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Van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross
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Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 669*/646

Described by: Ryan Perry.
Source: Microfilm analysis
Revision Date: June 1st, 2010


Miscellany of Middle English Religious texts (pseudo-Bonaventure and Rolle)

Condition of the MS

Flyleaves are somewhat darkened but generally very good.

Number of Items

5 (3 integral items with 2 items penned slightly later).

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

'Middle English Meditationes de Passione Christi'


  • P. 3: "Here begynneth a good tretys þt Cardynalle Bonauenture made of crystes passyonne"
  • P. 75: " HEre bygynneth þe twelue chapyters of Ric' hampole turnyd into englysch and þe first is of conversion".
  • P. 148: "Now her bigynneþ anoþer good tretys of Richarde of hampole, cap.m p.m".
  • Colophon

    There are two colophons on p. 209 at the end of item 3; the text ends: Amen. Ihesu. Amen � quod Iohn cok, with a marginal positura beside the name. Following the explicit the scribe writes: "Quod .ix. and. iii.", the numerals signifying the scribe's initials, I and C. John Cok provides less formal signatures following the two added items in the book, although the signatures on these occasions is neither in the pen nor style of script as that used in each text.

    Secundo Folio

    "Whan it plesiþ 3ow."


  • Item 1: 'Amen' is added to the end of the text.
  • Item 2: "Here ndeþ [sic] þe XII chapitres of Ric' of hampole.
  • Item 3: "Here ende þ þe tretys of Richarde hermyte of hampole. þat ys clepid Amore langueo".
  • Languages of the MS

    3 integral Middle English texts with a Latin text added on p. 1, and a small section from Piers Plowman containing Latin text added on p. 210.

    Detailed Description of Contents

  • The three integral texts are prefaced by a table of contents on p. 2 (the verso side facing the opening page of item 1):
    "In this litylle Boke conteyned þes bokys folwyng.
    ffyrst an Tretys of þe passion þt Bonaventure made.
    Also þe XII chapiterys of Richard hampole þt is clepyd Ne tardas conuerti ad dominum. yn englysch.
    Also an oþer tretis of Richard hampole þat is clepyd Amore Langueo þt he made to a recluse."
  • Item 1: 'Middle English Meditationes de Passione Christi, pp. 3-75. 
  • Item 2: Richard Rolle, Form of Living, pp. 75-147.
  • Item 3: One of six English translations of Rolle's Emendatio Vitae, titled 'Amore Langueo' in this version- the same text occurs in Edinburgh University Library MS 93, fols 38r-97v (see The Index of Middle English Prose: Handlist XVII, p. 116), pp. 148-209.
  • Item 4: A Latin Pater Noster intercut with lines of commentary (also in Latin), p. 1; this item has been added in a different hand to that of the main scribe John Cok, although Cok signs his name at the end of the item.
  • Item 5: A short excerpt from Piers Plowman (C. 16. 182-201) possibly in the hand of John Cok, with a title suggesting its attribution to Augustine and Isidore, 'Nota bene de libero arbitrio secundum Augustinium & Yisidorum'; the indirectly accurate references to Augustine and Isidore suggest a learned reader of Piers Plowman; this is not the only extract from the text in the book (see annotation), and it seems likely that there was a copy of the C-Version of Piers Plowman for the use of the brothers of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, or in John Cok's possesion; p. 210.

    Estimated Date of Production

    Poss. first quarter C15 and no later than the second quarter.

    Writing Support



    iv+ 108 fols + i. The manuscript has been paginated (on the recto leaf), poss. by Robert Sheringham, with the pagination beginning on flyleaf iv and continuing beyond the last leaf of text on p. 210; the pattern of pagination is upset between pp. 118-119 as the verso of p. 118 has not been counted (p. 118 was thus subsequently marked '118 a').

    Dimensions of Page and Writing Space

    Folio size: 178 x 121mm approx. (based on Catalogue description).

    Writing Space: 114 x 75mm approx.


    a4, 1-138, 144, b1; (from Catalogue description).


    1 column, 25 lines; frames ruled in pen, pricking visible.

    Rubrication/ Ordinatio

    Chapter headings, chapter numbers (in the Rolle texts), incipits/explicits in red; alternating red and blue paraphs, that are normally preceeded by a 7 shaped positura mark (on occasion the punctus mark is not further furnished with a paraph).
    No running titles; catchwords are set in a simply executed scroll motif.
    The text opens with a fairly good quality 6-line initial.



    Number of Scribal Hands

    1 consistent hand completed the 3 integral texts and the index, and the colophon at the end of item 3 ' Quod . ix . and . iii.' (ie. I/J and C), indicates this is the hand of John Cok. Although the Piers Plowman excerpt, 'Nota bene de libero arbitrio' is completed in a different script, some similarity of forms (eg. very narrow descender in 'y') suggest that John Cok also penned this item. The Pater Noster text has subsequently been signed, 'quod J Cok', and it may be that this distinctive cursive script is yet another in Cok's scribal repertoire. However, if the Pater Noster was penned by Cok, it makes it more unlikely that he wrote the excerpt from Piers Plowman that is penned in the lower margin of p. 87, as these are similar styles of script that have been executed differently; Doyle has noted, 'the addition at the end of an extract from Piers Plowman [...] is like much of [British Library MS 10392] except for the frequency in the latter of the secretary form of g, i.e. with an unclosed tail (p.98, n. 42). The Additional MS named by Doyle is dated to 1432.

    Style of Hands

    • Items 1-3: A very consistent and attractive fere-textura script, with some anglicana formata letter forms (eg. a long-s with a tail that extends marginally over the base-line rather than a '[' shaped textura 'S'.
    • Item 4: A cursive anglicana with many abbreviations.
    • Item 5: A hybrid anglicana formata script.

    Estimated Date of Hands

    All hands 1st-2nd quarter C15.

    Scribal Annotation


    Notable Dialect Features

  • LALME The main hand (John Cok) has been profiled in LALME, vol. I, p. 63; vol. III, pp. 197-8, LP 5980. Grid 542 165 (Kent, in close proximity to London).
  • Localisable on Google Earth
    (click markers to view sample dialect forms)


    Annotation and Marginalia

  • There are many notes by John Shirley throughout the main items, typically, 'nota per Shirley' or 'videte per Shirley'.
  • A Piers Plowman excerpt has been added in the lower margin of p. 87, and is clearly intended to augment chapter three of Emendatio Vitae, which is headed under the rubric, 'Of Pouert':
    paupertas est odibile bonum . remocio curarum . possessio sine calumpnia . donum dei . sanitatis mater . absque solicitudine semita . sapiencie temperatrix . negoccium sine dampno . incerta fortuna . absque solicitudine felicitas & c. (cf. PP C. 16. 116, B. 14. 275)
    Interestingly this quotation is only separated from the excerpted material that makes up item 5 by sixty lines of text in Piers Plowman. These sections of Langland's text are further connected by the addition of similar maniculum that point to the first line of each Piers Plowman excerpt. The treatment of PP in the Gonville and Caius MS is discussed in Russell, pp. 183-4.
  • There are also a number of light crosses in the margins of the text (particularly beside the Rollean material) that are indicative of an interested reader.
  • Graffitti

    Nothing of any note.

    Names recorded, signatures, ex libris marks

  • On the recto side of the second integral flyleaf is the signature/initials of Robert Sheringham D.D, repeated several times. Click the link for the DNB entry (subscribing institutions/individuals only).
  • The crowned motto-inscription of John Shirley with fleur-de-lys occurs on the verso side of the second integral flyleaf. (For an image see Connolly, pl. 3[vi]). As this book evidently passed to Shirley through the Brother of St. Bartholomew's Hospital, John Cok (the scribe and it seems, sometime owner of the MS), the inscription is likely to date from ca. 1438 when Shirley rented premises at the Hospital.
  • 'Henry robssun' among other christian names, p. 176, late-C15-C16?
  • 'Wyllim Jorje ['George' as opposed to 'Joy'?] Cllapham' and in the same hand immediately below, 'John bunne', p. 170, C15-C16.
  • 'Steuen Smales (Catalogue description reads 'Swales') is my name eury/ man doth call me the sam', followed by a list of names in the same hand, 'Henry Henry Roger James Thomas Wyllm nycoles J__te_[?]', p. 211, C15-C16.
  • 'Mestrys Clapame and gorg (Cat. desc. reads "Joy") Clapame', p. 212, C15-C16.
  • 'Maysstne [?] (has 'mestrys' below in the same hand) cllapam and gorg cllapam'; above in the same hand are two lines of writing that are difficult to transcribe, but appear to be a badly executed mixed Latin and English request for prayers, the words 'oro', 'des' and 'domum' all occur, p. 213, C15-C16.
  • Notes

    This book appears to have been penned by John Cok either for his own consumption or perhaps for use by the community of St. Bartholomew's Hospital (but with Cok retaining ownership of the manuscript). It is interesting that the item added at the rear of the book and the 'annotation' to the Rolle text on p. 87 signal the presence and intertextual reading of a Piers Plowman C-version in conjunction with the production and reading of this book.

    References and Other Resources

    Margaret Connolly, John Shirley: Book Production and the Noble Household in Fifteenth-Century England (1998).

    A.I. Doyle, 'More Light on John Shirley', Medium Aevum (2001) pp. 93-101.

    M.R. James, A descriptive Catalogue of the MSS in Gonville and Caius College Library (1907) pp. 666-7.

    George H. Russell, "'As They Read It': Some Notes on Early Responses to the C-Version of Piers Plowman", Leeds Studies in English, ns. 20 (1989): pp. 173-89.

    George Russell and George Kane eds., Piers Plowman: The C-Version (1997) pp. 2-3.

    K.A.R. Schmidt, The Index of Middle English Prose: Handlist XVII (2001) pp. 115-6.

    M.B. Parkes,, Their Hands Before Our Eyes: A Closer Look at Scribes (2008) p. 38.