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HIST 2170 - History of Christianity (Jobin) - Rare Books Collection

A Selection of materials highlighting the history of Christianity to the Reformation from the Rare Books Collection, Rare and Distinctive Collections, CU Boulder Libraries.

Medieval Accounts of the Crusades

Morgan Pierpont Crusader Bible, Folio 23r.
Morgan Pierpont Library

The Morgan Crusader Bible illustrates portions of Genesis, Exodus, Joshua, Judges, Ruth, and Samuel, focusing on important figures of Israel: Abraham, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, Samson, Samuel, Saul, Jonathan, and David.  The scenes, however, reflect images of war that would have been familiar to the knights of thirteenth-century France.

Although originally commissioned as a picture book, over time the Crusader Bible acquired Latin, Persian, and Judeo-Persian inscriptions.   The Morgan Pierpont Library describes the Crusader Bible's provenance and the source of its inscriptions: 

"After the death of Louis IX (1270), the manuscript went to Italy, where the Latin inscriptions were added in the fourteenth century. Fourteen of the scenes were incorrectly identified. After Shah ‘Abbas received the book in Isfahan as a diplomatic gift in 1608, he had the Persian inscriptions added. After Afghans sacked Isfahan and its Royal Library in 1722, the book fell into the hands of a Persian-speaking Jew, who added the Judeo-Persian inscriptions."  

The Rare Books Collection holds a facsimile of the Crusader Bible but a fully digitized copy of the Morgan Crusader Bible, complete with discussion, transcriptions, and translations is available through the Morgan Pierpont Library website. 

Other contemporary works such as William of Tyre's The History of Godefry of Boloyne and the Conquest of Iherusalem (the Rare Books Collection copy printed by the Kelmscott Press, 1893) maintained their relevance in early modern Europe.  The late fifteenth-century printing of William of Tyre's History of Godefrey (1481) by William Caxton, who learned the art of printing in Cologne, Germany and established the first English press in Westminster, was intended to support an anti-Turkish crusade.  Caxton's prologue reads: 

Thenn for thexhortacion of alle Cristen prynces / Lordes / Barons / Knyghtes / Gentilmen / Marchanntes / and all the comyn peple of this noble Royamme, walys & yrlond, I haue emprysed to translate this book of the conquest of Iherusalem out of ffrenssh in to our maternal tongue, to thentente tencourage them by the redyng and heeryng of the merueyllous historyes herin comprysed, and of the holy myracles shewyd that euery man in his partye endeuoyre theym vnto the resistence afore sayd, And recuperacion of the sayd holy londe. (4.20-28, reprinted in Norako)

Caxton's printing of the History of Godefrey accompanied his printing of crusading indulgences, with "at least nine indulgences in total, six of which were aimed at raising money to aid in defense against Turkish advances in the Mediterranean” (Kuskin, 1999, 546 n. 22). 

The indulgence below, printed in Catalan in Toledo, Spain in 1510, serves as a prime example. 

The Crusades in the Early Modern World

Plenary Indulgence for fighting against Ottoman Turks.
Toledo, Spain, 9 March 1510
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries

The Rare Book Collection's Plenaria indulgencia e remissio de tots los peccats : aquella que los sants papes donan, a aquells qui van en aiuda dela Terra santa e segons se guanya en Roma lany quey ha Iubilen, printed in 1510 at the monastery of St. Peter Martyr in Toledo, Spain, provides for a remission of sins for those who would take part in a proposed war against the Ottoman Turks.  This plenary indulgence was signed by the bishop of Majorca in his capacity as the royally appointed commissary of the Bull of the Cruzade.  

The Crusades in Early Modern Literature and History

Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literary works relied on the Crusades as both setting for dramatizations of the Crusades themselves and as backdrop for tales of adventure and romance.  Rare Books Collection highlights include Ludovico Ariosto's Orlando Furioso (1580), Torquato Tasso's la Gierusalemme Liberata (1590), and Miguel de Cervantes' Vida y hechos de ingenioso cavallero D. Quixote de la Mancha, first published in 1605.  Cervantes himself fought against the Ottoman Turks at the Battle of Lepanto in 1571 and, while sailing home, was captured by Barbary pirates, experiences that made their way into his writing.  


Ariosto, Orlando Furioso
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries

Written by Italian poet Ludovico Ariosto, Orlando Furioso was first published in 1516.  It recounts the adventures of Orlando and Angelica, the daughter of the king of Cathay, during the reign of Charlemagne.  Angelica lures Orlando away from this crusade and the battle against the Saracen King Agramante and drives him to madness.  Orlando Furioso was translated into English by Elizabethan courtier Sir James Harington, a fully digitized copy available through the British Library.  


Torquanto Tasso, Gersalemme Liberata, 1581. 
Metropolitan Museum of Art

Tasso began his work on Gersalemme Liberata following the news of the European victory in the Gulf of Lepanto in 1570.  Unlike Ariosto's poetry, which was set against the war against the Saracen army during the reign of Charlemagne, Tasso's takes place during the Siege of Jerusalem of the First Crusade.  

Later historical accounts of the Crusades, too, reflect historians' socio-political milieux:  Thomas Fuller's Historie of the Holy Warre (1640), a post-Reformation, Anglican view, was written on the eve of the English Civil War; and Joseph Francois Michaud's History of the Crusades, a French royalist and nationalist view, was written in 1811 in the wake of the French Revolution.   


Thomas Fuller, Historie of the Holy Warre
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder  Libraries

Thomas Fuller's Historie of the Holy Warre (1640) provides one of the earliest accounts of the Crusades written from an Anglican point of view.  For a digitized copy of this edition, similar to the Rare Books Collection's copy, though lacking the frontispiece shown here, see HathiTrust


Michaud, History of the Crusades, Illustrated by Gustave Dore
Rare Books Collection, CU Boulder Libraries

Joseph Francois Michaud's multi-volume History of the Crusades was translated into English, German, Italian, and Russian.  The Rare Books Collection holds the English translation lavishly illustrated with the engravings of Gustave Dore, such as the scene above portraying Godfrey entering Jerusalem.  Digitized copies of Michaud's and Dore's History are available at HathiTrust.

Sources on the Crusades

For more information on the Crusades in literature, see the University of Rochester's Robbins Library Crusades Project

For sources on the history of the Crusades, see Dartmouth's Sources for Crusades History and  Resources for Studying the Crusades, Queen Mary, University of London.  

For Islamic sources and perspectives on the Crusades, see Carole Hillenbrand's The Crusades: Islamic Perspectives and Paul Halsall's Internet Islamic History Sourcebook's 'Interaction with the West.'

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