Versions of this text are found in more manuscripts than any other recension, which has led David Dumville to describe it as the ‘vulgate’ version, and there are suggestions that Geoffrey of Monmouth was familiar with a text of this type, as he attributes to Gildas details from the Historia Brittonum (Historia Regum Brittanię §100). Some twenty-three manuscripts of this type are known, with subtle differences in their ascription to Gildas.
One version begins incipit res gesta britonum gilda sapiente composita with minor variations. This is found in Oxford Bodleian Library MS Boldey 163 (twelfth century), which Dumville has conjectured to be the archetype of this recension, British Library MS Cotton Caligula A VIII (mid twelfth century) and its copies in Paris Biliothèque Nationale MS Latin 5232 (twelfth century) and Durham Cathedral Library MS B II 35 (mid twelfth century, with additions from a copy attributing it to Nennius, itself copied in British Library MS Burney 310, dated 1381); the others are Cambridge University Library MS Ff.I.27 (ff 21-36) (a Sawley production, dated 1160), British Library MS Royal 13 D V (thirteenth century), Cambridge University Library MS Ii.VI.11 (thirteenth century), London College of Arms MS Arundel 30 (sometimes referred to as Norfolk MS 30), British Library MS Cotton Julius D V (late fourteenth century) and British Library MS Royal 13 B XV (sixteenth century, copied from BL MS Royal 13 D V, according to Stevenson).
A second variant begins incipit res gesta britonum a gilda sapiente edita and is found in two manuscripts: Paris Bibliothèque Nationale MS Latin 6274 (early thirteenth century) and Oxford Bodleian Library MS Carte 113 (an eighteenth century copy of the preceding manuscript). Mommsen conjectured the Paris manuscript to be copy of British Library MS Cotton Caligula A VIII, a manuscript of the first group.
The third version has the rubric incipit gesta britonum a gilda sapiente collecta and is found in two manuscripts: Cambridge University Library MS Mm.V.29 (twelfth century) and British Library MS Cotton Vitellius E I (thirteenth century).
A fourth variant is given the title exceptiones de libro gildę sapientis (or variants), found in four manuscripts: British Library MS Cotton Nero D VIII (early thirteenth century), Évreux Bibliothèque Municipale MS 41 (thirteenth century), Rennes Bibliothèque de Rennes Métropole MS I.F.1003 (late fifteenth century) and British Library MS Cotton Vitellius F IX (sixteenth century).
The fifth version begins incipit liber gildę sapientis and is found in two manuscripts: Rouen Bibliothèque Municipale MS U 74 (twelfth or thirteenth century) and Cambridge Corpus Christi College MS 363 (fourteenth century).
A sixth type, found only in Paris Bibliothèque Nationale MS Latin 15009 (1166), is headed de anglia secundum sapientem gildam. A manuscript described variously by Petrie and Mommsen as a Conybear or Dering possession is attributed to Gildas, but the precise group is not known.
The attribution of the text to Gildas is an impossible identification of its author, dating, as it does, from several centuries after his death; the style of the Latin is also quite unlike that of the de Excidio of Gildas. On the other hand, as it is now possible to see that the work originally closed with the final victory of Arthur and a brief note about Ida of Bernicia, it was possible for a medieval redactor wrongly to conclude that it was composed around that time and that Gildas, whose death was placed in 570 by Annales Cambrię, was its author. It is also evident that the text is closely related to the Harleian recension, although it does not share all of its peculiarities.
There is no evidence by which to date the creation of this recension other than the dates of its earliest manuscript witnesses, no earlier than the twelfth century. Use of the text by the Sawley redactor in the twelfth century provides a terminus ante quem.
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