The Manuscripts of Walter de Bibbesworth’s Tretiz

Learning French in Medieval England: The Manuscripts of Walter de Bibbesworth’s ‘Tretiz’ is a research project based at the University of Exeter (UK), funded by an AHRC Leadership Fellows grant. Its central aim is to edit all seventeen known copies of a text known as the Tretiz, which dates from the mid-thirteenth century and has been attributed to an Essex knight, Walter de Bibbesworth. This playful glossary sets out in rhyming couplets the French terms for a variety of topics, including childbirth and infancy, the names of various flora and fauna (including an entertaining section on animal noises), and occupations such as cart-making and beer-brewing. In all but one manuscript of the text, individual words are furnished with Middle English equivalents.

This digital edition will allow users to engage with the material, by comparing readings from individual manuscripts, isolating the English and French from each other, and searching the textual record by date, place or theme. Editing and studying the complete textual record will make it possible to assemble a detailed picture of the evolving status and role of French in Britain, with each manuscript opening a door onto individual users, whose occupation, social standing or personal interests, for diverging reasons, required mastery of French.

Alongside this online edition, we will also look to offer a definitive account of the Tretiz from start to finish: how it was created, how it was read, and how it influenced later works on the French language. The website is currently in development, and we invite you to contact the team with any comments, thoughts, or suggestions that you may have.

Manuscript images on this site are reproduced with the kind permission of the Master and Fellows of Trinity College, Cambridge (for MS B.14.40), and from the General Collection, Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library, Yale University (for MS Osborn a56). We are also grateful to the British Library Board and the Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge for permission to reproduce images from MS Sloane 809 and MS 450 respectively.