The Histoire ancienne is conventionally understood as having three separate redactions.
The First Redaction, composed in Flanders c.1208-13 (possibly finished as late as 1214), begins with an adaptation of Genesis and then tells the stories of Thebes, Troy, Aeneas, Alexander the Great and Rome. It has a variety of sources which include: the Bible, Orosius, Eusebius-Jerome, the Roman de Thèbes, Dares Phrygius, the Aeneid, Julius Valerius, the Roman d'Alexandre and various Roman histories. The original is thought to have had a verse prologue and a series of unevenly distributed verse moralisations that, as previously noted, only survive (nearly) in their entirety in two MSS (Paris BnF f.fr. 20125 and Vienna ONB 2576). The earliest manuscript production of the First Redaction is in Acre and Northern France, but it also has a significant early dissemination in Italy. Extant manuscript evidence suggests that, even after the production of the Second Redaction, the First continues to be the most widely copied version of the Histoire ancienne, with MSS produced in both France and Italy. The First Redaction is sometimes combined with Li Faits des Romains (1214) in order to produce a longer continuous history; when this is the case, the final segment (see: Segmentation) is usually omitted.
The Second Redaction is produced in Naples. The earliest surviving MS is London BL Royal 20 D 1, which dates from before 1340. Although the MS's colophon refers to the stories of Adam, Noah and the twelve sons of Israel, in most MSS this version of the text begins with the story of Thebes. Likewise, the colophon refers to Alexander the Great and his father, Philip of Macedonia, but their biographies have been left out of this redaction. Parallel rubrics found in other MSS (e.g. Vienna ONB 2576) indicate that the text of the colophon draws on a paratextual tradition taken from a First Redaction MS. Additionally, subject-matter has been rearranged in order to provide a continuous history of Rome. Most crucially, however, the Second Redaction incorporates a new and much expanded version of the Troy story. This is the fifth mise en prose of the Roman de Troie, which is in fact a translation of Guido delle Colonne's early thirteenth-century Latin translation of Benoît de Sainte-Maure (the Historia destructionis Troiae). The Troy section also incorporates the earliest translations into French of Ovid's Heroides, which may be related to a contemporary Italian volgarizzamento of the Heroides (see Barbieri, 2005). Royal 20 D 1 was taken to France as a gift for the French king some time before 1380. The ten other copies of the Second Redaction derive either directly or indirectly from Royal 20 D 1, and tend to eliminate the Italianisms of their source. Apart from Royal 20 D 1, the production of the Second Redaction appears to be confined to Paris and France. Both the fifth Troy mise en prose and the Heroides (extracted from it) are sometimes transmitted independently. The Second Redaction is never combined with the Faits des Romains.
Scholarship has also recognised a later, 15th-c., Third Redaction, found in only three MSS: Paris BnF f.fr. 15455, Paris Arsenal 3685 and Tours BM 1850. However, it is unclear whether it is helpful to see the text transmitted in these MSS as a separate redaction. For instance, Jung (1996, pp. 351, 507) lists the Tours MS as First Redaction and the two Paris MSS as Second Redaction, but acknowledges that these present a particular 'universal history' version of the text, which includes sections on the Hebrews and sections from a prose Brut, not found elsewhere in the textual transmission of the Histoire ancienne. According to De Visser-Van Terwisga (1999, p. 245) the principal distinguishing feature of the Third Redaction is that there is a 'mixed' version of the Troy section, combining elements of the First and Second Redactions' Troy sections. This version also borrows elements from the late 13th-c. Chronique dite de Baudoin d'Avesnes.
Neither First nor Second Redaction MSS are completely homogenous in their transmission of the text: sections are sometimes omitted, some First Redaction MSS occasionally use another source for the Biblical material, and it is not unknown for material from other sources to be interpolated.