Sold by Christie’s (25/20/12.5% buyer’s premium) on July 11 for £320,000, the work is both one of the greatest and longest texts of the Middle Ages, running to more than 36,000 lines in all.
Lydgate began work on this English version c.1431, at the request of Humphry, Duke of Gloucester, and only completed the task some seven or eight years later. At one stage, a possibly wearied Lydgate even penned a ‘Letter to Gloucester’, a poem that formed a witty request for more funds.
The Audley End manuscript, now in a 19th century binding, once belonged to Mary Sidney, lady-in-waiting to Elizabeth I and mother of Sir Philip Sidney and Mary, Countess of Pembroke.
The manuscript sold at King Street is one of 34 recorded complete copies, but the only others still in private hands are at Belvoir Castle and Longleat. As no other manuscript has been seen on the market since 1979, Christie’s suggested that this could be the last chance to secure one.