1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Du Cange, Charles du Fresne

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DU CANGE, CHARLES DU FRESNE, Sieur (1610-1688), one of the lay members of the great 17th century group of French critics and scholars who laid the foundations of modern historical criticism, was born at Amiens on the 18th of December 1610. At an early age his father sent him to the Jesuits’ college at Amiens, where he greatly distinguished himself. Having completed the usual course at this seminary, he applied himself to the study of law at Orleans, and afterwards went to Paris, where in 1631 he was received as an advocate before the parliament. Meeting with very slight success in his profession, he returned to his native city, and in July 1638 married Catherine Dubois, daughter of a royal official, the treasurer in Amiens; and in 1647 he purchased the office of treasurer from his father-in-law, but its duties did not interfere with the literary and historical work to which he had devoted himself since returning to Amiens. Forced to leave his native city in 1668 in consequence of a plague, he settled in Paris, where he resided until his death on the 23rd of October 1688. In the archives of Paris Du Cange was able to consult charters, diplomas, manuscripts and a multitude of printed documents, which were not to be met with elsewhere. His industry was exemplary and unremitting, and the number of his literary works would be incredible, if the originals, all in his own handwriting, were not still extant. He was distinguished above nearly all the writers of his time by his linguistic acquirements, his accurate and varied knowledge, and his critical sagacity. Of his numerous works the most important are the Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae latinitatis (Paris, 1678), and the Glossarium ad scriptores mediae et infimae graecitatis (Lyons, 1688), which are indispensable aids to the student of the history and literature of the middle ages. To the three original volumes of the Latin Glossarium, three supplementary volumes were added by the Benedictines of St Maur (Paris, 1733-1736), and a further addition of four volumes (Paris, 1766), by a Benedictine, Pierre Carpentier (1697-1767). There were other editions, and an abridgment with some corrections was brought out by J. C. Adelung (Halle, 1772-1784). The edition in seven volumes edited by G. A. L. Henschel (Paris, 1840-1850) includes these supplements and also further additions by the editor, and this has been improved and published in ten volumes by Léopold Favre (Niort, 1883-1887). An edition of the Greek Glossarium was published at Breslau in 1889.

Du Cange took considerable interest in the history of the later empire, and wrote Historia Byzantina duplici commentario illustrato (Paris, 1680), and an introduction to his edition and translation into modern French of Geoffrey de Villehardouin’s Histoire de l’empire de Constantinople sous les empereurs français (Paris, 1657). He also brought out editions of the Byzantine historians, John Cinnamus and John Zonaras, as Joannis Cinnami historiarum de rebus gestis a Joanne et Manuele Comnenis (Paris, 1670) and Joannis Zonarae Annales ab exordio mundi ad mortem Alexii Comneni (Paris, 1686). He edited Jean de Joinville’s Histoire de St Louis, roi de France (Paris, 1668), and his other works which may be mentioned are Traité historique du chef de St Jean Baptiste (Paris, 1666); Lettre du Sieur N., conseiller du roi (Paris, 1682); Cyrilli, Philoxeni, aliorumque veterum glossaria, and Mémoire sur le projet d’un nouveau recueil des historiens de France, avec le plan général de ce recueil, which has been inserted by Jacques Lelong in his Bibliothèque historique de la France (Paris, 1768-1778). His last work, Chronicon Paschale a mundo condito ad Heraclii imperatoris annum vigesimum (Paris, 1689), was passing through the press when Du Cange died, and consequently it was edited by Étienne Baluze, and published with an éloge of the author prefixed.

His autograph manuscripts and his large and valuable library passed to his eldest son, Philippe du Fresne, who died unmarried in 1692. They then came to his second son, François du Fresne, who sold the collection, the greater part of the manuscripts being purchased by the abbé du Champs. The abbé handed them over to a bookseller named Mariette, who resold part of them to Baron Hohendorf. The remaining part was acquired by a member of the family of Hozier, the French genealogists. The French government, however, aware of the importance of all the writings of Du Cange, succeeded, after much trouble, in collecting the greater portion of the manuscripts, which were preserved in the imperial library at Paris. Some of these were subsequently published, and the manuscripts are now found in various libraries. The works of Du Cange published after his death are: an edition of the Byzantine historian, Nicephorus Gregoras (Paris, 1702); De imperatorum Constantinopolitanorum seu inferioris aevi vel imperii uti vocant numismatibus dissertatio (Rome, 1755); Histoire de l’état de la ville d’Amiens et de ses comtes (Amiens, 1840); and a valuable work Des principautés d’outre-mer, published by E. G. Rey as Les Familles d’outre-mer (Paris, 1869).

See H. Hardouin, Essai sur la vie et sur les ouvrages de Ducange (Amiens, 1849); and L. J. Feugère, in the Journal de l’instruction publique (Paris, 1852).