compiling across languages

The books shown here demonstrate that works written in several languages often circulated in a single volume. This reflects a readership that was comfortable working in Latin, Anglo-French, and Middle English without a need for aids, such as translations or glosses. 

Beinecke MS 598: De excidio Troiae historia, etc.

Beinecke MS 598. Dares Phrygius, Geoffrey of Monmouth, etc. England, between 1250 and 1300.

Beinecke MS 598 is a compendium of what medieval people would have considered a coherent collection of historical sources bridging Roman, British, and Norman histories. The codex begins with a Latin translation of Dares Phrygius’ Greek history of the Trojan War. After a listing of the heroes killed on both sides, the reader finds Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, which begins with the Trojan founding of the British nation and continues to the Anglo-Saxons’ rise to power in the seventh century. Geoffrey’s account of the mythical origin of Britain begins with Brutus, Aeneas’ great-grandson, who was banished from Italy (where Aeneas eventually settled after the war) and later landed in Britain, which he named Brut, after himself. Geoffrey’s text includes the legend of Arthur and ends in the seventh century. The next text is a history of Normandy from 886 to Henry I, King of England and Duke of Normandy (d. 1135). These works effectively demonstrate the Trojan origins of Britain, its legendary greatness under Arthur, and its eventual rule by the dukes of Normandy.

Beinecke MS 405: Brut chronicle, etc.

Beinecke MS 405. The Brut, of The Chronicles of England. England, c. 1350. 

Beinecke MS 405, a Brut chronicle, was written in Anglo-French, and this recension tells the history of Britain from its founding by Brutus of Troy through 1333. 

Takamiya MS 29: Brut chronicle

Takamiya MS 29. The Brut, or The Chronicles of EnglandEngland, c. 1420-1450.

Takamiya MS 29 is also a Brut chronicle; it was translated into Middle-English and written roughly one hundred years later. 

This book may have been owned by Matthew Parker, archbishop of Canterbury from 1559 to 1575. Parker was an influential historian and theologian who searched monastic libraries (or what was left of them after Henry VIII’s suppression of the monasteries) for ancient books, preferably those with Anglo-Saxon texts. He aimed to prove that England had always had a distinct practice and understanding of Christianity apart from Rome and similar to what would become Anglican practice and belief. His unique orange-crayon marks can be seen in the margin of this manuscript.

Takamiya MS 52: Chronicle of the kings of England

Takamiya MS 52. Chronicle of the Kings of England. England, 15th century.   

Takamiya MS 52, a roll chronicle of the kings of England mostly in Middle English, also has a brief chronicle in Latin.

Multilingual Medieval England
compiling across languages