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National Library of Scotland, Advocates' MS 18.1.7

Described by: Ryan Perry from MS examination in the National Library of Scotland.
Revision Date: June 1st, 2010


Lavishly illustrated copy of Mirror of the Blessed Life, mid C15.

Condition of the MS

Some damaged leaves, well thumbed, but in generally in very good condition.

Number of Items


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

Mirror of the Blessed Life


    Here bygynneth
    the table of
    the boke that is
    cleped the m
    irour of the bles
    sed lif of ihesu crist and the first
    parte for mononday
    , fol. 6r.
    "Here begynneth the pro
    heme of the boke that
    is cleped the mirour of the
    blessed lif of ihesu crist

    ¶Sequitur prohemium", fol. 7v.



Secundo Folio

Table of Contents: " Of the/ bringinge of our lorde Ihesu crist/ byfore Pilate at prime Cm xlim", fol. 7r.


"¶"Explicit Tabula", following table of contents and preceding the 'Attende lector' passage, fol. 7v.

"Explicit Speculum Vite xpi

¶lorde ihesu þy blesside lyfe:`
helpe & conforte our wrecchid lif", fol. 160r.

Languages of the MS

English with Latin marginal apparatus.

Detailed Description of Contents


Estimated Date of Production

c. 1444/5-65; dated by K.L. Scott on grounds of the supposed year of marriage of the the 4th Lord Grey of Ruthin and Catherine Percy [1444/5], patrons of the the MS, and the date by which Lord Grey became the Earl of Kent, when his arms changed. Sargent records the marriage of the patrons as occurring in 1460.

Writing Support



ii (modern paper) + ii (original, ruled) + 162 fols (text end at the bottom of 160r; 160v-162v have been ruled as per the rest of the MS).

Dimensions of Page and Writing Space

  • Leaf size: 323 x 224 mm approx.
  • Writing Space: 210 x 145 mm approx. (intercolumnar space 13 mm approx.)


1-22, fol. 5 is a singleton with an illustration on the verso side, 38 + 2, (fols 8 and 12 are illustrated singletons that have been bound after the second and fifth integral leaves of the quire), 4 (quire sigs 'a') 8, 58 + 1 (fol. 27 an illustrated singleton bound after the third leaf of the quire), 68 + 1 (fol. 36 an illustrated singleton bound after the third leaf of the quire although a stub between fols 38-9 suggests this leaf has been part of a bifolium with the surplus leaf pared), 7 (quire sigs fols 42-5 'd')8 + 2 (fols 46 and 49 are illustrated singletons, bound in the centre of the quire and after the sixth integral leaf of the quire- a stub between fols 43-4 suggests fol. 49 has been part of a bifolium with the surplus leaf pared), 88, 9 (quire sigs fols 60-3 'f') 8 + 1 (fol. 66 is an llustrated singleton bound after the sixth leaf of the quire), 10 (quire sig 'g')8, 11-15 (quires 13, 14, with quire sigs visible for 'k', and 'I'- there are also begins here a parallel set of emblematic signatures that are discussed under Rubrication/Ordinatio) 8, 168 + 1 (fol. 118 an illustrated singleton bound after the first leaf of the quire), 17-18 (quire sigs 'O'-'P') 8, 19 8 + 1 (fol. 149 an llustrated singleton bound after the seventh leaf of the quire), 208, 214.


2 columns, 34 lines; frmes and lines drawn in ink, with separate columns for side-notes and their accompanying paraphs, and lines drawn for the running titles; pricking visible.

Rubrication/ Ordinatio

  • Initials: 7 or 9-line initials as part of each border decoration- the most interesting is an historiated initial at the the beginning of the Prohemium, where a acanthus, leaf-fringed face, with a large tongue protruding from a lion-like mouth, and with a pince-nez below the eyes; the pince-nez motif occurs later in the book, as part of an unusual system of quire signatures that uses small emblems (see below). Capitals at the beginning of chapters are usually 3-line (sometimes 2 or 4-line) gold, set within rose/blue ground and white filagree work, with 2 sprays of green buds, and gold balls and terminals- there are very unusual variant terminals on the 2 sprays from the initial on fol. 15v, where green/pink tassel-shaped flowers have gold/green stamen? protrusions. The Table of Contents includes alternating blue/gold 1-line initials with red/blue pen-work boxes.
  • Titles, Headings, Rubrics: The running headings in red mark the daily section and chapter number, each set with alternating blue/gold paraphs in decorated box; these alternating paraphs provide textual subdivisions and mark the side-notes; chapter headings in red begin after a paraph, with the chapter number following within the text block.
  • Other: At certain points in the book there are two sets of quire signatures, the usual alphabetic type of signatures, and a set using small icons of particular relevance to manuscript production. Quire 13 has signatures marked k and a parallel set of signatures with a simple drawing of a pince-nez (interestingly, an animal wearing a pince-nez is a feature of an unusual historiated initial on fol. 9, at the beginning of the text); 14 has signatures marked l, and a set with what appears to be a quill (with a large exaggerated rectangular nib?); 18 has signatures marked p, and with a parallel set of signatures with a knife (presumably a scribe or limner's penknife); this doubling of quire signatures may have be attributable to separate teams involved in the production of the book, and most plausibly by the scribe and limner.


This is by far the most lavishly illustrated copy of the Mirror with 17 full page illustrations and one three-quarter page miniature and with full bar-frame border decorations occurring on the leaf after each miniature, other than on 2 occasions, fols 47r and 119r. Detailed descriptions pending- see Scott Later Gothic for excellent descriptions of the decoration in this book.

Number of Scribal Hands


Style of Hands

The first hand is a professional Anglicana script that one finds in good quality metropolitan books of the C15- the scribes forms tend to vary to an extraordinary degree, not only between gatherings, where the script sometimes appears to belong to a different scribe, but even within a page, or a line- 'w' and 'g' are forms which show particular variety. The scribe was identified by Jeremy Griffiths as the Petworth Chaucer scribe. From my examination of the book, however, I think it is possible that the Petworth Chaucer scribe only writes to the end of the first main gathering (quire 3), from which point another scribe with similar forms continues until the end of the book. It is perhaps notable that the text changes from β to γ at this point, which might suggests that a stationer had given (portions from?) different books to the two scribes. It is also possible that the scribe employs a more ostentatious script in the opening part of the stint before penning in a more economical hand.

Estimated Date of Hands


Scribal Annotation


Notable Dialect Features

Mapped by Jeremy Smith (who analysed a sample from the Friday chapter in this MS, and the other MSS by the Petworth Chaucer scribe) to "the region of Southern Herefordshire and the Gloucestershire/Worcestershire border" (132). As there are some 'peculiarities' (133 n.8) to the language in this section of the text, and because the Advocates' MS is copied from several exemplars, there needs to be a more complete analysis of the discrete sections in the book where the scribe has drawn his text from different source manuscripts.

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


Annotation and Marginalia




Names recorded, signatures, ex libris marks

The MS was patronised by Edmund Grey, 4th Lord Grey of Ruthin and his wife, Lady Catherine Percy, who were "married at least by 1447/8 and probably by 1444/5" (Scott, 'Illustration', 63). Their arms, with crested helm and with the family motto ('Soli de honor et gloria') appear as part of the background decoration on fol. 5v; the arms occur again on fol. 8v (held by a bearded figure between two angels), and on 12v, beneath an image of the Coronation of the Virgin, where the patrons are depicted kneeling before books, and with an Angel holding the family arms and helm between them.




The Advocates' MS can be set within a fascinating complex of high quality book craftsmanship in the mid-C15.
The MS can be linked through a shared limner to another copy of the Mirror, Pierpont Morgan MS M 648; both MSS also unusually contain a series of miniatures but these are by different artists and according to different models. The book is also linked to Waseda MS NE 3891 through its scribe. The Petworth Chaucer scribe has been linked with a variety of other MS productions, including Takamiya MS 45.17 (a fragment of the Gilte Legend, and apparently a fragment of the Register of the Skinners' Company Fraternity of Our Lady, up to 1443-4 [see Sargent, intro. 137 n. 91]), Takamiya MS 54 (a copy of the South English Legendary), Pembroke College, Cambridge MS 307, Confessio Amantis, BL MS Arundel 119* (Lydgate, Seige of Thebes), Schoyen Collection, Oslo, MS 615 (Walton's Boethius) and was scribe B of Lichfield Cathedral Library MS 29, (Canterbury Tales fols 196-294- see Simon Horobin 125-7, 153-4.)

The text appears to be have been copied from at least two exemplars, with the changes of exemplar sometimes occurring with changes of gathering, as opposed to Pm2, where changes occur at the end of textual units;  thus a mixed text (that may have been produced as a result of a a stationer distributing quires from exemplars for multiple copying (see Sargent 'Textual Affiliations'); γ beginning of the text to 16r, β 17v-73r?, γ 73r-89v, β 89v-147v, γ 147v-end.

*The identification is challenged by Simon Horobin on dialectal grounds, see Horobin 126-7, 157.

References and Other Resources

J.J.G. Alexander, ‘William Abel “lymnour” and 15th Century English Illumination’, Kunthistorische Forshungen Otto Pächt Zu Ehren (Salzburg, 1972), p. 169. Catherine Borland, “Mediaeval MSS in the Advocates’ Library: I: Theology”, (MA thesis, Advocates’ Library, 1909).

Burlington Fine Arts Club- Exhibition of Illuminated Manuscripts (London, 1908), no. 147.

Bibliothèque Royale de Belgique, Brussels, English Illuminated MSS, 700-1500 (1973), no. 84 [links the MS with John Rylands MS Eng. 1].

Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts 1390-1490 (1996) no. 98, Ills. 375-377, 381.

_ _ _, 'The Illustration and Decoration of Manuscripts of Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ’, Nicholas Love at Waseda, eds. Shoichi Oguro, Richard Beadle and Michael G. Sargent (1997), pp. 63-65, 71, 72, 75, 76; pl. 8.

Simon Horobin, The Language of the Chaucer Tradition (London, 2003).

Zsuzsanna Nagy, "'To Confusion of Alle False Lollards': Encoded Messages in the Text and Illustrations of Nicholas Love's Mirrour of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ", Annual of Medieval Studies at CEU 9 (Budapest, 2003), pp. 51-68.

Sargent Groupings

γ | β

Sargent Pages

Intro. 92, 123, 124, 126, 137, 138, 139, 148, 150-2.

Sargent Number



Please note: Descriptions of Mirror MSS are indebted to: Nicholas Love, The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ: A Full Critical Edition, ed. by Michael G. Sargent (Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2005)