau «Clericus Turonensis diocesis licentiatus in Legibus Apostolica et Imperiali auctoritatibus, curieque Metropolitane Turonensis Notarius», R. Grand, Autour du contrat de mariage de Charles VIII et d’Anne de Bretagne. Problèmes juridiques et diplomatiques, Revue historique du droit français et étranger, 1950, 256-64 argued that the date of the contract (16 December in some versions) had been falsified in order to preserve Anne’s reputation since the papal dispensation for the marriage was not given until 15 December. This has been convincingly refuted by B.A. Pocquet du Haut-Jussé, Les faussaires en Bretagne, Bulletin philologique et historique (jusqu’à 1715), années 1951 et 1952 (Paris 1953), 95-102. Preuves, iii. 718-21 (rape).

81 Preuves, ii. 1202-4, instrument by Johannes Apavon, clerk and notary of Rennes, given in the episcopal manor, 10 September 1427.

82 The absence of an analytical index from Lettres de Jean V makes me cautious in case I have missed early ducal notarial appointments.

83 ALA, B 4 f. 88v (Le Floch); B 6 f. 152 v (Lequemeren) and f. 172r (Misseur). For the years 1462, 1464, 1466-8, 1473, 1477, 1480, 1486 and 1489-90, the only ones for which chancery registers survive in the ducal period, I have counted the nomination of 43 ducal secretaries, six passours and eleven notaries (ALA, B 2-13). By the terms of Peter II’s ordonnance of 1451 ducal secretaries could practice notarially in all secular courts in the duchy (TAC, ed. Planiol, p. 410).

84 Ibid., pp. 409-10 and cf. Planiol, iv. 334-5.

85 AE, iii. 229; Cart. Quimper, no. 165.

86 Ibid., no. 190, 22 March 1321 «Passé par Guillaume le Monner» and cf. ibid., nos. 197, 207 and 287 (this last «Passé par Perrot le Monier», 15 July 1347).

87 TAC, ed. Planiol, pp. 347-8 (also in Preuves, i. 1161-6).

88 AIV, 18 H 2 (= Recueil Jean IV, no. 133 for Trinquant); Cart. Rays, no. CLXV (Berthomé). Trinquant later became receiver of Rennes (ALA, E 68 no. 2; E 211 nos. 7-9) and was involved in a case against Jeanne de la Courbe, dame du Pan in 1395 when he was represented by his illegitimate son Guillaume (Preuves, ii. 650, 653).

89 Cf. Planiol, iv. 344.

90 Plate number, ALA, E 166, no. 14, vidimus, under the contracts seal of Nantes by Jamet Lamoroux and Jean Halouart, 9 May 1405. These two notaries were largely responsible for compiling between 1405-7, under the supervision of Hervé le Grant, the important ducal formulary, ALA, E 236.

91 TAC, ed. Planiol, p. 428.

92 Ibid., p. 393.

93 Ibid., pp. 424-6.

94 ALA, B 3 f. 21v, 6 Feb. 1464, confirmation after inspection of two letters under the contracts seal of Nantes, signed by Pierre Raboceau, Pierre Aubert and Jean le Roux, notaries, whom the duke confirmed were public notaries. Pierre Raboceau was probably the ducal secretary and notary responsible for the only surviving register of council minutes (ALA, E 131).

95 On 28 May 1464 Master Yves Quenechquivilly and Charles Toupu, notaries of Carhais, were ordered to deliver a contract which they retained from Yves Roscerff (ALA, B 3 f. 68v). Whilst the recurrent problems of the tabellionage at Nantes, where unauthorised clerks had been issuing letters, were dealt with in a mandate of 9 May (ibid., fos. 69r-70v) which had to be reissued in the same form on 1 September 1467 (B 5 f. 100 bis). On 10 Jan. 1467 Mathelin Gibon received a pardon «d’un cas de falsite, savoir davoir fait escripre en une cedulle saize soulz oultre la vraye somme» (ibid., f. 4r), whilst the lord of Rieux’s case against Eonnet Marchant and certain notaries at Rochefort en Terre for forgery was evoked to the ducal council later that year (ibid., f. 126r) and another case of forgery was before the council in March 1473 (B 8 f. 48v). The abuses of the clerks of Lamballe were condemned in letters of 30 Aug. 1477 (ibid., f. 150 r.) Cf. also Pocquet, Bull. phil. et hist. 1951-2, 95-102.

96 ALA, E 1073-4 discussed in R.-H. François, Les activités d’un notaire rural de Saint-Philbert-de-Grand-Lieu à la fin du XVème siècle, Nantes DES 1968, a copy of which is ALA, in 4.° 97. The minutes consist of two dossiers, E 1073, 30 fos. chiefly concerning his private affairs, and E 1074, 180 fos. relating to his practice and that of his successors into the late sixteenth century.

97 François, loc. cit., p. 58.

98 A René Nepvouet was still practising in 1578. The most systematic surviving cahier concerns the period 1531-40. Most of Sixt’s papers are in poor order, one cahier being bound in an original bull of Martin V. Two engrossments survive but without a full notarial signum. Of the 348 actes in which Sixt had a hand (94 drawn up with another local notary, Guillaume Pipaut), 333 concern the period 1466-79. They fall into four main categories: sales, exchanges and farms; leases; marriage contracts and successions; debts, loans and other financial bonds.

99 ACN, E 1599. The main notaries were Roland le Moël, Yves de Kernist, Tanguy, Guillaume and Péan du Tertre, Jean de Tuonlong, Roland and Vincent de Kercrist and Pierre Halegoët.

100 Cf. J. Gallet, La seigneurie bretonne (1450-1680), Paris 1983; Chauvin, op. cit. (above n. 29); J-P. Leguay, La ville de Rennes au XVème siècle à travers les comptes des miseurs, Paris 1969.

101 Archives départementales du Morbihan, E 2705, inside back cover.

102 In addition to important series of financial accounts, minus (lists of lands and rights held) were prepared on the death of the holder of a lordship and aveux and hommages were rendered by his successor. Many of these, often voluminous documents, for the greater lordships are executed with great care and calligraphic skill, even occasionally having illuminated title pages (for an extremely fine example see ALA, B 1838, minu of Christophe, sire de Goulaine, 16 Dec. 1533).

103 Eon Botlan, for example, clerk and tabellion in the ducal court at Vannes (cf. ALA, E 162 no. 11, 9 Aug. 1387; Cart. Morbihan, no. 641, 14 Sept. 1407), appeared in court at Bernuz acting for Jean, sire de Kaer, in 1390 (A. Morb., E 735). In a similar way ducal seneschals and alloués often held seigneurial courts both in slack periods and on a regular basis.

104 Gregory XI, for example, gave permission to Philip, bishop of Sabina to create 20 tabelliones on 29 Sept. 1371, ten of whom could be married or in orders, whilst William, cardinal of S. Angeli, receiving permission to make a similar number on 28 June 1374, was forbidden to name any married or in orders, and Symon, cardinal of St. Sixt was licensed to name 15 notaries without restriction on 24 April 1373 (Lettres secrètes et curiales de Pape Grégoire XI, 1370-1378, relatives à la France, ed. L. Mirot and H. Jassemin, Paris 1935-7, nos. 1219, 2348, 3446).

105 Lettres de Nicholas V, ed. Vaucelle, nos. 1226 and 1313.

106 Rennes, B. M. MS. 288 f. 151r (= AIV, 1F 501/2 no. 306) and f. 180r (no. 314).

107 See Plate Reference, ALA, E 166, no. 4; for their careers, see especially, Jones, The Chancery of the duchy of Brittany, pp. 710-2.

108 Lettres de Nicolas V, ed. Vaucelle, nos. 234 (Jean de Crozon, bachelor of both laws), 382 (Jean du Juch, noble), 463 (Bertrand Rosmadec, bachelor of law and master of arts, of knightly family), 1093 (Jacques Hogueville, bachelor of law), 1153 (Guillaume Le Taillandier, bachelor of canon law, Gilles de Riparia, bachelor of law), 1313 (Alain Maillart, master of arts), 1376 (Thibaut de Rieux, noble). For an instrument with a very elaborate signum by P. Geberti, clerk of Rennes, «in decretis baccalarius», ap. and imp. not. see AIV, IF 1621, 19 Jan. 1453.

109 Jean Corric, master of arts and scholar in law in 1378 (Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, ed. H. Denifle and E. Châtelain, iii. no. 1433) was active between 1384-1402 (Cart. Quimper, nos. 378, 468.) Thomas Episcopi, clerk of St-Brieuc, was a student at Paris in 1349 (Chartularium, iii. no. 1165) and is found in 1384 still acting as a notary (Cart. Quimper, no. 380).

110 ALA, G 1, inquiry into the bishop’s right of banvin, 1411, pp. 23-4.

111 Le Fèvre was already a clerk in the service of Oliver, bishop of Nantes, on 12 May 1342 when he wrote letters at Sucé (ALA, G 117 no. 41). For his later career see Recueil Jean IV, i. 38. Good examples of his signum can be found on ALA, E 148 no. 7 and E 119 nos. 2 and 3. For an instrument drawn up by him «in porticu ecclesie collegiate Sancti Martini» at Angers on 30 October 1350 on behalf of the doctors of the university see M. Fournier, Les statuts et privilèges des universités françaises depuis leur fondation jusqu’en 1789, 3 vols. Paris 1890-2, i. no. 381.

112 Fournier, op. cit., iii. no. 1897 (p. 511) «Herveo Magni dyocesis Corisopitensis»; Preuves, ii. 231-2 = Recueil Jean IV, no. 322.

113 J. Kerhervé, Jean Mauléon, trésorier de l’épargne, une carrière au service de l’État breton, Actes du 107ème Congrès national des sociétés savantes, Brest 1982, Section de philologie et d’histoire jusqu’à 1610, ii. Questions d’histoire de Bretagne (Paris 1984), 161-84, at p. 177 n. 71.

114 Michael Jones, Mon pais et ma nation: Breton Identity in the Fourteenth Century, War, Literature and Politics in the Late Middle Ages, ed. C. T. Allmand, Liverpool 1976, pp. 144-68 at p. 156; Cart. Morbihan, no. 634, 1398, for his activities as an advocate and notary.

115 Monuments du procès de canonisation du bienheureux Charles de Blois, duc de Bretagne, ed. F. Plaine, St-Brieuc 1921, pp. 135-40.

116 Ibid., p. 9 (Master Pierre de CAPELLA, archdeacon of Tréguier, pub. not.); 10 (Robert Cocherel, ap. and imp. not. of Rennes, whose signum is illustrated in Pl. 8); 84 (Alain Raoul, priest, not. of Léon); 183 (Prigent Hamoneau, clerk and not. of Tréguier); 290 (Prigent Duaud, not. of Guingamp); 389 (Hamo de Bummeur, not.); 415 (Roland Bourc, junior, imp. not. of Tréguier); 417 (Pierre Morell, junior, clerk and imp. not. of Tréguier); 420 (Hamo de Runmeur, clerk and imp. not. of Tréguier); 422 (Simon Hervé, clerk, pub. and imp. not. of Tréguier); 443 (Mengentius Encot, priest and imp. not. of Tréguier); 444 (Henri Lescouarn, clerk, imp. not. of Quimper and Robert le Cadet, not.); 449 (Roland Petrie, junior, not. of Tréguier and Guillaume Bocoët, clerk and imp. not. of St-Brieuc).

117 ALA, E 189, cf. E. Bossard (Gilles de Rais, maréchal de France dit Barbe-Bleu (1404-1440), 2nd edn. Paris 1886).

118 Dom G-A. Lobineau, Histoire de Bretagne, 2 vols. Paris 1707, i. 630.

119 Cart. Quimper, nos. 199, 277, 373, 491, 495. For original letters of the official of Quimper written by J. Bloez on 2 Aug. 1402 sec. Arch. dép. Finistère 2 G 226. It may be suspected that the three notaries to whom the description junior is given in the Blois inquiry may well have been following their fathers in the profession of notary (above n. 116).

120 BN, MS. latin 8685, model letters.

121 ALA, E 167 no. 4, 24 Nov. 1394 (Recueil Jean IV, no. 985), ALA, E 17, no. 16. 2 Feb. 1398, a latin translation in instrumental form, of ducal letters relating to the mutual donation between John IV and his third wife, Joanna of Navarre, of the same date, drawn up by Gacien de Monceaux but sealed with the duke’s great seat (Recueil Jean IV, no. 1127); ALA, E 73 no. 16 fos. 5r-7v, 30 May 1408, for his election to Quimper; Cart. Quimper, no. 494, 10 June 1417, for the execution of his will, one of the executors of which was Jean Thomas, progenitor of a powerful Nantais burgess family, whilst Gacien’s two sisters had married into the Maillard and Bruneau families, likewise prominent in urban and ducal service in this period.

122 Lettres de Nicolas V, ed. Vaucelle, no. 1226; Preuves, iii. 602-3, will of Francis II drawn up by «Ego Egidius de Riparia Redon. Diocesis, Vicechancelarius Britannie & S. Rom. Ecclesie Protonot.»; ibid., 616-7 for his promotion to chancellor when he was styled doctor of laws. For his uncle cf. B.A. Pocquet, Les papes et les ducs, passim.

123 ALA, E 125 no. 6, articles for the marriage of Ladislas of Hungary and Anne de Foix, at Blois, 23 March 1502. He was soon to become bishop of Tréguier (1502-5).

124 A. Morb., 45 G5 p. 349, 14 Aug. 1379 and cf. 56 G2 and 64 G 6 f. 7v. For an instrument by Le Taillandier see AIV, 1 E 7 no. 3, 24 Nov. 1366. For instruments by the other notaries named, see ALA, E 166-7, ACN, 1 A 1 and AIV, 1 E 2, 5-7, 12 and 15.

125 ALA, H 483, 1407 copy of will of 1 March 1395, for its execution see ALA, G 155, 5 April 1396, letters of Bonabé, bishop of Nantes, in vidimus of 1488. An instrument drawn up with his nephew and Henry Eoinou de Qitis, clerk of Quimper, ap. and imp. not., is in ALA, E 166 no. 3, 18 March 1391 (Plate Reference) and for another drawn up by the two Pierres, Denis Guillaume and Geoffroy de Chalastre, ACN 1 A 1 no. 3, 6 Nov. 1388.

126 Cf. R. de Laigue, La noblesse bretonne aux XVème siècles. Réformations et montres, i. Évêché de Vannes, 2 vols. Rennes 1902, passim.

127 TAC, ed. Planiol, pp. 417-8; cf. BEC, CXLII (1985), 267 for Pape’s views.

128 ALA, B 6 f. 64v.

129 Raoullet Mauhugueon was working in the contracts court at La Guerche in 1396 (Preuves, i. 908) while Geoffroy M. was clerk to Mons. Robert de Rivière in 1445 (ibid., ii. 1395). Under Francis II, Master Jean M. was a leading ducal secretary who was still seeking recompense for his losses c. 1500 (ALA, E 209 no. 23 f. 5r). He married Isabeau de Kaer, who was legitimated in 1506 (ALA, B 51 f. 77) and when he died on 30 September 1507, his son, Michel, drew his wages (Nantes, B. m., MS. 1332 f. 29v.) By 1514 Michel was a notaire royal (Preuves, iii. 924). Jean Mauhugueon, sire de Thorigné, master of the duke’s artillery (d. 1481) was probably his grandfather (Preuves, iii. 271-2, 281; ALA, E 214 no. 37 f. 5r).

130 Leguay, Un réseau urbain; H. Touchard, Le commerce maritime breton à la fin du moyen âge, Nantes 1967; J. Kerhevé, Finances et gens de finances des ducs de Bretagne, 1365-1491, Paris I, thèse de doctorat d’État 1986. Now published as L’État breton aux XIVème et XVème siècles. Les dues, l’argent et les hommes, 2 vols. Paris 1987.

131 Giry, Manuel, p. 834, who also notes (p. 833) that the first surviving matricule of the notaries of Toulouse for the period 1266-1337 contains 3984 names.

132 Cf. Michael Jones, L’enseignement (above n. 57).

133 As late as 1445 Guillaume de Malestroit, bishop of Nantes, legislated against various notarial practices which allowed unauthorised persons to gain benefices (Preuves, ii. 1390), whilst in 1498 statutes of the Officiality court at Nantes once again emphasised the role of the Official in creating notaries. They were to register their signs on matriculation, receive fixed salaries, keep registers, follow established rules for issuing documents (especially excommunications) and announce their decisions in the traditional places (ALA, G 64 fos. 53r-54r, in deciphering which I am grateful to assistance from Mme. Chantal Ammann-Doubliez).

134 ALA, E 159 no. 9, 27 Jan. 1387 for an instrument drawn up by Jean Pinel, clerk of St. Malo, imp. not., recording an oath of obedience by the citizens of St-Malo to the duke’s captain, Jean de Tréal, of which the main body of the text is entirely in French, but the notary’s signum in Latin.

135 ALA, G 113 fos. 2-4, for three original instruments, dated 1480, 1494 and 1494, concerning cases involving canons of Nantes, drawn up by notaries by apostolic authority from the dioceses of Bremen, Verdun and Oloron, exhibiting these characteristics.

136 Preuves, iii. 871-3 (1506), 896-7 (1510) and 950-5 (1520) for some late examples.

137 I am grateful to the British Academy for a grant towards travel expenses, to the organisers of the congress for hospitality in Valencia and to M. Xavier du Boisrouvray, director of the ALA and his staff, especially M. J-F. Caraës and M. Simon, for the reproduction of documents at Nantes in Plates References.

Since writing this paper I have discovered a yet earlier surviving Breton instrument: Arch. dép. Maine-et-Loire, H 3358, 8 Oct. 1297, drawn up by Nicolas Hingant «clericus Dolensis dyocesis sancti romani imperii auctoritate publicus ac curie Dolensis iuratus notarius una cum Juliano Guibert clerico euisdem dyocesis predicta auctoritate notario publico… et in publicum formam redegi meoque signo consueto signavi», though it was also sealed by the Official of Dol. Whilst providing the name of another early Breton notary and evidence for the formative influence of the court of the bishop of Dol in introducing notarial practices to Brittany, it helps to bear out the general points made above about the relatively late arrival of such practices in the duchy.