Perceval, the Story of the Grail is the unfinished fifth romance of French poet Chrétien de Troyes. It was most likely written between 1135 and 1195. After the poet’s death, four other poets took up the challenge of continuing the poem. First written in verse and then transposed into prose, this poem was a great success and was translated from French into German, Dutch and English. Following the release of Chrétien de Troyes’ work, Parzival, a medieval German romance written by German poet Wolfram von Eschenbach, was released in the first quarter of the 13th century.The manuscript of Perceval, the Story of the Grail is conserved in Mons and dates back to the second half of the 13th century. Its 244 pages are made of parchment. It is believed that the text, presented in two columns per page, was written and illustrated in Tournai. Its illustration is composed of two miniature drawings (one in two columns and another in one) and 39 adorned letters. Unfortunately, some of them suffered greatly over the years and can be difficult to read. The binding is made of calfskin from the fifteenth century and bears traces of restoration. It is finished with nets and small chains and is signed A. Fierlin. The volume belonged to Jean Desplanques, who was appointed Receveur for Arras and for Avesnes-le-Comte and Aubigny from September 1460. His name is handwritten on the back of the penultimate page.
The manuscript in Mons is one of 15 currently known manuscripts that contains the full text of Perceval, the Story of the Grail. It also contains the continuations of the text: the first, sometimes called Continuation-Gauvain, the work of an anonymous author once referred to as the pseudo-Wauchier, and the continuations of Wauchier de Denain and Manessier, both dating back to the second quarter of the thirteenth century. The manuscript does not include Gerber’s or Manessier’s more modern continuations. However, what boosts the manuscript’s appeal is the fact that it is the only one among those which we have had in our possession that contains the prologue The Elucidation, an anonymous Old French poem of the early 13th century. The only other known French version is in prose and can be found in the Tresplaisante et recreative hystoire du trespreulx et vaillant chevallier Perceval le Galloys jadis chevallier de la Table ronde… printed in Paris in 1530 by Bernard Auby and Jean Cornillou for Galliot du Pré, Jean Longis and Jean Saint-Denis.
BIBLIOGRAPHYAlbert W. THOMPSON, The Elucidation. A prologue to the conte del Graal, New-York, Institute of French studies, 1931 ; Keith BUSBY, Terry NIXON, Alison STONES et Lori WALTERS (éd.),Les manuscrits de Chrétien de Troyes. The manuscripts of Chrétien de Troyes, Amsterdam, Atlanta, 1993, 2 vol.