Rennes, Bibliothèque municipale, 255

[Part 1]

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General information

1 frontend papers
1 backend papers
Folio notes:The guardleaves at the front and rear of the manuscript have also been foliated. The versoside of f. 100 and the entire folio 136 have been left blank.
LanguageLanguage object (3)
Approx. datec. 1220
Date notesAlthough both Micha (1963, 32) and Kennedy (1980, 6) dated the manuscript to the early fourteenth century, the date proposed by the Lancelot-Graal Project on the basis of layout (written above top-line) and decoration is probably more correct. The writing (two-compartment 'a', the upper lobe of which is open; straight and round 's' appear in final position) confirm a date in the thirteenth century.
Place(s) of productionNorthern France
The Lancelot-Graal Project tentatively suggests Paris or Champagne. Stones (2010, 44) situates the manuscript more confidently in royal circles in Paris, because of stylistic correspondences to royal psalters and early Moralised Bibles.
First words of second recto folio[f. 2ra] come se totes les buenes erbes /
First words of last recto folio[f. 275ra] atot Et missire kex saut sus toz es /
Incipit[f. 1ra] C / Ci qui se tient (et) iuge au plus / petit (et) au plus pecheor de toz les al / tres pecheors mande saluz al co(m) / mencement de cest hystoire (et) a toz cels qui ont lor cuer (et) lor cre / ance en laseinte trinite . Ce est / [..] pere (et) fill (et) el seint esperit / [...] par cui totes choses sunt /
Explicit[f. 275vc] tuit / sen esbahissent . Et missire G(auuain) / en est esbahiz sor toz . (et) pensse poruoir / qe ce nest se lanceloz non . si le dit ala / reine aconseill . (et) ele le sauoit mout / bien . car trop liauoit ueues faire / g(ra)nz proeces . si en est molt liee . mes / ele pense que ele deceura monseig //


Material:Material object (4)
Condition:Good to medium quality vellum with some stitched up tears and holes (e.g. ff. 41, 66, 174, 175, 180, 223). Some stains (e.g. ff. 34, 71r). Quires have been lost between ff. 274 and 275. The first folio of the text (f. 2r) is worn, especially at the edges, and the text on the recto has faded. Folio 137r is equally worn.


Quire structure:The blank pages before the start of 'Merlin' and 'Lancelot' suggest that these texts start in a new quire.
Quire marks:MSQuiremarkDisposition object (72)
Catchwords:f. 17v, f. 49v,
Catchword disposition:MSCatchwordDisposition object (20)

Physical description

No. of illustrations:57
General illustration:The opening of major texts ('Estoire', 'Merlin') is illustrated with a large historiated initial (ff. 1r, 101r; height: respectively 19 and 15 lines) spanning the entire width of the column. Notwithstanding that the initial introducing the 'Lancelot propre' does not span the entire width of the column, it is still considerably larger (f. 137r; height: 11 lines) than the 'normal' historiated initials illustrating the text. The initial of the 'Estoire' shows how the hermit receives the book from Christ; the illustration preceding the 'Merlin' portrays the Harrowing of Hell; the initial 'E' opening the 'Lancelot propre' depicts a young man, crown in hand, kneeling before another king, seated on his throne. In the lower register, a group of knights, led by two kings, boards a ship. Subdivisions are marked with historiated initials (height: c. 6-8 lines). These initials are blue or red, decorated with white flourishings, and painted on a field of the contrasting colour, which has been framed in gold leaf. The background of the eye of the letter in which the illustrations are situated is also gold leaf.
General decoration:The text is further structured by smaller ornamented initials (height: 3 lines), again protruding into the margins. The colouring of these letters alternates between pink, gold leaf, and blue. The blue and pink letters are further decorated with white flourishings. The eye of the letters is filled with tendrils, decorated with white filigrane, or, less frequently, inhabited by animals, mostly birds, dragons, or hybrids (e.g. f. 17r). These three types of ornamentation alternate, resulting in a varied range of decorations on the page. The fields on which the initials are painted and the baguettes decorating ascenders and descenders are painted in combinations of blue, red, and gold leaf. In the 'Lancelot', pen-flourished initials are added to these three other types and initials get smaller (height: 2 lines). On the other hand, larger decorated initials (the descenders of which sometimes end in bearded masks, e.g. f. 150rb) replace historiated initials (height: 4 lines). Sometimes the decoration has an unfinished or sloppy character (f. 172r). Notwithstanding the change in the decorative programme, the 'Lancelot' seems part of the same project as the 'Estoire' and 'Merlin'. The first letters of clauses are highlighted with dashes of red ink. In the first line of the column, ascenders are often elaborated to form litterae elongatae. Paragraph signs indicate text-overflow. Guide-letters visible in the margin (f. 222v). The decorated initials were later numbered with arabic numerals (15-16th c.?). For the initials in the 'Lancelot propre' the count starts from '1'.
Evidence of readership:On f. 66vb, a 16th-c. reader has drawn a frame round 'ledit messires robert deborron' and noted 'Messire Robert de Borron autheur de cest histoire'. In the epilogue of the 'Estoire' (f. 100rc) the same hand has made annotations about the disposition of the text and, again, the author. On f. 107vb, an annotation 'Martin de roure' refers to the translator of the 'Brut' mentioned in the text. In the lower margin of f. 124v: 'loialle et belle' (14th-c.?). The recto and verso side of f. 136 have been left blank. A helmet with crest has been drawn on the recto. On f. 168v, a reader has noted in the margin 'karahais', referring to one of Arthur's residences mentioned in the text. Faded annotation 'le dieu s[...]' in the outer margin of f. 233r. Nota and strikethrough at 'False Guenevere' episode, f. 270v.
Foliations description:Modern foliation in arabic numerals in the upper right corner of the recto. The guardleaves have also been foliated.

Mise en page

Description 1Prickings visible in the inner margin. Horizontal throughlines at the top, middle, and bottom. Additional vertical outer margins ensure the correct placement of initials. Double vertical throughlines near the edges of the folio, possibly indicating where the book should have been cut.
Page sampledf. 1r
Page dimensions435x320 (mm)
Justification305x220 (mm)
10mm between columns
Column ruling present in Colours object (4) (RulingMaterials object (3) )
Line ruling present in Colours object (4) (RulingMaterials object (3) )
RubricationThe beginnings of clauses are highlighted with a dash of red ink.
Writing above top line?True
Sample page layout:


Level of Execution:Execution object (4)
ScriptScript object (4)
Folio rangeFrom f. 2ra to f. 275vc
Datec. 1220 to 1230
Scribe description:Double-compartment 'a' with open upper compartment; clubbed ascender on 'b', 'l', 'h'; uncial 'd', the ascender of which curves to the right; biting of 'd' and 'e'; tongued 'e' in final position; forms of 'g' with open and closed lower lobe; the limb of 'h' descends below the baseline and curves to the left; occasionally diacritic on 'i'; occasional use of 'i'-longa in final position; limbs of 'm' and 'n' do not extend below the baseline; the descenders of 'q' and 'r' curve slightly to the right; biting of round 'r' and 'o', 'p'; long and round 's' in final position, occasionally trailing 's'; the vertical stroke of 't' does not protrude above the headstroke; no use of 'v'; 'z' does not extend below the baseline; 'st'-ligature. Word-separation is marked with a dash; punctus; punctus elevatus. Few abbreviations including nasal bar; superscript vowels ('a', 'e', 'i'); crossed tironian 'et'.
NotesCorrections in the margin (e.g. ff. 222v, 231r). Different colour of ink suggests correction after proofreading (f. 259v).


DescriptionGiven the text on the final guardleaf (f. 276r) referring to the birth of Mathelin de Montbourcher on 10 April, the manuscript may have been in the aristocratic Montbourcher family (Brittany) in 1470.
PlacePlace object (162)
OwnershipPerson object (101)
DescriptionThe anagram in 'le fol na dieu 1578' on the flyleaf at the front refers to Noël du Fail, counselor of the Parliament at Rennes.
PlacePlace object (153)
OwnershipPerson object (102)