Ranulf Higdon

Ranulf Higdon (or Higden) (c. 1280 - c. 1363), was an English chronicler and a Benedictine monk of the monastery of St. Werburgh in Chester, wherein he lived, it is said, for sixty-four years, and died at a good old age, probably in 1363. He is believed to havebeen born in the West of England, took the monastic vow (Benedictine), at
Chester in 1299, and seems to have travelled over the north of England.

Higdon was the author of "Polychronicon" a long chronicle, one of several such works of universal history and theology. It was based on a plan taken from Scripture, and written for the amusement and instruction of his society. It closes the long series of general chronicles, which were soon superseded by the invention of printing. It is commonly styled "Polychronicon", from the longer title "Ranuiphi Castrensis, cognomine Higdon, Polychronicon (sive Historia Polycratica) ab initio mundi usque ad mortem regis Edwardi III in septem libros dispositum". The work is divided into seven books, in humble imitation of the seven days of Genesis, and, with exception of the last book, is a summary of general history, a compilation made with considerable style and taste. Written in Latin, it was translated into English by John of Trevisa (1387), and printed by Caxton (1482), and by others. For two centuries it was an approved work. It seems to have enjoyed considerable popularity in the 15th century. It was the standard work on general history, and more than a hundred manuscripts of it are known to exist. The Christ Church manuscript says that Higdon wrote it down to the year 1342; the fine manuscript at Christ's College, Cambridge, states that he wrote to the year 1344, after which date, with the omission of two years, John of Malvern, a monk of Worcester, carried the history on to 1357, at which date it ends.

According, however, to one editor, Higdon's part of the work goes no further than 1326 or 1327 at latest, after which time it was carried on by two continuators to the end. Thomas Gale, in his "Hist. Brit. &c., scriptores", xv. (Oxon., 1691), published that portion of it, in the original Latin, which comes down to 1066.

Three early translations of the "Polychronicon" exist. The first was made by John of Trevisa, chaplain to Lord Berkeley, in 1387, and was printed by Caxton in 1482; the second by an anonymous writer, was written between 1432 and 1450; the third, based on Trevisa's version, with the addition of an eighth book, was prepared by Caxton. These versions are specially valuable as illustrating the change of the English language during the period they cover.

The "Polychronicon", with the continuations and the English versions, was edited for the Rolls Series (No. 41) by Churchill Babington (vols. i. and ii.) and Joseph Rawson Lumby (1865-1886). This edition was adversely criticized by Mandell Creighton in the "Eng. Hist. Rev." for October 1888.

See also

*Adam of Usk



Ranulph Higden, "Ars componendi sermones". Translated by Margaret Jennings and Sally A. Wilson. Introduction and Notes by Margaret Jennings (Dallas Medieval Texts and Translations 2). Louvain/Paris: Peeters, 2003. ISBN: 978-90-429-1242-7.

External links

Full text of the "Polychronicon" and Trevisa's English translation in Google Books http://books.google.com/books?id=2lQJAAAAQAAJ

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