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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Compilation of crusade texts

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript contains prose and verse texts relating to the Crusades, written principally by Ricardus de Templo (fl. 1190-1229), an English crusader and canon and prior of Holy Trinity Augustinian priory in London, as well as by Geoffrey of Vinsauf (fl. 1200), poet and grammarian, and Oliverus, bishop of Paderborn (c. 1170-1227), a German crusader and cleric. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The first and largest text in the volume, the <i>Itinerarium peregrinorum et gesta regis Ricardi</i>, is an account of the Third Crusade (1187-92) that focuses on the travels and deeds of Richard I (1157-1199), king of England 1189-1199. It opens with the fall of Jerusalem to Saladin (c. 1137-1193), sultan of Egypt and Syria, 1174-1193, details the journeys of European crusaders to the East, and recounts the long siege of Acre. It ends with Richard's departure, after he failed to retake Jerusalem, but defends his heroic reputation. Four different versions of this text survive in twelve manuscript copies. The original version comprises merely the first part of the first book, and was written c. 1191-92 by an English crusader drawing on eyewitness accounts, particularly of the siege of Acre. The longer recension found here was written later, c. 1217-1220, and incorporates the original text as well as information from several other sources, and its author identified as Ricardus de Templo (though it is mistakenly attributed to Geoffrey of Vinsauf in this copy). </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The Latin verses by Geoffrey of Vinsauf that follow the <i>Itinerarium</i> comprise extracts from the <i>Poetria nova</i>, a treatise written in verse designed to teach composition. The verses in praise of Henry II (1133-1189), king of England 1154-1189, that come after that may have served as a sample composition, employing the techniques discussed in the <i>Poetria nova</i>. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The final work in the volume, the <i>Historia Damiatina</i>, is a vivid narrative of the Fifth Crusade (1217-1222) written by one of its principal participants, Oliverus of Paderborn. Oliverus not only recruited many of the crusaders through his preaching, but also participated in the design and building of an innovative floating siege engine which facilitated the capture of the Egyptian port of Damietta. </p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript shown here was once in the possession of Matthew Parker (1504-1575), archbishop of Canterbury. Parker was not only a collector of manuscripts: he also used them, annotating and cross-referencing, rebinding and rearranging the books that he owned. Before donating this manuscript to Cambridge University Library in 1574 (along with 24 others), he augmented it with additional chronicle works, notably by William of Malmesbury, including copies that he commissioned himself. </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 these additions were at that time bound together with this copy of the <i>Gesta pontificum Anglorum</i> 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(3)</a>: William of Malmesbury, <i>Historia novella</i></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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