Les Prophecies de Mérlin

Les Prophecies de Merlin, a French prose text originating in Venice circa 1276, is a composite text, consisting of romance material derived from Galfridian and French Arthurian sources and original political prophecies regarding Italian events of the eleventh, twelfth, and thirteenth centuries. The text is primarily a series of such political prophecies, as related by Merlin to various fictional scribes, and the amount of romance material embedded around these prophecies varies among the twenty extant manuscripts. The earliest manuscript, dated to 1303, ascribes the text to the authorship of “Maistre Richart d’Irlande,” although scholars agree that the author must have been a Venetian. Additionally, this early manuscript, Rennes, Bibliotheque Municipale, MS 593, begins by claiming that the text is a translation commissioned by Emperor Frederick II, but the author evinces a Guelf perspective throughout, representing Frederick II as the “Dragon de Babyloine.” Between 1324 and 1330,Les Prophecies was translated into Italian by Paolino Pieri, a Florentine chronicler, who retained most references to Venetian events.

Representative Manuscripts

Berne, Stadtbibliothek, 388
Cambridge, CCC, Parker Library, 405, f. 3v-5v
Chantilly, Musée Condé. Bibliothèque 644 (1081)
Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, 67, f. 49rc-52ra
Cologny, Fondation Martin Bodmer, 116
London, British Library, Add. 25434
London, British Library, Harleian 1629
Modena, Archivio di Stato III
Paris, Bibliothèque de l’Arsenal, 5229.
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 98
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 99
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 103
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 112
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 350
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 358-363
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 12599
Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, fr. 15211
Rennes, Bibliothèque municipale, 593
Rome, Biblioteca Vaticana, Regina 1687
Venezia, Biblioteca Nazionale Marciana, Str. App. 29 (243)

See Mirabile for more MSS info.


Anne Berthelot, ed., Les Prophecies de Merlin (Cod. Bodmer 116) (Geneva: Bodmer, 1992).

Lucy Allen Paton, ed., Les Prophecies de Merlin edited from MS. 593 in the Bibliotheque Municipale of Rennes(London: Oxford University Press, 1927).

Secondary Literature

Berthelot, Anne, “Légende arthurienne et histoire contemporaine dans les Prophesies de Merlin,” in Die kulturellen Beziehungen zwischen Italien und den anderen Ländern Europas im Mittelalter, ed. Wolfgang Spiewok (Greifswald : Reineke-Verlag, 1993), 15-24.

Bogdanow, Fanni, “Some Hitherto Unknown Fragments of the Prophecies de Merlin,” in F.J. Barnett et al., History and Structure of French (Oxford, 1972), 31-59.

Campbell, Laura J., Translation and Réécriture in the Midd le Ages: Rewriting Merlin in the French and Italian Vernacular Traditions (Durham, 2011). Available at Durham E-Theses Online: http://etheses.dur.ac.uk/705/

Hoffman, Donald L., “Merlin in Italian Literature,” in Merlin: A Casebook, ed. Peter Goodrich and Raymond H. Thompson (London: Routledge, 2003), 186-196.

Koble, Nathalie, “Un univers romanesque en expansion: les Prophecies de Merlin en prose du Pseudo-Richard d’Irlande,” in Moult obscures paroles: études sur la prophétie médiévale, ed. Richard Trachsler (Paris: Presses de l’Université de Paris-Sorbonne, 2007), 185-217.

Koble, Nathalie, Les prophéties de Merlin en prose: le roman arthurien en éclats (Paris: Champion, 2009).

Lahdensuu, Laura, “‘Predicting History,’ Merlin’s Prophecies in Italian XIIth -XVth Century Chronicles,” in Plato’s Cratylus: Agreement, Form and Structure. Ed. Michael W. Riley, The Medieval Chronicle 3 (Rodopi, 2005), 93-100.

Paton, Lucy Allen, “Notes on Manuscripts of the Prophécies de Merlin,” PMLA, 28 (1913), 121-139.

Vermette, Rosalie, “An Unrecorded Fragment of Richart d’lrlande’s Prophecies de Merlin,” Romance Philology 34 (1951), 277-92.

Summary by Michael Diaz de la Portilla.