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Walters Ms. W.137, William of Tyre's Histoire d'Outre Mer

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William of Tyre's Histoire d'Outre Mer

Text title
Histoire d'Outre Mer


Authority name: William, of Tyre, Archbishop of Tyre, approximately 1130-approximately 1190

Known as: William II of Tyre


This manuscript, completed in the later part of the thirteenth century, contains William of Tyre's Estoire d'Eracles (to 1229), Les Faits des Romains (continuation, Tiberius to Julian), and a letter of Prester John. While the origin of the manuscript is debatable between Acre and Paris, Jaroslav Folda suggests a strong connection with Epinal 45, a manuscript known to have been created in Paris during this same time. Versions of William of Tyre's work were particularly popular in France during the latter part of the thirteenth century. The volume of William de Tyre's history of the Crusades housed at the Walters Art Museum features eighteen historiated initials, completed by four different artists' hands, of varying competence. What sets this particular manuscript apart from its contemporaries is the two unusual appended texts and its selective pictorial style.


Late 13th century CE


North France (Paris?)






The primary language in this manuscript is French, Old (842-ca.1400).

Support material


Medium- to heavy-weight parchment; unevenly and at times poorly finished, with color and texture ranging widely; many mended and unmended holes, some large and within textblock (e.g. see fol. 189); many missing corners; candle wax spilled on pages throughout


Foliation: i+362+i

Original foliation in red Roman numerals, upper left corners, versos; nineteenth-century pencil foliation on upper right corners, rectos, now almost completely erased; modern pencil foliation, upper right corners, rectos (used here)


Formula: Quires 1-6: 12 (fols. 1-72); Quire 7: 8 (fols. 73-80); Quires 8-13: 12 (fols. 81-152); Quire 14: 8 (fols. 153-160); Quires 15-30: 12 (fols. 161-352); Quire 31: 4 (fols. 353-356); Quire 32: 6, composed of six singletons stitched together (fols. 357-362)

Catchwords: Occasionally visible lower right of last verso in quire

Signatures: Signatures rarely visible, give upper-case letter and roman numeral (e.g. fols. 153-157, where "NI"-"NV" is visible in lead); quire numbers at times visible in form of dark brown ink Roman numerals, middle of lower margins, last versos; modern pencil quire numbers in Arabic numerals lower left corners first rectos



24.5 cm wide by 34.1 cm high

Written surface

18.0 cm wide by 26.0 cm high

  1. Columns: 2
  2. Ruled lines: 44
  3. Ruled in lead except for fols. 269-328, which are ruled in brown crayon

fols. 1r - 362v:
  1. Title: Histoire d'Outre Mer
  2. Author: William, of Tyre, Archbishop of Tyre, approximately 1130-approximately 1190
  3. Hand note: Written in irregular textura by several hands: hand changes notable at fols. 142, 151, 269, and 329
  4. Decoration note: Eighteen historiated initials (6-13 lines), found at the beginnings of seven books, nine chapters, as well as at beginning of other two appended texts; fourteen large flourished initials filled with intricate penwork at some major chapter divisions (7-9 lines); smaller flourished initials at beginnings of three books, and at beginnings of secondary text divisions throughout (3 lines); rubrics in red; text in dark brown ink; four different artists' hands identifiable: Hand A: fols. 1r and 357r; Hand B: fols. 15r, 29r, 137r, 157v, 229v, and 235r; Hand C: fols. 33r, 145r, 171v, 203v (or possibly Hand B), 329r; Hand D: fols. 62r, 180v, 222r, and 252r
fols. 1r - 328v:
  1. Title: Estoire d'Eracles
  2. Incipit: Les ancienes ystoires dient que Eracles fu moult boens crestiens
  3. Contents: History includes the text for 1095-1184, with continuation through 1229; text divided by sixteen historiated initials and fourteen large flourished initials
  4. Decoration note: Historiated initials fols. 1r, 15r, 29r, 33r, 62r, 137r, 145r, 157v, 171v, 180v, 203v, 222r, 229v, 235r, 252r, and 265v; large flourished initials fols. 24r, 42r, 52r, 72v, 82v, 121v, 133v, 144v, 171r, 222v, 237v, 251v, 260r, and 300r
fols. 329r - 356r:
  1. Title: Les Faits des Romains
  2. Incipit: Nous vous avons dit devant que li empereur tyberius
  3. Contents: Text divided into sixty-five chapters; rubrics left blank; continuation of history of Roman emperors, from Tiberius through Julian, with many references to Seneca
  4. Decoration note: Historiated initial fol. 329r
fols. 357r - 361r:
  1. Title: Letter of Prester John
  2. Incipit: Prestre Iehans par la graice de ihesucrist
  3. Decoration note: Historiated initial fol. 357r


fol. 1r:

  1. W.137, fol. 1r
  2. Title: Initial "L" with (above) the Crucifixion, and the First Crusade being preached by Pope Urban II; (below) man kneeling in prayer before altar, and people worshiping idols
  3. Form: Historiated initial "L," 13 lines
  4. Text: Book 1, chapter 1

fol. 15r:

  1. W.137, fol. 15r
  2. Title: Initial "V" with Godefroy de Bouillon leaving for Holy Land with knights
  3. Form: Historiated initial "V," 11 lines
  4. Text: Book 2, chapter 1

fol. 29r:

  1. W.137, fol. 29r
  2. Title: Initial "N" with battle between the forces of Qilij Arslan and the Crusaders in Asia Minor
  3. Form: Historiated initial "N," 11 lines
  4. Text: Book 3, chapter 19

fol. 33r:

  1. W.137, fol. 33r
  2. Title: Initial "O" with Tancred receiving gifts from Turkish and Armenian satraps
  3. Form: Historiated initial "O," 10 lines
  4. Text: Book 4, chapter 1

fol. 62r:

  1. W.137, fol. 62r
  2. Title: Initial "C" with the emperor of Constantinople receiving Crusader envoys
  3. Form: Historiated initial "C," 10 lines
  4. Text: Book 7, chapter 1

fol. 137r:

  1. W.137, fol. 137r
  2. Title: Initial "Q" with man handing knights in tent the key to the city of Tyre
  3. Form: Historiated initial "Q," 11 lines
  4. Text: Book 13, chapter 12

fol. 145r:

  1. W.137, fol. 145r
  2. Title: Initial "R" with the coronation of King Fulk
  3. Form: Historiated initial "R," 13 lines
  4. Text: Book 14, chapter 2

fol. 157v:

  1. W.137, fol. 157v
  2. Title: Initial "A" with the Count of Edessa and the Prince of Antioch playing dice on a chess board while a knight sleeps
  3. Form: Historiated initial "A," 11 lines
  4. Text: Book 15, chapter 1
  5. Comment:

    Note: this has usually been described as a scene of men playing chess, but close examination reveals dice on the board rather than chess pieces. This may be a strange conflation of two traditions associated with this story, in which they are usually described as playing dice, but are sometimes depicted playing chess.

fol. 171v:

  1. W.137, fol. 171v
  2. Title: Initial "N" with two laymen crowning King Baldwin
  3. Form: Historiated initial "N," 10 lines
  4. Text: Book 16, chapter 3

fol. 180v:

  1. W.137, fol. 180v
  2. Title: Initial "P" with Bernard of Clairvaux preaching the Second Crusade
  3. Form: Historiated initial "P," 10 lines
  4. Text: Book 16, chapter 35

fol. 203v:

  1. W.137, fol. 203v
  2. Title: Initial "O" with Patriarch Amaury of Antioch opposing the marriage of Raynauld of Châtillon and Constance
  3. Form: Historiated initial "O," 10 lines
  4. Text: Book 18, chapter 1

fol. 222r:

  1. W.137, fol. 222r
  2. Title: Initial "E" with the funeral service of King Baldwin III
  3. Form: Historiated initial "E," lines 10
  4. Text: Book 18, chapter 34

fol. 229v:

  1. W.137, fol. 229v
  2. Title: Initial "S" with Crusader envoys and two men discussing renewal of treaty between King of Jerusalem and Sultan of Egypt
  3. Form: Historiated initial "S," 9 lines
  4. Text: Book 19, chapter 21

fol. 235r:

  1. W.137, fol. 235r
  2. Title: Initial "A" with the siege of Alexandria
  3. Form: Historiated initial "A," 9 lines
  4. Text: Book 19, chapter 29

fol. 252r:

  1. W.137, fol. 252r
  2. Title: Initial "Q" with Patriarch Amaury of Constantinople crowning Baldwin IV
  3. Form: Historiated initial "Q," 8 lines
  4. Text: Book 21, chapter 2

fol. 265v:

  1. W.137, fol. 265v
  2. Title: Initial "D" with Guy of Lusignan's marriage to Sibylle, sister of Baldwin IV
  3. Form: Historiated initial "D," 9 lines
  4. Text: Book 22, chapter 1

fol. 329r:

  1. W.137, fol. 329r
  2. Title: Initial "N" with the Pharisees and Sadducees debating
  3. Form: Historiated initial "N," 10 lines
  4. Text: Les Faits des Romains

fol. 357r:

  1. W.137, fol. 357r
  2. Title: Initial "P" with Prester John handing a letter for the Pope to a messenger
  3. Form: Historiated initial "P," 6 lines
  4. Text: Letter of Prester John


The binding is not original.

Binding by Léon Gruel, Paris, early twentieth century; red velvet, resewn on six tawed straps; in eighteenth or early nineteenth century, edges of pages speckled with orange and grey, and paper tabs added; leather tabs added late nineteenth or early twentieth century; Gruel's original telescopic book box, stamped in gold with his name, replaced by Walters conservation department in the second half of the twentieth century


Produced in northern France, possibly Paris, in the late thirteenth century; early ownership inscription erased, fol. 362r

Several later inscriptions survive on fol. 362v in various states of legibility; upper left: fifteenth-century inscription reads "Cest li Roman de Goudeffroy de bullion Explicit"; to right of this inscription (somewhat effaced) in a different hand "Cest ly Roman godefroy de bullon que...p[our] xlvii m auril"; below both is drawn rectangular box which originally contained inscription (now erased); in lower left corner is inscribed ".xxx. l[ivres]"

Gordon of Buthlaw, Great Britain, mid-nineteenth century

Bertram, Fourth Earl of Ashburnham, London, 1861, no. CLIV in his collection

Léon Gruel, Paris, purchased at Sotheby's, London, March 16, 1903, lot 689; Gruel and Engelmann bookplate on front pastedown, inscribed "No 138"

Henry Walters, Baltimore, 1903, by purchase from Gruel


Walters Art Museum, 1931, by Henry Walters' bequest


Jubb, Margaret A. "The Ordene de Chevalerie and the Old French Translation of William of Tyre: The Relationship of Text to Context" (with an edition of OC), Carte Romanze 4/2 (2016): 9-36.

Riant, Paul. "Inventaire sommaire des manuscrits de l'Eracles." Archives de l'Orient Latin 1 (1880-1881): 247-256; p. 250, no. 42.

De Ricci, S., and W. J. Wilson. Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the United States and Canada. Vol. 1. New York: H. W. Wilson Company, 1935; p. 850, cat. no. 524.

Woledge, Brian, and H. P. Clive. Répertoire des plus anciens textes en prose français depuis 842 jusqu'aux première années du XIIIe siècle. Société de Publications Romanes et Françaises, 79. Geneva: Libraire Droz Geneve, 1964; pp. 60-61.

Folda, Jaroslav. "Manuscripts of the 'History of Outremer' by William of Tyre: A Handlist." Scriptorium 27 (1973): 90-95; 93.

Morgan, Margaret R. The Chronicle of Ernoul and the Continuations of William of Tyre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1973; p. 38.

Folda, Jaroslav. Crusader Manuscript Illumination at Saint-Jean d'Arce, 1275-1291. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1976; pp. 131, 146, 148-151, 208-211, figs. 273-281.

Greenhalgh, Michael. Donatello and His Sources. NY: Holmes and Meier, 1982; p. 185.

Randall, Lilian M.C. "From Cîteaux Onwards: Cistercian-Related Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery." Studies in Cistercian Art and Architecture 3 (1987): 111-136; p. 130, no. 6.

Edbury, Peter W., and John G. Rowe. William of Tyre: Historian of the Latin East. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988; cover illus., p. 192.

Randall, Lilian M. C. Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts in the Walters Art Gallery. Vol. 1. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1989; pp. 123-127, cat. no. 50.

Nicolle, David. Arms and Armour of the Crusading Era, 1050-1350: Western Europe and the Crusader States. Bamsley, Yorkshire: Greenhill Books, 1999; p. 39, cat. no. 59.

Camille, Michael. El ídolo gótico: Ideología y creacíon de imágenes en el arte medieval. Madrid: Ediciones AKAL, 2000; pp. 153-154, fig. 76 (ref. as MS 10.137).

Higgs Strickland, Debra. Saracens, Demons, and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003; pp. 166-168 (fig. 78).

Vale, Juliet. "Image and Identity in the Prehistoric Order of the Garter." In St George's Chapel, Windsor, in the Fourteenth Century. Edited by Nigel Saul, 35-50. Woodbridge, Suffolk: Boydell Press, 2005; p. 36.

Edbury, Peter W. "The French Translation of William of Tyre's Historia: The Manuscript Tradition." Crusades 6 (2007): 69-106; pp. 72, 80, 81, 89, 95, 98 (ref. as F31).

Edbury, Peter W. "The Old French William of Tyre and the Origins of the Templars." In Knighthoods of Christ: Essays on the History of the Crusades and the Knights Templar. Edited by Norman Housely. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2007; 151-164; p. 162.

Edbury, Peter W. "The Old French William of Tyre, the Templars, and the Assassin Envoy." In The Hospitallers, Mediterranean and Europe: Festschrift for Anthony Luttrell. Edited by Karl Borchardt, Nikolas Jaspert, and Helen J. Nicholson, 25-38. Burlington: Ashgate, 2007; pp. 33-34, 37 (ref. as f31).

Rinoldi, Paolo. "La tradizione dell'Estoire d'Eracles in Italia. Note su un volgarizzamento fiorentino." In Studi su volgarizzamenti italiani due-trecenteschi. Edited by Paolo Rinoldi and Gabriella Ronchi, 65-97. Rome: Viella, 2009; p. 68.

Folda, Jaroslav. "Commemorating the Fall of Jerusalem: Remembering the First Crusade in Text, Liturgy, and Image." In Remembering the Crusades: Myth, Image, and Identity. Edited by Nicholas Paul and Suzanne Yeager, 125-145. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2012; pp. 140 (fig. 5.4), 144 (n. 34), 145 (n. 35).

Luchitskaya, Svetlana I. "Pictorial Sources, Coronation Ritual, and Daily Life." In Ritual, Images, and Daily Life: The Medieval Perspective. Edited by Gerhard Jaritz. Münster: Verlag Frenostr, 2012; pp. 62, 66.


Principal cataloger: Randall, Lilian M.C.

Cataloger: Herbert, Lynley

Editor: Herbert, Lynley

Copy editor: Dibble, Charles

Conservators: Owen, Linda; Quandt, Abigail

Contributors: Brown, Emily; Emery, Doug; Herbold, Rebekah; Noel, William; Schuele, Allyson; Tabritha, Ariel; Toth, Michael B.; Wiegand, Kimber


The Walters Art Museum


Licensed for use under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported Access Rights, http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/legalcode. It is requested that copies of any published articles based on the information in this data set be sent to the curator of manuscripts, The Walters Art Museum, 600 North Charles Street, Baltimore MD 21201.