‘The moving word: French medieval manuscripts in Cambridge’ is a celebration of manuscripts held by the University Library and Cambridge colleges, and a survey of how knowledge travelled in manuscript form around Europe and the Mediterranean between 1150 and 1530. ‘French’ at this time was not just a language associated with what we now call France. It was an international language of scholarship and trade, independent of political boundaries and cultural identities. Nor was Paris the centre of manuscript production and transmission before the end of the reign of Philippe Auguste (Gonesse, 1165–Mantes-la-Jolie, 1223). Many French manuscripts were produced in England, the Low Countries, Italy, Cyprus, the Peloponnese, and the Middle East, and they travelled widely across linguistic and cultural spheres. England, in particular, played a major role in the dissemination of medieval French materials and many of the major traditions, including Tristan, the Lais of Marie de France, and the Song of Roland have their earliest roots in England before moving, via English manuscript production, to the continent. French continued to be used in commerce, law, and literature in medieval England; and Anglo-Norman, or Insular French, developed its own characteristics and lexicon. This exhibition highlights this cross-fertilisation and celebrates the richly multilingual and itinerant nature of medieval French literary traditions.
Visit the exhibition themes by clicking on the square thumbnails in the row below. Full images of the exhibits can be viewed by clicking on the large square thumbnails at the foot of each theme page.
View a video introduction to ‘The moving word’ here.