Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde

Strasbourg (France) — Second quarter of the 13th century

The primary work of the great poet Gottfried von Straßburg: the oldest edition of perhaps the most beautiful German love story of the Middle Ages

  1. The oldest specimen of the “most lithe and melodious of all German poetry from the Middle Ages”

  2. It is the primary work of arguably the most important poet of the Middle Ages, Gottfried von Strassburg (d. ca. 1210)

  3. This beautifully illuminated manuscript was probably produced either in Swabia or near Lake Constance

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde

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  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Description
Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde

Elegant ladies in genteel dresses, crowned heads at a feast and agile horses at a tournament. Such courtly portrayals and others like them are found in the artistic illustrations of Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan-fragment from the Bavarian State Library in Munich. The oldest surviving manuscript – originating from around 1240/50 – of this “most lithe and melodious of all German poetry from the Middle Ages” amazes not only through the entertaining text, but also through the numerous detailed illustrations.

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde

Elegant ladies in genteel dresses, crowned heads at a feast and agile horses at a tournament. Such courtly portrayals and others like them are found in the artistic illustrations of Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan-fragment from the Bavarian State Library in Munich. The oldest surviving manuscript – originating from around 1240/50 – of this “most lithe and melodious of all German poetry from the Middle Ages” amazes not only through the entertaining text, but also through the numerous detailed illustrations.

The Most Significant Courtly Tale of the Middle Ages

The main work of the most important medieval poet originated, as the name affix of the author indicates, from the Alsace region. Influenced by German and French court poetry, Gottfried von Strassburg revised the widespread Tristan material according to Anglo-Normanic source material. Yet the Tristan poem remained only a fragment, and was resumed and completed by Ulrich von Türheim. To this day, Gottfried von Strassburg’s Tristan and Isolde is considered to be “the most artistically advanced German tale from ca. 1200”. That the poetry was already counted among the most beloved works of literature in Gottfried’s lifetime and across the following centuries is also proven by the fact that the Munich manuscript boasts stark signs of use and stress. The oldest surviving copy of a Tristan manuscript according to Gottfried’s poetry was probably produced in the middle of the 13th century in either the region of Swabia or Lake Constance. On 30 full-page miniatures in addition to the text, the Tristan material is told with fine painting in thrilling pictures. The masterpiece of court poetry, which still leads the canon of Old German literature today along with the Song of the Nibelungs or the Arthurian legends, was organized into two columns respectively and recorded with perfectly legible, fine script with a few initials. A story about the central motif of courtly love was spun in an exciting fashion.

The Courtly World in Powerful and Delicate Colors

The 30 illustrated pages are divided into three strips, respectively. Each of these picture fields shows a primary scene from the geste about the protagonist Tristan. The background of the scenes are mostly monochrome in a luminous color such as intense red, yellow, or blue, as allowed to emerge by the scenes in the foreground. The scenes mentioned are acted out against this powerfully colored background. The figures are either depicted predominantly in monochrome and skillfully drawn with a quill or are additionally colored in what originally were probably luminous, bright colors, which are faded today because of its frequent use. The diverse gestures of the delicate figures are particularly delightful, lending the scenes exciting movement and tension. The manifold, sometimes very expressive faces of the figures exactly express what the depictions and text want to convey. The tale of Tristan and Isolde, like in the text, was imbedded into the contemporary court living environment. Today, Gottfried’s text and illustrated pictures offer us with an entertaining, informative, and intense glimpse in the Middle Ages, its lifestyles, and ways of thinking.

Codicology

Alternative Titles
Gottfried von Straßburg: Tristan und Isolde
Size / Format
218 pages / 24.0 × 16.0 cm
Origin
France
Date
Second quarter of the 13th century
Language
Script
Gothic cursive
Illustrations
30 pages with numberous individual scenes arranged in tapestry-like picture strips
Content
The romance of Tristan and Isolde
Artist / School

Available facsimile editions:
Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde – Cgm 51 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Müller & Schindler – Stuttgart, 1979
Limited Edition: 950 copies
Detail Picture

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde

Cassie Hands Kahedin the Key to the Castle

In Arthurian legend, Sir Kahedin is the son of King Hoel of Brittany and a close friend of Tristan’s. Kahedin is in love with Cassie, the wife of Nampotanis, who is kept locked up in his castle. The lovers conspire to meet by having Cassie make a wax impression of the key, which she then gives it to Kahedin. They are able to fulfill their desires and spend blissful moments in each other’s arms, but never meet again because Kahedin is killed by Nampotanis after his wife’s betrayal is revealed.

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde
Single Page

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde

Tristan’s Return to Ireland

Shortly after returning to Ireland on behalf of King Marke of Cornwall, Tristan slays a dragon but is wounded himself and falls in a river. In the top register of this page, Isolde, Brangaene, and her mother the Queen ride out to find the dead dragon. The next scene shows them pulling an unconscious Tristan, wearing a “great helm”, out of the river and taking him back to their castle.

As Tristan bathes, Isolde inspects his sword and determines that it was he who killed her uncle Morold in a duel. In the bottom register, Isolde takes up Tristan’s sword and threatens to kill him, but the Queen, pictured seizing the sword, and Brangaene intervene for the sake of preserving his diplomatic mission of reconciling them with the King of Cornwall.

Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde
Facsimile Editions

#1 Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde

Müller & Schindler – Stuttgart, 1979
Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde – Cgm 51 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany)
Gottfried von Strassburg: Tristan and Isolde – Cgm 51 – Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Munich, Germany) Copyright Photos: Ziereis Facsimiles

Publisher: Müller & Schindler – Stuttgart, 1979
Limited Edition: 950 copies
Binding: Wine colored leather binding with embossing. Protected in a slipcase with the commentary volume.
Commentary: 1 volume (146 pages) by Ulrich Montag and Paul Gichtel
Language: German
1 volume: Exact reproduction of the original document (extent, color and size) Reproduction of the entire original document as detailed as possible (scope, format, colors). The binding may not correspond to the original or current document binding.
Price Category: €€ (1,000€ - 3,000€)
Edition available
Price: Login here!
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