Centre de Recherche Bretonne et Celtique

Centre de recherche
bretonne et celtique

Collex Persée

Regum Britanniae to the European Bruts

The aim of this project is to study the vernacular adaptations of one of the most frequently copied Latin chronicles, the Historia Regum Britanniae. Written around 1135 by a Welsh chronicler, Geoffrey of Monmouth, it was very soon translated into many European languages (Anglo-Norman, French, Old Icelandic and Middle Welsh among others). Some of these translations were copied as independent texts under the title “Brut”, but many others were quarried to provide material for Arthurian or historical compilations and may therefore have remained unidentified.

Despite their abundance and their crucial importance for medieval literature and historiography, the medieval translations of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae have not yet been studied as a general phenomenon, and scholars cannot yet rely on complete catalogues, scholarly editions or detailed monographs on these “Bruts”.
Our aim is to make good this historiographical lacuna by building an international research network run by medievalists from different backgrounds:  literary specialists, philologists, historians, scholars studying the major vernacular languages of medieval Europe, etc.

The principal investigators, Hélène Tétrel and Géraldine Veysseyre, have been working for many years on two specific “Brut” families (respectively Old Icelandic and Old French).

Three major meetings to launch the project are scheduled between June 2011 and June 2014. These meetings will take place as follows :

  1. Aberystwyth (June 2011) : An exploratory workshop dedicated to definitional approaches (classification, typology, existing catalogues, etc.), will be preceded by a symposium specifically dedicated to the Welsh Brut tradition. The papers and results will be edited (in English) on a web-site dedicated to our project hosted by the Maison des Sciences de l’Homme en Bretagne.
  2. Brest (autumn 2012), first international conference, exploring the textual changes involved in the vernacular translation of the Historia Regum Britannie: how the Latin chronicle was translated (linguistic adaptation, interpolations and use of other sources, cuts, addition of glosses, etc.), and how it was treated as a fragment of a larger textual corpus: “L’Historia Regum Britannie de Geoffroy de Monmouth : traductions et réappropriations au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance (xiie-xvie siècle)”, to be led by Hélène Tétrel and Géraldine Veysseyre.
  3. Université Paris  IV-Sorbonne (autumn 2013): second international conference, exploring the historical context of these translations — Who commissioned them? Where were they copied? From which area do most of these translations derive? In what kind of manuscripts were they copied: in deluxe codices, for the pleasure of wealthy patron, or in more utilitarian books, intended to be read rather than simply admired, etc.): “Contextes de production et de réception de l’Historia regum Britanniae (latin et langue vernaculaire) en Europe”, to be led by Hélène Tétrel et Géraldine Veysseyre.

The proceedings (in English and French) will be published in a book edited by Hélène Tétrel and Géraldine Veysseyre in 2014.

In the meantime, the web-site dedicated to the entire Brut project will be regularly up-dated, in order to maximize the international impact and extend the collaborative network among scholars.