Linking manuscripts

Posted by: MFLC Team 6 years, 5 months ago

By Dirk Schoenaers

With our corpus finally established, we have started to map the dissemination of our chosen traditions. In the first phase of our project, this primarily involves collecting, interpreting and evaluating the data gathered by previous scholarship. Given the nature of our research, at this stage, we are primarily concerned with information allowing us to identify relations between manuscripts and thus to mark important points on the trajectory of our narratives. One possible approach considers codicological and art-historical evidence. For instance, as has been demonstrated by Alison Stones, the Sub-Fauvel Master illustrated three manuscripts with texts from the Lancelot-Grail cycle (Bibliothèque Nationale de France fonds français 105, Bibliothèque Nationale de France fonds français 9123 and Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 3481), situating them in Paris c. 1320-1330. In the first decade of the fifteenth century, Jacques Rapondi had manufactured two manuscript sets of the complete cycle (Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal 3479-80 and Bibliothèque Nationale de France fonds français 117-120) for the famous bibliophile prince Jean de Berry and his nephew Jean de Bourgogne. And, as a final example, in 2005, the Dutch art-historian Martine Meuwese situated the production of a number of manuscripts and fragments of the Estoire del Saint Graal, Lancelot and the Suite Merlin (all constituent parts of the cycle) in Flanders at the turn of the fourteenth century.

However, not only the scrutiny of their external appearance may provide information as regards the links between extant manuscripts. Evidence may also be derived from the texts contained within them and the way in which they have been arranged in the codex. As was already suggested in the previous post, the manuscripts in our corpus rarely contain just one single text. Thus, the occurrence of the same combinations in two or more manuscripts may offer a first indication of their affiliation. In this respect, the interpolation of episodes from Robert de Boron’s Joseph d’Arimathie in four manuscripts of the Estoire del Saint Graal invites further investigation.

Admittedly, it is by no means implausible that the same texts were put together independently at two or more separate occasions, for instance because of their related subject matter, and this may well be the case for the Joseph interpolations. However, the art-historical research of Alison Stones has shown that two of these manuscripts (Bibliothèque Nationale de France fonds français 770 and Le Mans, Médiathèque Municipale 354) were manufactured at Douai at approximately the same time (c. 1280), which renders it rather plausible that these copies are intimately related. That the former manuscript, in addition to the Estoire, also comprises transcriptions of Merlin, its continuation and various other texts does not diminish the value of this hypothesis. In the production of new manuscripts, texts could be removed, added or substituted causing divergences between otherwise closely affiliated copies.

Conclusive proof may be derived from the textual filiation of the redactions of the text in the manuscripts under consideration. Indeed, Jean-Paul Ponceau’s classification places both copies in the same subfamily (delta) of the long version of the Estoire. In the same group, we encounter the two other copies with interpolations from Robert de Boron: Saint Petersburg, Public Library Fr.F.v.XV.5 and Chantilly, Musée Condé 643. Stones assigns the Saint Petersburg manuscript to Paris, c. 1310. The Chantilly copy is alternatively dated to the end of the 14th or the 15th century and, quite interestingly, as is demonstrated by the research of Alexandre Micha and Richard Trachsler, its redaction of Merlin and its Suite is closely related to the one in Bibliothèque Nationale de France fonds français 770. Thus, it seems very plausible that what we have here is a particular redaction of the Estoire (probably combined with Merlin and its continuation), copies of which were manufactured in the county of Artois  (Douai) c. 1280, in Paris at the beginning of the 14th century and which was still being transcribed at the turn of the 15th century.