Tristan and Isolde


This manuscript, preserved today in the Bavarian State Library, is the oldest extant manuscript of the unfinished courtly epic Tristan and Isolde, which was written circa 1205‒15 by Gottfried von Strassburg, after the Old French romance of Tristan. Annexed to it is the continuation of the poem by Ulrich von Türheim, transcribed in his lifetime by the same scribe who wrote the Wolfram manuscript (Bavarian State Library Cgm 19). It remains unclear whether this scriptorium, which seems to have specialized in copying manuscripts of German epics, was located in Strasbourg, Basel, or some other large town on the Upper Rhine. This manuscript, too, is known to have been in Bavaria since the late 14th century and in the ducal library in Munich since 1582. There are two columns to a page, with illustrations on 15 leaves with a total of 118 illustrations bound in individually with each signature. They are essentially late Romanesque in style, although the figures are related to the early Gothic sculptures in the transept of the Strasbourg Cathedral. The introductory miniature illustrates in two pictorial strips the May Day festivities at the court of King Mark. Above, in the open air, dancers and musicians appear between the seated figures of Rivalin and King Mark. The lower picture shows the ladies of the court at the festive table.

Last updated: October 17, 2017