The Values of French

The Values of French Language and Literature in the European Middle Ages. ERC Advanced Grant at King's College London

Histoire ancienne

Editions of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César

We are in the process of producing complete digital editions of two manuscripts of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César. The first, Paris, BnF, f. fr. 20125 (2/2 13th c., Acre? N. France?), is one of the earliest and the most extensive witness of the first redaction of the Histoire ancienne. The second, London, British Library, Royal 20 D I (1330s, Naples), is the earliest extant copy of the so-called second redaction, distinguished primarily from the first by its more exhaustive account of the Fall of Troy known as Prose 5 (see Jung (1996), pp. 505-62).

The contents of the two manuscripts are listed below (using the sections identified by Marc-René Jung) :


  • Genesis (1)
  • Orient I (2)
  • Thebes (3)
  • Greeks and Amazons (4)
  • Troy (5)
  • Eneas (6) (plus Assyrian Kings* (6bis))
  • Rome I (7)
  • Orient II (8)
  • Alexander (9)
  • Rome II (10)
  • Conquest of France by Caesar (11)


  • Thebes (3)
  • Greeks and Amazons (4)
  • Prose 5 (5bis)
  • Eneas  (6) (plus Assyrian Kings* (6bis))
  • Orient II (8)
  • Rome I (7)
  • Rome II (10)

(* We have added 'Assyrian Kings' as Jung counts this section as part of Rome I, but it does not always precede Rome I in the manuscripts.)

Text Viewer
The text viewer divides the text into the narrative sections listed above. Alternatively, it is possible to consult individual paragraphs. 

Users are able to align and compare the content of Fr20125 and Roy20, as well as the semi-diplomatic and interpretive texts of each manuscript. New columns of text can be added by selecting the double-column icon in the vertical bar on the right. 

Currently, the following materials are available online:

The edition is not in its final form. We have taken the decision to share work-in-progress online, partly to give scholars interested in the hitherto unedited portions of the Histoire ancienne immediate access to the texts, and partly in the hope that users will give us feedback enabling us to improve any aspects of the digital editions, whether these be substantive, presentational, or functional.

To leave feedback on the current version of the edition please use the comments section of our blog post Eneas arrives

Printing the text
It is now possible to print whole sections or individual paragraphs by selecting the printer icon in the vertical bar on the right. You can also create a PDF by generating the print screen, selecting File and Print, and then 'Open PDF in Preview' (MacOS users) or 'Microsoft Print to PDF' (Windows 10).

Numbering and Segmentation
The referencing system of the edition is keyed to the paragraph division of each manuscript, which we have numbered sequentially from beginning to end. The segments of text in each paragraph are numbered according to strong breaks in the medieval punctuation. The same numbering is used for both the semi-diplomatic and interpretive texts, regardless of the modern punctuation.

Semi-diplomatic transcription
The semi-diplomatic transcription aims to replicate the word division, letter forms, capitalisation and punctuation of the manuscript (our encoding of punctuation includes where line breaks coincide with a strong break in the text, e.g. capitalisation). All expanded abbreviations are indicated between square brackets. We also highlight additions and deletions by medieval scribes, editors, or readers.

Interpretive text
Please note: this is not a critical edition of the text, but an edition of the text in a specific manuscript. We have therefore taken a very minimal approach to emendation, correcting the text where we have found cases of duplication, copying errors, and where a minimal intervention makes the text more intelligible (based on the readings of a select group of control manuscripts, see below). Details about lacunae or narrative inconsistencies can be found in the notes.

Punctuation: we have punctuated our interpretive edition lightly, often taking our cues from (but without following systematically) the medieval punctuation. Users will be able to see the medieval punctuation in our semi-diplomatic transcription.

Diacritics: at present we have decided to keep these to a bare minimum. Acute accents are used as prescribed by the guidelines of the École des Chartes. However, we have provisionally limited the use of tremas to the disambiguation of homographs that occur in the part of the text that we have edited (e.g. oir ‘heir’ and oïr ‘to hear’ (and all inflections of oïr); pais ‘peace’ and païs ‘country’). Our preliminary approach to diacritics, and tremas in particular, may be further developed after lemmatising the text (see below) and the current version will be updated to reflect our eventual conventions. We welcome, however, feedback on this issue.

Notes: at the moment, the notes are not extensive and are limited to identifying sources, textual difficulties and key divergent readings. Different types of note are signalled by the colour of the note icon. 

Reference manuscripts

Fr20125: the notes currently include readings from two thirteenth-century manuscripts made in or around Acre (Dijon, Bibliothèque municipale, 562 and London, British Library, Additional 15268) and one fourteenth-century manuscript that is closely related to this group (Paris, BnF, f. fr. 168). These manuscripts all belong to the α family of first-redaction manuscripts (see Jung (1996), pp. 353-54). In addition, we have included Rennes, Bibliothèque municipale, 2331, a fifteenth-century manuscript from Brittany, which contains a version of the first redaction close to the one found in Fr20125. Finally, we’ve also featured readings from London, British Library, Additional 19669, one of the earliest thirteenth-century copies from northern France and a representative of the β family of manuscripts (see Jung (1996), p. 353), in which a number of sections contain a more abbreviated version of the Histoire ancienne than the one found in Fr20125 and the Acre-related copies.

Roy20: the notes accompanying the Roy20 manuscript include readings from first- and second-redaction manuscripts. 

The second-redaction copies have been selected from Marc-René Jung’s two principal groups of Prose 5 manuscripts (see Jung (1996), pp. 506-07):

1. Paris, BnF, f. fr. 301 (group A; c. 1400, Paris) 
2. Paris, BnF, f. fr. 22554 (group B; late 15th c., France)

The first-redaction manuscripts all belong to the β family and combine thirteenth- and fourteenth-century copies from northern France and Italy:

3. Chantilly, Bibliothèque du Château (Musée Condé), 726 (late 13th c., S. Italy)
4. Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, 3982 (late 13th c., Genoa-Pisa)
5. London, British Library, Additional 19669 (3/4 13th c., N. France)

6. Paris, BnF, nouv. acq. fr. 3576 (3/4 14th c., Paris)

We will provide more detailed descriptions of these manuscripts in due course. For the time being, you can find out more information about their contents and codicology in the database compiled by the Medieval Francophone Literary Culture Outside of France project. Links to full colour digitisations are available here.

The interpretive text will be completely lemmatized using a digital tool called Lemming, created by Marcus Husar and Stephen Doerr of the Dictionnaire étymologique de l’ancien français. The information from lemmatization will be integrated into the edition and used to enhance the search possibilities and reader experience.

Future developments
We plan to integrate a number of additional features into our online editions, including:

  • Dynamic searches of both versions of the text (e.g. direct and indirect discourse, narratorial interventions, etc.) 
  • An index of proper names

September 2018