Friday, 13 March 2009

The Manuscripts

In the 1880s, when Auguste Molinier[1] produced his edition of the Vita Ludovici, he had access to seven manuscripts that he designated A-G. Henri Waquet[2] in his 1929 edition of the text used an eighth manuscripts adding Manuscript H to Molinier’s seven. Since then, three additional manuscripts that contain copies of the Vita Ludovici, unknown to Waquet have come to light that can be lettered I-L. Of these manuscripts, eight (A, D, E, G, H, I and L) provide a complete text. Four manuscripts (B, C, J and K) are incomplete and only provide fragments of the text. Manuscript F is important in having a text that is significantly different and more detailed in some areas from the other manuscripts especially in relation to the events of 1124.

Manuscript A

Bibliothèque Mazarine: 2013, ancien 543; 266 folios in two columns

This volume consists of 266 leaves written in two columns containing a collection of narrative texts relating to the history of the Papacy and France (Liber Pontificalis, Historia ecclesiatica by Hugh de Fleury, extracts from Gregory of Tour, the Gesta Normannorum of William of Jumieges and fragments from the Chronicle of Adon de Vienne etc.) Molinier saw the manuscript as a sort of universal history since the birth of Christ formed by the juxtaposing of distinctive historical works and attributed it, if not to Suger himself then to his disciples.[3] He appears to base this conclusion, which he recognised was tenuous to Suger’s biographer William’s statement about Suger’s knowledge of and interest in history. The Vita Ludovici is to be found at the end of the manuscript from folio 232. Apart from glosses written during the thirteenth century, it is possible to distinguish the work of two hands. The first copied folios 1-231, probably compiled under the direction of Suger and worked between 1120, the year of Louis VII’s birth until the death of the young Philip in 1131 or at the latest the death of Louis VI in 1137.[4] The second was responsible for the final thirty-five leaves occupied by the work of Suger and worked around 1160-70.[5] The manuscript originated in the abbey of St-Denis[6] and Molinier argued that it was ‘perhaps’ regarded as a ‘first draft of Grandes chroniques de Saint-Denis’ and that the second copyist had access to Suger’s own copy of the Vita Ludovici.[7] This copy of the work of Suger is the oldest and best of the manuscripts and it is probable that all the other manuscripts derive from this work.

Manuscript B

Bibliothèque Nationale, 17546, ancien Notre-Dame 135; 39 folios in two columns; incomplete

This manuscript is structured very like Manuscript A but it is smaller consisting of thirty-nine leaves of which Suger’s text fills up the last twenty. The first part of the manuscript consists of a universal chronicle that stops in 1109 and is made up of passages borrowed from Adon de Vienne, Reginon de Prüm, Aimoin and his continuators. The Vita Ludovici is incomplete and ends in the middle of a sentence in chapter 26 with the words ‘scismaticum Burdinum’ on folio 39. The remainder of the manuscript existed in 1596 when Pithou used the manuscript but it appears to have been lost in the seventeenth century. [8]

The writing is the same throughout the manuscript and it was produced towards the end of the twelfth century. The scribe either used Manuscript A or, more probably a manuscript other than A but very close to it and since lost. He brought to the text some humorous corrections but he also made a significant number of omissions.

Manuscript C

Bibliothèque Nationale, 17657, ancien Notre-Dame 133; 163 folios in two columns; incomplete

This manuscript consists of material on Charlemagne (folios 1-16: Eginard and the Pseudo-Turpin) and events in the history of Normandy and England (folios 17-115: William of Malmesbury Gesta Anglorum and folios 120-158: William of Jumieges Gesta Normannorum). In addition, there are three fragments of the Vita Ludovici on folios 117-119.

· From ‘Guilelmus usui militia’ to ‘materiam’ covering the war between the young Louis and William Rufus and his death in 1100. [9]

· From ‘ad partes Normannorum’ to ‘ulterione’ covering the interview between Henry I and Louis VI at Neaufles. [10]

· From ‘de illustrem Antiochenum’ to ‘vitam amisit’covering the exploits of Bohemond. [11]

These fragments were probably copied in the 1160s. The final fragment of the Vita Ludovici is on folios 158-163 from ‘de venerande memorie’ to ‘stilum replicemus’[12] and examines the visit of Paschal II to France and the quarrel over investitures. This fragment was written by a different scribe after the Lateran Council of 1179.[13] He changed certain of Suger’s phrases and omitted certain words or groups of words.

There are undeniable parallels between Manuscripts C and D in their transcription of the Vita Ludovici. They derive from a common but lost source, similar to A and reproduced exactly in C but badly transcribed in D. The lost source was contemporaneous to Suger but was not his original text.

Manuscript D

Bibliothèque Nationale, 12710, ancien Saint-Germain; 89 folios

This is a very complex manuscript executed in relatively small script by at least nine scribes. The date and provenance are difficult to establish. Palaeographical evidence suggests a date at the end of the first half, or about the middle of the twelfth century. The manuscript gives the impression of a sort of commonplace-book containing a large variety of historiographical and hagiographical texts concerning the history of France. Saint-Denis has been suggested as the place of origins on the basis of its textual links to Manuscript A. However, documents relating to Dinant on folio 83 and a reference to a Liber Lobiensis on folio 32 suggest an origin in the diocese of Liège. In the sixteenth century, the book belonged to the monastery of Saint-Feuillien-du-Rœulx in Belgium and then passed to the library of Saint-German-des-Prés near Paris.

Many of the omissions in Manuscript C are also found in Manuscript D written after 1180. The Vita Ludovici is found in folios 12-25 and is transcribed in its entirety. As in Manuscript A, it forms part of a general history[14]. The scribe of Manuscript D knew Manuscript A and used it for several texts but did not utilise it for Suger’s text. He transcribed it poorly from an alternative manuscript, the same one used by the transcriber of Manuscript C. This is clear from the words and groups of words that are missing in both manuscripts.

Manuscript E

Bibliothèque Nationale, 5925, ancien Colbert 290

Manuscript E consists of dense collection of histories and chronicles concerning the kingdom of France down to 1223. It was produced in the middle of the thirteenth century and was one of the principal sources for the Chroniques françaises de Saint-Denis. The Vita Ludovici is on folios 199-232. Although it has closer links with Manuscript A than Manuscript B, it is arguably based on an intermediate manuscript since lost.

Manuscript F

Bibliothèque Nationale, 5949

Manuscript F exists in two versions. The original manuscript is in the Bibliothèque Mazarine 554, a parchment of 652 pages written for Charles V in the middle of the fourteenth century. There is an excellent copy made in the seventeenth century for André Duchesne. It is a collection of texts, made by a monk from St-Denis for a universal chronicle from 1057 to 1270 and consists of a partial copy of the Chronicle of William de Nangis (second redaction), Henry of Huntingdon Historia Anglorum, the Secreta fidelium of Marino Sanudo and the Vita Ludovici that reveals information found in no other manuscript.

Both Molinier[15] and Waquet[16] spend some time examining Manuscript F. Paul Viollet[17] argued, and Molinier supported this view in his preface that this redaction was produced by Suger himself after he had produced the original text. He argued that Suger had returned to his text and revised it as part of producing a new historical work that was interrupted by his death. Waquet was not convinced by their argument citing the work on O. Holder-Egger[18] who concluded that there was no evidence for a second redaction produced by Suger. Several of the passages cited by Molinier that seemed relevant to new circumstances in reality are little more than rather verbose developments of the original text. Even where there is something new, there is little reason to attribute them directly to Suger. O. Holder-Egger argues that the passage in the Vita Ludovici on the banner of St Denis could not have been the work of an individual living before the fourteenth century.

There may, however, be support for Viollet and Molinier’s view of Manuscript F from Linda Grant.[19] She argues that ‘it is difficult to believe that Suger was not using passages written as events happened; he must have started recording the deeds of the king many years before his subject’s death in 1137, with Louis’ blessing and cooperation.’ She bases this conclusion of the detailed nature of those parts of the text dealing with the early years of Louis’ life. Writing then stopped in the early 1130s, she argues and was taken up again after Louis’ death when Suger added the section on Louis’ lengthy final illness and revised the rest adding extra information, reflections and linking passages. She points to two occasions when ‘the seam shows’: for example, the end of chapter 1 marks the death of William Rufus but in the middle of chapter 16 is a paragraph beginning ‘Prefatus itaque rex Henricus, Guilelmo fratri deliciter succedens’, sections that succeed and complement one another. Whether her sequencing of the writing of Louis’ life is correct, the construction of the work over a long period of time with textual revisions and additions may well be how Suger wrote. If this was the case, then there could be an argument for a further revision in the late 1140s that supports Viollet’s thesis. Clearly, however, this revision was not available to the scribe of Manuscript A when he transcribed the Vita Ludovici in the 1160s and that I think poses a real problem because if it existed at that time at St-Denis why did he not use it? On balance, I am inclined to the view that Manuscript F is later and, in the absence of compelling evidence to support Viollet that the view of Holder-Egger that it originated in the fourteenth century in the reign of Charles V (born 1338; king 1364-1380) is the most likely explanation.


[1] Ibid, Molinier, Auguste, (ed.), Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, pp. xvii-xxii.

[2] Ibid, Waquet, Henri, (ed.), Vie de Louis VI le Gros, pp. xvii-xxiv.

[3] Ibid, Molinier, Auguste, (ed.), Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, p. xvii, xviii cit, ibid, Lecoy de la Marche, A., (ed.), Oeuvres completes de Suger, recueilles, annotées er publiées d’après les manuscrits, pp. 382.

[4] Lair, Jules, ‘Memoire sur deux chroniques latines composées au XIIe siecle a l’abbaye de Saint-Denis’, Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Chartres, vol. xxxv, (1874), pp. 543-570 argued on p. 570 that the list of French kings that ended with the words ‘Ludovicus rex genuit Phillippum, Ludovicum et Henricum’ on folio 222 that it was not produced before 1131.

[5] Viollet, Paul, ‘Une grand chronique latine de Saint-Denis: observations pour server à l’histoire des oeuvres de Suger’, Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Chartres, vol. xxxiv, (1873), pp. 241-254 argued that the final folios could not have been copied before 1162.

[6] For historical writing at St-Denis, see Spiegel, Gabrielle M., The Chronicle Tradition of Saint-Denis: a Survey, Brookline, Mass., 1978.

[7] Ibid, Molinier, Auguste, (ed.), Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, pp. xvii-xviii.

[8] Pithou, P., Historia Francorum scriptores, vol. xi, Frankfort, 1596, pp. 95-135.

[9] Ibid, Waquet, Henri, (ed.), Vie de Louis VI le Gros, p. 6 (lines 20-21) to p. 14 (line 4).

[10] Ibid, p. 98 (line 1) to p. 112 (line 8).

[11] Ibid, p. 44 (line 1) to p. 50 (line 8).

[12] Ibid, p. 50 (line 10) to p. 68 (line 18).

[13] In the title of this chapter, written in the same hand as the other fragments, it says ‘De nostri temporis concilio a papa Alexandro III Rome celebrato’. This dates it to shortly after 1179.

[14] Lair, Jules, ‘Memoire sur deux chroniques latines composées au XIIe siecle a l’abbaye de Saint-Denis’, Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Chartres, vol. xxxv, (1874), pp. 543-570 showed it was a collection of copies and extracts drawn together by a French historian in order to compose a chronicle of the kings of France.

[15] Ibid, Molinier, Auguste, (ed.), Vie de Louis le Gros par Suger, pp. xxii-xxviii and 133-164

[16] Ibid, Waquet, Henri, (ed.), Vie de Louis VI le Gros, pp. xxii-xxiv

[17] Viollet, Paul, ‘Une grand chronique latine de Saint-Denis: observations pour server à l’histoire des oeuvres de Suger’, Bibliothèque de l’Ecole des Chartres, vol. xxxiv, (1873), pp. 241-254. Luchaire, Achille supported his thesis in ‘Une trés ancienne histoire de France. La compilation du manuscript latin 5949 A’, Revue historique, vol. xxxiv, (1887), pp. 259-276.

[18] Holder-Egger, O., ‘Zu Sugers Vita Ludowici VII regis’, Neues Archic der Gesellschaft für altere deutsche Geschintkunde, vol. ccvii, (1901), pp. 186-197.

[19] Grant, Linda, Abbot Suger of St-Denis: Church and State in Early Twelfth-Century France, London, 1998, pp. 38-42.

No comments: