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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Geoffrey of Monmouth, Historia regum Britanniae

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript contains an incomplete, 14th-century copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth's <i>Historia regum Britanniae</i>. This enormously popular pseudo-historical work, written in 1136, chronicles the kings of the Britons from the foundation of the kingdom of Britain by the Trojan Brutus to the arrival of the Anglo-Saxons, including the deeds of King Arthur and the prophecies of Merlin. It survives in 215 manuscripts and was enormously influential on later Arthurian literature. </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 by commissioning a copy of the remaining text of the <i>Historia regum Britanniae</i> that was missing from the 14th-century manuscript in his possession. </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 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(4)</a>: compilation of crusade texts</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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