Masson, Jean Papire
Jean Papire Masson is a French humanist born in 1544 and died in 1611. His works embrace numerous areas of knowledge, especially history, law, geography, and poetry. He is notably renowned for his historical books and his biographies.
KeywordsSeventeenth Century Sixteenth Century Attorney General Extensive Culture Historical Method
Jean Masson, known as Papire Masson, was a French humanist, historian, geographer, and jurist of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. He was born at Saint-Germain-Laval (Forez) on the sixth of May 1544, in a family of merchants. He studied in Billom (Auvergne), where the first Jesuit college of France was founded in 1556. In 1562, Masson became himself a member of the Society of Jesus. He travelled in Italy between 1563 and 1567, where he greatly enriched his humanist knowledge. Then, he taught in Parisian colleges, before leaving the Society of Jesus in 1569. He then befriended with the jurist François Baudouin, who became his master in the University of Angers from 1571. Masson graduated as doctor utriusque juris (doctor of canon and civil law) and was elected rector of the university. Nevertheless, he left Angers for Paris, where he became the secretary of Philippe Hurault, who was then the chancellor of the Duke of Anjou. Consequently, he was close to the circle of Catherine de Medici. In 1576, he became lawyer at the Parliament of Paris and, eight years later, surrogate of the attorney general. He died at Paris on the ninth of January 1611.
Jean Papire Masson appears as one of the figures of the second part of the sixteenth century in France, due to both his career and his writings. The variety of his works reflects his extensive culture. Masson is a real humanist, who embraces numerous areas of knowledge. First, he is renowned for his historical books and his biographies. He has written about forty elogia and vita, which relate the life of some of the great names of the Renaissance (Masson 1638). They concern state dignitaries (Charles IX of France (Bourgeon 1996), Pomponne de Bellièvre, Sebastian I and Henry I of Portugal, Lorenzo de Medici, etc.), poets (Dante Alighieri, Petrarch, Giovanni Boccaccio, Pierre de Ronsard, etc.), religious men (Charles Cardinal of Lorraine, John Calvin, Charles II of Bourbon-Vendôme, etc.), or also jurists (his master François Baudouin, Jacques Cujas, Pierre Pithou, Charles Du Moulin, etc.). His most famous historical book is the Annales Francorum, which sum up the French history from the Franks to Francis I (Masson 1577). Masson tries to implement a precise historical method, avoiding medieval legends.
Second, Masson is the author of a legal and political work. If his legal books (mainly historical) present a minor interest (Masson 1588), his response to François Hotman has to be mentioned (Masson 1575). Masson defends the institutions of the French monarchy against the monarchomach theories of the Franco-Gallia. He especially supports the prerogatives of the Parliament.
Third, Masson edited several ancient and medieval texts. For instance, he published ninety-one letters of Fulbert of Chartres and one hundred and twenty-seven of Lupus Servatus. He also published in Greek and Latin a writing of Synesius. Among other editions, the one of the Histoire de Louis II de Bourbon illustrates the wide range of his interests.
He wrote also poetic pieces, geographic descriptions (Masson 1618), and speeches. Even if some of his books were first published after his death, an important part of his works stays manuscript. Finally, Jean Papire Masson appears as an accomplished humanist, influenced by Italian thought. That is why he has been described as an “Italianate humanist” (Ronzy 1924a, b). If his work is not flawless, it is impressive due to its diversity and its historical significance.
- Masson J-P (1575) Ad Franc. Hotomani Franco-Galliam Antonii Matharelli responsio. ParisGoogle Scholar
- Masson J-P (1577) Annalium libri quatuor, quibus res gestae Francorum explicantur. ParisGoogle Scholar
- Masson J-P (1588) Justinianei Cæsares, quorum nomina et constitutiones Justinianus in Codicem retulit. ParisGoogle Scholar
- Masson J-P (1618) Descriptio fluminum Galliae, qua Francia est. ParisGoogle Scholar
- Masson J-P (1638) Elogiorum, quae imperatorum, regum, ducum, aliorumque insignium heroum, superioribus et nostro sæculo virtute bellica maxime illustrium, vitam complectitur. ParisGoogle Scholar
- Bourgeon J-L (1996) Comment naissent les légendes: un libelle de Papire Masson contre la mémoire de Charles IX (1575). In: Sociétés et ideologies des Temps Modernes, Hommage à Arlette Jouanna, vol 2, Université de Montpellier 3. Montpellier, pp 503–510Google Scholar
- Ronzy P (1924a) Un humaniste italianisant, Papire Masson (1544–1611). E. Champion, ParisGoogle Scholar
- Ronzy P (1924b). Bibliographie critique des œuvres imprimées et manuscrites de Papire Masson (1544–1611). E. Champion, ParisGoogle Scholar