Marlborough Brut Chronicle (1377 Continuation)

Archive Collection
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 102
  • Dates of Creation
      Mid 15th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English  and Latin
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. ii + 101 + ii folios, foliated 1-101 (modern foliation). Dimensions: 320 x 235 mm. Collation of ff. 1-43, 45-57, 60-101: 18 lacking 1 before f. 39 and 7 and 8 after f. 43, 78, 88 lacking 6 after f. 57, 9-138. ff. 44 and 58-59 are added leaves. Condition: f. 60v is damaged; a section of the leaf has been torn out, extending from the middle of the foredge to within 62mm of the gutter on the lower edge, with loss to twelve lines of text. Medium: vellum. Binding: full calf, the arms of Sir James Ley gilt-stamped on both board, early 17th century.
  • Location
      Collection available at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.
  • Direct Link

Scope and Content

Mid fifteenth-century manuscript of the Brut Chronicle, beginning imperfectly and ending with the death of Edward III in 1377. Certain leaves are wanting.

Contents: Brut Chronicle, beginning imperfectly with 'and our' soueraiegne' and ending with the death of King Edward III in 1377, 'god haue mercy amen': ed. F.W.D. Brie,  The Brut (see Bibliography below), p. 7 line 24 to p. 332 line 19. There are 239 numbered chapters.

There are three gaps in the text: (1) f. 38v ends 'bi way þei met' in chapter 129 and f. 39r begins 'nne himself king of Englonde'; (2) f. 43v ends in the title of chapter 145 'come aȝen' and f. 45r begins in chapter 149 'me other bisshopryche'; (3) f. 57v ends 'his pees þurght' and f. 60r begins 'Mo vii'. For the missing text see Brie, pp. 132:11-135:23, 152:26-159:8 and 202:19-205:18. Part of the second gap (as far as Brie, p. 158 line 11) and all of the third gap were supplied in the 15th/16th century on three added leaves, ff. 44 and 58-59. On f. 86, after 'calenge of any man' (Brie, p. 286 line 9, battle of Halidon Hill, 1333), is 'Deo gracias dicamus omnes Amen' in red.

Script: Secretary hand, with some influence from anglicana (occasional a, w). Written space: 235 x 190 mm. 2 columns, 34 lines.

Secundo folio: lese to his people.

Decoration: None; spaces for initials are not filled in.

Other features: Manicules on ff. 53v, 54r, 61r, 62r, 74r and 76v. Those on ff. 61r and 62r have elaborate cuffs. There are ornamented ascenders on the top lines of ff. 13v, 36r, 36v, 67v, 70r, 70v, and 86v to 98v passim.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 416-17. 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.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1908 from the London booksellers J. and J. Leighton for £22 10s; invoice dated 18 June 1908. Accession no. R15384.

Custodial History

(1) There are several 16th-century inscriptions or scribbles in legal hands: 'M Willelmus Yong petit hunc librum Testante Rogero et Thoma Yong filiis suis...' (f. 101v); 'M Lionelius Wodward petit hunc librum Testante Rogero Hart et Willelmo Wodward filiis suis...' (f. 101v); 'Nouerint uniuersi per presentes me Thomam Colepeper in comitatu Kancie Armiger teneri... Richardo Colepeper de Grays Inn... Armigero viginti minus anglice legalis monete Anno Domini 1568' (ff. 37v and 39v). Other inscriptions are: 'John Colepeper' (f. 46v); 'John Colepeper John Hales' (f. 79v, both names in the same hand); 'Johannes Kyng' (f. 92r); 'John Hales' and 'Thomas Colepeper' (f. 99v).

(2) Sir James Ley (1550-1629), afterwards 1st Earl of Marlborough (created 1626). Armorial binding.

(3) George Leigh Wasey. Inscription inside the front cover. Rev. William George Leigh Wasey, BA (1833), MA (1836), Christ Church, Oxford, was perpetual curate of Quatford and Morville near Bridgnorth, Shropshire. Sources: Post Office directory of Gloucestershire, Herefordshire, Shropshire, and the city of Bristol (London: Kelly & Co., 1863), pp. 721 and 737. Crockford's clerical directory for 1868 (London: Horace Cox, 1868), p. 689. There is a printed catalogue slip pasted to a flyleaf stating that the manuscript was valued by Bohn in 1841 at £30-40.

Related Material

The JRUL holds several other versions of the Brut Chronicle:

  • English MS 103, Brut Chronicle, 1346 Continuation (English MS 103);
  • English MS 104, Tomlynson Brut Chronicle, 1415 Continuation (English MS 104);
  • English MS 105, Brut Chronicle, 1413 Continuation (English MS 105);
  • English MS 206, Dunn Brut Chronicle, 1326 Continuation (English MS 206);
  • English MS 207, Dunn Brut Chronicle, 1415 Continuation (English MS 207).

Bibliography

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), pp. 416-17.

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. 37-8.

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

Wilfrid Prest, 'Ley, James, first earl of Marlborough (1550-1629)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004): http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/16619.

The Imagining History project website at Queen's University Belfast: http://www.qub.ac.uk/imagining-history/about.