Category Archives: #MedRen


Tweeting images from medieval manuscripts: my practice

Besides the picture and my caption, there are types of information I include in my tweets of medieval manuscript images; in particular, there are collection references, and there is descriptive information. Here are some thoughts on which information I include in my picture tweets, and why.

Collection references

These are crucial, and for so many reasons. First of all, it is a matter of courtesy: collections care for their materials, and digitize them, at great expense. They then give them away for free for me and you to reuse as we like. A little hat tip, I always feel, is the least I owe them. Secondly, it is a way for people to follow up where you got the picture from; if I can entice one person to browse through a manuscript online, my job is done. Thirdly, it is a way for myself to be able to find things back when I want to, sometimes at a much later date. Fourthly, there is this: it’s history, not a viral feed! Finally, I don’t begrudge angels their slice of pizza.

Collection references can come in many forms. Over time, I have developed the following practice – this is my current personal practice, but I don’t suggest it is best practice, and I am open to suggestions for what I could do better. Some of the choices come down to a balance between being thorough and making appealing picture tweets within the character limit. That said, because of all of the above, I personally feel there is never a reason not to include a collection reference which outweighs all the reasons there are to include it.

So, at a minimum, I include, on the picture itself, a collection reference and shelfmark, often abbreviated, but enough to make it clear. So, for example, ‘Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Français 2664’ can become ‘BnF Français 2664’, or anywhere in between the two – enough to identify the manuscript, even if not a proper full shelfmark. I prioritise this reference over all other references because it has been my experience that people take images (and tweets) and recirculate them, stripping them of any reference information you have included in the tweet. So, you may have included a link and collection reference, but the image starts circulating without the information (but with the joke you made!) regardless. I hope that including the shelfmark on the image makes it a little less likely for the collection reference to get lost. I use a simple image editor (Mac Preview) to add the reference.

Additionally, if nothing else, I always tag the collection’s twitter handle to the picture, if they have one. That way people can follow up, and the collection can see what is being done with their material.

In many cases, I also include the collection handle, the shelfmark reference, and regularly also a link to the digitized version. If I do the latter, however, I don’t do it specifically so people can admire the detail I have tweeted – I have, after all, already tweeted that; I do it in the hope that someone will take the time to browse through the manuscript. So, to make that a little more likely, I link to the whole work, not to the page view. This is also a reason why I don’t include a folio number in my references: except when a tweet has specific scholarly purposes that require one, I feel the collection/shelfmark suffices.

Sometimes, however, tweets can start to feel clunky when they include too much information; a simple collection/shelfmark reference, in my experience, is rarely ugly, but also including a link can sometimes make the metadata overbearing. For that reason, I regularly omit the link, although I still feel best practice is to include links. Also, I feel bad for the angels, whom I’m depriving of pizza.

Descriptive information

Besides collection references, I have a little while back started to include a further type of metadata: descriptive information. This is a functionality twitter has introduced not so long ago, which you can use to make your picture tweets more accessible for people who are visual impaired. It is only readable via dedicated assistive technology. You can learn here how to turn on this functionality. I hope it is useful to people who access my tweets through assistive technology, and have once done a twitter poll which suggested it was indeed useful to some. I do not know, however, whether the descriptions that I give are any good, and would be very grateful for any feedback any users could give me.

So, this is my personal practice at the moment – it is very much subject to change, as twitter slackens its character allowance, and as I meet new issues, or am persuaded to improve. What is your practice, and why? And, as a reader of my tweets, what more (or less) would you appreciate to see me include?

P.S. One note on what I really appreciate from other picture tweeters: answering queries. It is the hallmark of a caring tweeter, versus the medievalreacts of this world.

Addition, 13 December 2016: Today, the Facebook Middle Ages group ‘British Medieval History’ shared a post which included my find of a little illustration I had come across in the margin of a digitized manuscript from the Bourg-en-Bresse Bibliothèque municipale (MS 7). The illustration had reminded me of the tauntauns from Star Wars, and I had tweeted it with a still from the movie:

In this particular case, I had prioritised the images and my comment, and not included the collection reference and shelfmark in the tweet. I had, however, included it on the image itself (which, as I describe in the post above, is my minimum). I had been unable to find the Bourg-en-Bresse library on twitter, so could not include their twitter handle. I had, however, done quick twitter and google searches to see if anyone before me had identified the image as Star Wars-related (as far as I could verify, no one had); you can check #MedievalStarWars on twitter to see other examples of medieval illustrations that appear to show Lucas’ work.

A user named Dave Pilling added an earlier mockup of the ‘medieval Yoda’ with actual Yoda, and said he had ‘stumbled across a new one’ (meaning the tauntaun I had found and identified), posting it to the ‘British Medieval History’ Facebook page:


The Group admins then posted on twitter, saying ‘now I’ve found this’:


Of course, they hadn’t found anything – I had shown it to them, in my tweet. They have now unreservedly apologised and added an acknowledgement. But the affair confirmed one important thing: adding the collection reference and shelfmark to the image itself (rather than only mentioning it in my tweet) makes it more likely to be retained when people reappropriate images you’ve tweeted; my find may not initially have been acknowledged, but the reference was still there, on the image of the medieval manuscript tauntaun I found:



Filed under #MedRen

The Peasants’ Revolt in England (1381) in Dutch (c.1520)

My book (available for a very reasonable prize here; there’s a preview of the final chapter here) took as its starting point two chronicles of Holland, written (in Dutch) by an author called Jan van Naaldwijk in the first quarter of the sixteenth century. His chronicles are now kept in the Cotton collection of the British Library.

My study threw up some interesting bits of information for the study of Anglo-Dutch contacts in the late Middle Ages and the early modern period. Some of that, in particular the interest in Arthurian literature by authors from Holland, I’ve written on elsewhere, but there is one passage which I thought would be nice to share with you here. I mention it in my book, where you can find further references for what I will write here.

The passage I am sharing with you below is Jan van Naaldwijk’s account of the Peasants’ Revolt in England (1381). It is a slightly adapted translation of Jean Froissart’s account of the revolt, which was written in the late 1380s. Jan’s narrative is one of only two known pre-modern accounts in Dutch of the revolt (the other is in Universiteitsbibliotheek Leiden, BPL 3 I, Gerrit Potter van der Loo’s translation of Froissart from the first half of the fifteenth century).

Jan’s inclusion of the Peasants’ Revolt in a chronicle of Holland may seem odd, but is in keeping with his keen interest in rebellion and heresy, as well as his penchant for exciting narrative. I will say more about his reasons for including the episode in a forthcoming article. While making only the smallest of omissions, Jan inserts one significant addition, illustrating his fondness for exemplary narrative. Froissart explained how the rebellious peasants had purchased uniforms, but had not paid their bill:

‘With that, a tailor named John Tickle came, who had brought 40 doublets with which some of these brigands were dressed, who said to the tiler: ‘Sir, who will satisfy me for my doublets? I’m owed as much as 30 marks.’ ‘Be content,’ Wat said, ‘you will be paid today still. Rely on me, I will be enough of a security for you.’’

The bill, however, remained unpaid, and the leaders of the revolt were captured and killed:

‘Jack Straw and John Ball were found hiding in a derelict house, and thought they could hide forever and escape; but they could not, because they were brought down and captured by their own people. The king and his men were very pleased by capturing them, and they were decapitated, as was the dead body of the tiler.’

Jan then adds his own aside, making explicit the implicit irony in Froissart’s account: ‘After his death, who would give the tailor his money, which he had guaranteed?’ While the sentence may have come from Jan’s exemplar, it surely is in character. He would, no doubt, have felt a certain satisfaction that he was able to improve on Froissart’s narrative skills.

A final interesting detail connected to this passage in Jan’s chronicle is a note, written in an early seventeenth-century hand, in the margin at the beginning of the narrative: ‘1387 Rebellion in England in kings Richart ij’. A couple of pages on, we find another note: ‘The hoole rebellion described to king Richart ij’. The notes were written by a former owner of the book, Emanuel van Meteren, who was responsible for bringing the manuscript to England. Van Meteren was a Dutch resident in London (he was originally from Antwerp), and there are a couple more notes from his hand throughout the manuscript, but most of these are in Dutch. It is fascinating to me to see that when Jan van Naaldwijk turned to an English subject, his Anglo-Dutch reader Emanuel van Meteren followed suit.

The following is a transcription and an English translation of a passage from British Library, MS Cotton Tiberius C iv, Jan van Naaldwijk’s second chronicle of Holland. It is his translation (and adaptation) of a passage from Froissart, about the Peasants’ Revolt in England of 1381.

Please note that I produced the English translation as a very rough aid into the text for my PhD supervisor; it may have some inaccuracies, and was meant merely to convey the information of the original, with all the quirks of late Middle Dutch prose.

¶ Item Int jaer ons heren M ccc ende lxxxvij soe verhieuen hem die ghemeijnte van enghelant teghen die heren Welcke rebelheijt quam doer een priester wt het graefscap van kent ghenoemt heer johan balle dije tottet lant volck plach te segghen als sij des sonnendachs quamen wtter kercken ende hadden misse ghehoert Ghij goede luijden die saecken en moghen nijet wel gaen in enghelant noch soe en sullen sij oeck ter tijt toe dat wij een luijden sijn ende men nijet en weet van kaerl noch van eel man ende dat die heren nijet meerre en sijn dan wij Waer mede hebben sijt verdijent ende waer om houwen sij ons in eijghenscap wij sijn al ghecomen van een vader ende moeder adam ende eua waer mede sullen sijt bewijzen dat sij meerre ende beter sijn dan wij dan alleen dat sij ons houwen ghelijck hoer eijghen slauen, ende sij doen <+ons> winnen ende be[fol. 161r; ‘C lvi’]arbeijen dat sij verteren sij sijn ghecleet met zijde ende fluweel ghebont ende ghegraut ende wij gaen bij na naect ende zeer armelicken ghecleet, sij eten zeer leckerlicken ende wij en konnen nauwelic den buijck volcrigen, sij wonen in heerlicken huijsen ende slapen op scone sachte bedden ende wij legghen int stro ende somtijts in den reghen ende wint, ende tmoet van ons comen ende van onsen arbeijt daer sij hoer staet op houwen Wij warden knechten ghenoemt ende slauen ende en doen wij hoeren dijenst ende arbeijt nijet wel soe warden wij gheslagen ende wij en wetent nijemant te claghen die ons soude willen hoeren ende recht doen Laet ons gaen totten coninck hij is jonck ende tonen hem onse verworpenheijt ende segghen hem dat wij willen dattet anders sij off wij sullen daer teghens remedij vinden Ende jndijen wij al ghelijck tzamen gaen alle luijden die hijer in den landen voer eijghen slauen ghehouwen warden sullen ons volghen om ghevrijt ende ontlast te warden want sij te zeer subiect ende in eijghenscap ghehouwen warden ende dijer isser zeer voel in deze contreij als int lant ende graefscap van brendepeste int graefscap van souxcestre ende van bethfort met voel andere landen ende heerlicheijen ende deze moeten al doen dat hoer meesters willen ende sijn alzoe eijghen als ezels ende andere beesten int beghinzel des werlts en pleghen daer gheen eijghen luijden te zijn ende daer en hoert oeck nijemant eijghen te sijn dan den ghenen die sijn heer ende meester verraden heeft Als ons dan die coninck al ghelijck sijet sullen wij wel lichtelic doer ontsich tot ons meninghe comen In the year of our Lord 1387 [sic] the commons of England rose up against the lords, which rebellion was caused by a priest from the county of Kent named Sir John Ball, who used to say to the peasants, when on Sundays they came out of the church and had heard mass: ‘You good people, things can’t go well in England, nor will they, until the time that we are one people, and people do not think of churl nor of nobleman, and that the lords are not more than we. What did they earn that with, and why do they hold us in serfdom? We all came from one father and mother, Adam and Eve. With what will they prove that they are more and better than we, than only that they hold us like their own slaves, and they make us gather and labour what they devour? They are clothed with silk and velvet, dressed in brown and grey fur, and we go almost naked and clothed very poorly; they eat very well and we can hardly fill our stomach; they live in lordly houses and sleep on clean, soft beds and we lie on straw and sometimes in rain and wind; and the means with which they sustain their living conditions have to come from us and from our labour. We are being called servants and slaves and when we don’t do their service and work well then we are beaten and we don’t know anyone to complain about it to who would be ready to hear us and do us justice. Let us go to the king. He is young and if we show him our contempt in which we are held, and tell him that we want it to be different, we will find a remedy against it. And if we all go together as one, all the people who are being held as bound slaves here in the country will follow us to be freed and released, because they are being held too subserviently and enslaved, and of them there are very many in this country, as in the land and county of Brendpest, in the county of Sussex, and of Bedford, with many other lands and lordships and they all have to do what their masters want and are subordinated like donkeys and other beasts. In the beginning of the world there used to be no serfs, and except for the one who has betrayed his lord and master no one should be in bondage. So if then the king sees us all together, through awe we will easily reach our aim.’
Dezer ende ghelijcker woerden sprac heer jan balle tot die ghemeijnte ende lantluijden zeer dicwijls als sij des heijlighen dages wtter kercken quamen, ende na huijs kerende seijden sij opten wech teghens malkanderen heer jan balle seijt die waerheijt wij willen ons daer in versijen These, and more such words Sir John Ball very often spoke to the commoners and the peasants when they left the church on Sundays. And returning home, on the way they said to each other: ‘Sir John Ball tells the truth, we want to do something about it.’
Die aertsbiscop van cantelberch heeft dezen paep hijer om tot iij reijsen toe doen vanghen ende dede hem iij off iiij [fol. 161v] maenden lang in een karcker legghen ende water ende broet eten mer thadt beter gheweest dat hij hem ghedoot hadde off in die ewighe karcker ghehouwen mer sijn consciencij vreesde hem te doen doden Want alzoe haest als heer jan balle wt die karcker was keerde hij weder tot die dwalinghe ende informaci als te voren Van zijn woerden ende wercken warden gheinformeert voel luijden binnen lonnen die haet ende nijt hadden op die edelen ende rijcken die welc dat seijden dat enghelant zeer qualicken gheregijert wart ende dattet beroeft was <+van> gout ende siluer doer den ghenen die hem edel noemden Ende dit ongheuallighe volck began vergaderinghe te maken ende te rebelleren ende sij ontboden het lant volc ende ghemeijnte van steden ende dorpen die nijet voel te verlijezen en hadden als wt die graefscappen van kent van bethfort van betefonde van sexes ende andere landen daer omtrent ghelegen dat sij vrilicken te lonnen comen souden ende dat sij al hoer volck ende vergaderinghe met hem brenghen souden die stat van lonnen souden sij open vinden ende die ghemeijnte tot hoeren wil ende hulp ende sij souden soe wel doen bij den coninck datter gheen huijsman noch eijgen slaeff meer in enghelant en soude sijn Ende doer deze gheloftenisse ende doer toestokinghe van heren jan balle sijn deze huijsluij lantluij ghemeijnte ende slauen van die landen ende graefscappen voerscreuen bij een versaemt ende andere contreijen ende namen hoeren wech ghelijckelicken na lonnen dije hooftstat van enghelant ende sij waren wel lx.M starc ende hoer princepael cappeteijn hijete wouter tegheldecker ende met hem waren noch ij cappeteijnen als jacob strau ende johan balle Dit ongheuallighe katiuighe volck quam eerst te cantelberch daer sij vruntlic van die van binnen ontfanghen warden want die ghehele stede was van hoerre accoerdt ende meninghe sij bedreuen zeer voel ghewelts in die kerck ende jn des aertbiscops kamer die sij beroefden soe deden sij oeck die abdij van sinte vincent Hijer na quamen sij te rocestre daer sij oeck vruntlic ontfanghen warden van die van binnen [fol. 162r; ‘C lvij’] want sij oeck van hoer luij meninghe ende opinij waren Hijer na namen sij den ridder met hem die een bewaerder was vant casteel ende van die stede die ghenoemt was heer jan mouton ende sij seijden hem dat hij met hem luijden moste gaen ende wezen hoer cappeteijn off sij wouden hem doot slaen waerom hij teghen zijnen danck met hem luijden op weghe scloegh ende alzoe deden oeck mer met hoeren will die van cantelberch ende die van rocestre ende alle die luijden die sij in steden ende dorpen onder weghe vonden Sij deden met ghewelt met hem gaen alle die edelen die sij betrapen ende crighen konden als een groet baroen die heer van moijlaijs heer steuen van halles ende heer thomas van gwisingen Als dan dit volck te rocestre ghedaen hadden daer sij daer om ghecomen waren scheijden sij van daen ende passeerden die riuijer ende quamen te branforde The archbishop of Canterbury has three times had this priest caught, and had him put in a dungeon for three or four months, and eat water and bread, but it had been better if he had killed him or held him in the eternal dungeon, but his conscience feared to kill him. Because as soon as sir John Ball was out of the dungeon, he returned to that error and declaration as before. Many people inside London were informed of his words and works, who hated and envied the nobility and the rich, and said that England was governed very badly and that it was robbed of gold and silver by those who called themselves noble. And these dreadful people started to hold meetings and to rebel, and they invited the peasants and the commoners of cities and villages who did not have much to lose, such as from the counties of Kent, of Bedford, of Betefonde [?], of Sexes [i.e. Sussex and Wessex?], and other surrounding areas, to independently come to London, and that they would take all their people and community with them. They would find the city of London open and the commoners approving and obliging, and they would do so well with the king that no peasant would be bound slave [or: that there will be no peasant or bound slave] anymore in England. And because of this promise and incitement of sir John Ball, these farmers, peasants, commoners and slaves of those aforementioned lands and counties gathered together with other regions, and they took their ways together towards London, the capital of England. And they were as much as 60.000 strong, and their principal captain was called Wat Tyler and with him there were another two captains, namely Jack Straw and John Ball. These disastrous, dreadful people first came to Canterbury, where they were warmly received by those inside, because the whole city was in agreement with them and of the same opinion. They perpetrated very much violence in the church and in the room [or: treasury] of the archbishop, which they raided. The same they did with the abbey of Saint Vincent. After this they came to Rochester, where they were also received amicably by those from inside, because they were also of their view and opinion. After this they took the knight with them who was a guardian of the castle and of the city, who was called sir John Mouton [i.e., Newton], and they told him that he had to come with them and be their captain, or they would strike him dead, because of which he unwillingly went on the way with them, and thus also did others willingly; those from Canterbury, and those of Rochester, and all the people who they found in cities and villages on their way. They forcibly made all the noblemen who they caught and were able to get come with them, like a great baron who was called sir Moijlaijs [i.e., Morlais/Morley], sir Stephen Hales, and sir Thomas of Gwisingen [i.e., Cosington]. When these people had done at Rochester what they had come for to do there, they departed from there and crossed the river and came to Branford [Dartford?].
Soude jc v vertellen alt ghewelt dat sij hijer ende daer op den wech bedreuen van huijsen ende sloten om te worpen van luijden te doden jc soude te voel te doen hebben ende sij namen dien nacht hoer logijs op een ghebercht ghenoemt blancquehede leggende iiij mijlen van lonnen Ende van daen sonden sij heren johan mouton totten coninc van enghelant dat hij hem segghen soude ende begheren van hoer luij weghen dat hij comen woude op den berch van blancquehede om met hem luijden te spreken sij en souden hem nijet mesdoen mer sij souden hem hoer saken te kennen gheuen waer<+om> sij daer bij een ghecomen ende vergadert waren welcke boetscap heer jan dede al wast teghens zijn wille ende die coninck beloefde daer te comen Van welcke antwoert sij zeer wel te vreden waren Ende des anderen daechs wast heijlich sacraments dach ende na dat die coninck ritzaert misse hadde ghehoert binnen den toern van lonnen ende sijn heren met hem ghinck hij in een barck met den graeff   van salberij den graeff van warwijck die graeff van suffort met oeck sommighe ridderen ende hij dede roijen na den berch ende als hem dit katiuighe volck ghewaer [fol. 162v] wart traden hoerre wel x.M van den berch ende begonnen soe lelicken te roepen ende te criten al hadden sij vol duuelen gheweest Als die coninck met sijn scip hem luijden ghenaecte seijde hij Wat wilt ghij jc bin hijer ghecomen om met v luij te spreken Sij antwoerden hem ghelijckelicken die hem verstonden wij willen dat ghij opt lant coemt ende dan sullen wij v onze ghebreken te kennen gheuen Mettijen gaff die graeff van salberij antwoert voer den coninck ende hij sijde Heren ghij en sijt nijet ghestelt noch gheordineert dat die coninck bij <-h> v hoert te comen ende mettijen keerde dije coninck weder naet casteel van lonnen daer hij van ghecomen was Waer van dit katiuighe volck zeer verstoert was ende sij namen van stonden an hoeren wech na lonnen ende want hem die poerten voert hooft toe ghesloten warden deden sij voel ghewelts ende quaets in die voersteden ende sij dreijchden die stede met cracht te winnen ende te verbranden Waerom sij in ghelaten warden Soude jc v verhalen alt ghewelt dat sij daer bedreuen het soude den sommighen bij na ongheloeflic duncken Die cappeteijnen namen hoeren wech met xx.M man naet hoff van sauoijen welcke huijs leijt op die teems een scoen riuijer lopende doer lonnen toe behoerende den hartoch van lancaster daer sij die bewaerders in doot sloeghen ende hebbent ghehelicken met den vuijere vernijelt, sij verbranden oeck een scoen cloester ende huijs toebehoerende sint jans heren van rodes, sij sloeghen doot alle die vlaminghen ende duijtschen, ende sij bedreuen oeck zeer voel ghewelts in sommighe lomberts huijsen ende beroefden die na hoer belijefte want nijemant en dorst daer ijet teghens doen Sij deden oeck onthoefden een rijck man ghenoemt ritzaert lew If I would tell of all the violence which they perpetrated here and there on the way, of knocking over houses and castles, of killing people, I would have too much to do, and that night they took their lodgings on a mountain called Blackheath, lying four miles from London. And from there they sent sir John Mouton to the king of England, that he would tell him and demand on their account that he would come to the mountain of Blackheath to speak with them. They would not mistreat him, but they would convey him why they had come together and gathered there, which message sir Jan brought, although it was against his will, and the king promised to come there, of which response they were very well contented. And the next day it was Holy Sacrament’s Day, and after king Richard had heard mass inside the tower of London, and his lords with him, he entered a small boat with the count of Salisbury, the count of Warwick, the count of Sufford [Oxford?] with also some knights, and he ordered to row to the mountain, and when this dreadful people perceived him, certainly 10.000 of them came down from the mountain and started shouting and crying as hideously as if they were full of devils. When the king approached them with his boat, he said: ‘What do you want? I have come here to speak with you people.’ They answered him likewise, those who understood him: ‘we want that you come on the shore, and then we will convey you our needs.’ With that, the count of Salisbury replied for the king, and he said: ‘Sirs, you are not in the position, and it is not appropriate for you, that the king should come to you.’ And with that, the king returned to the castle of London, from which he had come. Of which this disastrous people was very disturbed, and they immediately took their way towards London, and because the gates were closed in their faces, they perpetrated much violence and evil in the suburbs, and they threatened to capture the city by force and to burn it, because of which they were let in. Would I tell you all the violence that they perpetrated there it would seem almost unbelievable to some. The captains, with 20.000 men, set out towards the court of the Savoy, which castle lies on the Thames, a beautiful river running through London, and which belongs to the duke of Lancaster, where they killed the guards and laid complete waste to it by fire. They also burned a beautiful monastery and house belonging to the Knights of St John of Rhodes, they killed all the Flemings and Germans [or: Dutch], and perpetrated very much violence in some Lombard’s [or: usurer’s] houses and robbed them at will, because nobody dared to do anything against it. They also had a rich man called Richard Lyon decapitated.
Als den auont quam namen sij hoer logijs alghelijck in een pleck ghenoemt sinte katherinen plaets voer den toern ende casteel van lonnen ende sij seijden dat sij nijmmermeer van daen scheijen en wouden Sij en [fol. 163r; ‘C lviij’] souden den coninck hebben tot hoeren will ende doen dat sij souden begheren sij wouden rekeninghe hebben van den cancellijer ende weten waer tghelt ghebleuen waer dat hij vant ghehele rijck ende lant gheboert hadde ende en wist hij gheen goede rekeninghe te doen soe wouden sij met hem spoelen, ende alle dijen nacht ouerbrachten sij met zeer quaet ghelaet van roepen tijeren ende criten alzoe dattet scheen off alle die duuelen van der hellen bij hem luijden hadde gheweest Ghij moecht wel dencken dat die coninck nijet al sonder vrezen en was metten ghenen die bij hem waren Ende die coninck vant in zijnen raet dijen nacht dat hij die kaerls beuechten woude als sij souden sclapen mer hij wart na anders bedacht vrezende voert quaetste When the evening came they all together took lodgings at a place called St Katherine’s place in opposite the tower and castle of London and they said that they would never anymore depart from there. They would have the king at their will, and do what pleased them. They wanted to have an account from the chancellor and know where the money had gone that he had levied from the whole kingdom and country, and if he would not account properly they would have their way [?] with him. That whole night they spent with angry countenances from shouting, ranting and crying, so it seemed as if all the devils of hell were among them. You would think that the king and those who were with him weren’t all free from fear. And the king determined in his council that night that he would fight the churls during their sleep, but afterwards he changed his mind, fearing the worst.
Als den dach zeer scoen ende ghenoechlic quam began dit verwoede volck te ropen jn dijen die coninck nijet en quam met hem luijden spreken sij soudent casteel met crachten winnen ende al doden dat daer binnen was Waerom die coninck wt quam ende sprac met dit volck segghende, goede luijden jc bin v coninck ende heer wat ontbreect v wat wilt ghij segghen Die ghene die hem hoorden ende verstonden rijepen wij willen dat ghij ons vrij ende eel maect ende al dat van ons comen sal ten ewighen daghen ende onze landen, dat wij voert dan nijet meer sclauen kaerls noch knapen en sullen warden ghenoemt noch ghehouwen Ic consenteer v dat seijde die coninck ende keert weder in v dorpen ende huijsen steden ende woninghen alzoe als ghij hijer ghecomen sijt Ende laet <-hj> hijer doer v luij bliuen wt elcke dorp iij off iiij parzonen die jc gheuen ende leueren sal brieuen wel bezeghelt met mijn zeghel van alt gheen dat ghij eijschende sijt ende begheert ende jc sal v oeck doen hebben in elcke amptscap ende heerlicheijt mijn bannijeren Deze woerden behaechden zeer wel het simpele volck die daer onwetende ghecomen waren ende den hoop waren ghevolcht ende seijden This zeer wel [fol. 163v] ghezeijt wij en begheren nijet beters, ende sij begonnen te aerselen ende te keren binnen lonnen When the day came beautifully and pleasantly this angry mob started shouting that if the king would not come and speak to them they would capture the castle by force and kill everyone inside. Therefore the king came out and spoke to this crowd saying: ‘dear people, I am your king and lord, what lacks you? What do you want to say?’ Those who heard and understood him shouted: ‘We want you to make us free and noble, and all that forever will come from us and our lands, that from now on we will not anymore be called or held as slaves, serfs and servants.’ ‘I consent you that,’ the king said, ‘and return to your villages and houses, places and homes the ways you have come here. And let from you from every village three or four people stay here, who I will give and supply with sealed letters with my seal from all the things you demand and desire and I will also let you have my banners in every district and domain.’ These words pleased well the simple people who had come there ignorantly, and had followed the crowd, and they said: ‘It’s very well said, we don’t desire anything better.’ And they started to retreat and to turn into London.
¶ Tewijl dat die coninc dan spraeck hijelt met dit volck soe lijepen die iij cappeteijnen voerscreuen als wouter tegheldecker jacob strau ende jan balle met wel iiij.c kaerls ende katiuen int casteel van lonnen daer sij met ghewelt in quamen ende lijepen van kamer te kamer ende sij wonden den aertsbiscop van cantelberch cancellijer van enghelant sijmon ghenoemt een vroem cloeck man ende hadt dijen dach misse ghedaen voer den coninck Hij wart van deze scuijmers an ghetast ende onthooft ende dat selfde wart oeck ghedaen den groten prioer van sint jans heren, ende een minre broeder doctoer in medecijnen ende was een dijenre ende vant ghesin des hartochs van lancaster ende hij wart onthooft int spijt van sijn meester ende noch een vroem sariant ghenoemt jan laige Ende hoer iiij hoefden warden ghesteken op langhe glauijen ende sij dedenze voer hem draghen doer die straten van lonnen ende na dat zijze spijts ghenoech an ghedaen hadden ende mede ghegect stelden sijze op die grote brugghe van lonnen ghelijck offt verraders hadden gheweest teghens den coninck ende sijn rijck Deze scuijmers ende stinckers ghinghen oeck in der princessen camer des conincks moeder ende sij doerhieuwen ende vernijelden hoer bedt waer van sij alzoe zeer vervaert wart dat sij bezwijmde ende sij wart van hoer knapen ende joffrouwen ghedragen in een scip ende bedect ghebracht in een ander ghenoechlicke woninghe ghenoemt der coninghinne waerdorp daer hijelt sij hoer dijen dach ende nacht halff doot wezende van anxst ende vervaernisse While the king held conversation with these people, the three captains – Wat Tyler, Jack Straw and John Balle – walked into the castle of London with at least 400 serfs and scoundrels, from room to room, and they found the archbishop of Canterbury, chancellor of England, named Simon, a devout, wise man, who had said mass for the king that day. He was assaulted by these brigands and decapitated, and the same was done to the great prior of the Knights of St John, and to a friar minor, doctor of medicine, who was a servant of the household of the duke of Lancaster, and he was decapitated to offend his master, and another sergeant called John Laige [Legge]. And their four heads were placed on long lances, and they had them carried ahead of them through the streets of London and after they had insulted them enough and fooled around with them they displayed them on the great bridge of London, as if they had been traitors against the king and his kingdom. These brigands and stinkers also went into the princess’s room, the king mother, and they chopped through and destroyed her bed, of which she was very much dismayed, so that she swooned and she was carried by her servants and maids into a ship and brought, under cover in another comfortable home, named the Queen’s Waerdorp [litt: True Village – while ‘Wardrobe’ occurs in Middle Dutch], where she kept herself that day and night, half dead from fear and dread.
¶ Ende die coninck na dat hij van dit ghebuijst was ghesceijen stelde hij op deze vridach xxx clercken ende scriuers te werck die al hoer macht brieuen screuen ende bezeghelden die sij dit verwoede volck gauen die daer mede keerden in hoer landen ende contreij Mer het meeste venijn bleeff te lonnen dat was wouter tegheldecker ende was [fol. 164r; ‘C lix’] een teghel decker een quaet truant ende scuijmer met jacob strau ende johan balle daer oeck nijet voel an en hinck deze seijden al wast volc eens deels te vreden ghestelt sij en wouden alzoe nijet scheijen ende hadden wel xxx.M man van hoer accoerdt ende meninghe Deze en waren nijet zeer naerstich om des conincks brieuen te hebben mer hoer meninghe was om die rijcken van lonnen te doden ende die stat te pilgeren Daer die van lonnen wel voer in vrezen waren waerom sij hem versijen hijelden in hoer huijzen al ghewapent met hoer vrunden ende knapen Alle die rebellen en waren noch nijet ghecomen binnen lonnen mer waren op comende weech want die sommighe quamen wel van lxxx, van lx, van xl mijlen weechs verde als die van arondel van gwillenoerde, van karquefiere, van souxezes, van dacquesuffort, van corontije, van lune, van stanfort, van germenije, van hucolle ijroth, van redinges, van warwijck ende van durames ende van dit gheselscap waren cappeteijnen valkijor ende enen ghenoemt listijer Welcke katiuen als sij quamen voer norduich ontboden sij bij hem den bewaerder ende cappeteijn van die stede van norduich Bij hem luijden comende seijden sij. Heer robbert salle treet van v paert ende coemt met ons spreken het dwelc hij zeer dwaeslicken doer vreze volbrachte, ende als hij van den paerde was ende sij hem eer ende reuerencije hadden ghedaen omsinghelden sij hem And the king, after he had left this rabble, on this Friday set thirty clerks and writers to work who with all their powers wrote letters and sealed them, which they gave these deranged people who turned back to their lands and country with these. But the worst venom stayed at London, which was Wat Tyler, who was a tiler, an evil tramp and brigand, with Jack Straw and John Balle, who also wasn’t worth much [?]; these said while the people for a part had been satisfied, they did not want to depart this way, and they had at least 30.000 men of their accord and opinion. These weren’t eager to have the king’s letters, but their intent was to kill the rich of London, and pillage the city. This those of London dreaded, wherefore they kept themselves hidden, armed, with their friends and servants. All the rebels had not come yet inside London, but were approaching, because some of them came from 80, 60, 40 miles away, as those from Arundel, from Guildford, from Karquefiere [Berkshire], from Sussex, from Dacquesuffort [Oxford?], from Corontije [Coventry?], from Lynn, from Stanfort [Stafford], from Germenye [Great Yarmouth?], from Lincoln, York, from Reading, from Warwick and from Durham, and of this company the captains were Valkijor [Bakier] and one called Litster. Which scoundrels, when they came before Norwich, summoned before them the steward and captain of the city of Norwich. When he came to them they said: ‘Sir Robert Salle, descend from your horse and come talk with us.’ Which very foolishly he did, because of fear, and when he was off his horse, and they had done honour and reference to him, they encircled him.
Deze heer robbert en was gheen gheboertich man mer doer sijn cloecheijt ende vromicheijt hadt hem die coninc ridder ghesclagen ende eel ghemaect Waerom sij seijden robbert ghij sijt een ridder ende een man van groter machten ende van naem ende faem in deze landen Al sijt ghij aldus vermaert wij weten nochtans wel dat ghij gheen eel man en sijt mer een zoen van een kaerl een timmerman ende nijet beter dan wij en zijn Coemt met ons om onse meester te sijn ende wij zullen v alzoe groten heer maken dattet vierendel van enghelant onder v subiecci ende onderdanicheijt staen sal Als die ridder dit verstont wart hij zeer toernich [fol. 164v] ende hij seijde zeer dwaesselicken want ten was gheen tijt om die waerheijt te segghen Gaet ongheuallich volc valsch ende quade verraders wilt ghij dat jc mijn natuerlicke heer begheeff ende mijn onteer doer alsulcke kaerls ende schuijmers als ghij sijt Ic hadt voel lieuer dat ghij al ghelijck an die galghe waert off an bomen gheknoept daer ghij noch an hanghen sult ende ghij en sult ghenen beteren doot hebben noch eijnde doen Mettijen meijnde hij wel weder op sijn paert te treden mer hij faelde an die steijgherepen ende tpaert verscoet Mettijen creten ende rijepen sij datmen hem doot slaen soude Als hij dat verstont lijet hij zijn paert wezen ende hij toech een scoen zwaert van bordeaulx dat hij an hem droech ende hij began te houwen ende te scermen omtrent hem alzoe dat hem nijemant wel en dorste ghenaken ende hij hiew off armen ende benen hoefden ende voeten daer en was nijemant soe stout sij en ontsaghen hem, mer al hadde hij van stael gheweest hij hadt daer moeten bliuen want dit katiuich volc was ouer xl.M man starck Ende na dat hij xij van deze scuijmers verslaghen hadde ende voel verleemt ende ghewont ende hij nochtans onghewapent was wart hij ter aerden ghev<-l>elt ende sij <-cla> capten hem van een off houwende armen benen voeten ende andere leden Ende jn dezer manieren eijnde heer robbert zalle sijn leuen een die starckste ende vroemste man van gheheel enghelant ende zeer wel gheset ende ghemaect van allen leden ende menich ridder ende schiltknaep waren zeer drueuich van sijn doot This sir Robert was not a high born man, but because of his intelligence and devotion the king had knighted him and ennobled him. Therefore they said: ‘Robert, you are a knight and a man of greater authority and of name and fame in these lands. Even though you are so famous we still know well that you are not a nobleman but the son of a servant, a carpenter, and you are not any better than we are. Come with us to be our leader and we will make you such a great lord, that a quarter of England will be under your submission and obedience.’ When the knight heard this, he became very enraged and he said very foolishly, for it was not the time to tell the truth: ‘Go, displeasing people, false and evil traitors, do you want me to betray my natural lord and dishonour myself through such servants and brigands as you are? I’d rather that you all together were strung up on the gallows or on trees where you will still hang, and you will not have a better death nor find a better end.’ With that, he meant to mount his horse again, but he missed the stirrups and the horse shot away. With that they cried and shouted that they would strike him dead. When he heard that, he let his horse be and drew a beautiful Bordeaux sword which he carried with himself, and he commenced to hack and brandish around him, so that nobody dared come near him, and he struck off arms, heads and feet; there was nobody there so courageous as not to avoid him, but even if he had been of steel, he would have had to remain there, because the dreadful people were over 40.000 men strong. And after he defeated twelve of these brigands, and mutilated and wounded many, he then was finally disarmed and slain to the earth, and they struck off his arms, legs, feet, and other limbs. And in this way sir Robert Salle ended his life, one of the strongest and most devout men of the whole of England, and very well built and with all limbs well made, and many knights and servants were very saddened by his death.
Item want wouter tegheldecker wel wist van die coemst van dit gheselscap voerscreuen hijerom seijde hij tot sijn ghezellen laet ons deze rijcke stat van lonnen pilgeren ende berouen eer dit gheselscap hijer coemt want en doen wijs nijet die ander sullent doen ende sij sullent ghewin hebben ende wij sullender op sijen ende met gapert spoelen, van die brieuen die ons die coninck ghegeuen wil sal ons zeer weijnich profijts comen Item. Because Wat Tyler knew well of the approach of the aforementioned company, he said to his companions: ‘Let’s pillage the rich city of London, and rob it, before this company comes here, for if we don’t do it, the others will do it, and they will have the profit, and we will watch it and be content with a joke; of the letters the king gave us very little profit will come to us.’
¶ Als dan deze wouter aldus stont opt marctvelt te lonnen houwende raet metten zijnen soe quam die coninck van enghelant met sommige [fol. 165r; ‘C lx’] van sijn heren rijen lansch die hoech straet van lonnen starck wezende lx paerden ende als hij quam bij die abdij van sinte bartholomees meijnende voert doer een ander straet wt die stat te rijen mettijen wart hij dit katiuich volck ghewaer Die coninck hijelt stil ende hij seijde dat hij nijet voert en woude rijden hij en woude eerst weten wat hem luijden ghebraeck ende in dijen sij tonvreden waren hij soudtze stillen ende te vreden maken ende sijn heren hielden oeck stil alst reden was Als wouter tegheldecker den coninck sach tuefuen seijde hij tot sijn volc sijet daer den coninck jc wil hem gaen spreken. en verroert v nijet jc en gheeff v een teijken ende hij seijde hem luijden een teijken ende als ghij sijet dat jc dat doe soe treet an ende slatet al doot sonder den coninck, en mesdoet den coninck nijet hij is jonck wij sullen met hem ons wil doen ende wij sullen hem leijen in enghelant daert ons belijeft ende wij sullen heren sijn vant heel rijck en twijfelt daer nijet an When this Wat thus stood at the market place at London holding council with his [men], the king of England came riding with some of his lords along the high street of London being 60 horses strong and when he came at the abbey of St Bartholomew’s, planning to exit the city through another street, then he noticed this dreadful people. The king held still and he said that he did not want to ride further, he first wanted to know what they lacked, and if they were discontent he would pacify them and make peace, and his lords also held still, as they ought. When Wat Tyler saw the king pause he said to his people: ‘see there the king, I want to go talk to him, and don’t move; I will give you a sign.’ And he told them a sign, ‘and when you see I do that, attack and kill them all except the king, and don’t harm the king: he is young, we will do our will with him, and we will bring him into England wherever we desire, and we will be lords of the whole kingdom, don’t doubt that.’
Mettijen quam daer een wambis maker ghenoemt johan ticle die met hem ghebracht hadde xl wambezen daer deze scuijmers eens deels mede ghecleet waren, deze seijde tot den tegheldecker Heer wije sal mijn vernoeghen <-wan> van mijn wambezen mijn ontbrect wel xxx marck Sijt te vreden seijde wouter ghij sult noch van daech wel betaelt warden hout v an mijn ghij hebt mans ghenoech Mettijen stac hij zijn paert met sporen ende reet van sijn gheselscap ende reet recht bij den coninck alzoe na dat sijn paerts hoeft quam an des conincks paerts start ende hij seijde totten coninck Coninck sijet ghij wel al dat volck dat ghinder hout Ja jc seijde die coninck waerom vraecht ghij dat Om dat sij al staen tot mijn ghebode ende hebben mijn ghezworen te doen dat mijn belieft Ter goeder tijt seijde die coninck het belijeft mijn wel Ende die tegheldecker seijde weder die nijet en begheerde dan te kiuen ende te vechten Meijnt ghij coninck dat dat volc dat daer staet ende die noch binnen lonnen sijn ende alle tot mijnne gheboden doer v van hijer sullen scheijen sonder [fol. 165v] v brieuen mede te nemen neen sij nijet wij willenze met ons nemen Men salze v doen hebben seijde die coninck deen voer dander na, ghezel keert weder bij <-[ . . ]> v volck ende doetze van een scheijen ende zijt vreedzaem ghij sult v wille hebben With that, a tailor named John Tickle came, who had brought 40 doublets with which some of these brigands were dressed, who said to the tiler: ‘Sir, who will satisfy me for my doublets? I’m owed as much as 30 marks.’ ‘Be content,’ Wat said, ‘you will be paid today still. Hold you to me, you will have man enough.’ With this he spurred his horse and drove away from his company and drove straight to the king, so that his horse’s head came to the king’s horse’s tail, and he said to the king: ‘King, do you see all the people over there?’ ‘Yes I do,’ the king said, ‘why do you ask that?’ ‘Because they are all at my demand, and they have sworn to do what I desire.’ ‘All in good time,’ the king said, ‘it pleases me well.’ And the tiler, who didn’t want anything but quarrel and fight, replied: ‘Do you think, king, that the people who stand there, and those who are still inside London, and who are all under my command, will go away from here because of you without taking with them your letters? No they won’t, we want to take them with us.’ ‘You will have them,’ the king said, ‘one after another, friend, return to your people and make them break away, and be peaceful. You will have your wishes.’
Wouter wart mettijen sijende een schiltknaep die achter an den coninck reet ende droech des conincks zwaert die welc hem in tijden voerleden te cort ghezeijt hadde Ja seijde hij sijt ghij daer gheeft mijn v knoep mess Ic en wils nijet doen seijde dije schiltknaep Die coninck sach op sijn dijenre ende hij seijde gheeftet hem Het dwelc hij dede mer nijet gaern Ende als hij die dagghe hadde spoelde hij daer mede in sijn hant ende hij seijde weder totten schiltknaep, gheeft mijn dat zwaert Ic en wils nijet doen seijde die knaep this des coninck zwaert ghij en sijts nijet waerdich te hebben want ghij sijt een kaerl ende waeren ghij ende jc op alsulcken plaets ghij en sout nijet half aldus voel woerden dorren bezijghen Bij mijn gheloeff seijde wouter jc en sal nijet eten voer jc v hooft hebbe Wat then became aware a squire who was riding behind the king, and carried the king’s sword, who in earlier times had insulted him. ‘Yes,’ he said, ‘are you there? Give me your dagger.’ ‘I don’t want to do that,’ the squire said. The king looked upon his servant, and he said: ‘give it to him.’ Which he did, but not eagerly. And when he had the dagger he played with it in his hand, and he said again to the squire: ‘give me that sword.’ ‘I don’t want to do it,’ the servant said, ‘it’s the king’s sword, you are not worthy to have it, because you are a serf, and were you and I in such a place, you would not dare to say half so many words.’ ‘By my faith,’ Wat said, ‘I will not eat before I have your head.’
Met deze woerden was daer dije meijer ende scout van lonnen bij ghecomen ghenoemt iohan valourde sijnre xii te paerde al ghewapent onder hoer mantelen hij doerbrac den dranghe ende hij sach die tegheldecker den moijaert maken Waerom hij seijde knaep hoe sijt ghij alzoe stout alsulcke woerden te spreken in teghenwoerdicheijt des conincks this te voel voer v gheseijt Mettijen wart die coninck toernich ende heet ende hij seijde tot den meijer vanct hem Ende te wijl dat die coninck sprac seijde die tegheldecker totten meijer Ja meijer ja wat heb jc v misseijt off mesdaen wat is <+v> meninghe Wat meijnt deze stinckende rekel antwoerde die scout dijet gheboth des conincks verstaen hadde jc sal v doen ontghelden v spitighe quade ende scimpende woerden Mettijen toech hij zijn zwaert ende gaff den tegheldecker alsulcken sclach dat hij van den paerde vijel ende mettijen wart hij omsinghelt op dat hij van die vergaderinghe [fol. 166r; ‘C l xi’] nijet en soude warden ghesijen, ende daer trat een schiltknaep des conincks van den paerde ghenoemt johan van standuich die zijn zwaert toech ende stackt in des tegheldeckers buijck die daer alzoe doot bleeff With these words the bailiff and mayor of London, named John Valourde [i.e. William Walworth] had arrived there, with twelve of his men, armed under their cloaks. He broke through the throng, and saw the tiler showing off. Therefore he said: ‘serf, how do you come so bold to speak such words in the presence of the king? You’ve said too much.’ With this the king became enraged and hot, and he said to the mayor: ‘capture him.’ And while the king spoke the tiler said to the mayor: ‘Yes mayor, yes what did I say or do wrong? What is your opinion?’ ‘What does this stinking rascal think?’ the bailiff answered, who had heard the command of the king, ‘I will make you pay for your insulting, evil and scoffing words!’ With this he drew his sword and gave the tiler such a blow that he fell of his horse, and directly he was surrounded, so that he would not be seen by the crowd, and a squire of the king stepped off his horse there, named John of Standish, and drew his sword and stuck it in the tiler’s stomach, who in that way remained dead there.
Mettijen wart dit katiuighe volc van die vergaderinghe ghewart dat hoer cappeteijn gheslaghen was ende sij stelden hem in ordinancij wel meijnende den doot te wreken ende al te versclaen datter was, ende daer quam een gherucht binnen lonnen men wil den coninck verslaen ende onse meijer waerom alle man van eren den coninck te baten quamen al ghewapent mede quamen daer sommighe edelen als heer robbert canolle, heer parducas dalbret ende noch een groet rijck burgher van lonnen ghenoemt niclaes membre ende meest alt gherecht van lonnen alzoe dat die coninck starck was ix.M man wel ghewapent, ende sij stelden hem in ordinancij om dit ongheuallighe volc te beuechten Ende die coninck sloech daer iij ridders daer die ene off was die scout heer johan valourde die ij heer johan van standuich die iij heer nicolaes van braulen Deze edelen ende goede mannen hadden zeer gaern dit ghebuijst bestreden mer die coninck was daer teghen doer barmharticheijt ende hij sant deze iij nieuwe ridderen an dit gheselscap dat sij hem luijden eijschen souden om weder te hebben sijn bannijeren ende die brieuen die sij van hem hadden ende dan soude hijze in ghenaden nemen Welcke boetsap ende message deze heren ghedaen hebben an dit katiuighe volc ende sij hebben rechteuoert des conincks begheerten volbracht, ende die coninck dede die brieuen ende banieren scoren in hoer teghenwoerdicheijt Ende dit volc begaft velt ende vloden binnen lonnen daer sij meijnden veijlich te wezen Seer toernich was heer robbert kanolle datmen dit katiuighe volc nijet bestreden hadde ende nijet al versclaghen Ende jn dezer manieren warden deze kaerls vermant ende tonder ghebracht sonder slach off stoot ende verstroijden hem ende en wisten hem nerghens te berghen Following this, the miserable people became aware that their captain was killed, and they arranged themselves in order, planning to avenge the death, and to defeat everyone there, and a rumour arose in London: ‘they want to kill the king and our mayor,’ wherefore every honourable man came armed to the aid of the king. Among them some noblemen came, such as Robert Knollys, sir Perducat d’Albret, and another great rich citizen of London named Nicholas Membre [Brembre], and almost the whole council of London, so that the king was 9.000 well armed men strong, and they arranged themselves in order so as to fight these dreadful people. And the king dubbed three knights there, of which the first was the bailiff John Valourde [i.e. William Walworth?], the second sir John Standish, the third sir Nicholas Braulen [Brembre]. These noble and good men very much desired to combat this rabble, but the king was against it because of his mercy, and he sent these three new knights to this company, so that they would demand to receive back their banners and the letters that they had of him, and then he would hold them in clemency. Which notification and message these lords brought to these dreadful people, and they directly carried out the king’s desire, and the king had these letters and banners torn in their presence. And these people left the field and fled inside London where they thought to be safe. Sir Robert Knollys was very enraged that they hadn’t fought against these dreadful people, and hadn’t defeated them all. And in this manner these serfs were overcome and defeated without a struggle, and they dispersed and didn’t know any place to hide.
Die coninck reet bij sijn moeder die princesse die ij daghen ende ij nachten [fol. 166v] nijet wel te vreden en hadde gheweest alst gheen wonder en was ende hij vertroeste hoer ende seijde Sijt wel te vreden mijn lieue vrou jc heb van daech mijn erff ende coninckrijck weder ghewonnen dat jc quijt was Ende op dijen seluen dach wart daer een gheboth ghedaen dat die ghene dije nijet en waren van lonnen ende daer gheen jaer en hadden ghewoent daer wt souden ruijmmen ende jndijen sij des sonnendaechs daer ghevonden warden int opgaen van der sonnen die souden ghehouwen warden als verraders teghens den coninck ende souden hoer hooft verliezen Als dit dan aldus ghekondicht ende gheboden was keerden alle vreemde gheselscap weder van daen sij ghecomen waren Jacob strau ende johan balle warden ghevonden schulende in een vervallen huijs ende meijnden hem wel ewech te steken ende tontcomen mer sij en mochten want sij warden van hoers selfs volc vernielt ende ghevangen Van welcke ghevanghen die coninck ende sijn heren zeer verblijt waren ende sij warden onthoeft ende alzoe wart oeck het dode lichaem van den tegheldecker Wije mocht den wambis maker doch sijn ghelt gheuen na sijn doot daer hij borch voer was ghewarden Ende deze iii hoofden warden te lonnen op der brugghen op die glauijen ghesteken ende die andere van die vrome eerlicke heren warden daer off ghenomen die sij te voeren hadden doen onthoefden The king drove to his mother, the princess, who had been agitated for two days and two nights, unsurprisingly, and he consoled her and said: ‘Be content, my dear lady, today I recovered my inheritance and kingdom, which I had lost.’ And on the same day an order was issued that those who were not from London, and hadn’t lived there for a year, had to depart from there, and if they would be found there on Sunday at sunrise, they would be captured as traitors against the king, and would lose their head. When this was thus announced and ordered, the whole foreign company returned to where they had come from. Jack Straw and John Ball were found hiding in a derelict house, and thought they could forever hide and escape, but they couldn’t, because they were brought down and captured by their own people. Of which capture the king and his men were very pleased, and they were decapitated and thus was also the dead body of the tiler. After his death, who would give the tailor his money, which he had stood surety for? And these three heads were placed on lances on the bridge at London, and the others, of the devout, honest lords, which they had had decapitated earlier, were taken from there.
Als dan die nieumaeren hijer van quamen voer dit ander gheselscap die noch te norduich laghen daer sij den vromen heer robbert salle versclaghen hadden ende van dit ghebuijst voerscreuen ontboden waren, keerden sij van stonden an weder in hoer plaetzen ende dorpen sonder varder te dorren comen Merct hijer die grote auentuer hadden sij moghen comen tot hoer meninghe dit ongheuallighe ende katiuighe volc souden vernijelt hebben alle die edelen van enghelant Ende hadt hem luijden wel vergaen andere kaerls ende scuijmers souden daer exempel an ghenomen hebben wt anderen landen ende souden oeck op ghestaen hebben teghens hoer heren ende meesteren Twas oeck zeer te verwonderen dat die coninck ritzaert van enghelant dije [fol. 167r; ‘C lxij’] van deze wederspannicheijt ende rebelleijt wel lang te voeren verstaen hadde daer in tijts nijet toe ghezijen en hadde ende dat belet ende ghehindert When then the tidings of this came to the other company, which was still before Norwich, where they had killed the devout sir Robert Salle and from where they had been invited by this aforementioned [i.e., aforewritten] rabble, they directly returned to their towns and villages, not daring to come further. Notice the great event here: if they had accomplished their desire, these disgusting and terrible people would have destroyed all the noblemen of England. And if it had gone their way, other serfs and brigands of other countries would have taken example of it, and would also have risen against their lords and masters. It also was very remarkable that king Richard of England, who had heard of this revolt and rebellion a long while earlier, had not taken measures, and prevented or repressed it.
Die coninck toech nijet lang hijer na met v.c glauijen ende met alzoe voel artchijers ende nam zijnen wech eerst int graefscap van kent daer deze rebelheijt eerst wt was ghesproten doer den priester heer johan balle, ende comende in een dorp ghenoemt comprinhe deder die coninc daer vij hanghen van die princepaelste die deze beroerte hadden ghemaect ende en ijghelic most sijn brieuen ouer gheuen die sij van den coninck hadden ontfanghen ende sij mosten eijgen kaerls bliuen ende na dat deze justici was ghedaen wartet den anderen van dijen dorpe vergheuen dat sij hadden mesdaen, daer sij den coninck zeer off dancten seggende God moetet den coninck lonen ende zijnen goeden raet, ende dit sefde dede die coninck oeck in anderen dorpen ende steden als te cantelberch te zanduijck te conculle ende te germanijen alzoe dat hij der op deze reijsse meer dan xv.c dede onthoefden ende hanghen ende den anderen vergaff hij zijnen euelen moet ende alle die briuen warden ghescoert die sij van den coninck hadden ghecreghen Ende hijer na dede die coninck noch voel meer anderen rebellen onthoefden ende hanghen van die princepa<+e>lsten in anderen contreijen Not long afterwards, the king advanced with 500 lance bearers and as many archers, and took his way into the county of Kent, where this rebellion had first sprung from, because of the priest John Ball, and coming at a village called Compringhe [Ospringe] the king had seven of the principal movers of the rebellion hanged, and everyone had to give over his letters which they had received from the king, and they had to remain bound serfs, and after this justice was done, the others of that village were forgiven for what they had done, for which they thanked the king very much, saying: ‘God reward the king and his good council.’ And the same the king also did in other villages and towns, as in Canterbury, Sandwich, Conculle [Orwell?] and in Germany [Gernemue, i.e. Great Yarmouth?], so that on this journey he had more than 1500 decapitated and hanged, and the others he forgave their rage, and all the letters which they had received from the king were torn. And after this the king had many other rebels decapitated and hanged of the leaders in other regions.

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‘If the Page satisfie not, inquire in the Margine’

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have seen me tweet a poor image of this sentence a couple of times in the past, with the hashtag #JohnSelden, the seventeenth-century author whose work I have been studying over the past year. I started tweeting it a while back as a response to a couple of citations from John Selden that do the rounds on Twitter, apparently specifically among its droves of spam accounts. Facetiously, I claimed to aim to have the sentence picked up by the bots instead of, say, ‘While you are upon the earth, enjoy the good things that are here’:

While you areSo far, I failed in that aim, but people seem to like the ‘Margine’ tweet, and it usually attracts about ten retweets, and regularly a nice comment or two. This week, however, I went to the new Weston Library of the Bodleian, and because it was #MarginaliaMonday I took a new picture, which looks much, much nicer, and tweeted it:

In a day, it and two MTs based on it attracted a hundred retweets, which I thought was remarkable for a tweet that was meant to be part of a book historical running gag. It also made me realize, however, that perhaps it was time to get serious about the quote: what does it mean exactly?

The sentence comes from Poly-Olbion, a poem by Michael Drayton about the British landscape and British history, to which John Selden wrote a prose commentary, called, somewhat confusingly, ‘illustrations’. The work is now perhaps best known for its imaginative maps, samples of which can be seen on the Poly-Olbion Project website. It was first published, in 1612, as a series of eighteen songs about England and Wales (the northern part of England was to follow in 1622, a planned volume on Scotland never appeared). In 1613, this first volume of the work was re-issued with an additional title page, and with a selective index to subjects discussed in Selden’s commentary: ‘A table to the chiefest passages, in the Illustrations, which, worthiest of observation, are not directed unto by the course of the volume.’ It is in the margin to this final part of the sentence that we find the note.

With the phrase ‘directed unto by the course of the volume’, Selden points at the chorographical organization of the work: as the eighteen songs each deal with a specific geography within England and Wales, and each has a brief introduction to the geography treated in that particular song, the overall geographical organization of the work should suffice to guide interested readers to commentary to particular locations; the table was meant for those subjects that could not easily be located in that way, such as specific people (e.g., Arthur; Madoc), peoples (Saxons; Stuarts), and a myriad of other subjects (e.g., ‘Lipsius deceiv’d about Bearing the Dragon’; ‘Sheepe cloathed to save their wool’). Page numbers to each subject in the table direct the reader to the place where a subject can be found discussed in the ‘illustrations’. These prose commentaries, linked to specific verses in the poetry, are themselves accompanied by extensive notes in the margins, akin to our footnotes to academic writing, offering translations, source references, and occasionally additional explanations or digressions. The note ‘If the Page satisfie not, inquire in the Margine’, here, then, means: if you look for a subject indicated in the table, and you notice you can’t find it in the main text column, look at the notes in the margin to see if the subject is mentioned there.

In short, the meaning of the sentence is at the same time more prosaic, but perhaps also more interesting, than it seems at first sight: no, it does not mean that the margins are more exciting than the main text column; but within its context, it does bear witness to an early modern author’s preoccupation with how his work appeared on the page.

P.S. The sentence is also the title of a paper on the layout of the Poly-Olbion which I have recently submitted for publication to the Journal of Illustration Studies, which is open access, so with some luck I can update this post with a link to the published article in a couple of months.

P.P.S. There have been a number of interesting comments on twitter about this post, which made me think a little more about why exactly the image received so much attention; part of the explanation, I think, lies in the parallels between marginalia and twitter itself, which has been written about by Dorothy Kim. That made me wonder if we should be thinking through the implications of those parallels in relation to printed marginalia with reference to manipulated timelines (such as those of Facebook)?

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#WestonLibrary opens its doors

Let me start with a confession: I hated the old New Bodleian. I had occasionally been to the Oriental Reading Room and never felt so uncomfortable in a library. Everything seemed wrong about the place. I hated it so much, that when I heard there were plans to make it the new home of special collections at the Bodleian Library, I almost cried, and suspected the Bodleian had a secret plan to keep its collections as inaccessible as possible. The Duke Humfrey’s Library, where Special Collections was housed, was my library. It was where, when I first visited, I asked to see the microfilm of a manuscript I was interested in (because that’s what I had learned to do in the Netherlands), only to be answered: “why the microfilm? We have the manuscript!” It was where you could still experience that moment that direct sunlight hit the pages of your manuscript and lit up the ink with a purple glow, if it was a manuscript produced in Oxford (something Malcolm Parkes had told me, and I had half forgotten, until a couple of weeks later it happened in front of my eyes; it has to do with the iron content of the water around here, apparently).

IMG_4851Selden End in Duke Humfrey’s Library


Special Collections Reading Room in the basement of the Radcliffe Science Library

Fast forward a decade and a quarter, and this week, the new Weston Library opened its doors to readers (the general public will get access to the central hall of the building and adjacent exhibition spaces, a café, and a gift shop in March 2015).

Of course, it is not Duke Humfrey’s Library; the Weston does not ooze history in the way Selden End, even dearer to me now John Selden has become a central focus of my studies, or the 17th-century reading desks in the central corridor (of Harry Potter fame) do. I am very pleased that they will keep the old place open as a reading room, because there are few places where I rather spend a couple of hours with a good book (my bay of choice is the one under the portrait of Henry VIII). But the Duke Humfrey was not fit for purpose anymore – I was told that staff needed to physically carry the manuscripts over stairs to the room, because it has no lift access. Whether this is true or not, it does illustrate that for the sake of the books, a new location had to be found. Direct sunlight really is not very good for seven-hundred year old manuscripts.

FullSizeRenderRare Books & Manuscripts Room at the Weston Library, Bodleian Library, Oxford

But, thankfully, the Weston Library is also not the New Bodleian. It is, instead, a beautiful new building in a rejuvenated oldish shell. In restoring the 1930s building, designers have done away with all the dankness while preserving, and even highlighting, many of the attractive design features. They have created new corridors, glass walls and windows allowing for views through the building, and for light to seep through into its interior. They have created wonderful reading rooms – I have seen pictures from the top floor one with wonderful views over the roofs of central Oxford, and have myself enjoyed that view from the roof terrace – which are already bustling with readers, but seem to have ample space to cope with many, many more. The desk spaces are widely enough spaced not to need to occupy the adjacent desk, even when working with a laptop and books on either side. Electrical sockets are tucked away in covered recessions in the table with enough space to also take your cable, preventing clutter. The newly designed chairs are good – sturdy enough not to fall asleep, but comfortable enough not to notice them, and with a nice forward tilt for when your reading makes you sit on the edge of your seat.


The staff has been fabulous throughout the long drawn out move from Duke Humfrey’s to the basement of the Radcliffe Science Library (where the Special Collections Reading Room was housed for the last four years), to its new destination. Do not think they are forbidding; yes, they care about their collections, and will fight tooth and nail to defend them when necessary. You may have promised them not to kindle fire, but that doesn’t stop everyone from trying. But they also want people to get to know these collections, they want readers to read, researchers to research. For my particular project this past year, I have had to call up hundreds of books, many of which I only had to consult for one minute to determine whether they were relevant for my research. I have not heard a single comment about my ridiculous turnover, and have on the contrary received much, much help locating copies I absolutely needed to see but which regularly turned out to be irrelevant and returned to the stacks the same minute I received them.

As for the name of the new special collections reading room: I know there can be a legitimate concern about its sequence, but as I have deliberately chosen the counter-chronological title of this blog, I can only applaud the Bodleian’s choice for “Rare Books & Manuscripts Reading Room”. Regardless of our focus on the sources, even the medievalists among us who prefer a manuscript over a printed book any day, encounter the past through layers of modern editions and studies, by authors who encountered the past through layers of early modern studies and editions, whose editors encountered the past through layers of incunabula (yes, John Selden read Chaucer in print before he did in manuscript!); the shape in which the producers of these early printed books left us the manuscript heritage is as pertinent to our readings from the manuscripts as the manuscripts themselves. This is illustrated only too well by the remarkable open shelves library of facsimiles, catalogs, and studies in book history (the shelves of Festschriften being my personal favourite) which moved along with the special collections from its original location in Selden End.

Of course, not everything is perfect: I, for one, will not be sitting near the outside wall in the Rare Books & Manuscripts Reading Room anymore, because that’s where the air conditioners are located, and they are very, very cold. Also, the minute I put my books on the table, the fire alarm went off. I suspect that as the building is still under construction, that will happen with some regularity over the coming months. But after that, the University of Oxford will have a new library to proud of, and a beautiful space to show it off to visitors, too.


Work in progress

With the choice to move special collections out of Duke Humfrey’s, the Bodleian Library disrupted a hitherto unbroken tradition of the study of its collection at that location since it first opened in 1602. With the opening of the Weston Library, however, the Bodleian is opening its doors to the world in a way it hasn’t done previously, and that wider access no doubt will make more visible the wonderful treasures of its collection – and thus also lead to much, much more research.


View into the central hall

Try it for yourself! The admissions policy is perhaps not as low threshold as that of the British Library, but for anyone with a justified wish to consult the books, it should not be insurmountable. If you need a letter of recommendation, befriend a historian in your area via twitter, and buy us coffee once or twice. I think I know only two historians who are not caffeine addicts, and they can be plied with cupcakes instead.

You can read David Rundle’s first impressions here.


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Twitter at historical conference: how to introduce it to those who are not #twitterstorians themselves

Below are templates for information sheets for the use of Twitter at historical conferences, aimed at attendees not necessarily acquainted with the medium. They are based on documents I prepared for the International Conference of the Medieval Chronicle (Liverpool), tweeted using the hashtag #MedChron; in compiling them, I based myself on several guidelines and lists of suggestions to tweeting at conference found online (such as those of the MLA), as well as the blogposts by Dorothy Kim and Jonathan Hsy referred to in the text, and discussion on Twitter itself.

My main aim with the documents was to inform, and to ensure everyone felt comfortable with the presence of twitter at the conference. The first was aimed at all attendees; the second especially at those interested in tweeting themselves.
In the end we had 1 opt-out, some sceptics, many people indifferent, and some very happy to have their papers tweeted and eager to know more about twitter. The Twitter stream achieved its main aim, i.e. to ensure the conference, which coincided with the Leeds International Medieval Conference, was visible within the larger context of #medievaltwitter, and I was happy overall, except I wished I had made explicitly clear that an opt-out did not need justification or explanation. Additionally, I am unsure about the “ask before tweeting pictures” suggestion.

I’m eager to hear suggestions for improvements based on your experiences – and in the meanwhile, I hope these templates will be of use, for you to adapt to your own conferences.

In the templates below, I have put information that needs to be adjusted to your conference between square brackets.

[Edit, 13/4/2016: in the light of conversations on twitter following S.J. Pearce‘s blogpost ‘Why I Won’t Follow #KZoo16 on Twitter’, I want to stress: every conference needs a well-formulated social media policy, and that policy needs to include a well-considered decision whether live tweeting is going to be opt-in or opt-out.]

Introduction to Twitter at the [conference]

Dear all,
as [function], I am very much looking forward to meet you all and hear your papers at a vibrant conference in Liverpool. I am writing this message, however, not as [function], but to provide some information about another aspect of the conference: its presence on Twitter. Live tweeting has become a regular occurrence at humanities conferences, and we are eager both to ensure that everyone feels comfortable with its use at the conference, and to facilitate an interesting feed emanating from the conference. Twitter can be a fantastic tool to encourage discussion and raise awareness and interest; and for members of your audience, live tweeting a paper can be a more engaged form of note-taking. I have drafted guidelines on twitter at the conference, which are included below, and will be available in your conference pack.
Any speaker who does not want to be tweeted can make this known at any time; if you send me a message ([email]) I will ensure this will be announced before the start of your presentation. We will also be advising chairs of the individual sessions to double-check with speakers whether they are comfortable being tweeted. Barring such opt-outs, everyone is invited to contribute to the twitter feed. The hashtag of our conference will be #[hashtag]; a selection of tweets shall be retweeted via the [organization] handle @[handle], which will also continue to be used for Society and Conference announcements. I am hoping to ensure there will be at least one live tweeter at each session; I would be most grateful if anyone interested in tweeting gets in touch with me so I can try to coordinate our presence over the various sessions.
A good introduction to the why and how of medieval twitter can be found in this post by Dorothy Kim. Jonathan Hsy’s post about twitter at the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo is very insightful. A fine example of live tweeting during a conference can be found here, in this report by Liesbeth Corens of the Transforming Information: Record Keeping in the Early Modern World conference.
If you have any questions about Twitter at the [conference], please do not hesitate to contact me.
Looking forward to seeing you all in July,
[email] / [Twitter handle]

#[hashtag]: Guidelines for Twitter at the [conference]

Twitter is a great medium to involve people who are not physically present in our dialogues; one aim of live tweeting at conference is to let these people follow our ideas and join in or create a conversation about these ideas if they so wish. Thus, a conference twitter feed allows for our discussion of [subject] to reach beyond the confines of the lecture room and the conference venue. Some scholars, however, are not comfortable with broadcasting the ideas they formulate as a conference paper so widely before committing them to publication, or are concerned their ideas can be misrepresented in other people’s tweets; it is important that when tweeting a conference, we take such concerns into account.
With those considerations in mind, we ask tweeters at the [conference] to adhere to the following set of guidelines:
• If a session chair, speaker or other attendee asks you to stop live tweeting, please stop. The presence of twitter at the conference should be a positive experience for everyone.
• Always tweet using the conference hashtag, #[hashtag], and a hashtag for the session #s… (e.g., #s3b); this will make sure your tweets are seen by everyone following the hashtag, and can also be used to compile an archive of the conference tweets.
• Attribute correctly and clearly: begin tweets of a paper with either the name or the initials of the speaker, so that readers of the tweet can recognize whose ideas are being reported.
• If you know the speaker’s twitter handle (e.g., @[handle]), include it, so that people can connect to them if they wish. (If you give a paper, mention your handle, or include it on your slides.)
• Be considerate to other attendees: ensure your device’s sounds are off, and it may be worth considering sitting at the back or the side of the room.
• If a follower asks a question, feel free to relay that question to the speaker during the question session, and report the answer back; questions from people in the room should, however, always take precedence.
• Tweet as little or as much as you like, about whichever aspect of the conference you like, taking into account what people may find interesting about the conference, and keeping to a high standard of collegiality and professionalism, particularly keeping in mind the very public nature of twitter as a medium. Do ask permission before posting photographs.
• Be civil, professional and polite (and beware that ‘tone’ is difficult to discern from a tweet); the medium is very public, so do not tweet what you would not say in public.
We are organizing a team of ‘official’ live tweeters for the conference, to ensure all sessions will be attended by at least one tweeter. All other attendees, however, are invited to tweet as they wish, taking these guidelines into account.
Any speaker who does not want to be tweeted can make this known at any time; if you send me a message ([email]) I will ensure this will be announced before the start of your presentation. We will also be advising chairs of the individual sessions to double-check with speakers whether they are comfortable being tweeted.
If you have any questions about twitter at the [conference], do not hesitate to contact me, [name] ([email], [handle]), or speak to me at the conference.


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This is a slightly revised translation of an essay I wrote for the festschrift in honour of Willem Kuiper, reader in Dutch medieval literature at the University of Amsterdam (Want hi verkende dien name wale, ed. M. Hogenbirk & R. Zemel). Willem has done more than any scholar to raise our awareness of names in medieval texts; this essay is presented in the spirit (although not with the erudition) of Willem’s always fascinating and thought-provoking columns, published since 1993 in Neder-L (


Years ago, on holiday in Italy, I met two Danes who lived in Venice, where they sold tickets for concerts, wearing period costume. They told me that for months they had announced tickets for performances of music by ‘Vivaldi, Albinoni, Anonymus and Verdi’. Only after a long time had they realized that Anonymus was a composer of a completely different calibre from the other three.

Besides being a famous composer of classical music, Anonymus (also known under her pseudonym Anonyma) was hands down both the most versatile and most productive author of the Middle Ages. Nevertheless, scholars have never held Anonymus in very high esteem: in general, they prefer a different name for the author of ‘their’ texts. The wish to know more about these texts leads to a desire to label every text with an author’s name. When, after long puzzling and archive research, that desire can finally be satisfied, scholars often breathe a ‘sigh of deceit’, as Herman Pleij, professor of Dutch medieval literature, once fittingly characterized it (in a slip of the tongue which he subsequently himself branded Freudian).

Of course, to some extent, this was already the case in the Middle Ages, and even then people often searched for the name of the author behind the anonymous text. Works by Anonymus could with regularity be given now this, then that author’s name – thus, for example, in the case of the Historia Brittonum, which was sometimes attributed to the all but unknown Nennius, but at other moments to the famous Gildas. In the meanwhile, the text also continued to be copied as a work by Anonymus (see Dumville 1975/6).

An author’s name could also fulfill a function which could perhaps best be compared to the function of the publisher’s logo on the modern printed book: at the same time a mark of quality and an indication of genre. Thus, when Geoffrey Chaucer had prematurely ceased writing the Canterbury Tales, many an Anonymus wrote continuations under Chaucer’s name (see Bonner 1951). Even that collective authorship, by the way, did not suffice to tell all the tales promised on the departure to Canterbury. Similarly, the ‘father of all Dutch poets combined’, Jacob van M(a)erlant – let’s not even get started about the correct form of his toponym – appears to have been a victim of such practices with some regularity. Which regularity exactly is still subject of dispute, but dBoec vanden Houte (‘The Book of the Rood’) has long ago been deleted from his oeuvre, and the same should happen with Van den lande van oversee (‘Of the Land Oversea’, see Jacob 2000). Der kerken clage (‘Complaint of the Church’) and some of the Martijns attributed to Jacob are also suitable candidates for such deletion.

Name grab still regularly occurred in the early modern period, too: thus, six years after his death, Shakespeare wrote a play about Merlin (it was first printed much later still, in 1662). Even when taking into account the time-bending powers of the prophet who was the subject of the play, this is an impossible achievement of the bard. And thus it continues: still in the nineteenth century a fabricated eye-witness account of the trial and execution of Jerome of Prague was published under the name of the actual eye-witness Poggio Bracciolini (see Salomon 1956).

Comparable to such cases is also the pseudo-Author, or perhaps better the pseudo-Authority: an Anonymus who presents as a usually many centuries older (late) classical authority. The Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle (Dunphy 2010) names, among others, pseudo-Joshua de Stylite, pseudo-Methodius, pseudo-Iamsilla and pseudo-Symeon. Willem Kuiper has introduced his readers to, among others, pseudo-Turpin, pseudo-Bonaventura, pseudo-Hegesippus and pseudo-Albertus Magnus (Kuiper 2007, 2010, 2013; Kuiper & Resoort 1995; Lie, Kuiper & Summerfield 2011). And there are also pseudo-Texts: thus, Geoffrey of Monmouth claimed that behind his Latin history of Britain lay a ‘British’ (that is, probably, Welsh) source. His actual use of sources tells another story (see Levelt 2002). Possibly most impressive in this context is the work of Annius of Viterbo (which appropriately itself again is a pseudonym of Giovanni Nanni). In his work pseudo-Authority and pseudo-Text coincide: to support his pseudo-Ancient History, Annius himself composed seventeen complete pseudo-Works by pseudo-Authors (see Ligota 1987).

But while there are, of course, many texts which were provided with an author’s name in this way, and on the other hand enough texts of which the author’s name was known with reasonable certainty, the medieval public in general did not object against work by Anonymus – and Anonymus was always ready to satisfy the desires of that public. Many of the most famous works from the Middle Ages are transmitted to us anonymously: from Beowulf to the Brut chronicles, from Everyman to Piers Plowman,* from the York Mystery Plays to the Dream of the Rood, from Pearl to Patience to Cleanness to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, time and again the texts were written anonymously and remained so, or were only provided with an author’s name (much) later. The following example will make clear how that process of attribution is not always innocent, and that in any case the moment of attribution of authorship is also a moment of significant loss.

In 1517, in Leiden, Die cronycke van Hollandt, Zeelandt ende Vrieslant (‘The Chronicle of Holland, Zeeland and Friesland’) was published. The printer was Jan Seversz, the author was Anonymus. An argument has been made that the author did not wish to reveal his identity because the work contained some ideas which were ‘quasi-Lutheran avant la lettre’, but here as always the law of Ockham’s razor applies: the inquisition, self-evidently, was not introduced ‘avant la lettre’. In 1516, when the author submitted the manuscript of the chronicle to the publisher, virtually nobody had ever heard the name Martin Luther in the Low Countries (only in October 1517 he would publish the theses which would make his name renowned and much maligned), and religious persecutions only really took off over the course of the 1520s. That the chronicle’s publisher, Jan Seversz, in 1524 became the first Dutch printer to feel the brunt of these persecutions does not change that: Anonymus is not Merlin, and cannot foresee the future. When the chronicle was written, one would be entirely justified to say: ‘Nobody expects the Spanish inquisition.’ Anonymus remained anonymous because that was the matter of course; there is, therefore, no need to search for extraordinary circumstances to explain that anonymity.

The title of the chronicle, as well, was as generic as could be. Quickly, however, it was replaced by readers with more specific descriptions: the ‘large’ chronicle of Holland; the chronicle with ‘divisions’ (the work was organized in thirty-two ‘divisions’). Today, the work is best known under the title Divisiekroniek (‘Division Chronicle’), but that name should properly be placed between inverted commas. Nowadays, we also have an author’s name, for which we should especially thank an early reader, Jan van Naaldwijk, who tells us that the work was written by one ‘brother Cornelius of Lopsen, regular’; him we believe to know under the name Cornelius Aurelius. The remark, which Jan wrote down shortly after he had first become acquainted with the chronicle, was rediscovered in the nineteenth century, and seized to permanently provide an author to Die cronycke van Hollandt, Zeelandt ende Vrieslant.

And while Aurelius is an excellent candidate for the authorship of the Divisiekroniek, it is not at all clear whether Jan van Naaldwijk based his claim on actual knowledge, or on conjecture; in any case we know for certain that for personal reasons it was expedient to him that via Aurelius, a childhood friend of Erasmus, he was able to link the Divisiekroniek to the group of humanists which had formed around the famous son of Rotterdam. The attribution of authorship blurs our vision on those reasons, and passes by the fact that the great majority of readers of the Divisiekroniek in the sixteenth to the nineteenth century knew the text as a work by Anonymus; it possibly also is a contributory factor to the circumstance that in scholarly publications about the text little attention has been paid to the possibility that the publisher himself thoroughly intervened with the work (see Levelt 2011: 148-68 and Gerritsen 1992).

Sometimes it was individual readers, like Jan van Naaldwijk, who replaced Anonymus with a named author; sometimes such an attribution was shared widely. Thus, virtually every contemporary knew that the anonymously published Weltchronik was the work of Hartmann Schedel (thus, for example, Trithemius 1494: fol. 139v and Anonymus 1517: fol. b.v). Sometimes readers were collectively engaged in depriving Anonymus of the authorship of a work: thus, for example, many readers of Michael Drayton’s Poly-Olbion (1612), in a large number of extant copies, by hand added the name of the anonymous author of the prose commentary which was printed with the text. When he wrote this commentary, John Selden was a nearly unknown entity; when modern readers of the text write how Drayton for the commentary consulted ‘the great antiquarian scholar’ John Selden (‘the learnedst man on earth’), therefore, they are wide beside the mark. Drayton consulted a promising but virtually unknown young friend, who eventually, partly thanks to the work he delivered, made name. By taking the name of the author for granted, we miss that dimension in our understanding of the text and its history.

Taking into account how widespread anonymous authorship was, it is regrettable that in general, in books about medieval literary theory and ideas about authorship (such as Minnis 1988 and Wogan Brown et al. 1999), the principle is all but ignored; there, the emphasis is especially on the self-confidence and self-knowledge of the medieval author. On the one hand, that is a welcome correction to what came before: the previously widespread assumption that individuality did not exist in the Middle Ages. But it also ignores the interesting dynamic that individuality and anonymity can engage in. The fact that most medieval texts were disseminated anonymously does not detract from the significance of authorship in medieval textual culture, on the contrary: only in contrast with that omnipresent anonymous authorship we can clearly distinguish the contours of known authorship (see, e.g., Unzeitig 2010).

Thus far my plea for the recognition of Anonymus as author; not because the author is dead (Barthes 1967), nor because we have to believe without question Foucault (1969) when he claims that authorship, before the early modern period, was only considered important in relation to works of science, but because we are now – in part thanks to Alistair Minnis (1988) and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (1999) – thoroughly convinced that authorship has indeed always mattered, but Anonymous nevertheless continued to write with impressive persistence (see North 2003).


For whom this all still does not suffice, this: Anonymus, over time, became known under countless other names, too. Besides Saint Nobody, one of these names is Nameless, who in turn was better known by the name Oursson (Kuiper 2012). Acquaintances of Willem Kuiper know him better by the name Wildeman (‘Wild Man’).** Sufficient reason to pay close attention to the precise role of Anonymus in medieval literature.





* Helen Cooper has recently discussed the consequences of attribution of authorship of Piers Plowman to our understanding of the text in a lecture at the University of Oxford Medieval English Research Seminar, ‘Right Naming in Piers Plowman and the Romances’.


** ‘In De Wildeman’ is the beer tasting bar frequented by Willem with his students and colleagues (






Anonymus, Die cronycke van Hollandt, Zeelandt ende Vrieslant, beghinnende van Adams tiden […].Leiden, 1517.

Barthes, R., ‘The Death of the Author’, in: Aspen 5-6 (1967), transl. Richard Howard, n.p.

Bonner, F.W., ‘The Genesis of the Chaucer Apocrypha’, in: Studies in Philology 48 (1951), 461-81.

Drayton, M., Poly-Olbion. London, [1612].

Dumville, D., ‘“Nennius” and the Historia Brittonum’, in: Studia Celtica 10/11 (1975/6), 78-95.

Dunphy, G. (red.), Encyclopedia of the Medieval Chronicle. Leiden, 2010.

Foucault, M., ‘Qu’’est-ce qu’un auteur?’, in: Bulletin de la Société Française de Philosophie 63 (1969), 73-104.

Gerritsen, J., ‘Jan Seversz prints a Chronicle’, in: Quaerendo 21 (1992), 99-124.

Jacob, de coster van Merlant, ‘Over mijn verzamelde werken’, in: Neder-L 17/1/2000 (‌neder-l-column-47-over-mijn-verzamelde.html).

Kuiper, W., ‘Die destructie van Jherusalem in handschrift en druk’, in: Voortgang, jaarboek voor de neerlandistiek 25 (2007), 67-88.

Kuiper, W., ‘Valentijn en Oursson’, in: Voortgang, jaarboek voor de neerlandistiek 28 (2010), 213-45.

Kuiper, W., ‘Die historie van Valentijn ende Oursson compleet’, in: Neder-L 28/10/2012 (

Kuiper, W., ‘Het dieet van Karel de Grote’, in: Neder-L 7/2/2013 (

Kuiper, W. & R. Resoort (eds.), Maria op de Markt. Middeleeuws toneel in Brussel. Amsterdam, 1995.

Levelt, S., ‘“This book, attractively composed to form a consecutive and orderly narrative”: The Ambiguity of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia regum Britannie’, in: E. Kooper (ed.), The Medieval Chronicle 2. Amsterdam, 2002, 130-43.

Levelt, S., Jan van Naaldwijk’s Chronicles of Holland: Continuity and Transformation in the Historical Tradition of Holland during the Early Sixteenth Century. Hilversum, 2011.

Lie, O. & W. Kuiper (eds.), T. Summerfield (transl.), The Secrets of Women in Middle Dutch. A bilingual edition of Der vrouwen heimelijcheit in Ms. Ghent UB 444. Hilversum, 2011.

Ligota, C.R., ‘Annius of Viterbo and Historical Method’, in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 50 (1987), 44-56.

Minnis, A.J., Medieval Theory of Authorship: Scholastic Literary Attitudes in the Later Middle Ages. 2e ed., Aldershot, 1988.

North, M.L., The Anonymous Renaissance: Cultures of Discretion in Tudor-Stuart England. Chicago, 2003.

Salomon, R.G., ‘Poggio Bracciolini and Johannes Hus: A Hoax Hard to Kill’, in: Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 19 (1956), 174-7.

Shakespeare, W. & W. Rowley, The Birth of Merlin, or: The Child hath Found his Father. London, 1662.

Trithemius, J., Liber de scriptoribus ecclesiasticis. Basel, 1494.

Unzeitig, M., Autorname und Autorschaft. Bezeichnung und Konstruktion in der deutschen und französischen Erzählliteratur des 12. und 13. Jahrhunderts. Berlin, 2010.

Wogan-Browne, J., N. et al. (eds.), The Idea of the Vernacular: An Anthology of Middle English Literary Theory. University Park, PA, 1999.



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The Greek Manuscripts in the Old Seraglio at Constantinople

When I came out of the museums at about two o’clock, the firing was still proceeding merrily — in fact, it was increasing.


In 1916, Stephen Gaselee, Fellow and Librarian of Magdalene College, Cambridge, published a booklet entitled The Greek Manuscripts in the Old Seraglio at Constantinople. A reader, starting to read the work hoping to learn about western manuscripts in the Topkapı Palace in Istanbul (as I did when I first came across the little work in the time before online library catalogues) would, however, come in for a surprise. The work starts promising enough – perhaps with a little more historical contextualization than would nowadays be found appropriate for a library description, but nothing out of the ordinary for the time:

It was announced that one result of the Young Turk regime would be the publication of a careful and complete catalogue of the small collection of Greek MSS. which was known to exist in the Old Seraglio. Exaggerated stories of them had long been current in the West: indeed they were believed by some to be the remains of the Palace Library of the Byzantine Emperors.

In the present state of the world’s history it seems as though the appearance of this catalogue might be long delayed, and I have therefore thought it worth while to give the results of a personal inspection of them seven years ago.

What follows is, in fact, a brief two-page list of Greek manuscripts of the Palace library, embedded in ten pages of travelogue and political analysis, with a description of a stay in Istanbul during one of its most turbulent weeks in history (and that is saying something; it is not uncommon for foreign travellers to find themselves in the middle of political upheavals in the city), the week of the mutiny known as the ’31st March Incident’, an attempt to undo the Young Turk Revolution. Gaselee justifies the digression with the assertion that ‘the interest at present taken in all the political moves of Turkey for the last decade will excuse the presence of a certain amount of descriptive matter somewhat remotely connected with the Classics.’

Thus, The Greek Manuscripts in the Old Seraglio at Constantinople is a fascinating personal account of library research in an unfamiliar place, in the most unlikely of times; it describes Gaselee’s daily journey across the Golden Horn from Pera to the old Sultans’ palace, interspersed with first-hand observations of momentous events of the week, as well as reports of rumours of other related events; the sounds of the running feet of mutineers and loading and firing of rifles only silenced by the tranquillity of the palace library.

After the Wednesday, the exciting events were merely sporadic. The whole of the Thursday morning I was examining my Manuscripts in the Library of the Seraglio, and all seemed to be quiet : on my return to Pera that afternoon I was the witness of an exciting and tragic adventure that took place in front of Tokatlian’s restaurant.

Two soldiers began to quarrel — I could not see why — and one of them attempted to wrest the other’s revolver from him : the second attempted to level his rifle at his opponent and fired. The ball missed its aim, and struck in the head a young Greek who was passing, killing him instantly : the aggressor then ran for his life, while the first soldier prudently retired down a side ally. At that moment a patrol, also soldiers, came round the corner of the street and pursued the fleeing man at full gallop ; I could not see the end, but they caught him at the next corner, and put an end to him at once with bayonets and revolvers. The body lay in the gutter for two or three hours : it was finally removed to the courtyard of a neighbouring mosque, while the unfortunate Greek was taken to an Orthodox Church, the Hagia Trias, at the end of the Rue de Pera.

Stephen Gaselee’s The Greek Manuscripts in the OId Seraglio at Constantinople is available online, and well worth a read for anyone with an interest in Turkey; plus it is as close to Indiana Jones as a catalogue of books can really be.

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Early modern/medieval histories

A significant part of my research is devoted to early modern readings of medieval histories. In particular, I have written about how medieval chronicle traditions were continued into the sixteenth, seventeenth and even eighteenth centuries: for example, one chronicle of Holland which I worked on, first printed in 1538, and itself based on a printed chronicle from 1517 which was itself based mainly on late 15th-century sources, was continuously reprinted until 1802, and regularly revised in the process. My book (previews available here and here) concerns the chronicle tradition of the county Holland – a medieval principality which from the 1580s would become one of the seven constituent provinces of the Dutch Republic. When I worked on that chronicle tradition, two aspects in particular stood out for me in the early modern treatments of medieval histories of the county of Holland: firstly, the provincialism so characteristic of the medieval chronicle tradition of the county of Holland was no problem for readers in the Dutch Republic; secondly, neither was its Catholicism. Or so I thought. But the story turns out to be quite a lot more interesting than that. In fact, judging from readers’ responses I encountered since, their Catholicism may for many readers very well have been the very point of reading such histories. I already knew that these works did find a receptive audience among Catholic communities in the Protestant Netherlands: this was indeed one of the explanations I had offered for the popularity of one particular offshoot of the chronicle tradition of Holland, namely that concerning the house and monastery of Egmond. I had found further confirmation of this kind of use of medieval histories in a fascinating early seventeenth-century manuscript (Haarlem, Noord-Hollands Archief, Collectie van losse aanwinsten [inv. 176], no. 1524), which contains excerpts from various (printed) medieval chronicles as well as polemical Catholic works of the early modern period. Such use can also be seen in what is probably the most interesting book I’ve encountered in this context: The Hague, Koninklijke Bibliotheek, 393 F 18. It is a printed chronicle of Holland (one of the countless revised reprints of the 1538 chronicle mentioned above), printed in the 1590s but concluding in 1540. The KB copy, however, has been further revised and updated: the printed pages are interleaved with blank pages for corrections and additions to the text of the chronicle, and further blank pages were added at the end, and the chronicle was updated up to 1574 (with one remark postdating November 1588), thus including a report of the early years of the Dutch Revolt. [Update 15 January 2015: the full book can now be viewed, for free, here.] Image First, however, the reviser set to make corrections to the original printed chronicle. Most of these are relatively minor: deletions, mostly of matter not strictly concerned with Holland; and substitution of Arabic for Roman numerals. Image Regularly, however, additional entries of information are also included, or passages are extensively revised. Most of these additions and the continuation, while interesting, do not provide us with much information about their author: the description of an Anabaptist as a ‘false fraud’ and the teaching of Menno Simons as an ‘error’ would be shared by anyone who considered themselves to be anything but a Mennonite or an Anabaptist. Even Martin Luther is described in entirely neutral terms. But occasionally the manuscript gives us clues to the personality of the reviser, whose identity, however, remains unknown. Thus, we can deduce from the language that the continuation is written by an apparent supporter of the Revolt. The sack of Naarden by Don Federico, in 1572, for example, is written in negative terms, and a survival from a burned and collapsed building in the town described as miraculous. Support for the Revolt, however, does not necessarily imply support for the Reformation, and this is where things get really interesting: it appears that the reviser of our chronicle was a Catholic, who attempted to ground the history of the Dutch Revolt on the medieval history of Holland. Some clues are provided by some types of information: thus, the reorganization of bishoprics under Philip II is given much space, including the names of several bishops; the bishops of Utrecht are listed by name up to 1588. While the aims of the revolt are described in positive terms – to ‘expel the Spaniard from this land’ – and the rule of Duc d’Alva in negative terms – ‘oh terrible tyranny’, the writer exclaims (but subsequently deletes) – the narrative is by no means straightforward, particularly when dealing with the first wave of the Inquisition in the Netherlands. While the second wave is dismissed as cruel and cause of great conflict, the same cannot be said for the initial response to the Reformation: especially Ruard Tapper, one of the leaders of the Inquisition during the very early Reformation, is described in very positive terms: he was ‘very famous’, and a ‘staunch defender of the Pope’. Image The reader who would be interested to hear more about the ‘devout deeds’ of the leader of the first wave of the Spanish Inquisition in the Netherlands is referred to the Inquisitor’s own autobiographic (and hagiographic) writing, the Apotheosis. For some readers, the very point of reading medieval chronicles in the early modern period was their Catholicism. And this was not only the case for Catholic, but also for some Protestant readers, if in a diametrically opposed fashion. Such a response can be seen in a book in the Bodleian Library, H 1.8 Art.Seld., a 1591 edition of the 1517 chronicle of Holland which had been the source of the shorter chronicle from 1538. According to an ownership mark, the book once belonged to one Johan van Valckenburgh – possibly to be identified with the military engineer of that name (c.1575–1624) who was in the service of Maurits of Orange. Image Again we have a later reprint of a late medieval chronicle of Holland, and again we find manuscript additions; here, however, these remain limited to occasional annotations in the margins. The annotator in this case, however, was clearly anti-Catholic, and most of the annotations serve to dismiss ‘fables’ of the ‘papists’, and to call extra attention to narratives of corrupt and heretic popes and the like. ‘Oh God,’ our annotator at one point exclaims, ‘how can the world have been so blinded?!’ Image Indeed, the negative sentiments aroused by the chronicle seem to have been a source of a certain titillation; in this case it was not the Catholic heritage of the middle ages, but this excitement aroused by Catholic narratives, which made the medieval chronicle so appealing to this early modern reader. Image This latter type of response is in fact a frequent occurrence in early printed chronicles; another example is found in an English chronicle in the Bodleian Library (F 2.27 Art.Seld., a copy of the English translation of Higden’s Polichronicon, printed in 1515 by Wynkyn de Worde), where in the table of contents the word ‘pope’ is consistently crossed out – ‘Adrianus pope / Johannes the .xxi. pope / Nicholaus the thyrde pope‘ –, a reminder that even the most innocuous additions of readers could be crucial evidence to perceptions of texts.* It is a response perhaps similar to the deliberate scratching out of eyes in frescoes in Anatolian Churches. Such occasions of targeted destruction are, in fact, evidence of serious engagement with a culture perceived as ‘other’ by the vandal. As such, they form important evidence not only for early modern readers’ responses to medieval histories, but for their interaction with the world around them. . Images used with kindest permission from the Koninklijke Bibliotheek, The Hague (images from Early European Books) and the Bodleian Library, University of Oxford. . . * @EdvanderVlist kindly suggested to me that the deletion may have had to do with legislative efforts under Henry VIII to have references to Catholic icons such as Thomas Becket and the pope ‘rased and put out of all the bokes’ (thus in a decree from November 1538). This suggestion led me to this excellent article, by Dunstan Roberts, to whose evidence illustrating that many readers went ‘beyond the minimum requirements of the legislation’ the Bodleian Polychronicon can be added. I agree with him that such books appear to show that ‘the owners of books developed the habit of crossing out words on an almost systematic basis.’

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