8 Best 13th Century Authors You Must Explore

Explore the works of some of the earliest published authors by reading these eight best 13th century authors. Challenge yourself with a translation today. 

The 13th brought to light a number of literary themes and important works that are considered the basis for modern thought. From works on medicine to theology, many of these books have influenced modern thinking today. This was also when the romance in narrative verse first came to the scene in Europe, and many of the myths and legends of ancient cultures were written down for the first time.

Studying famous 13th-century authors is a great way to see the influence of these writings on modern culture. That said, the dialects and languages these books and poems used are no longer those spoken today. For that reason, eager readers will need to find translated works. Still, if you want to dig into the works of 13th-century authors, you’ll need to know where to start. You might also enjoy our round-up of the best 19th century authors!

Here Are The 8 Best 13th Century Authors

1. Snorri Sturluson, 1179-1241

Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Snorri Sturluson was a 13th-century poet and historian from Iceland. He was born in Hvammur I Dolum into a powerful family of his era and was raised by Norwegian royal family relatives in Oddi. As an adult, he settled in Reykholt and had at least seven children with at least four women, though the total number of children is lost to history. During that time, he became a lawyer and took public office in Iceland.

After serving in this position for a few years, he was invited to Norway by the king and became a house guest of the royal estate. He gained a love for history before returning to Iceland as a chieftain. He later returned to Norway, where he was assassinated by agents of the country’s new king. 

Sturluson is best known for his poetry, which touches on the political events of his era and the centuries before his life. This has made him an important author for historians because the 10th and 11th-century history of Northern Europe has few documents. Prose Edda and Heimskringla are two of his most well-known works. Prose Edda was used as a textbook in his era and is considered the most detailed source of modern-day knowledge of Norse mythology and history.

“What was the beginning, or how did things start? What was there before?”

Snorri Sturluson, Goodreads
The Prose Edda: Norse Mythology (Penguin Classics)
  • Sturluson, Snorri (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 304 Pages - 01/31/2006 (Publication Date) - Penguin Classics (Publisher)

2. Marco Polo, 1254-1324

Marco Polo
Marco Polo via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Though he is best known as an explorer, Marco Polo was also an author. This Venetian merchant was born in Venice in the mid-13th century. Though little is known of his family of origin, it is known that he was the son of a merchant named Niccolo Polo. After gaining wealth and prestige, Niccolo became a father. Little was known about young Marco until he was 15 years old; apart from that he was well-educated.

At age 17, he began to travel the Silk Road, where he met Kublai Khan and became a foreign emissary to India and Burma. In 1295 he returned to Venice only to be sent to war and become a prisoner of war. After his release, he became a merchant, married, and settled down to raise his family.

Though Marco Polo was not a prolific author, his book The Travels of Marco Polo outlined his adventures in Asia. The work was influential in teaching Europeans about the wonders of Asia at a time when travel was dangerous and costly for the average person. It opened the minds of Europeans to the idea of exotic cultures away from home. Over the years, many critics have indicated Polo likely exaggerated his importance in China in his work, but since little proof is available, today’s readers must make their own conclusions.

“The personal appearance of the Great Kaan, Lord of Lords, whose name is Cublay, is such as I shall now tell you.”

Marco Polo, Goodreads
The Travels of Marco Polo
  • Used Book in Good Condition
  • Polo, Marco (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 322 Pages - 06/21/2012 (Publication Date) - BN Publishing (Publisher)

3. Beatrice of Nazareth, 1200-1268

Beatrice of Nazareth
Beatrice of Nazareth via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Beatrice of Nazareth was a Flemish Cistercian nun who had little written about her early life. She was born in Belgium to a wealthy family, only to have her mother die when she was seven. This caused her to be sent to live in a nearby community with Beguines. Her father wished to join a monastery, and she was taken to the nuns to serve as an oblate at age 10. She entered as a nun at age 16, eventually being sent to Nazareth, a hamlet near Lier, to serve.

Beatrice was influential among 13th-century authors because she was the first prose writer to use an early version of the Dutch language. She wrote Seven Ways of Holy Love, a book that describes seven stages of love that people experience before that love can return to God. Though it is a challenging read for modern readers, her work was an excellent early example of mystic writing.

On Seven Ways of Holy Love
  • van den Dungen, Wim (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 95 Pages - 05/18/2016 (Publication Date) - Lulu.com (Publisher)

4. Ibn al-Hajib, 1174-1249

Ibn al-Hajib was well-known as a jurist and Kurdish grammarian of the 13th century. He was born in northern Egypt to a chamberlain and studied Islamic studies in Cairo as a young man. Little is known about his childhood, but he taught in Cairo as a young adult and then moved to Damascus. There he had a dispute with the ruler and was kicked out of the city. He eventually settled in Alexandria and died relatively young in 1249.

As a jurist, al-Hajib merged the doctrines of the Maghreb and the Egyptian Maliki. He also worked as a grammarian, helping to write down the grammar of the Arabic people. Today, his work al-Kafiya is still being reproduced, annotated, and studied by Arabic grammarians, which is why he deserves a spot on the list of best 13th-century authors.

al-Kāfīyah. Wa-maʻahu Iẓhār al-asrār wa-al-ʻawāmil al-jadīdah. 1884 [Leather Bound]
  • Ibn al-Ḥājib, ʻUthmān ibn ʻUmar, -. (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 206 Pages - 01/01/2022 (Publication Date) - Generic (Publisher)

5. Rumi, 1207-1273

Rumi via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Rumi was an Islamic poet born in 1207 in Vakhsh, which today is Tajikistan. He was raised in a Persian-speaking home with an Islamic jurist and mystic father and an unknown mother. Little is known of his childhood beyond the fact that he was educated in a religious school, but he did travel during his young adult years. Eventually, he became a jurist and delivered sermons in the mosque while serving as a teacher. He ended up under the teaching of Shams-s Tabrizi, who greatly influenced his religious life and writings. He died at the age of 66 in what is today Turkey.

Rumi is best known for his poetry, which was collected into several volumes. Many were on the theme of his love for or grief about the death of his teacher Shams. Much of his poetry speaks of love that infuses the world, which is common among the mystic poets of the Islamic golden age. The Masnavi is one of his most famous collections of poems. Check out our round-up of the best 17th century books.

“Body is not veiled from soul, neither soul from body, Yet no man hath ever seen a soul.”

Rumi, Goodreads
The Masnavi, Book One (Oxford World's Classics)
  • Rumi, Jalal al-Din (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 272 Pages - 12/23/2004 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)

6. John of Gaddesden, 1280-1361

John of Gaddesden was best known for his work as a physician in Medieval England. He was born in 1280 and lived near the border of Hertfordshire and Buckinghamshire. He also was a member of Merton College before attending Oxford to learn about medicine. He had a large practice in London and treated one of the sons of Edward I. 

His most famous work was Rosa Medicinae, a treatise on medicine. During the early 14th century, it was considered the textbook of English medicine, and it was the first such textbook. Though the treatments and remedies in the book are today considered superstitious, it was notable for being the first of its kind. Several of the treatment ideas also have logical reasons and could provide relief to patients today.

“Hydrops is a material sickness of which the cause is a cold matter, overflowing and entering into the limbs, and thence arise either all its manifestations, or empty spaces of those organs in which is carried on the government of the food and the humour.”

John of Gaddesden, Forgotten Books
Rosa Anglica sev Rosa Medicinæ Johannis Anglici: An Early Modern Irish Translation of a Section of the Mediaeval Medical Text-book of John of Gaddesden (
  • Hardcover Book
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 504 Pages - 08/08/2015 (Publication Date) - Andesite Press (Publisher)

7. Henry de Bracton, 1210-1268

The English cleric and jurist Henry de Bracton was born in 1210 in Devon, best known for his writing in the legal world. He was known by the family name Bratton or Bretton during his life, which was changed to Bracton after his death. Little is known about his life and youth, but in 1245 he was seen as a justice of the assize in the southwestern counties of the country. 

The most famous work of this author was The Laws and Customs of England. It was technically not finished, but today it is a four-volume work credited to Bracton. The Second Barons’ War ended the writing because Bracton was forced to return the legal documents he used to craft the book. The modern idea of liability is raced to this work, so Bracton’s writing continues to influence modern society. According to Goodreads, this book is “part of the knowledge base of civilization as we know it,” which is why Bracton is an important author on this list.

“In every criminal case, which embraces a felony, [the writ] must mention on the appeal the year, the place, the day and the hour in which the case is heard. [The defendant] must speak of his own accord, and sight and hearing, and must be consistent in what he says and in all circumstantial details.”

Henry de Bracton, Goodreads
On the Laws and Customs of England: Essays in Honor of Samuel E. Thorne (Studies in Legal History)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 446 Pages - 12/31/1976 (Publication Date) - The University of North Carolina Press (Publisher)

8. Alexander Neckam 1157-1217

Alexander Neckam was raised alongside King Richard I due to the fact that his mother was the young prince’s wet nurse. The author and the future monarch shared a birthday. Beyond that fact, little is known about Neckam’s youth. He was an abbot of Cirencester Abbey and a poet and theologian in England.

Much of Neckam’s work was on theology, and Speculum Speculationum is his most important work. Though he does not bring any new ideas to the table in this work, it correlates with the teachings of other theologians of his time. He also wrote in some of his other works on grammar and natural history. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best 18th century authors!

Speculum Speculationum (Auctores Britannici Medii Aevi)
  • Hardcover Book
  • Nequam, Alexander (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 532 Pages - 12/29/1988 (Publication Date) - Oxford University Press (Publisher)


  • Nicole Harms has been writing professionally since 2006. She specializes in education content and real estate writing but enjoys a wide gamut of topics. Her goal is to connect with the reader in an engaging, but informative way. Her work has been featured on USA Today, and she ghostwrites for many high-profile companies. As a former teacher, she is passionate about both research and grammar, giving her clients the quality they demand in today's online marketing world.