Paris Alexander Romance

Paris Alexander Romance – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS Royal 20 B XX – British Library (London, United Kingdom)

Paris (France) β€” Around 1420

Formerly in the possession of King Henry VIII of England: possibly the most magnificently illuminated version of the medieval biography of Alexander the Great

  1. Perhaps the greatest transcript of a beloved medieval biography of Alexander the Great (356–323 BC)

  2. Nearly all of its 97 pages are adorned with Gothic pictures and decorative elements

  3. The coveted manuscript was the possession of King Henry VIII (1491–1547) and bears his monogram

Paris Alexander Romance

Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
  1. Description
  2. Detail Picture
  3. Single Page
  4. Facsimile Editions (1)
Paris Alexander Romance

The Paris Alexander Romance is the most magnificent version of a medieval biography of Alexander the Great. The work was written in Paris between 1420 and 1425 and is illustrated with numerous colourful, gold-decorated miniatures and multi-line gold initials. The "Alexander Master", named after his masterpiece, describes the travels and adventures of the ancient hero in exciting pictures of incomparable colour and detail. The Parisian master illustrated naturalistic landscapes, medieval towns, animals and mythical creatures, battle scenes and the everyday life of knights at court with an inexhaustible narrative delight. Individual facial features and expressive body language give the depictions a particularly lively and lifelike effect. In terms of content, the novel is based on the countless folk tales that have been handed down in many translations and rephrasings right up to the Middle Ages. Because of the exemplary nature of the deeds and virtues, the Alexander novels were used to educate young princes. The Paris copy was therefore probably intended for young readers at court.

Paris Alexander Romance

Between 1420 and 1425, a richly appointed manuscript about the life of Alexander the Great arose in Paris. The document is undoubtedly one of the most magnificent codices of the Middle Ages, which is concerned with the life of the famous ancient hero. Nearly all of its 97 pages are adorned with gothic pictures and decorative elements. In total there are 86 colorful miniatures framed with golden thorny tendrils and over 100 multi-lined gold initials.

Alexander the Great, a Figurehead of the Middle Ages

It is not known today who commissioned this magnificent work. The book painter, who is responsible for the text, was named after his masterwork simply as the β€œAlexander Master”. It can also not be determined for certain, whether the work was intended for a specific recipient. Nevertheless, the heroic sagas and stories of Alexander the Great were greatly identified with the court culture of the Middle Ages and his deeds and virtues were held to be exemplary by many knights. The example of Alexander was used as a positive example in the education of young princes. Therefore it is possible that the Parisian example was intended for a young reader from a courtly background.

Fanciful and Original Miniatures

The Paris Alexander Romance concerns itself with the countless popular stories about Alexander, that were transmitted in many translations and adaptations up to the Middle Ages. His journey from Europe to Asia in 334 B.C., his education with Aristotle, his struggle against the Persian Emperor Darius, all of it made the ancient hero an example to medieval knights and rulers. The wondrous events of his life are depicted by the Alexander Master in his work with unmistakable colorfulness and attention to detail. He illustrated natural landscapes, knights in battle as well as daily life at court, medieval cities, garments and armor, as well as animals and mythical creatures in inexhaustible narrative pleasure. The travelling pictures were animated through people with individual facial features and expressive body language.

A Famous Owner

The history of the Paris Alexander Romance has long laid in darkness. Nevertheless, on the inside of the front cover is a handwritten entry which indicated a very famous owner. Namely, it is the logo β€œHR”, which stands for Henricus Rex and was the monogram of the English King Henry VIII. The inscription originates from the 16th century. Later, the work was donated to the British Museum along with the private library of King George II. Originating from this museum is the modern British Library, where the masterwork remains to this day.


Alternative Titles
Historia de proelis in a French translation
Le livre et la vraye hystoire du bon roy Alixandre
Romance of Alexander
Pariser Alexanderroman
Paris Alexander Romance
Royal Alexander
Size / Format
194 pages / 28.4 Γ— 19.5 cm
Around 1420
Gothic cursive
86 two or one-column miniatures in colours and gold, with partial borders. Foliate initials in colours and gold with extensions. Small initials in gold on blue and rose grounds with penwork decoration
Artist / School
Previous Owners
Henry VIII (1491–1547), king of England and Ireland
Old Royal Library (the English Royal Library)

Available facsimile editions:
Paris Alexander Romance – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS Royal 20 B XX – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2014
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Detail Picture

Paris Alexander Romance

Candace Gives Alexander a Crown

The medieval legend concerning Alexander the Great is full of campaigns in lands that his Macedonian phalanxes never visited, and one such episode has him marching into Nubia. Candace of MeroΓ« is listed as an opponent of Alexander’s who rode on the back of a war elephant in some versions, while others depict her as a romantic conquest instead. Dressed as 15th century French nobles, they are shown holding hands and walking into her bedchamber where she presents Alexander with a crown.

Paris Alexander Romance – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS Royal 20 B XX – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Single Page

Paris Alexander Romance

Triumphant Entry of Alexander into Babylon

In 331 BC, the army of Alexander the Great met and defeated a larger Persian force under Darius III at the Battle of Gaugamela in what was the decisive engagement of his campaign in Assyria and Babylonia. Darius ignominiously fled from the battle and as such Alexander’s army was free to enter the namesake capital city of Babylon, completing his conquest.

Surrounded by a frame of colorful, gilded filigree tendrils, Alexander’s army is equipped with 15th century arms and armor: longbows and various kinds of polearms, steel greaves, cowters, vambraces, and helmets with bassinets. Mounted on a white horse and marked by his escutcheon of three gold crowns on a field of red, Alexander rides at the head of the cavalry cradling his sword.

Paris Alexander Romance – Quaternio Verlag Luzern – MS Royal 20 B XX – British Library (London, United Kingdom)
Facsimile Editions

#1 Pariser Alexanderroman

Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2014

Publisher: Quaternio Verlag Luzern – Lucerne, 2014
Limited Edition: 680 copies
Binding: Like the original, the facsimile is also bound in brown leather with three delicate lines tooled in gold framing the cover.
Commentary: 1 volume by Maud PΓ©rez-Simon, Joanna Fronska and Siegbert Himmelsbach
Languages: English, 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.
Facsimile Copy Available!
Price Category: €€
(1,000€ - 3,000€)
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