Lanceloet section 5

The story of Lancelot, his beloved Queen Guinevere, King Arthur and the Holy Grail was very popular in the medieval Low Countries. The famous Old French prose romance describing Lancelot’s life was translated into Middle Dutch at least three times. The Lancelot Project aims to present these translations in modern editions to a wide audience and to study these texts. In 1974 W.P. Gerritsen started the project and it soon grew into a collaboration of Utrecht University and the Royal Dutch Academy, as it still is. By now, ten volumes have been published, on paper and in one case in digital form as well (Walewein ende Keye).

The most important text is the translation in verse that has come down to us in the so-called Lancelot Compilation. Some parts of this version have been published in a new edition, quite a few still await editing. Frank Brandsma is now preparing a TEI XML edition of the final section of the Lanceloet. After this, there are two other large sections to do: the story of the Grail quest and that of the demise of Arthur’s kingdom. All of these editions will be published as digital resources on the Huygens Institute websites.

The texts tell an intriguing tale, as fascinating for the modern reader as it was for the medieval listening audience. Chivalry inspired by courtly love, as it is celebrated in the Arthurian world, turns out to be fragile and even pernicious when the Grail appears, offering the knights an alternative moral compass. Many of the knights are not suited to be Grail knights and it becomes more and more evident that this also goes for Lancelot. Younger knights like Bohort and Lancelot’s son Galaad are the future, they will be successful in the Grail quest.

The manuscript in which we have this story has another special feature. A contemporaneous corrector has worked on the texts, leaving his marks on many leaves. The correction process was part of the making of the codex and narrative cycle, it facilitated the reading aloud of the text to a listening audience. What the corrector did will be visible in the new edition, allowing the user to look over the shoulder of a medieval performer. A unique experience!

The project does not yet have external funding. Frank Brandsma is dedicating part of his UU research time to this project, especially during a sabbatical (2021-spring 2022). Plans are being made to set up a consortium with the following partners: Huygens Institute, KB National Library, Utrecht University and perhaps Amsterdam University.