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A superb illustrator as well as a fine writer, Matthew Paris (d. 1259) produced two closely related chronicles, one a massive work known as the Chronica maiora, the other a breviate version of the former known as the Historia Anglorum. Focused though it is on English history and the interests and reputation of St Albans Abbey, Chronica maiora is another example of the trend towards exhaustiveness. It was built on the work of an earlier St Albans historian, Roger of Wendover (d. 1236), whose Flores historiarum extended from the time covered by Bede down to May 1234 (or perhaps June 1235). The Flores was only in its final sections, from the end of the reign of King John (1199–1216) down to 1234/5, fully Roger’s own work. For the rest, as its name implies, Roger had relied on extracts (flores, ‘flowers’) taken from the works of other historians: Bede, Henry of Huntingdon, Roger of Howden, Ralph de Diceto and various annal-writers. As well as continuing it down to the end of the 1250s, Paris added much more material to earlier sections of this compilation. In its final form, it is a monumental work extending to seven tomes in the Rolls Series edition, though the final volume in this edition, the Liber additamentorum, is merely an appendix of documents.
Manuscripts: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MSS 16 +
26. These books comprise the first two volumes or a three volume
set containing Matthew’s historical works: Corpus 26 (known as MS
A) has the text of Chronica maiora from
Creation down to the end of the year 1188; Corpus 16 (known as B)
has the text from 1189 to 1253; and a third volume, London, British Library,
MS Royal 14 C.VII (known as R), has the remainder
of the work (1254–9) together with the entire text of Matthew’s Historia
Anglorum. The three volumes comprise an edition of the work prepared
under the author’s direction and much of the text, after the annal for 1213,
is written in Matthew’s own hand. The three books were used as the key witnesses
for H. R. Luard’s Rolls Series edition.
Provenance: Written at St Albans Abbey and presented to the convent by Matthew Paris. The calendar on folio vi (rv) of Corpus 26 also contains many feasts which seldom celebrated beyond the abbey and its dependencies, such as that of the Invention of St Oswine (10 March), that of the Invention of St Amphibalus and his Companions (25 June) and that of the Natalis of St Oswine (20 August).
Text: Matthew Paris, Chronica majora, ed. H. R. Luard, Rolls Series 57, 7 vols. (London, 1872–83). MU5.
Translation: Vaughan, R., (ed.), The Illustrated Chronicles of Matthew Paris: Monastic Life in the Thirteenth-Century (Gloucester, 1984). MVGR.K.
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