Bryn Mawr College Library Special Collections

illumination from Gordan MS 51

Medieval & Renaissance Manuscripts

Gordan MS 64 England, XIVex

Ranulf Higden / Polychronicon

1. f. ir

A Latin Chronicle__

from the earliest Account of time__

to the year of our Lord__

One thousand three hundred fifty two__


A history of England to Edward the third.

Title page written in an ornate nineteenth-century gothic hand . f. i verso blank.

2. ff. 1r-175v [In upper margin:] Prologus primus super historiam policronicam Capitulum Primum

Inc.: Post preclaros artium scriptores quibus circa rerum notitiam aut morum modestiam dulce fuit, quo aduiuerent, insudare. Illi merito, uelut utile dulci commiscentes, grandisonis sunt preconiis attollendi, qui magnifica priscorum gesta beneficio scripture posteris deriuarunt.

Expl.: . . . in curia et circa curiam Romanam Auinionsem et circa martimas urbes anglie et hibernie. Die Sancti Nicholai obiit papa clemens sextus et cito post electus est in papam Stephanus hostiensis episcopus summus pape poenitentiarius et uocatus est Innocencius sextus. Quo etiam anno incepit magna caristia rerum plumbi ferri Stagni eris clauorum lignorum canabi siui et specierum. ff. 123v-124r blank.

Ranulph Higden, Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden Monachi Cestrensis together with the English Translations of John Trevisa and of an unknown writer of the Fifteenth Centruy; Churchill Babington, ed., v. 1-2; Joseph Rawson Lumby, ed., v. 3-9 (London, 1865). MS 64 not included in the census of Latin manuscripts of the Polychronicon in John Taylor, Universal Chronicle of Ranulf Higden (Oxford, 1966) 152-159.

3. ff. 176r-182r Alphabetical subject index to article 2 beginning with "Abraham ii octauo" and ending at "de zorobabel iii x."

4. f. 182r Prima etas adam usque ad diluuium per decem generationes habet annos. . . Sexta etas ab incarnatione Christi usque ad finem mundi.

A brief description of the six ages of man added at the end of the index.

5. f. 182v Two short lists added later: an excerpt from the Domesday Book:: Eratta de Domesday Regis. . . and a list of English kings: Reges Anglie ab aduentu dacorum usque ad conquestum per Normannos. . ."

Parchment, ff. ii (modern paper bifolium, i=front pastedown) + i (parchment) + 182 + ii (modern paper bifolium, ii=back pastedown), 283 x 225 (leaves vary from 210-230 x 145-165) mm., modern foliation. Article 2: written in c. 40-50 ruled lines with single horizontal and vertical bounding lines in ink. Prickings for bounding lines occasionally visible in all three outer margins. Article 3: written in two columns of 50 ruled lines, each column has been divided with 5 vertical bounding lines in ink into three smaller columns for subject, book, and chapter. Articles 4 and 5 are long lines and without ruling.

I-XIII12; subsequent leaves have been tipped in in four groups of 4 leaves and two groups of 5 leaves. Catchwords are centered in lower margin and framed in red. There are no catchwords after the tenth quire.

Articles 2-4 are written by several scribes in a English cursive bookhand below the top line. Marginal notes have been made throughout in later hands. Article 5 has been added in a spidery 16th-century gothic cursive.

A full page diagram on f. 3r depicts the solar system as a series of circles with the earth in the center. Several other smaller diagrams or charts appear throughout; note the genealogy from Adam to Iaphet in which each name is enclosed in a small circle, the whole linked by double lines. This diagram fills the lower margin of ff. 30v and 31r. From f. 34v to the end of article 2 a double column outlined in red recording monarchs and dates fills the outer margin. Each book begins with a large initial varying from a slim 21-line initial "I" which begins Book 4 to the more square 8- to 12-line initials in most of the other books. These initials are either red and blue or plain blue with beautiful red penwork grounds, small extensions, and infilling; the grounds include a trace of purple penwork added as an accent. Book 2 is the exception beginning with a modest 6-line initial which resembles the initials used for the chapters. These initials are similar to the larger initials but more simple: 2- to 6-lines with finely drawn red penwork grounds and infillings which often depict flowers or leaves. Other 1-line plain, red and blue initials throughout. Running heads in upper right margin, recto, sometimes trimmed off. Rubrication, paragraph markers, sentence strokes in red. Guide letters for rubricator are visible underneath the penwork in each initial. Article 5 is without decoration.

The book has suffered considerable water damage, and has some repair work done to the final leaves. Although some of the red ink and occasionally the blue has either smeared or faded, there is no loss of text except for f. 175 where the top outside corner of the leaf has been torn or worn away with the loss of about 15 lines of the index.

Binding: England, nineteenth century, bound in brown russia, blind tooled with the arms of the Marquis of Blandford centered on the front and back. The spine is rebacked with blind-stamped, olive morocco; in gold: "POLYCHRONICON/ M.S./ MCCCLII."

Written in England at the end of the fourteenth century. In the collections of the Marquis of Blandford (White Knights sale, 22 June 1819, lot 3606), and the seventh Duke of Newcastle (4th Clumber sale, Sotheby 14 Feb. 1938, lot 1209; catalogue entry glued inside front cover). On the verso of the first front flyleaf is an 18th century description of Ms. 64 with the name W. Trone at the end of the page; glued to this leaf is a paper label with the title in ink; additionally many numbers, written in lead are scattered over the page: "48," "24/D," "42/0/0," and "History 72." Pasted to the recto of the rear flyleaf a second, 19th-century autograph description of the MS, the bottom of this sheet has been excised, perhaps removing a signature, since traces of writing remain. A third description of the MS attributed to "Mr. Jacob Bryants" and signed on the verso: "This manuscript note is the Autograph of Jacob Bryant--Blandford--July 20th 1805-" accompanies the MS. Obtained from Maggs by Howard L. Goodhart in 1938, and left by him to Phyllis Goodhart Gordan (bookplate) and John Dozier Gordan, Jr.

secundo folio: Prescianus grammaticus

Bibliography: Faye and Bond, p. 400, no. 64.

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Last Update: June 6, 2003