The Values of French

The Values of French Language and Literature in the European Middle Ages. ERC Advanced Grant (no. 670726) at King's College London


Editions of the Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César

  1. Introduction
  2. Text Viewer
  3. Semi-Diplomatic Transcriptions
  4. Interpretive Editions: Fr20125 and Royal 20 D I
  5. Sources of Variant Readings
  6. Alignment
  7. Lemmatisation and Search
  8. Credits

1. Introduction

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., probably Acre), is one of the earliest and the most extensive witnesses 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: 505-62 and Luca Barbieri's introduction).

The contents of the two manuscripts are listed below (using the sections identified by Oltrogge 1989 and Jung 1996):

Fr20125: Genesis (1); Orient I (2); Thebes (3); Greeks and Amazons (4); Troy (5); Eneas (6); Assyrian Kings* (6bis); Rome I (7); Orient II (8); Alexander (9); Rome II (10); Conquest of France by Caesar (11).

Royal: Thebes (3); Greeks and Amazons (4); Prose 5 (5bis); Eneas (6); Assyrian Kings* (6bis); Orient II (8); Rome I (7); Rome II (10).

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

The following materials are available online:

To leave feedback on the edition please email and

2. Text Viewer

a) Viewing Options
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 contents of Fr20125 and Royal, 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.

b) 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.

c) Printing the Text
It is 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).

3. 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.

4. Interpretive Text

Please note that 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 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: these are kept to a bare minimum. Acute accents are used as prescribed by the guidelines of the École des Chartes, and we have used tremas only to enable the disambiguation of homographs that occur in the sections 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’). We welcome, however, feedback on this issue.
  • Notes: the notes are limited to identifying sources, textual difficulties and unusual lexical forms. Different types of note are signalled by the colour of the note icon.

5. Sources of Variant Readings

The notes currently include readings from a small group of manuscripts. The manuscripts we have used for the different sections of the Histoire ancienne in each manuscript are listed here: Fr20125 and Royal 20 D I.

For a general discussion of the choice of manuscripts, see below.

a) Fr20125

The choice of variants provided in the notes serves to place the erroneous or difficult readings of Fr20125 in the widest possible context. Fr20125 provides the most extensive text of the ‘long’ (and original) version of the Histoire ancienne. While Rennes, Bibliothèque municipale, 2331, deriving from the same tradition as Fr20125, is closely comparable to the latter in terms of content, its language has been modernised according to the norms of fifteenth-century French. The other reference manuscripts belong to two groups: 1) the ‘long’ version; 2) the abridged version, which represents the most widely read form and the ‘vulgate’ of the Histoire ancienne (see Baker 2017). The manuscripts of the abridged version have been frequently overlooked by editors of single sections of the Histoire ancienne. We have decided to include them in the notes for two principal reasons. On the one hand, the manuscripts of the abridged version are actually conservative copies of those sections which are not abridged (e.g. Rome II and Caesar). On the other hand, there is convincing evidence that the model of the abridged version is closely related to that of Fr20125 and Rennes, Bibliothèque municipale, 2331 (see Rachetta 2019). The reference manuscripts of the abridged version are taken from different iconographic groups, produced in varied centres of production in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.

b) Royal 20 D I

The variants for the interpretive edition of Royal include readings from manuscripts of the first and second redactions. The second-redaction copies have been selected from Rochebouet (2016: 202) and Barbieri (2014: 823-832). According to Barbieri (2020), the entire manuscript tradition of the second redaction derives from Royal, which is the preserved archetype (see also his introduction to Prose 5). However, the other manuscripts are the result of a complex copying process, in which the (often faulty and imprecise) text of Royal has been collated with other manuscripts containing the sources of the second redaction of the Histoire ancienne. The testimony of the other second-redaction manuscripts therefore needs careful consideration when the objective is to clarify the text of Royal. The first-redaction manuscripts all belong to the abridged family and include thirteenth- and fourteenth-century copies from northern France and Italy. The content that Royal shares with the first redaction derives from an Italian witness of the abridged version, closely related to Florence, Biblioteca Riccardiana, 3982.

6. Alignment

The contents of a select group of these manuscripts are recorded in our Alignment tool.

More information about all of the manuscripts can also be found in the database compiled by the Medieval Francophone Literary Culture Outside of France project.

Links to full colour digitisations of a number of Histoire ancienne manuscripts are available here.

7. Lemmatisation and Search Page

The interpretive text has been lemmatised using a digital tool called Lemming, created by Marcus Husar and Stephen Doerr of the Dictionnaire étymologique de l’ancien français (DEAF).

The information from lemmatisation is integrated into the edition’s search page, which enables users to search for lemmas or forms and filter the results using a number of different facets. The page also functions as an index of names.

For more information visit Search: Guide.

8. Credits

The transcription and encoding of Paris, BnF, f. fr. 20125 and London, BL, Royal 20 D I were carried out by Simon Gaunt, Hannah Morcos, Maria Teresa Rachetta, Henry Ravenhall, and Simone Ventura, with the collaboration of Gabrielle Imbert, Matthew Lampitt, and Edward Mills.

Luca Barbieri compiled the transcription and interpretive edition of Prose 5 in Royal 20 D I.

For information on the lead editor of the different sections of the interpretive edition see Fr20125 and Royal 20 D I. The interpretive edition is established in collaboration with all members of the team (Simon Gaunt, Hannah Morcos, Maria Teresa Rachetta, Henry Ravenhall, Natasha Romanova, and Simone Ventura).

Paul Caton, Ginestra Ferraro, and Geoffroy Noël collaborated on the design, development, and digital workflow of the edition, search page, and alignment.

Marcus Husar and Stephen Doerr designed the tool for lemmatisation (Lemming) and supported the integration of the data into the search page.

January 2021