George Dunn Brut Chronicles

Scope and Content

The collection comprises two different copies of the Brut Chronicle: the first is a continuation up to 1326, while the second is a continuation to 1415.

Administrative / Biographical History

George Dunn (1865-1912), of Woolley Hall near Maidenhead, Berkshire, was an English bibliophile and keen student of palaeography and early printing. Throughout his life he built up an impressive library at Woolley Hall, collecting early English law books, medieval manuscripts (chiefly from the Phillipps and Ashburnham sales), early printed books (including volumes from unusual towns and presses) and lastly, early stamped bindings, which he was one of the first British collectors to notice and preserve. After his death in 1912 his library was broken up and sold off at Sotheby's between 1913 and 1917, realising over £30,000.

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 collection is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

The manuscripts were purchased by the John Rylands Library at the sale of the George Dunn Collection on 2 February 1913 through the bookseller Percy Mordaunt Barnard of Royal Tunbridge Wells. The Library bought nine other manuscripts at the same sale: French MS 64, Latin MSS 193, 203, 204, 206, 211, 216-218.

Related Material

The UML holds several other versions of the Brut Chronicle:

The UML also holds a manuscript of the Passion and Resurrection of Christ and the Gospel of Nicodemus, once owned by George Dunn: English MS 895.


Seymour de Ricci, English collectors of books & manuscripts (1530-1930) and their marks of ownership (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930); see pp. 182-3 on George Dunn.

The Times, 11 March 1912, p. 11, obituary of George Dunn: