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Van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross
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London, British Library, MS Harley 218

Described by: Ryan Perry
Source: Microfilm analysis and adapted from the description in 'A Sixteenth-Century English Sammelband'
Revision Date: June 1st, 2010


Monastic Sammelband assembled in the C16.

Condition of the MS


Number of Items


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

Meditations on the Supper of Our Lord


  • Meditations on the Supper: "Cum esset plenitudo temporis misit deus filium suum &c~
    Comyng the gret tyme of mercy / Whan the fadyr sent his sone from an hy}"; above the first rubric is written in a hand ascribed to John Dee, "Passio domini nostri Jesus Christi
  • Colophon


    Secundo Folio



  • Meditations on the Supper: "Amen" is penned immediately beneath the text- after a space of 5 lines is "Explicit passio domini nostri Ihesu Christi", fol. 102r.
  • Languages of the MS

    The MS is made up of a mixture of English and Latin texts; the version of the Meditations in Harley MSS 218 and 2338, has had a number of Latin rubrics woven in to the text.

    Detailed Description of Contents

      In the description of the contents the letter relates to the booklet/section of the book and the number (where necessary) to the text.

    • Booklet A. (printed): Johann Lichtenberger, Prognosticatio. Strassburg, Kistler, after 31 Dec. 1499. Hain *10085, B.M.C. i, 165 (this copy is I.A. 2547a), fols. 2-49.

    • B. (printed): Two leaves from Probleumeta Arestotelis, Cologne, Quentell, 1495? Hain *1721, G.K.W. 2472 ('um 1493'), B.M.C. i, 281 ('undated'), B.M. Gen. Cat. 'c. 1495'. This fragment begins in the last quarter of the section de stomacho and ends shortly after the beginning of de coitu.

    • C. (manuscript, on paper, in several hands of the fifteenth century):

      1: A prognostication for the year 1466, added on an originally blank leaf, fol. 52.

      2: John Lydgate, Testament (Brown, Register, no. 1515; IMEV, no. 2464), fols. 52v-72r.

      3: Short tracts on chronology, in English and Latin, headed 'De annis a creacione mundi. De temporibus mundi, &c'. The first tract begins 'The yeer fro the begynning of the World unto Cristis byrth', fols. 73-83r.

      4: Meditations on the Supper of Our Lord; a variant version of the Mediations found also in Harley MS 218 that appears to have been adapted for specifically private rather than communal use; the 22 line Prologue which invokes a priestly reader, leading a lay congregation in meditations on the Passion is cut from the text; there are additional lines not found in the standard versions of the text that might be original to this redacted version of the text, or could possibly preserve original readings. The text also has been fitted with a Latin textual apparatus, with rubricated Latin headings and subheadings structuring the text into short stanzas. (Brown, Register, no. 398; IMEV no. 646.); there is a missing leaf between fols 91 and 92; fols 83r-102r.

      5: On fol. 102r beneath the end of the Meditations a C15 amateur hand has added an account of a line of descendancy stretching from 'Leonell þhe threrd son of Kyng Edward the threrd' to the marriage of Agnus Mortimer and Richard Earl of Cambridge. It is through this line that the Yorkists claim the right to the English crown.

      6: Fragment of an ecclesiastical calendar (January-March), fols 102r-103v.

    • D: fols. 104-21 (manuscript, on parchment, of the thirteenth century):

      1: 'Imago Mundi', fols 104-17.

      2: Three brief theological tracts, and excerpts from Gregory, Augustine, and others, in Latin. The Breviarium apostolorum on fol. 118v is the same text as MS. Royal 8. B. VI, fol. 27, which is copied from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, MS. 177, fol. 245, fols 118-21r.

    • E. fols. 122-46 (printed): Sextus Aurelius Victor (attributed to), De Viris illu- stribus. Venice, Andreas de Paltasichis (first press), 5 June 1477. Hain *2136, B.M.C. v, 251 (this copy is LA. 20607).

    • F. fols. 147-58 (manuscript, on paper, in several hands of the fifteenth century):

      1: Short tracts in Latin and English on pseudo-scientific topics, such as astronomy/astrology and medical diagnosis. These include, 'For to rason parchment', fol. 147v, 'To make azure', fol 147v, 'Nomina instrumentarum astrolabij', fols. 153v-54r, 'In the begynning we schall take hede to iiij thinges þe which longyn to deme uryn ', fols. 154v-56v.

      2: Chemical recipes in English headed 'IHC Maria Donstanee'. 'Dun- stane' also at top left in Dee's hand, fols. 156v-57v.

      3. In another more practiced hand, a Latin text beginning, 'Ad de argenta ndum [sic] omnia metalla', fol. 157v.

      4. 'A medycyn for þe pestelensse', 157v

    • G. (manuscript, on parchment, of the fifteenth century) fols. 159-68 :

      1: Commentary on the Ten Commandments, a text that is also found in MS. Royal 17. A. XXVI and in Society of Antiquaries MS 687, where it is headed Tractatus de decem preceptis divercis in lingua materna. Watson records that it "differs substantially from the text printed by Thomas Arnold, Select English Works of Wyclif, iii (1871), pp. 82-92" (222).

    • 2: Four short religious pieces in Latin, described in the Harleian catalogue as, 'De setatibus mundi, Praecepta pia et moralia, De cleri- comm conversatione, De sacerdotum pollutione nocturna', fols 167r-68v.

    • H. fols. 169-74: (manuscript, on parchment, of the fourteenth century): 'Tractatus de compotu ecclesiastico'.

    *This description of contents relies heavily on the fuller description in Watson, 221-2.

    Estimated Date of Production

    The sammelband was probably assembled some time before 1526, when John Cleobury, Abbot of Dore Abbey inscribed his ex libris. The booklet containing the Meditations late in the third quarter, or the last quarter of the C15.

    Writing Support

    The Sammelband is mixed media, with the section containing the Meditations on paper.


    174 fols. Foliated in modern pencil.

    Dimensions of Page and Writing Space

      Booklet C:
    • Leaf size: 200 x 140 mm approx.
    • Writing Space, item 1: 110 x 120 mm approx.
      2: 150 X 90 mm approx.
      3. the tracts vary in dimensions and ordinatio.
      4: 140 x 75 mm approx.




    Booklet C: All items 1 column other than the Calendar, for which lines and column have been drawn- there do not appear to be frames or lines for other items in the section, although items 2-6 have been set out evenly and according to professional standards of book production.

    Rubrication/ Ordinatio

    • Initials: 2-line initials without further decoration used at the beginning of chapters
    • Titles, Headings, Rubrics: Latin headings and subheadings in red; couplets are linked by brackets; to the right of the brackets at the beginning of a new chapter is the chapter number and an abbreviated title; there are several side-notes that are also placed to the right of the parntheses (see Scribal Annotation for details).


    Item 1 has a large number of woodcut miniatures, that regularly attract annotations by C16 hands.

    Number of Scribal Hands

      Booklet C:
    • Scribe A: fol. 52r.
    • Scribe B: fols 52v-72r.
    • Scribe C: fols 72r-79r.
    • Scribe D: fols 79v-82v.
    • Scribe E: fols 83r-102r.
    • Scribe F: fol. 102r.
    • Scribe G: fols 102v-103v.

    Style of Hands

      Booklet C is penned in a number of C15 hands- items 2-4 are in a variety of professional cursive bookhands of prob. the final quarter of the C15, the Calendar is penned in a formal textura script. Item 3 is made up of several sub-items, and is penned by at least 2 different scribes. Items 1 and 5 have been penned by later amateur hands making use of blank space.

    Estimated Date of Hands

    • Scribes A and F: late C15-early C16.
    • Scribes B,C, D, E and G: 3rd-4th quarter C15.

    Scribal Annotation

    Meditations, several scribal notes which appear to the right of the text beside the parentheses for the couplet"
  • 2r: 'agnus paschal' beside mention of the 'pasch lomb' (82); this note also occurs in Harley 2338.
  • 2v: 'Numquid ego', beside l. 102, when the disciples ask "am I the traitor?"; this note also occurs in Harley 2338.
  • 90v: A note against Christ telling his disciples that his betrayer approaches, ll. 417-8 (this sidenote occurs in the body of the text as a rubric in Harley MS 2338)..
  • 95r: 'Cicio', penned beside Christ's fifth word that he spoke from the cross (here mistakenly transcribed as 'vite'), l. 729; the corresponding section in Harley MS 2338 is missing.
  • Notable Dialect Features


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


    Annotation and Marginalia

      There is much annotation in the manuscript, and particularly in reference to Prognosticatio which has many annotations in several hands of the early sixteenth century, and on fol. 21 'Cyrillus' in John Dee's hand.
    • Above the Meditations is 'Passio Dni nfi. . .' in Dee's hand,
    • On fol. 79V is written 'Arturus Rex' in Dee's hand.
    • Latin note of Christ's betrayal by Judas beside Christ's agony in the Garden, fol. 90r, C15
    • .


  • "ffor pater noster and for my cryde I was full ssore I byte bout I was natt byte I now", fol. 52r, beneath item 1 in booklet C, C15-C16.
  • The fragmentary calendar has been adorned with a number of childish depictions of armoured men, usually complete with spurs and with bow and arrows; this part of the manuscript also has some writing which suggests a provenance in Hampshire, see Names.
  • A sketch of a man in a tunic, some sketches of flowers and a drawing of a decorative manuscript initial, fol. 158r.
  • Names recorded, signatures, ex libris marks

    • From Watson's discussion of the names, early provenance of the book:
        "Istud opuscusculum [sic] nouiter compilatum et constat Cluberuo jam dudum dorensi Anno dnj [sic] millm° ccccc xxvjto I526". Cleobury was elected abbot, while a monk of Dore, in 1516, but held office for only about seven years; in 1523 'Johannes, abbas de Dore', is named in a list of those to be summoned to Convocation evidently the John Glyne who on 22 March 1526 made his profession of obedience as abbot to the Bishop of Hereford. Why Cleobury should have left Dore has not been discovered, nor has any trace of his subsequent career been found. He appears amongst the pensioners of bis house as quondam' abbot in 1540 and was alive as late as 1557-8, when mention is made in the Receivers' Accounts of the pension of'Thome Cliobye quondam Abbaris' of Dore. The same source reveals that his pension was £16. 12s, and that it was granted by Letters Patent of 12 February 1525/6. Only two pieces of Cleobury's compilation bear any clue to their earlier provenance. At the foot of fol. 160, part of the tract on the Ten Commandments, is written 'Dan John Hartylbury Monke of per( )', in a hand of the early sixteenth century. The same name is probably faintly visible on both sides of fol. 168. The missing part of'per( )' refuses to yield its secret even to the ultra-violet lamp, but the full name can surely only be Pershore, lying in the neighbouring diocese of Worcester and about twenty miles from the village of Hartlebury. The natural reading of the ex libris is that John Hartylbury was a monk of the Benedictine Abbey of Pershore: if that is so, can he be the 'Dom. John Hartilbury, Cistercian of Dore' who was ordained at Whitborne Manor in 1511? It seems reasonable to conclude that he is the same man: the coincidence of his name on a book belonging to his abbot and in the list of monks of the same abbey is surely too great to be ignored. As for details of his life, they remain as obscure as those of Cleobury. He was probably dead by the time Cleobury acquired his manuscript: at any rate no John Hartylbury signed the document of Supremacy at Pershore in 1534 and none of this name received a pension at the dissolution of that house. (Watson, 217-8).
    • On fols.102v and 103 are notes in a rough late C15-early C16 hand which connects the manuscript with Hampshire: there is a list of place names with costs in the 'hundredo de thornegate', 'Todeworth' (Tidworth), 'Snodyngton', 'Shipton' (Shipton Bellinger), 'Wollop priorisse' (Nether Wallop), 'Burghton' (Broughton), and 'Wallop bakelond' (Nether Wallop Buckland); on fol. 103v there is an obit for 'Mathei Salman', a Mayor of Southampton who died in 1495, and who appears to have had particular links with St. Lawrence's church in the town (see Watson, 218).


    In map put in locations of Dore, Southampton and the locations mentioned in the graffiti.

    References and Other Resources

    The Minor Poems of John Lydgate, ed. H.N. MacCracken, EETS, os 108, 329-72. Harleian Catalogue D'Ewes Fontes Harleiani 375