Manuscripts and periods of production

No other French literary text of the 12th c. has been preserved in as many medieval manuscripts as the Roman de Troie. None of the c. 60 surviving manuscripts and fragments, however, can be securely dated to the 12th c. The three earliest extant witnesses, listed as 'possible' 12th-c. productions by Woledge and Short (1981), suggest that the Troie was being read both within the Plantagenet domains and beyond at an early date: Basel UB N I 2 Nr 83 and Brussels KBR II 139 (2) are fragments deriving from the same Anglo-Norman manuscript; Paris Arsenal 3342 may have been produced in the zone between the Île-de-France, Normandy and Picardy; and Milan BA D 55 sup., finally, seems to have been copied in Venice from an Anglo-Norman exemplar, or by a scribe who was himself Anglo-Norman.

The Troie would continue to be copied in northern and eastern France until the late 14th c. A quarter or so of surviving manuscripts, however, were produced in Italy, mostly in the course of the 14th c. Few, if any, of these codices can be linked to the Angevin court in Naples; the known centres of production stretch instead across much of northern and central Italy. Two volumes produced in the same atelier in the 1330s (Paris BnF 782 and Vienna ÖNB 2571) can probably be localized to Padua. The only surviving paper manuscript (Florence Riccardiana 2433) was copied by the scribe Lucas Boni in Florence in 1344. One of the Italian manuscripts copied towards the end of the Trecento (Venice BNM fr. Z XVIII), finally, may have been made in Lombardy for the Gonzaga family of Mantua.

London BL Royal 20 D I, f. 41r (image courtesy of, public domain)It was in Italy, too, that a full-fledged pictorial cycle was developed to illustrate the Roman de Troie (Buchthal 1971). Though a handful of late-13th-c. French manuscripts preserve a programme of historiated initials, only the earliest (Paris BnF 1610), dated 1264, features a large number of stand-alone miniatures. The illustrations in deluxe Italian manuscripts, on the other hand, were much more numerous: the five illustrated manuscripts produced in Italy preserve more than 1450 miniatures, rather more than the 167 that survive in the six illustrated manuscripts made in France (Jung 1996, 39).

At over 30,000 verses in length, it is unsurprising that the Roman de Troie is usually found in single-text volumes. Where it is bound with other works, its companion texts most commonly include one or more of the romans antiques (e.g. Paris BnF 60). It is also found, particularly in northern French anthologies, alongside Arthurian material, especially Wace's Brut (e.g. Montpellier BIU H 251), the romances of Chrétien de Troyes (e.g. Paris BnF 375), or both (e.g. Paris BnF 794). Nottingham UL WLC LM 6, which may have been produced to mark the wedding of Béatrix de Gavre and the Breton Guy IX de Laval, is a particularly good example of a compilation that traces the passing of power from (Classical) East to (Celtic) West: the Troie, at the start of the volume (as it typically is), anchors Ille et Galeron, the Roman de Silence, and other matière de Bretagne in a cultural tradition that starts with the Trojan diaspora (Busby 2002, I:415-20). Among the more idiosyncratic volumes featuring the verse Troie is Paris BnF 903: Benoît's account of the Trojan War is here inserted into Jehan Malkaraume's Bible to produce a universal history of both the biblical and Classical worlds.

Though the French prose versions of Benoît's Roman de Troie are productions of the late 13th c. and early 14th c. (see: Textual tradition), few of the c. 35 manuscripts preserving these texts date from this period. One of the earliest volumes to transmit a prose Troie (Paris BnF 1612) has been tentatively linked to the Peloponnese, and another, preserving a unique mise en prose interpolated into a Grail Cycle (Cologny Bodmer 147), may have been copied in eastern or southern France. Most of the earlier prose witnesses, however, can be safely attached to northern Italy: the Estoire de Troie in Grenoble BM 861, for example, was copied in 1298 by Johannes de Stennis while he was incarcerated in Padua, and the same recension is present in Oxford Bodleian Douce 196, copied in Verona in 1323. The 15th-c. copies of prose versions of the Troie are single-text volumes (unless they form part of the Histoire ancienne), some of them handsomely illustrated. Unlike most of the earlier witnesses, they were made in France: Benoît's verse Roman de Troie may have fallen out of favour in France by the 15th c., but it found new audiences through its mises en prose.

To: Textual tradition.