Brut Chronicle (1413 Continuation)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 105
  • Dates of Creation
      End 15th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English  and Latin
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. iii + 134 + iii folios, foliated (i), 1-136, (137-8). Folios 1 and 2 are vellum binding leaves; 1 was pasted down. Dimensions: 278 x 206 mm. Collation of ff. 3-136: 116 lacking 2, 214 plus 1 leaf after 14 (f. 32), 316 lacking 15 and 16, perhaps blank, after f. 46, 4-516, 614 plus 1 leaf after 7 (f. 86), 7-816, 914 plus 1 leaf after 7 (f. 133), lacking 11-14 after f. 136. Quires are signed (a), (b), c-h, j. Medium: paper and for the outside, fourth, and middle sheets of each quire, vellum, except that vellum was saved in three quires by using singletons, ff. 32, 86 and 133, instead of bifolia; paper flyleaves. Binding: diced calf, rebacked, with remnants of a lion or panther rampant gilt-stamped on the first panel of the spine, 18th century.

Scope and Content

Late fifteenth-century manuscript of the Brut Chronicle, ending imperfectly in 1413. Several leaves are wanting. An incomplete note in another hand (f. 46v) says: 'This chronicle was mayde the xth yere of the reynge of kynge Henry the viiith by the right renouned and myghty...' (ends abruptly).

Contents: Brut Chronicle, beginning 'Here begynneth a boke in Englysshe tunge called Brute... the whiche conteyneth ccxxxviii chapiters withoute the prolog or protogoll. The prolog of this booke declareth... of hem many oon. Some tyme in the noble lond of Surry...'; and ending imperfectly at f. 136v, 'ihesu haue mercy amen. Of kinge Henry the vth borne at Monmouth in Wales son to king Henry the iiiith: ed. F.W.D. Brie, The Brut (see Bibliography below), p. 373. Chapters are not numbered after 110 on f. 57.

There is a gap in the text: f. 3v ends 'evell taches and governaunces' (Brie, p. 2 line 18) and f. 4r begins 'shuld comme to much honor and worship' (Brie, p. 6 line 3).

Script: Several secretary hands: changes at f. 45 line 18 and at f. 47 (beginning of the fourth quire). Written space: 175 x 135 mm. 28-38 long lines; the closer spacing begins at f. 68, where the number of lines rises from 31 to 34.

Secundo folio: n/a (first quire is lacking the second leaf).

Decoration: One 5-line initial in burnished gold on a blue and red ground with white penwork, with foliate border extensions terminating in ivy leaves and bezants (f. 3r). Numerous 3-line initials in red ink with brown penwork flourishes and infill.

Other features: ff. iii and iv are vellum flyleaves containing lists of early English kings and a list of archbishops of Canterbury from Augustine to Matthew Parker, 16th century.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 418. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Administrative / Biographical History

The celebrated Chronicles of England, or Brut Chronicle, is the earliest prose chronicle in English and was the most popular history of England in the Middle Ages, with over 240 manuscript copies in English, Anglo-Norman and Latin still extant, as well as thirteen editions printed before 1528. The Chronicles are chivalric in tone and display a fondness for vivid battle scenes. Many mythical elements are incorporated, such as the founding of Britain by Brutus of Troy (from which the title comes) and the King Arthur legend, though the narrative becomes more detailed and factual the nearer it gets to contemporary events. It was intended to be read for pleasure by a predominantly secular and aristocratic audience, and its literary and dramatic qualities include frequent use of direct speech to give immediacy and drama.

The original prose initially covered the period up to the early years of Edward I's reign (regnal dates 1272-1307) but in various different manuscript editions it was continued up to a range of dates until near the end of the 15th century when in 1480 it was printed by William Caxton under the title of The Chronicles of England. The trend of manually extending the work however continued in the printed editions, with many acting as family almanacs.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library at the Phillipps sale on 15 June 1908 through the London booksellers Bull & Auvache for £21; invoice dated 19 June 1908. Accession no. R15391.

Custodial History

(1) There are several 16th-century inscriptions on f. 2r: 'Iste liber constat hugoni Wyniard'; 'Iste liber partinet ad Thomam Pawlyn Surgion in Ciuitate London'; 'Iste liber pertinet ad me Nicholaum Stevinson gent'; Thomas Hought'; Ricardus Hobbes.

(2) Thomas Thorpe (1791-1851), bookseller. Catalogue for 1836, item 251 (purchased en bloc by Phillipps).

(3) Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872). Phillipps no. 9486 on f. 2v. Phillipps sale at Sotheby's on 15 June 1908, lot 361; catalogue slip pasted to flyleaf.

Related Material

The JRUL holds several other versions of the Brut Chronicle:


Friedrich W.D. Brie, The Brut, or, the Chronicles of England, edited from Ms. Rawl. B 171, Bodleian Library, etc. (London: Kegan Paul, Trench, Trübner for the Early English Text Society, 1906-8).

N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 418.

G.A. (Godfrey Allen) Lester, The index of Middle English prose. Handlist 2, a handlist of manuscripts containing Middle English prose in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester and Chetham's Library, Manchester (Cambridge: Brewer, 1985), pp. 39-40.

Lister M. Matheson, The prose Brut: the development of a Middle English chronicle (Tempe, Arizona: Medieval & Renaissance Texts & Studies, 1998).

A.N.L. (Alan Noel Latimer) Munby and Nicolas Barker, Portrait of an obsession: the life of Sir Thomas Phillipps, the world's greatest book collector (London: Constable, 1967).

Seymour de Ricci, English collectors of books & manuscripts (1530-1930) and their marks of ownership (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930); see pp. 119-30 on Sir Thomas Phillipps.

Thomas Thorpe, Catalogue of upwards of fourteen hundred manuscripts, upon vellum and paper... (London: Thomas Thorpe, 1836).

The Imagining History project website at Queen's University Belfast: