Office & Mailing Address


Kaufman Hall 216

Dept. of Modern Languages

University of Oklahoma

780 Van Vleet Oval

Norman, OK 73069

A Short Bibliography of some great Didactic Texts/Conduct Literature, including courtesy manuals, handbooks of court conduct, chivalric manuals, penitential manuals, etc. (Last updated 2017)

Albertano of Brescia. 1873. Liber consolationis et consilii, ex quo hausa est fabula de Melibeo et Prudentia. Ed. Thor Sundby. Copenhagen: Fred Høst.   --- Look also at Chaucer’s reworking in his Canterbury Tales, i.e. Melibeus. The imporantant didactic information here regards counsel-giving and -taking.


Alfonso X. The Electronic Texts and Concordances of the Prose Works of Alfonso X, El Sabio. Ed. Lloyd A. Kasten, John Nittie, and Wilhelmina Jonxis-Henkelmans. Madison: Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies, 1997. Print. CD-ROM Series. (I haven’t looked at this myself, but there might be a few useful nuggets in it.)


Amanieue de Sescars. Ensenhamen de la donsela. Ca. 1291-1295. About the ideal courtly behavior for a yound noblewoman. I haven't used this Catalan text yet myself and don’t have an edition or translation to recommend.


Amanieue de Sescars. Ensenhamen del scudier. Ca. 1291-1295. About the behavior of an ideal nobleman in love, war, etc. I haven't used this Catalan text yet myself and don’t have an edition or translation to recommend.


Benedict of Nursia, La Règle de Saint Benoît ch. 6, ed. Jean Neufville, vol.1 (Paris: Éditions du Cerf, 1972). There are many translations of this foundational (for the Middle Ages) conduct text into medieval and modern languages. I find it particularly useful for notions about bodily gestures, attitudes to vices and virtues, and other medeival obssessions, like the correct amount of sleep, attitudes toward youth and oler age, and counsel-giving. Below is one tranlation into modern English.


Benedict of Nursia, Saint. 1996. The Rule of Saint Benedict: Latin and English. Trans. Luke Dysinger. Tabuco Canyon, CA: Source Books. (I usually use a Dysinger translation, of which there have been many editions. You can find it online at Benedictine sites.)


Bible, especially some parts of the Old Testament/Hebrew Bible: Among other parts of the Bible that make their way quite heavily into medieval conduct literature (and into fictional texts, like Arthurian Romances, giving advice on conduct) are Psalms and Ecclesiaticus (i.e. the Book of Jesus Sirach, not to be confused with Ecclesiastes).


Brant, Sebastian. [1854] 1961. Sebastian Brants Narrenschiff. Ed. Friedrich Zarncke. Reprint, Hildesheim: Georg Olms Verlagsbuchhandlung. (This is not conduct literature per se, but this late-15th-century book it is just loaded with tons of conduct adages, mainly concerned with proper and imporoper moral behavior that were current in the Middle Ages. There are modern tranlations of this, and there are several contemporaneous versions/translations of this into 16th-century European languages, like Latin, Low German, and the English, i.e. the Ship of Fools from 1509)


Bruder Wernher. 1904. “Die Sprüche des Bruder Wernher, I.” Ed. Anton E. Schönbach. Sitzungsberichte der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien, philosophisch-historische Klasse. Vol. 148. Vienna: In Kommission bei Carl Gerolds Sohn. (Contains stophes 1-38.)  --This only exists in the Middle High German; i.e. I don’t think it’s been translated.


———. 1904. “Die Sprüche des Bruder Wernher, II.” Ed. Anton E. Schönbach. Sitzungsberichte der philosophisch-historischen Klasse der kaiserlichen Akademie der Wissenschaften in Wien. Vol. 150. Vienna: In Kommission bei Alfred Hölder. (Contains strophes 39-76.) --This only exists in the Middle High German; i.e. I don’t think it’s been translated.


Chaves, Álvaro Lopes de. 1983. Livro de Apontamentos (1438-1489): Códice 443 da Colecçao Pombalina de B.N.L. Ed. Anastásia Mestrinho Salgado and Abílio José Salgado. Lisbon: Imprensa Nacional-Casa da Moeda. I haven’t used this yet.


Christine de Pisan. Any/all of Christine’s book are great sources as conduct literature. Below are a few that I’ve used lately to corroborate my scholarship on fictional medieval texts:


Christine de Pisan, Le Livre des Trois Vertus: Édition critique, ed. Charity Canon Willard (Paris: Librairie Honoré Champion, 1989)


Christine de Pizan 1936. Le livre des fais et bonnes meurs du sage roy Charles V. Vol. 1. Ed. Solente, Suzanne.Paris: Librairie Ancienne Honoré Champion. (Translation directly below(.


Christine de Pizan. 1994. The Book of the Deeds and Good Character of King Charles V the Wise Trans. Eric HIcks and Glenda McLeod.. In The Writings of Christine of Pizan, edited by Charity Canon Willard, 233–48. New York: Persea Books.


Christine de Pisan. 1932. The Book of Faytes of Armes and of Chyvalrye, Translated and Printed from the French Original by William Caxton. Ed. A. T. P. Byles. London: Oxford UP. (There are easy-to-access manuscripts of this in the original French available on line, but I don’t think there is an edition yet of the French text.)


Holm-Olsen, Ludvig, ed. 1983. Konungs skuggsiá (2nd rev. ed.). Oslo: Norsk historisk kjeldeskrift-Institutt. (See directly below for an older, but still very good translation: this is a great Courtesy Manual! It’s my current favorite. I especially like its description of the proper bodily gestures one should assume, and how one should put on and take off clothing in the presenceof a king.)


Larson, Laurence Marcellus, trans. 1917. The King’s Mirror (Speculum regale—Konungsskuggsiá). New York: Twayne Publishers. This is on GOOGLE books.


Dhouda. 1975. Manuel pour mon fils. Ed. Pierre Riché. Trans. Bernard de Vregille and Claude Mondésert. Paris: Éditions du Cerf. One of the great conduct manuls of the entire medieval period. Although it was written in the Carolingian period, the ideas it transmits are valid—and, indeed, remain current—for the entire medieval period. See directly below for an English translation:


———. 1991. Handbook for William: A Carolingian Woman’s Counsel for Her Son. Trans. Carol Neel. Lincoln: U of Nebraska P.


Eike von Repgow. 1966. Sachsenspiegel: Quedlinburger Handschrift. Ed. Karl August Eckhardt. Hannover: Verlag Hahnsche Buchhandlung. See translation two lines below by Dubozy, below.


———. [1973] 1989. Sachsenspiegel: Lehnrecht. Ed. Karl August Eckhardt. Reprint, Hannover: Hahnsche Buchhandlung.


            Maria Dubozy, trans. 1999. The Saxon Mirror: A Sachsenspiegel of the Fourteenth Century. Philadelphia: U Pennsylvania P.


The Etablissements de Saint Louis: Thirteenth-Century Law Texts from Tours, Orléans, and Paris. 1996. Trans. With an intro by FRP Akehurst. Philadelphia: U of Pennsylvania P. I haven’t used this yet.


Freidank. [1872] 1962. Freidanks Bescheidenheit. Ed. H. E. Bezzenberger. Reprint, Aalen: Otto Zeller Verlagsbuchhandlung. (I think this hasn’t been translated.)


Gratian. Decretum. & Peter Lombard. Sententiae.  I don’t have any editions or translations to recommend here, but you can find them online.  These are the foundational high medieval commentaries on Canon Law, so they are the go-to sources for historians, for example, and good lit scholars for things like marriage, divorce, family law, etc.


Durand of Champagne. 1988. Le Speculum dominarum de Durand de Champagne. Ed. Anne Dubrulle. Paris. I haven’t used this yet myself, so I can vouch for how useful it is.


Geoffroi de Charny 1996. The Book of Chivalry by Geoffroi de Charny. Ed. and trans Elspeth Kennedy. Introduction by Richard W. Kaeuper. Philadephia: U of Pennsylvania P. (See directly below for scholarly an interpretation of this text.)


Muhlberger, Steven. Charny’s Men at Arms. Freelance Academy Press, 2014. (I haven’t read this yet myself, but it seems certainly worth a look.)


Ménagier de Paris. Written in 1393, this is an advice book for a woman/wife about running a household. It’s been a while since I looked at this text, but as I recall, it has some great stuff/advice about trusting servants and lady-in-waitings, etc. You can find lots of versions in French on Amazon and online, and I’don’t know which is considered the best edition. An English translation is directly below, however, which will certainly also tell you what the best edition was in the original language up till 2009:


The Good Wife’s Guide (Le Ménagier de Paris): A Medieval Housebook. 2009. Trans. Gina L. Greco and Christine M. Rose. Ithaca: Cornell UP.


Giles of Rome. [1607] 1967. De regimine principum libri III: Recogniti et una cum vita auctoris in lucem per F. Hieronymum Samaritanium. Reprint, Aalen: Scientia Verlag. – There are transaltions of this into about every major (and many minor) language(s) in the Middle Ages. Below is a German version that I’ve used a few times and a Swedish version which I haven’t yet used:


———. 1990. “Der ostmitteldeutsche Traktat Welch furste sich vnde syne

erbin. . . .” Ed. Uta Störmer. Zwei ostmitteldeutsche Bearbeitungen lateinischer Prosadenkmäler. Berlin: Akademie-Verlag. 189-292.


———. Konungastyrrelsen. En nyttigh bok/om Konnunga Styrilse och Höfdinga, Johannes Bureus utgåve 1632. Ed. Lennart Moberg. (Uppsala: Samlinger utgivna av Svenska fornskriftssällskapet, Serie I, 1964).


John of Salisbury. 1909. Ioannis Saresberiensis episcopi Carnotensis Policratici sive de nugis curialium et vestigiis philosophorum libri VIII. Ed. Clemens C. I. Webb. 2 vols. Oxford: E Typographeo Calarendoniano. This is really great on political things like the right of nobles to resist their lord. Below is an English translation, although I know there is a newer one from the last decade:


———. 1927. The Statesman’s Book of John of Salisbury, Being the Fourth, Fifth, and Sixth Books, and Selections from the Seventh and Eighth Books, of the Policraticus. Trans. John Dickinson. New York: Russell & Russell.


Johnston, Mark D., ed. 2009. Medieval Conduct Literature. Toronto: U Toronto P. (I haven’t used this yet meyself, but it has useful texts. It is an anthology of English translations of conduct texts, many of which I don't mention here in my own little guide to conduct lit. The editor is a Hispanist and writes on Ramon Llull, which means we get some good Iberian sources in this anthology, which is a rarity. The anthology contains: The French Enseignemenz a Phelippe and Enseignement a Ysabel of Saint Louis; The German “Winsbecke” [that’s a poet!], “Winsbeckin” [also a poet!], and “Winsbecke” parodies (selections); The Italian Reggimento e costumi di donna (selections) and Documenti d'amore (selections) of Francesco da Barberino; The Castilian Castigos del rey don Sancho (selections) and Castigos y dotrinas que un sabio dava a sus hijas; and The English How the Good Wijf Taughte Hir Doughtir and How the Wise Man Taught His Sonne.)


Konrad von Megenberg. 1973. “Ökonomik (Buch I).” Werke. Ed. Sabine Krüger. Stuttgart: Anton Hiersemann. (This, to my knowledge, only exists in a German original.)


Llull, Ramon. 1986. “Libre de l’Ordre de Cavalleria.” Obres de Ramon Llull. Ed. Miquel Font. Vol. 1. Mallorca: Edició Facsímil. 210-91. One of the great chivalric manuals of the Middle Ages, perhaps only behind Charnay’s for its imporantance/influence. I can’t remember if I read this in the original Catalan or in a tranlslation (it’s been a while!), but I imagine there exist by now a tranlaslation into one of the major modern Europeans languages.


Louis IX. Enseignments a Ysabel. Ca. 1260. I haven't used this yet myself and don’t have an edition or tranlaslation to recommend.


Machiavelli, Niccolò. 1995. The Prince and Other Political Writings. Trans. Stephen J. Milner. London: Everyman. (This is less useful than one might think, except as a book which sometimes presents the opposite of what contemporaneous conduct literature usually recommends as right conduct. Actually, in the Italian corpus, Dante’s Commedia presents many more good nuggets of conduct ideas that Macchiavelli.)


———. 1997. “Il principe.” Opere. Ed. Corrado Vivanti. Vol. 1. Torino: Einaudi-Gallimard. 115-92. This is the original Italian edition I used the last time I used this work in my own scholarship in 1999.


McNeil, John T. and Helena M. Gamer, trans. [1938] 1990. “The Burgundian Penitential.” Medieval Handbooks of Penance: A Translation of the Principal Libri poenitentiales and Selections From Related Documents. Reprint, New York: Columbia UP. 273-77. Penitential manuals are one of the great sources for conduct advice. PErsonally, I read them comparatively with medeival law codes to ascertain what exactly was the middle-of-the-road point-of-view on a given topic, for example, how much worse is it to kill a relative than a stranger. There are many, many vernacular penitential manuals from the Middle Ages which I, however, don’t list in this little bibliography.


Philippe de Beaumanoir. [1889] 1970. Coutumes de Beauvaisis: Texte critique publié avec une introduction, un glossaire et une table analytique. Ed. Am. Salmon. 2 vols. Reprint, Paris: Éditions A. et J. Picard.


Philippe de Novare. 1888. Les quatre ages de l’homme: traité moral de Philippe de Navarre, publié pour la première fois d’après les manuscrits de Paris, de Londres et de Metz. Ed. Marcel de Fréville. Paris: Libraire de Firmin Didot et Cie.


Robert de Blois. Chastoiements des Dames. Ca. 1250-1270. I haven't used this yet myself and don’t have an edition or tranlaslation to recommend.


Rodrigues, Antonio. 1931. Tratado Geral de Nobreza por António Rodrigues, Principal Rei de armas “Portugal” de D. Manuel I. Ed. Alfonso de Dornelas. Porto: Biblioteca Pública Municipal. I haven’t used this yet.


Schmitz, Hermann J., ed. 1898. “Das Poenitentiale Burgundense.” Die Bussbücher und das kanonische Bussverfahren nach handschriftlichen Quellen. Düsseldorf: Druck und Verlag von L. Schwann. 319-22.


Secreta Secretorum. This Psudo-Aristotelian text—supposedly Aristitole’s advice to his student Alexander the Great—was translated into just about every major language in the Middle Ages. It’s essentially a Fürstenspiegel (i.e. Mirror of Princes) Directly below is a medieval German version.


Hiltgart von Hürnheim. 1963. Mittelhochdeutsche Prosaübersetzung des „Secretum secretorum.“ Ed. Reinhold Möller. Berlin: Akademie Verlag.


Sullivan, Joseph M. 2001. Counsel in Middle High German Romance. Kümmerle Verlag. Okay, this isn’t conduct literature but rather shameless self-promotion. It is, in fact, my published doctoral disseratation (which, since I published it in a small press, just about nobody read!) See esp. the Introduction on pp. 1-37 for much more than you would ever want to know about what medieval conduct literature from across Europe (and German and early French Arthurian romance) has to recommend on counsel-giving and decision-making. You might also take a look at Geraldine Barne’s monograph on Counsel and Strategy from the 1990s for medieval ideas on decision-making.


Thomasin von Zerklaere. 1984. Der Welsche Gast. Ed. F. W. von Kries. Vol. 1. Göppingen: Kümmerle Verlag. (See translation, below. One of the great courtesy manuals of the entire ages Middle Ages, it seems to only be known these days by scholars working in Germanic language traditions. But if you are working on anouther national tradition, do use it; its ideas are universal for all of medeival Europe. In any case, what gives it a different feel is the fact that the author tries to be “hip”. This means his ideas are a bit more progressive and liberal liberal, especially as regards the positive worth of secular, courtly life, than those found in most contemporaneours conduct literature. Therefore, be careful not to accept all his ideas as “mainstream”. – See also the recent monograph on this work: Kathryn Starkey, 2013 A Courtier’s Mirror. Cultivating Elite Identity in Thomasin von Zerclaere’s Welscher Gast, U of Notre Dame P). I still haven’t read this monograph yet, but this is a solid scholar, so her reflections on this text and on conduct literature, in general, should be very useful to anyone working on the medieval European tradition.


Thomasin von Zerclaere, Der Welsche Gast (The Italian Guest), ed. and trans. Marion Gibbs and Winder McConnell (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2009)


Villena, Diego de. 1878. Cirimonial de príncipes. Ed. José Antonio de Balachana. Epistolas de Mosén Diego de Valera,... Madrid: Sociedad de Bibliófilos Españoles. 305-322. I haven’t yet used any of the below texts by Villena.


_______. 1959. Cirimonial de príncipes. Ed. Mario Penna. Prosistas castellanos del siglo XV, I. Biblioteca de Autores Españoles 116. Madrid: Atlas. 161-171.


_______. 1992. Cirimonial de príncipe: Valencia, ca. 1517. Transcribed by Félix Calero Sánchez and corr. Rolando Cossio. Diego de Valera ADMYTE-1. Dir. Francisco A. Marcos Marín. CD-ROM. Mardrid: Micronet, 1992.


_______. 1959. Cirimonial de príncipes: edición crítica. Ed. Gretchen Trautman. MA thesis. Athens, GA: U of Georgia.


_______. 2003. Textos y concordancias del Tratado de los rieptos y desafios y Ceremonial de príncipes (Valencia ca. 1500? y ca. 1510). Ed. Gonzalo Ághuila Escobar. CD-ROM. New York: Hispanic Society of America.


_______. 2005. Ceremonial de príncipes [Valencia: Juan Viñao, ca. 1517]. Ed. Rafael Herrera Guillén. Murcia: Biblioteca Saavedra Farjado, 2005. <>.


Vincent of Beauvais. 1938. De eruditione filiorum nobilium. Ed. Arpad Steiner. Cambridge, MA: The Medieval Academy of America.


———. 1995. De morali principis institutione. Ed. Robert J. Schneider. Turnhout, Belgium: Typographi Brepols Editores Pontificii.


Wernher von Elmendorf. 1974. Ed. Joachim Heinzle. Tübingen: Max Niemeyer Verlag. This is just iin the German original.



Pretty Much All European Romances: about 2/3rds of the romances written in Europe between 1150 and 1550 contain little “Fürstenspiegel/Mirror of Princes” sections in which someone is giving someone else practical, mentoring advice about behavior, knighthood, love, being a just king, using money, running a household, being a good wife, etc. (Some of the best occur in the pan-European courpus of “Fair Unknown” romances, in which a son suddenly discovers his parentage and then receives advice from a father, mother, mentor, etc.)  -- Be adventurous and look at romances outside whatever national-language tradtion you work on, as the advice that occurs in these little Mirrors-of-Princes sections is almost always universal and thus applicable to all European lands in the Middle Ages. The doomy, gloomy thirteenth-century Old French Arthurian prose (nor verse!) romances are also nice places to look for realtively large chunks of “Fürstenspeigel/Chivalric” advice; indeed, even many narrative sections of them can be read as virtual manuals of conduct. Not surprisingly, a lot of such information finds its way into Iberian sources, like Llull. --- A Swedish collegue who works on conduct literature aslo recommends among Iberian romances with much conduct material the earliest fictional Spanish adventure tale, the Libro del caballero Zifar (Book of the Knight Zifar).


Parodies of Noble Conduct: Parodies of more serious texts or popular tradtions are also great places to look for conduct information. In Iberian literature, for example, Don Quixote is but the most obvious example of a text that can be mined for negative examples of what not to do and how not to act. And in medieval German literature, Heinrich Wittenweiler’s Ring—which also exists in English translation—is a veritable handbook of how nobles should not act.


Modern Historiography: Look also at what historians have to say about medieval conduct and read their interpretations of medieval conduct literature. In the earlier portion of my career, for example, I worked a lot on decision-making and political culture and many historians were very instrumental to corroborating the findings I made reading conduct literature and fictional texts. I’ll name just one here: Gert Althoff. If you work on anything remotely political, he is a must-read and much of what he has written has been translated into English. I have generally found that historians are better at analyzing conduct literature than literature scholars, so if you have limited time, start with their interpretations first.