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Van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross
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Manchester, Chetham's Library MS 27911

Described by: Ryan perry from manuscript analysis in the Chetham Library.
Revision Date: June 1st, 2010


Life of the Virgin and the Christ, early C15.

Condition of the MS

Fols 1r and 85v are darkened to the point of illegibility, suggesting the book may have been coverless for some period; the book begins and ends imperfectly; there is some staining with grease/wax in the book.

Number of Items


Title(s) of Pseudo-Bonaventuran Text(s)

Life of the Virgin and the Christ.


Begins imperfectly, first legible line on fol. 1v, "schamed sore of hem self . and token leffis of a fig tree". This corresponds to the opening side of the text in TCD MS 423, fol. 124, l. 22; the text would appear to have originally begun on a lost opening folio; in fact, an item or possibly several items may have preceded the Life, as 2 quires in addition to the lost opening folio appear to be missing from the book, see Contents.



Secundo Folio



Concludes imperfectly, last legible lines on fol. 85r, "gaderþ þe reliff . þ at it be no3t lost . þei went". This corresponds to TCD MS 423, fol. 142, l. 3, a little before the final chapter of the text.

Languages of the MS

English text with Latin headings etc.

Detailed Description of Contents

An imperfect copy of the Life of the Virgin and the Christ

Estimated Date of Production

1st quarter C15.

Writing Support



85 fols; foliated in pencil- from fol. 2r onwards a C16 foliation is visible, beginning here at fol. 21 (the current fol. 1 was thus 20); taking into account the lost leaf at the beginning of the first quire, the book then lacks a further 18 leaves. The Life was therefore preceded by one or more items.

Dimensions of Page and Writing Space

  • Leaf size: 130 x 90 mm

  • Writing Space: 74 x 43 mm approx.
  • Collation

    18 -1 (fols 1-7; wanting first leaf of quire); 2-5 8

    (fols 8-47); 6 8 -5 (wants 4-8).


    ! column, 17 lines; columns and lines ruled, pricking visible.

    Rubrication/ Ordinatio

  • 2-line blue initials with red pen-work flourishes at beginning of chapters; chapter headings in red, are usually initiated with a 1-line blue initial, eg. " How marie was spoused to Joseph &cetera"
  • Alternating red and blue paraphs.
  • Latin text in red.
  • On rare occasions a 1-line blue initial begins a sentence, presumably for emphasis eg., "" I askeþ consideracione here what solempnite and goodnes is þis dai of þe incarnacion", fol. 31v (cf. TCD 423 fol. 131v ll. 23-5).
  • Catchwords appear in a distinctive ruled scroll.
  • Illustration


    Number of Scribal Hands


    Style of Hands

    A neat, very well-penned anglicana formata bookhand with secretary influence; occasionally executes flamboyant ascenders with a serrated effect into the upper-margin.

    Estimated Date of Hands

    The hand appears to date from c. 1400-25.

    Scribal Annotation


    Notable Dialect Features

    No reference in LALME.

    She: sche
    many: many
    busy: besi
    but: but
    way: wei
    they: þei, þai
    our: owre
    through: þoro3
    together: togeder
    gather: gader
    them: hem
    mother: moder
    her: hir
    day: dai
    saw: sau3e
    should: schulde
    shall: schal
    much: moche, mochel
    work: werk

    The dialect appears to be approximate with forms found in the South-Central or South-East Midlands.

    Localisable on Google Earth
    (click markers to view sample dialect forms)


    Annotation and Marginalia

  • Fol. 33v: an X is placed beside, " Marie sau3e Elizabeth hir cosyn & folowed hir and and seid . heil my cosyn Elizabeth . and Joseph folowed hir also", (cf. TCD 423 fol. 132r, ll. 20-1).
  • Graffitti


    Names recorded, signatures, ex libris marks

  • Fol. 17v "Robert Bunting", C16-17.
  • "John Barton", C17-18?.
  • "Jhn Gealton[s] (Goultons?) book of men the my [ ____?] of Jhn Barton", C16?
  • Notes

    This very small but very well constructed manuscript is the earliest example of the Life, although the text may predate its construction by several decades. The size of the book hints perhaps at private devotional applications, and a desire for portability.

    References and Other Resources

    N.R. Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, III (Oxford, 1983) pp. 377-8.