LJS 266 and Ms. Roll 1588: Genealogy

On Monday, November 15, for Coffee With A Codex we looked at two fifteenth-century genealogical texts: LJS 266 and Ms. Roll 1588. Although they contain similar content – genealogical diagrams in for form of circles, representing people, connected by lines – their formats are quite different, and those varying formats is what we focused on during our meeting.

LJS 266, f. 1r

Ms. Roll 1588 (online) is chronicle, written in England sometime between 1425 and 1450, with a diagram from the first reign of Henry VI tracing the descent of the kings of England from Noah, through Brut, and breaking off after the kings Kimbelinus and Arvigarus in the central line of descent and the kings Ingils and Offa in another line left of center. As its shelfmark implies, this manuscript is in the form of a roll – several pieces of parchment, called membranes, stitched together to form a single long piece of writing support. A roll is the ideal format for a genealogical diagram, allowing the tree to branch out, even into several parallel offshoots, and remain more or less coherent.

Ms. Roll 1588, membrane 2

LJS 266 (online) is similar to Ms. Roll 1588 in that it is a collection of genealogical and chronicle material, including Biblical genealogy from Adam to Jesus and the apostles; genealogy concerning the Trojan War and the founding of Rome; the legendary history of England and France as founded by descendants of participants in the Trojan War, including the genealogy of Brut and the succeeding line of kings in England up to Coyl; the emperors of Rome; the Holy Emperors starting with Charlemagne; and the kings of France up to Charles V (crowned 1364). Unlike Ms. Roll 1588, LJS 266 is in the form of a codex, or what we might consider a “regular” book. The genealogical diagrams are drawn around the chronicle text, and in cases multiple lines will disappear at the bottom of a page, only to reappear again pages later.

LJS 266, 4v-5r, with two lines that run off the page…
… only to reappear on f. 7r (LJS 266)

Although it’s clear that the diagrams were drawn first and then the text was written around them, because of the format, LJS 266 focuses on the coherence of the text rather than the diagrams.

LJS 266, f. 7v

Find out more about these manuscripts by viewing the digitized versions and reading the full catalog records on BiblioPhilly (LJS 266, Ms. Roll 1588)

We host Coffee With A Codex every Monday at 12pm ET / 5pm GMT on Zoom. For a schedule three weeks ahead, visit our main page here.

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