Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, Bodmer 110
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Prof. Linne R. Mooney, University of York, 2020.

Manuscript title: John Lydgate, Troy Book, or The Siege of Troy
Place of origin: London
Date of origin: mid-fifteenth c.
Support: Paper
Extent: IV + 408 + IV
Format: 210 x 295 mm.
The original size of the volume may best be judged from the leaves of quire 1 that survive in Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson Poet. 223, fols i – x, which measure 210 x 298 mm, slightly larger, less cropped, than the surviving leaves in the bulk of the manuscript now in the Bodmer Library, which measure 295 mm in height.
Collation: As detailed below, the volume consists of four blank flyleaves each at front and back, added at the time of most recent binding since they match the pastedowns, plus 407 paper leaves (including 16 now accounted for in part by the fragments in the Bodleian Library), in 26 quires of 16 leaves. A final leaf, 408, contains many scribbles and pentrials of the 15th and 16th centuries, presumably having been a flyleaf following the lost final quire.
Writing and hands: It is written by a single scribe, writing a mid-fifteenth-century secretary script with occasional anglicana features.
Decoration: The manuscript was lavishly illustrated, and art historian Kathleen Scott identified several further manuscripts illustrated by the same artists in her article, ‘A Mid-Fifteenth Century Illuminating Shop and its Customers.’ Scott only identified the two fragments in the Bodleian Library as belonging to the same manuscript but did not know of their relationship to Bodmer 110. She therefore only discusses the owl illustration and border on folio v recto of Bodleian Library MS Rawlinson poet. 223. The page (folio v recto) is dominated by a large illuminated I in the upper left corner at the beginning of Book I, with sprays of fine black stems extending from the left side of the ground and down the left margin, with green leaves, red strawberries, tiny opposing green buds and gold balls with three petals around them. The owl appears just below the middle of a separate border taking up the right margin of the page (folio v recto), with similar structure and details. The owl stands on a green mound, and another smaller bird is illustrated as if in flight, attacking the owl from behind. See Scott’s article, ‘A Mid-Fifteenth Century Illuminating Shop and its Customers’ and discussion in her Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490 for further manuscripts by the same or similar scribes and artists.
In the Bodmer 110 manuscript, not known to Scott, there are two further leaves with illuminated initials and borders by the same artists, but without an owl or any other figures, at the beginnings of books III and IV:
  • 175v at the beginning of Book III, has an 8-line illuminated initial W on a blue ground, with a border of sprays of buds, leaves, gold balls and strawberries taking up the left margin of the page but no birds or other animals/figures;
  • 255v at the beginning of Book IV, has an 8-line gold initial E on blue and rose ground, with similar sprays taking up the left margin with leaves and dianthus flowers in red, other 4-petalled flowers and gold balls with three blue petals around them.
The beginnings of the Prologue (folio preceding i in Rawl. poet. 223) and Book II (after folio 60 in Bodmer 110) have been removed from the manuscript, presumably for their beautiful illuminated initials and borders; the beginning of Book V (folio 356v) is marked only by a 6-line undecorated red Lombard initial W (‘‘Whan Eolus which doth the wyndes rore’’), though the scribe has given the explicit for Book IV and the incipit for Book V on the lines above the initial.
Additions: The scribbles unfortunately give no clues to the early ownership of the manuscript: they include “amor vinsit omnia” “quod pel”” and “Sans plus ma vie Durant” (408r) and “Aue” and a signature “John H” with rest of surname rubbed out (408v). I have not had an opportunity to examine the leaf under special conditions such as ultra-violet light, which might reveal the surname of John H.
Binding: MS Bodmer 110 is bound in red morocco leather, with the title on the spine stamped in gold: “THE | TROY BOOK |JOHN | LYDGATE” and at base of spine, “MANUSCRIPT | OF THE 15th CENTURY”.
John Lydgate, Troy Book, written c. 1412-1420 at the request of Henry V when still Prince of Wales. It is composed in couplets, with a prologue, five books, an epilogue, and an address to Henry V (thirteen stanzas rhyme royal=7-line stanzas ababbcc), and envoy, titled ‘Verba auctoris’ (two 8-line stanzas). Lydgate translated the story of the Trojan War into English, not directly from Homer but through the re-workings by Benoit de Ste Maure, Roman de Troie (1165) and Guido della Colonna, Historia Destructionis Troiae (1287).
The complete text of Troy Book contains 30,117 lines; this MS, missing some leaves, contains 28,090 lines. Some of the missing leaves are now in the Bodleian Library in Oxford: Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson poet. 223 (Summary Catalogue 14714), folios i-x (now bound separately), containing Prologue, lines 80-384 (end) and Book I, lines 1-459; and Bodleian Library, MS Rawlinson D.913 (Summary Catalogue 13679), fols 2-3v (bound in reverse order), containing Book I, lines 460-537 and 623-702. (see below for details of missing leaves and text.)
The text of this manuscript of Lydgate’s Troy Book is almost complete. From the Bodmer 110 MS the first quire of 16 is missing, but much of it survives in the two Bodleian Rawlinson manuscripts named above: the first quire of 16 leaves (those that survive foliated 3-12, 13 and 15) as follows: first missing, probably with elaborate initial and border (Prologue, lines 1-79), second through eleventh now in Bodleian Rawlinson Poet. 223 (Prologue, lines 80-384 (end) and Book I, lines 1-459), twelfth in Bodleian Rawlinson D.913, folio 3 (Book I, lines 460-537), thirteenth missing (Book I, lines 538-622), fourteenth in Bodliean Rawlinson D.913, folio 2 (Book I, lines 623-702), fifteenth and sixteenth missing (Book I, lines 703-862).
The leaves were presumably foliated at some time before the first quire was lost, since the surviving detached leaves in the Bodleian Library have the same style of foliation as that in the Bodmer 110 manuscript. The outer bifolium of that first quire may have been missing at the time of foliation (presumably for the illuminated initial and border at the beginning of the Prologue), since the foliator (not having a complete text to compare) did not note that two leaves, not one, were missing between the last one in Rawlinson and the beginning of Bodmer 110. Thus the second in sequence of lines (folio 2 in Rawlinson D.913) is numbered 15 and the first in Bodmer is numbered 17, whereas there should be two leaves between these, which I shall call lost folios 16 and 16a. There must be two leaves missing here since the number of lines missing (159) accounts for two leaves of c. 38-40 lines per side. To make up a quire of 16 to match most others in the volume, the foliator started his numbering with ‘3’, whereas it seems likely that only one leaf (79 lines) was missing before the first leaf in Rawlinson Poet. 223.
There are only three leaves missing from the Bodmer manuscript as it stands, besides those missing at the beginning and end: one at the end of the second quire in Bodmer, originally the third quire, after fol. 45, accounting for missing lines I.3184-3260; one at the end of the third quire in Bodmer, originally the fourth quire, after fol. 60, accounting for II.1-75 and probably removed for the illuminated initial and border at the beginning of Book II; one that would have been the fourteenth leaf of the sixth quire in Bodmer, originally the seventh quire, after fol. 104, accounting for lines II.3420-3490.

  • The text in Bodmer begins at Book I, line 863, “And of malice and conspiracioun”. In the manuscript as it stands the text ends, “Which escape ne may [no cr]eature | […] al [thorn]is world […] | […] king’” (V.3312-3314), leaving 308 lines of Book V plus 107 lines for the Envoy and Verba translatoris, which together (415 lines) would account for only approximately 6 leaves missing at the end of the volume, at 78-80 lines per leaf. Words missing from the last lines result from the lower half of folio 407 having been torn away.
    The full collation would be (with Bodmer beginning quire 2): 116 (fols 2-16a; lacks 1, 13, 15, 16 = foliation 2, 14, 16, 16a with Prol. 1-79, I.538-622 and I.703-862) 214 316 (lacks 16 after fol. 45 with I.3184-3260) 416 (lacks 16 after fol. 60 with II.1-75) 516 615 (lacks a leaf but no text lost) 716 (lacks 14 after fol. 104 with II.3420-3490) 8-1816 1914 (no leaves missing, since text is continuous) 20-2616 (lower half of 16, fol. 407, torn away) 276 (completely missing).
    The foliator must not have had a complete text of the Troy Book to compare, since foliation does not take account of the missing leaves. The numbering is continuous except for the first leaf of quire 20, numbered 296a to follow the last leaf of quire 19, 296.
    As noted above, the 2nd and 19th quires consist of 14 leaves, and the 6th of 15 leaves, whereas the others are (or were originally) quires of 16. In none of these three short quires is there missing text, so some other oddity of production must account for their brevity.
Origin of the manuscript: Scott’s identification of the scribes and artists date the manuscript to the mid-fifteenth century and place its production in London. The manuscript offers no clues to its early ownership.
Provenance of the manuscript: Since part of the first quire was bound with the manuscript Oxford, Bodleian Rawlinson poet. 223, a complete manuscript of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, it seems likely that they shared a common owner at one time, possibly Richard Rawlinson (1690-1755) an antiquarian collector who bequeathed more than 5,000 manuscripts to the Bodleian Library. He may have owned only the first quire, however, since the remainder which comprises the Bodmer 110 manuscript was later owned by the 19th-century collector Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), numbered 3113 in his collection; still later it was owned by Sir Robert Leicester Harmsworth (1870-1937)
Acquisition of the manuscript: and included in Sotheby’s Harmsworth sale of October 1945, lot 163.
  • Lydgate’s Troy Book ed. Henry Bergen, Early English Text Society, Extra Series XCVII, CIII and CVI (bound together in one volume 1996), using London, British Library MS Cotton Augustus A.iv as base text, collated with British Library MS Arundel 99, and Oxford, Bodleian Library MSS Digby 232 and Digby 230.
  • Digital Index of Middle English Verse, ed. Linne R. Mooney and Daniel W. Mosser, with David Radcliffe and Elizabeth Solopova. number 3995. This on-line resource lists 21 more or less complete manuscripts including Bodmer 110, plus its two fragments in the Bodleian Library. It also lists two early printed copies, by Pynson (1513) and Braham (1555).
  • Kathleen L. Scott, "A Mid-Fifteenth-Century English Illuminating Shop and its Customers", Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, Vol. 31 (1968): 170-196, esp. 189-191.
  • Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490, A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in the British Isles VI, Gen. Ed. J. J. G. Alexander (London: Harvey Miller, 1996), II.352-355 (cat. no. 136).
  • Linne R. Mooney, ‘Two Fragments of Lydgate’s Troy Book in the Bodleian Library’, Journal of the Early Book Society 4 (2001), 259-66.