Tomlynson Brut Chronicle (1415 Continuation)

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 104
  • Dates of Creation
      End 15th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English  and Latin
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. ii + 133 folios, foliated 1-133 (modern foliation). Dimensions: 262 x 192 mm. Collation: 1-28, 38 lacking 7 after f. 22, 4-88, 98 lacking 2 after f. 64, 10-168, 178 lacking 8. Condition: ff. 1 and 131-133 are stained and water-damaged; f. 1r is barely legible. Medium: vellum. Binding: quarter calf, repaired in goatskin, marbled paper-covered boards, 18th century.
  • Location
      Collection available at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

Late fifteenth-century manuscript of the Brut Chronicle, from chapter 101 onwards and ending imperfectly in 1415. Several leaves are wanting.

Contents: Brut Chronicle to 1415, beginning imperfectly a page before an account of Cadwallader's going to Rome, and ending imperfectly at 1415 'at þe dise and an [archer]', ed. F.W.D. Brie, The Brut (see Bibliography below), p. 378 line 14. Folio 1v line 22 begins, 'Howe king Offa was soueraine' (Brie p. 102 line 21). The 21 preceding lines - 'Thanne kyng Aleyn did sende for the Clergie of his londe ... vic lxxix' - are not in Brie and are no doubt derived from Geoffrey of Monmouth (ed. Griscom, p. 534); f. lr is barely legible. There are no chapter numbers before '203' on f. 61r; the last remaining chapter is numbered '244'. 'Deo gracias' at f. 87 line 2 (Brie, p. 286 line 9, battle of Halidon Hill, 1333).

There are two gaps in the text: (1) f. 22v ends 'Englande' and f. 23r begins 'tharchebisshop'. (2) f. 64v ends 'layen xi' and f. 65r begins 'and afterwarde he'. For the missing text see Brie, pp. 147:21-149:26 and 238:33-240:21.

Script: Mixed, but mainly secretary script: a in one compartment or two, the latter more commonly; strokes of m and n are sometimes linked and sometimes not. Written space: 203 x 123 mm. 39 long lines.

Secundo folio: bring it vnto Winchestre.

Decoration: Numerous 3-line initials, alternating in burnished gold and blue ink, with penwork infill and flourishes in red and brown ink respectively.

Other features: There are numerous 16th-century pencil drawings and scribblings in the margins, including: acorns, a ?centaur and several human heads (f. 7r); a man and an acorn, the man saying 'Iohn geue me sum acomes ho' (f. 32r); two bearded figures resembling Henry VIII (ff. 32v and 33r); an owl? (f. 99r); a flower (f. 104v); and a squirrel sitting on a branch of an oak tree (f. 120v).

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 417-18. 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 in 1908 from the London booksellers J. and J. Leighton for £16 4s; invoice dated on 18 June 1908. Accession no. R15386.

Other Finding Aids

Detailed description by Ryan Perry available on the Imagining History project website:

Custodial History

16th-century inscriptions: 'Thomas Rous' (f. 14r); 'John Rous' (f. 14r); 'Eles Tomlynson' (f. 14r); 'Robart Tomlynsone' (f. 55r); 'Thomas Tomlynson' (f. 71v). The first two are perhaps Thomas Rous (d. before 1538) of Rous Lench, Worcestershire, and his son John Rous (1516-1604), who married Ann, daughter of Sir Edward Montagu (1480s-1557), Chief Justice of King's Bench: see Broadway article in Bibliography below.

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).

Jan Broadway, 'Rous family (per. 1506-1729)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004):

Acton Griscom, The Historia regum Britanniae of Geoffrey of Monmouth (London: Longmans, Green & Co., 1929).

N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 417-18.

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), p. 39.

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

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