[Sowdon of Babyloyne]

Uniform title
Manuscript, Book
  • Middle English (1100-1500)
  • English
[England] ; [approximately 1450].
41 leaves : parchment ; 268 x 192 mm (200 x 105 mm)


Former owner
Library of Congress genre(s)
Getty AAT genre
Summary note
An anonymous Middle English romance in 3,274 lines, written in East Midland dialect and translated from an Anglo-Norman text that survives in the British Library in London, Egerton MS. 3028. The text belongs to a group of Charlemagne romances concerning the Saracen Fierabras or Firumbras and the destruction of Rome.
  • Ms. codex.
  • Title from printed catalog.
  • Layout: written in 38-41 long lines; partial frame ruling in light brown ink; single left vertical bounding line; parchment leaves of different sizes throughout.
  • Script: Secretary. Strapwork flourishes on first line of colophon (fol. 41r), early annotation in brown ink (fol. 17r).
  • Decoration: None. Guide letters for unexecuted initials, beginning with space for a 6-line initial G on fol. 1r and space left for 3-line initials for minor divisions.
Binding note
Bound in England, probably in the late 18th century, in one quarter-calf and marbled paper (blue, red, and ochre) over pasteboards; rebacked; with spine title: “The romaunce of the Sowdon of Babylon MS.”
Language note
In Middle English.
Early provenance unknown. In the late 16th or early 17th century, the manuscript was owned by John Eleye (probably a variant of the surname Eley or Ely), as attested on fol. 41v (“this is John Eleyes boke / witnes by John staff”). Above this inscription on fol. 41v are the names “thomas” and “maud” in a 17th-century hand. At the end of the 18th century, the manuscript was in the possession of Rev. Richard Farmer (1735-1797) and after his death, it was sold at a London auction in 1798, and purchased by George Steevens (1736-1800). Throughout the 19th century, the manuscript passed through the hands of several owners including Octavius Graham Gilchrist (1779-1823), Richard Heber (1773-1833), Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792-1872), Rev. John Edward Addison Fenwick and his wife Katherine. In 1898, it was acquired by the antiquarian bookseller Bernard Quaritch at a Sotheby's sale in London. Quaritch later sold it to Robert Garrett (1875-1961), of Baltimore, Maryland, Class of 1897, who donated it to Princeton University Library in 1942.
Source acquisition
Gift; of Robert Garrett, Princeton Class of 1897, 1942.
  • Medieval & Renaissance manuscripts in the Princeton University Library, pages 322-324
  • Ricci, S. de. Census of medieval and Renaissance manuscripts in the United States and Canada, volume 1, page 893
Cite as
Garrett MS. 140, Manuscripts Division, Department of Rare Books and Special Collections, Princeton University Library.
Other format(s)
Also available in an electronic version.
Other title(s)
  • Romaunce of the Sowdon of Babylon MS.
  • Sowdone of Babyloyne
Robert Garrett Collection
Statement on language in description
Princeton University Library aims to describe library materials in a manner that is respectful to the individuals and communities who create, use, and are represented in the collections we manage. Read more...
Other views
Staff view

Supplementary Information