UAntwerpen acquires snippet from 14th-century unknown Middle Dutch knight's tale


Blood and brains splattered from 14th-century strip of parchment with handwritten text in 160 severed verses. The University of Antwerp bought the scientifically important find for €6,000 from London auction house Christie's.

The urban bourgeoisie in the county of Flanders and the Duchy of Brabant showed an interest in knight's tales after the Battle of the Golden Spurs in 1302. The long narrow snippet was torn from one of those books and used to bind another, perhaps from the 16th century. Indeed, by that time, interest in medieval stories had declined sharply and it was common for older books to be cut into shreds in this way. In fact, no trace of the original 14th-century novel has been found so far. Technical examination of the ink, the parchment and comparison of the copyist's handwriting with that of other manuscripts or fragments may yield new information.

The Antwerp literary researchers hope to establish a link with the so-called Charles novel. The Charlemagne novel describes the events and actions of figures from the Carolingian era, i.e. the period of Emperor Charlemagne (±742-814) of the Roman Empire. We learn a lot about the culture and way of life of the time in the well-known epic and showpiece of Middle Dutch literature, Charles and Elegy. Bloody battles were commonplace. Like in this text fragment.

The 700-year-old gem is kept in the renovated library of the UAntwerpen City Campus at Prinsstraat 13 in Antwerp.