Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fonds français 344

[Part 1]

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General information

Folio notes:10 ff. lost after f. 517. One folio lost at the end.
LanguageLanguage object (46)
Approx. date1290 to 1300
Date notesThe Lancelot-Graal project suggests 1290 to 1300. Jonas gives 1295 to 1300. Arthurian Fiction has 1250 to 1300. Careri 2001, 123 reports dates ranging from the second quarter of the 13th c. to 1250-1300. Based on the writing, a date towards the end of the 13th c. appears most likely.
Place(s) of productionEast France
The Lancelot-Graal project has Metz or Verdun, which are also listed by Arthurian Fiction. Jonas gives East France. Careri 2001 indicates that the decoration points towards Northern France.
First words of second recto folio[f. 2r] cudier nen porroit le no(m)bre dire . Et si /
First words of last recto folio[f. 548ra] son frere . lors ne seuent il mes ou il puissent recoure(r) /
Incipit[f. 1ra] Cil qui la hautece (et) la seignorie de si / haute hystoire com est cele del gre / al met en escrit p(ar)lou comandem(en)t / del g(ra)nt maistre . mande tout premie / rement saluz a toz celz (et) a toutes / celes qui ont lor creance en la sain / te glorieuse triniteit ce est el peire / (et) el fil . (et) el saint esperit El peire /
Explicit[f. 548vb] el chastel . (et) la nuit firent ourir la tombe ga / lehout (et) tant estoit riche q(ue) nule plus . Et lan / demai(n) firent metre le cors lanc(elot) dedenz (et) fi / rent escrire desuz lettres q(ui) disoient . Ci gist / galehout li sires des estrainges illes . Et auec //


Material:Material object (4)
Condition:Good quality vellum. On f. 19, large holes in the written space, which have been evaded by the scribe. Smaller holes in the written space of f. 47. Also ff. 79, 103, 174, 263, 341, 400, 417, 453, 489, 504, 511, 515. Larger hole, in the inner column of f. 538. On f. 43, stitch in the lower part of the inner column. Also ff. 53. Some damage. On f. 1r, ink and paint have faded. Outer margins of the first folios damaged. f. 40r, damaged, text-loss in the 5th to 10th line of the inner column. f. 45, the larger part of the folio has been torn out. f. 45, lower corner torn, some text-loss. ff. 57 to 63, hole in the outer column. ff. 74-75, lower part of the folio torn out. ff. 76-77, lower outer corner torn. f. 80, hole in outer column. Also ff. 280, 350, 385. f. 475, damaged in the upper inner corner, causing some text-loss. The upper part of f. 476 torn out. f 548, damaged and stained.


Quire structure:47 quires, mostly sexternions.
Quire marks:MSQuiremarkDisposition object (11)
Catchword disposition:MSCatchwordDisposition object (17)

Physical description

No. of illustrations:344
General illustration:The 'Estoire' opens with a historiated initial (f. 1ra, height: 8 lines), showing Christ visiting the hermit. Partial 'j'-borders in blue and red ink. A small single-column miniature (height: 4 lines) marks the end of the 'Estoire' (f. 81r). The image is framed in blue bars with gilt corners. The two single-column miniatures at the beginning of the 'Merlin' (f. 81v) are similarly framed in blue and red bars. The first image (height: 11 lines) portrays Blaise. The second, quadripartite miniature (height: 21 lines) shows the harrowing of hell, the conference of demons, and the conception of Merlin. The miniatures are followed by an historiated initial. Historiated initial at the beginning of the 'Suite du Merlin' (f. 101v). Two large single-column miniatures (c. 26 lines) at the beginning of the Lancelot. Each miniature has three registers, each divided in half. The twelve images show episodes from Lancelot's youth and the early days of Arthur's reign. The second miniature is followed by a historiated initial.Small single-column miniatures at ff. 212va, 220va, 227vb, 243va, 252ra, always at the end of the column and before a historiated initial, giving the impression that they are place-fillers rather than deliberately placed. On f. 476, the 'Queste' probably started with an exceptionally large historiated initial (c. 12-15 lines). The eye was divided in two registers, two images per register. Lacuna at the beginning of the 'Mort Artu'. One large quadripartite image (f. 544r, height: c. 26 lines), spanning the full width of the justification, illustrates Arthur's final battle. Major divisions of the text indicated by historiated initials (height: 8 lines), blue or pink, decorated with goldleaf, painted against a field of the other colour, with gilt backgrounds and frames and partial, spiky borders of blue and pink bars decorated with goldleaf. Linefillers, wavy patterns in blue paint, with gilt flourishings.
General decoration:No further indication of paragraphs, resulting in long stretches of unstructured text. Line-fillers, blue with gilt flourishings.
Evidence of readership:On f. 1ra 'mbrkf df hbknbyt dychfssf df bp [...]' in which the vowels have been substituted for the following consonant, thus reading 'marie de hainayt duchesse de bo[...]' and in the lower margin '[...] roma(n)t est a mad(ame) .m. de he[...] duchesse de bour[...]'. Old shelfmarks 'deux cens quatre vingt [...]', '68', '6965'. On f. 12, reparation. In the first column of the recto, above the last line,a piece of vellum with three lines written in a later 14th - or 15th-c hand suppling text that was lost due to damage. Similar repair on the verso side, supplying last two lines of both columns. On f. 52v, in the outer column in a 14th or 15th c. hand '[...]choras'. On f. 52r, in the outer margin, 'nota bene hic', next to the story of Hippocrates. On f. 209, in the inner margin, a 14th- or 15th-c. hand has noted 'cheval(er)ie' and added a nota mark (the beginning of 'lordre de cheualerie'. On f. 209v, nota signs marking the virtue of loyalty. On f. 416v manicula, virtues of Arthur's knights. On f. 449r, in the outer margin 'la date .ijc. xxvj'. The text mentions that Lancelot was received in Camalot in 226 AD. On f. 517v, at a lacuna, in two 15th-c. hands, 'yssi a faulte'.
Foliations description:Modern foliation in the upper right corner of the recto.

Mise en page

Description 1
Page sampled
LayoutMSLayout object (3)
Page dimensions382x278 (mm)
Justification272x203 (mm)
11mm between columns
Column ruling present in Colours object (4) (RulingMaterials object (3) )
Line ruling present in Colours object (4) (RulingMaterials object (3) )
RubricationNo tituli in red ink.
Writing above top line?False
Sample page layout:


Level of Execution:Execution object (4)
ScriptScript object (4)
Folio rangeFrom f. 1ra to f. 548vb
Datec. 1275 to 1300
Scribe description:Small textualis with two-compartment 'a', closed upper compartment (double bow 'a'), uncial 'd', 'e' with tongue, 'Rücken'-'g', limb of 'h' curves below the baseline, diacritic on 'i' not limited to minim group, straight and round 's' in final position, 'v' in initial position, also mid-word, diacritic on 'y', 3-like 'z'. Abbreviations include crossed tironian 'et', nasal bar, apostrophe, 'p' with crossed descender, superscript vowels ('a'), 'com'-abbreviation. Fusion of 'o' and round 'r''st' ligature. Punctuation: punctus and punctus elevatus, comma as question mark. Slightly leaning towards the left. Multiple hands. (Careri 2001, 125)
NotesSome lines erased on f. 511vb.


DescriptionTwo notes on f. 1r (cf. 'evidence of readership above') suggest that the MS was once owned by Mary of Avesnes, who in 1310 married Louis I, duke of Bourbon. She was the daughter of John II, count of Holland and Hainaut and Philippa of Luxembourg. An inventory of her father's books dated to 1304 lists 'uns grans romans a rouges couvretures, ki parole de Nascien, de Mellin et de Lancelot dou Lach'. This description certainly fits the present MS - it is one of the few extant MSS which have all parts of the cycle bound together in one codex. The proposed dating would also support a commission by the duke of Hainaut or his wife. This notwithstanding, as yet there is no evidence to further corroborate this hypothesis. Possibly, the 'Merlin' and 'Lancelot' owned by Count William I, Mary's brother, should be identified with their father's 'grans romans', now divided over two codices.
Date?1310 to 1354
PlacePlace object (215)
OwnershipPerson object (135)