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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Historia novella

William of Malmesbury

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript contains a 16th-century copy of William of Malmesbury's <i>Historia novella</i> (<i>Contemporary history</i>). William's last work, written between 1140 and 1443, was commissioned by Robert, 1st earl of Gloucester (before 1100-1147), and it relates the dramatic contemporary events of the succession dispute between King Stephen and Empress Matilda, which descended into civil war. It is one of the most important sources for the history of the conflict. William was well-connected and well-informed - even, on occasion, an eyewitness to the events he describes. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>This copy was commissioned by Matthew Parker (1504-1575), archbishop of Canterbury, in order to augment a collection of other historical texts by both William and other authors that he was assembling. As this shows, Parker was not only a collector of manuscripts: he also used them, annotating and cross-referencing, rebinding and rearranging the books that he owned. This copy was made from a 12th-century manuscript owned by John Whitgift (?1530/31-1604), now <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>Cambridge, Trinity College, MS R.7.10</a>. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The description of the manuscript in the <a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>list of Parker's donations</a> confirms that this and the other additions were at that time bound together with the copy of the <i>Gesta pontificum Anglorum</i> (now MS Ff.1.25(1)) in a single volume. They remained in this state until 1862, whereupon they were divided into five separate volumes, all of which are now available to view on the Cambridge Digital Library: <ul><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>MS Ff.1.25(1)</a>: William of Malmesbury, <i>Gesta pontificum Anglorum (Books 1-4)</i></li><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>MS Ff.1.25(2)</a>: William of Malmesbury, <i>Gesta pontificum Anglorum (Book 5)</i></li><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>MS Ff.1.25(4)</a>: compilation of crusade texts</li><li><a target='_blank' class='externalLink' href=''>MS Ff.1.25(5)</a>: Geoffrey of Monmouth, <i>Historia regum Britanniae</i></li></ul></p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Suzanne Paul<br />Keeper of Rare Books and Early Manuscripts<br />Cambridge University Library</p>

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