Michel Zink


Prix Balzan 2007 pour la littérature européenne (1000-1500)

Projet de recherche 

Three Objectives in the Studies of Medieval Literary Texts

Michel Zink, now Professor Emeritus, was Professor of Literatures of Medieval France at the Collège de France when he received the Balzan Prize. Professor Zink used the second half to achieve three objectives: conferences on the circulation and translation of medieval literary texts; fellowships for young researchers in Romance Philology; and support for publications.

The first conference on the circulation and translation of medieval literary texts was entitled Lire un texte vieilli, du Moyen Âge à nos jours and took place from 1 to 3 April 2009 at the Collège de France. A preparatory session in regard to the second conference was organized with Anna Maria Babbi (Università di Verona) on the topic Écrire dans la langue de l’autre. This was held at the Palazzo Guerrieri Gonzaga, Villa Lagarina (TN), Italy, on 13 May 2010, when the paper Raimbaut de Vaqueiras. La poésie comme langue de l’autre was presented. The conference, entitled D’autres langues que la mienne, was held in the Great Hall Marguerite de Navarre of the Collège de France on 10 and 11 May 2012.

A fellowship program, Prix de recherche en philologie romane, made it possible for ayoung researcher to live and work in Paris for up to a year. In 2009, the first fellowship was awarded to Chiara Concina. The second was awarded in 2011 to Hedzer Uulders who, under Professor Sylvie Lefèvre (Columbia University), helped put together an edition of Saluts d’amour (love poems in the form of letters), to be published in the Lettres gothiques collection. In 2013 the third fellowship was awarded to Daniele Ruini.

As regards publications, a research group working with the Prizewinner on the project L’Europe des philologues was concerned with the publication of the correspondence of the great Romanists of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. The first part, Gaston Paris – Joseph Bédier, also supported by the Fonds national suisse de la recherche scientifique, appeared in 2009. The research funds from the Balzan Prize also made it possible for the collection Lettres gothiques (Le Livre de Poche, Hachette) to include important works from the beginning of the fourteenth century.

Research Support since 2013

The proceedings of the international colloquium “D’autres langues que la mienne”, organised by Michel Zink at the Collège de France 10-11 May 2012 were published in the volume D’autres langues que la mienne, edited by Michel Zink, with the collaboration of Odile Bombarde (Paris: Éditions Odile Jacob, 2014). The contributions of Jean-Paul Allouche, Odile Bombarde, Pascale Bourgain, Yves Bonnefoy, Antoine Compagnon, Michael Edwards, Marc Fumaroli, Claudine Haroche, John E. Jackson, Jacques Le Rider, Jean-Noël Robert, Luciano Rossi, Karlheinz Stierle and Michel Zink were included.

Funding was provided for the book Livre du pèlerin de vie humaine by Guillaume de Deguileville. The text was edited, translated and presented by Graham Robert Edwards and Philippe Maupeu (Paris: Le Livre de Poche, Lettres gothiques, 2015). Influenced, admittedly by the author, by the Roman de la Rose, this poem of nearly 18,000 words was composed in 1330, then later reworked by a monk from the Abbey of Chaalis, Guillaume de Deguileville or Diguleville, is characteristic of allegorical late medieval poetry, which it in turn influenced. It deals with the classic theme of human destiny through the image of the homoviator, pilgrim in this life, on his way to salvation, but always threatened by temptations, vice and sin. The poem is rich in striking scenes, and illustrated with miniatures that are clearly conceived as an integral part of the work. Financial assistance contributed to the production of a book of illustrations that would not have been possible in a paperback.

Financial support was also given to the publication of the Dictionnaire du français médiéval by Takeshi Matsumura, under the direction of Michel Zink (Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2015). This work, which Michel Zink requested from Takeshi Matsumura, professor at the University of Tokyo, is the only dictionary of Old and Middle French in one volume, is first-hand, scientifically sound, complete (56,000 entries), and provides previous editions with additions, corrections, and new developments. Before this publication, the only existing works were Godefroy’s old dictionary (8 volumes), Tobler-Lommatzsch’s (12 volumes) French-German dictionary for Old French only, and since then for Middle French, the remarkable online Dictionnaire du moyen français under the direction of Robert Martin. As for one-volume dictionaries for home use, they were simple lexicons, often limited and faulty. Matsumura’s Dictionnaire du français médiéval is a large, well-presented work, printed on Bible paper and of high scientific value. In less than five years after it came out, it has become a classic, and was reprinted four times. In 2016, it won the most prestigious award of the Académie française, the Grand Prix de la Francophonie. In 2019, it was awarded the Grand Prix de l’Académie impériale du Japon and le Grand Prix Impérial, presented to Professeur Matsumura by the Emperor of Japan. This is the first time that the prize was awarded to a work on the French language and culture.

Funding also made it possible to publish the correspondence between Gaston Paris and Paul Meyer, Gaston Paris – Paul Meyer. Correspondance, edited by Charles Ridoux with the collaboration of Ursula Bähler and Alain Corbellari (Florence: Edizioni del Galluzzo, 2020). The volume, the last in the series L’Europe des philologues. Correspondances / L’Europa dei filologi. Epistolari, presents the correspondence of European romance philologists of the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the of twentieth centuries. It follows the volume dedicated to the correspondence of Gaston Paris and Joseph Bédier edited by Alain Corbellari and Ursula Bähler (2009), and another dedicated to the corresponeance of Gaston Paris and Karl Bartsch (2015).

The correspondence of Gaston Paris and Pio Rajna will soon be published by Patrizia Gasparini. These editions are provided by the Groupe international de recherche sur l’histoire de la philologie romane, established by the Chair of Literatures of Medieval France at the Collège de France and financed by research funds from Professor Zink’s Balzan Prize. The correspondence of Gaston Paris and Paul Meyer is the most voluminous and most important for its content as well as the place held by the two scholars in their discipline. It represents a body of work comprised of 499 letters exchanged between 1861 and the death of Gaston Paris in 1903. Still, many letters have disappeared. The two men spent most of the year in Paris, where they saw each other constantly, which means that their personal relations and their scientific collaboration were closely intertwined, and their interventions in academic and public life were concerted. This correspondence is essential for knowing and understanding not only the development of romance language studies in France and in Europe, but also the role of French intellectuals in and after the war of 1870, above all at the time of the Dreyfus affair.

Finally, funds were allocated to a project on nearly half a century of work by the ‘antiquaire’ François-Roger de Gaignières (1642-1715) who, accompanied by a palaeographer scribe and a draughtsman, travelled through France with the mission of recording all traces left by the history of the French nobility and monarchy. In sifting through and copying hundreds of thousands of acts, documents titles, buildings and monuments, many of which no longer exist today, Gaignières and his team assembled an exceptional, unprecedented collection of documents which Anne Ritz-Guilbert describes as a “museum of paper”, to date unpublished, which stands as a dazzling testimonial to the patrimonial wealth of medieval and modern France. After her book on the Gaignières collection (CNRS Éditions, 2016), Ritz-Guilbert developed a project for a complete digital edition of this immense collection housed in the Bibliothèque nationale de France and the Bodleian Library in Oxford. Considerable interest in this project has been shown by its partners, the École du Louvre, the Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes (IRHT-CNRS), the COnsortiumdes Sources MEdiévales (COSME), Equipex Biblissima, and the two great libraries who house the collection.

Remaining funds will essentially be used to assist in publications in hard or digital copy, like those mentioned above. In a field like philology, investments required by research are low. On the other hand, publishing houses today, especially those specializing in scholarly and erudite editions, are fragile, and have been made even more so by the present crisis. Digital editions, when not concerned with simple text entry, are as expensive as printed ones, or even more so when requiring maintenance. The survival of the humanities depends on publishing, and supporting these editions is the best way of contributing to research.


  • Conferences on the Circulation and Translation of Medieval Literary Texts Zink, Michel. Livres anciens, lectures vivantes. Paris: Odile Jacob, 2010.
  • Zink, Michel, with the collaboration of Odile Bombarde. D’autres langues que la mienne. Paris: Odile Jacob, 2014.
L’Europe des philologues
  • Bähler, Ursula and Alain Corbellari, eds. Gaston Paris, Joseph Bédier. Correspondance. Florence: Edizioni del Galluzzo per la Fondazione Ezio Franceschini, 2009.
  • Bähler, Ursula, ed. Gaston Paris, Karl Bartsch. Correspondance entièrement revue et complétée par Ursula Bähler à partir de l’édition de Mario Roques. Florence: Edizioni del Galluzzo per la Fondazione Ezio Franceschini, 2015.
  • Ridoux, Charles, with Ursula Bähler, eds. Gaston Paris, Paul Meyer. Correspondance. Florence: Edizioni del Galluzzo per la Fondazione Ezio Franceschini, 2020.
Lettres gothiques
  • Beaune, Colette, ed. Chronique dite de Jean Venette. Lettres gothiques. Paris: Hachette, 2011.
  • Pinto-Mathieu, Elisabeth, ed. Baudouin de Flandre. Lettres gothiques. Paris: Hachette, 2011.
  • Strubel, Armand, ed. Le Roman de Fauvel. Lettres gothiques. Paris: Hachette, 2012.
  • Dauphant, Clotilde, ed. Eustache Deschamps. Anthologie. Lettres gothiques. Paris: Hachette, 2014.
  • Zufferey, François and Valérie Fasseur, eds. Flamenca. Lettres gothiques. Paris: Hachette, 2014 (La Grange Prize of the Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres).
  • Maupeu, Philippe and Robert Edwards, eds. Le Livre du Pèlerin de vie humaine de Guillaume de Deguileville. Lettres gothiques. Paris: Hachette, 2015.
  • Lefèvre, Sylvie, Hedzer Uulders, et al., eds. Lettres d’amour du Moyen Âge: Les Saluts et Complaintes. Lettres gothiques. Paris: Hachette, 2016.
  • Matsumura, Takeshi. Dictionnaire du français médiéval. Sous la direction de Michel Zink. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2015.
Books by Michel Zink
  • Zink, Michel. Les Troubadours. Une histoire poétique. Paris: Perrin, 2013, (Provins Moyen Âge Prize 2014). Italian translation by Federico Saviotti. Preface by Maria Luisa Meneghetti. I trovatori: una storia poetica, Milan: Mimesis, 2015. Hungarian translation by Géza Rajnavölgyi. A trubadúrok. Budapest: L’Harmattan Kiadó, 2017.
  • Zink, Michel. Bienvenue au Moyen Âge. Paris: France inter – Équateurs, 2015. Re-issued by Le livre de Poche, Paris, 2016. Korean translation by Kim Jun-Hyung, Séoul: Korea University Press, 2018. Bulgarian translation by Stoyan Atanassov, Belgrade: Iztok Zapad, 2018.
Publications Edited by Michel Zink
  • L’Humiliation, le Moyen Âge et nous. Paris: Albin Michel, 2017. (Chinese translation of a condensed book).
  • Bérets noirs, bérets rouges. Paris: Éditions de Fallois, 2018.
  • Ce que nous devons aux anciens poètes de la France. Leçon de clôture prononcée au Collège de France le 10 février 2016, Paris: Collège de France, 2018.
  • Académie française. Réception de M. Michel Zink. Discours prononcé dans la Séance publique le jeudi 18 octobre 2018. Paris: Palais de l’Institut, 2019.
  • Discours de réception de M. Michel Zink à l’Académie française et réponse de M. Michael Edwards. Paris: Éditions de Fallois, 2019. Extrait dans Commentaire 164 (Hiver 2018-2019): 901-909.
  • Seuls les enfants savent lire (Tallandier, 2009). New edition with an afterword by the author. Paris: Les Belles Lettres, 2019.
  • La Grèce antique dans la littérature et les arts, de la Belle époque aux années Trente. Edited by M. Zink, J. Jouanna and H. Lavagne. Cahiers de la villa «Kérylos» 24. Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 2013.
  • D’autres langues que la mienne. Edited by M. Zink, with the collaboration of Odile Bombarde. Paris: Odile Jacob, 2014.
  • Charmer, convaincre: la rhétorique dans l’histoire. Edited by J. Jouanna, L. Pernot and M. Zink. Cahiers de la villa «Kérylos» 25. Paris: Diffusion de Boccard, 2014.
  • La Grèce et la guerre. Edited by Ph. Contamine, J. Jouanna and M. Zink. Cahiers de la villa «Kérylos» 26. Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Diffusion de Boccard, 2015.
  • Saint-Germain-des-Prés. Mille ans d’une abbaye à Paris. Edited by R. Recht and M. Zink. Paris, Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, 2015.
  • IVe journée d’études anglo-normandes. L’anglo-normand: spécificités culturelles d’une langue. Actes du colloque international organisé par l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres à l’Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres le 29 mai 2015. Edited by R. Martin and M. Zink. Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, 2016.
  • La Grèce dans les profondeurs de l’Asie. Edited by J. Jouanna, V. Schiltz and M. Zink. Cahiers de la villa «Kérylos» Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Diffusion de Boccard, 2016.
  • Les Dominicains en France (XIIIe-XXe siècle). Edited by N. Bériou, A. Vauchez and M. Zink. Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres – Les Éditions du Cerf, 2017.
  • Au-delà du savoir: les Reinach et le monde des arts. Edited by Jacques Jouanna, Henri Lavagne, Alain Pasquier, Véronique Schiltz and Michel Zink. Cahiers de la villa «Kérylos» 28. Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Diffusion de Boccard, 2017.
  • Vie et climat d’Hésiode à Montesquieu. Edited by Jacques Jouanna, Christian Robin and Michel Zink. Cahiers de la villa «Kérylos» 29. Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Diffusion de Boccard, 2018.
  • Des tombeaux et des dieux. Edited by Jacques Jouanna, André Vauchez, John Scheid and Michel Zink. Cahiers de la villa «Kérylos» 29. Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, Diffusion de Boccard, 2019.
  • 80 ans de l’Institut de Recherche et d’Histoire des Textes. Edited by François Bougard and Michel Zink. Paris: Académie des inscriptions et belles-lettres, 2019.