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Ranulf Higden



(HYDON, HYGDEN, HIKEDEN.)

Benedictine chronicler; died 1364. He was a west-country man, and was professed a monk at the Abbey of St. Werburg, Chester, in 1299. Beyond this nothing is recorded of his personal life and he is known only by his great work, the "Polychronicon", a universal history down to his own times. As it was the most complete history available during the fourteenth century, it enjoyed great popularity during that and the following age; though even the contemporary portion, in which Higden wrote the history of his own times down to 1342, is of no remarkable value. It was translated into English by John of Trevisa in 1387, and this translation was printed by Caxton in 1482, and by Wynkyn de Worde in 1495. A later translation, made early in the fifteenth century, has been published in the Rolls Series, in nine volumes. The introductions by the editors contain all available information and describe in detail most of the extant manuscripts, of which more than one hundred are known to exist. It was long believed that Higden, in compiling the "Polychronicon", had used an earlier work, the "Polycratica tempora" of one Roger of Chester, ending in the year 1314, though with a supplement down to 1339, but the editors of the "Polychronicon" have almost conclusively proved that "Roger of Chester" was in reality Ranulf Higden himself, who was commonly quoted simply as "Cestrensis". The error of a scribe in substituting Roger for Ranulf easily gave rise to the mistake. The following are works written by or attributed to Higden, still remaining in manuscript: "Speculum curatorum", written in 1340 (Balliol); "Ars Componendi Sermones" (Bodleian); "Paedagogicon" (Sion College); "Distinctiones Theologicae" (Lambeth); "Abbreviationes Chronicorum", attributed to John Rochefort. Other treatises are assigned to Higden by Bale, some, like the "Expositio super Job", "In Cantica Canticorum", "Sermones per annum", "Determinationes super Compendio", and "In litteram calendarii", without much probability; others are merely extracts from the "Polychronicon".

Polychronicon Ranulphi Higden monachi Cestrensis, with the English translations of John of Trevisa and of an unknown writer of the fifteenth century in Rolls Series (London, 1865-86), vols. I-II, ed. BABINGTON, III-IX, ed. LUMBY; HARDY, Descriptive Catalogue (London, 1862-71); GAIRDNER, Early Chroniclers of England (London, 1879); KINGSFORD in Dict. Nat. Biog., s.v. For a fuller bibliography see CHEVALIER, Repertoire des sources historiques du moyen age (Paris, 1905).

EDWIN BURTON








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