Ernoul-Bernard’s Chronique and the Eracles in Italy: manuscripts, translations and adaptations

Massimiliano Gaggero
University of Milan

Among the Old French chronicles from the thirteenth century, the Ernoul-Bernard Chronique and the Eracles were, along with the Grandes Chroniques de France, the ones whose importance lasted longer: they were still copied in the fifteenth century and they were read and adapted well into the Modern Age. They were also, along with the Pseudo-Turpin chronicle, one of the most widespread text: they circulated in the Latin East, in Spain and in Italy.

While in the Latin East the both texts circulated in a French speaking milieu, in the case of Spain and Italy the Old French text circulated among readers who spoke and understood French as a second language: this allowed for a more diverse reception, with manuscript copies of the French text circulating alongside Spanish, Italian but also Latin translations, and several adaptations into other genres or forms, including verse.

In my paper I will focus on the Italian reception of the Chronique and the Eracles, which is the only one where all the different ways of reception outlined above coexisted. I will build on philological, codicological and linguistic study of the manuscripts copied in Italy and on a study of the sources of the translations and adaptations to answer to two main questions:
First, where did the exemplars come from, and which where the cultural hubs that allowed for scribes and authors from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century to come into contact with the French texts? This will help me to establish the place of the different regions in Italy in the international network of Old French, and to show how Italy worked as a contact zone both with French spoken/written in the West and with French spoken/written in the Latin East.

Second, how did they understand the French text or tried to repurpose it by giving a biased rendition of it? From this point of view, the copying of manuscript and the reworking of the text will be seen as a special kind of readership in order to understand the variations in the perception of French throughout the late Middle Ages.