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Van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross
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Oxford, Bodleian Library MS, Laud Misc. 23

Described by: Ryan Perry from microfilm and with ref. to Connolly article.
Revision Date: June 1st, 2010


Devotional Miscellany, C15

Condition of the MS

Generally good condition, with all leaves intact.

Number of Items


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

'Middle English Meditationes de Passione Christi'


The book includes a general prologue, suggesting the producers' understanding that the book represented a coherent religious anthology; interestingly, the prologue comes not at the beginning of the book, but after 10 items, and looks back over the kinds of texts already covered, and those that are to come; a number of related MS have a version of the same 'prologue', slightly altered to reflect differing contents and organisation in the books, John Rylands University Library MS Eng. 85. Durham Cathedral Library MS A. iv. 22 and British Library MS Cotton Titus D xix:

"þis litil compilacioun bigynnyþ with þe seuene

dedli synnys and folwyng next ben seuene

vertues remedies þer a3ens and oþer smale þynges

schortly declared But for as myche as sum men

wenen to be herd of God alwey in here prayere . þer-

fore here with Godds grace schal folwe xij lettyngis

of prayere . wherporu3 men moun knowe þe betere

why men be not herd in here praier of god alwey

whan þei praien. And for as miche as dyuers men

holdyn an oppynyone þt sengle byleue wt ou3te wer-

kys of charite sufficiþ to saluaciuone. þerfore sum

schort declaracion schal folwe of þe crede which

is trewe bileue & which is but fendis bileue. whi-

che bileue only schal saue no man And for as

myche as charite & loue comprehenyth alle þe co

manndementis , þerfore next folwyng wt goddis

grace schal sumwhat sue of loue of god & of ney3-

bore þt her þorw he may þe sunnere cum to þe ke-

pyng of goddys comanndements . for bi loue men

schulden kepe goddis hestis . & reule al here hiistis

þer after & not only bi drede Here endyt þe prolog

And here bigynnyn þe xii leityng of preyere", fol. 44r-v. (see Connolly, 175-6).

Here bigynneþ a tretise þat Cardenal

Bonauenture maad of cristis passion ~~


The tyme ney3hynge & comynge of

þe myseracionus & mercyes of þe

lord . in whiche tyme . he ordeynede

to make his peple saaf . & also to

a3en beye . not wiþ coruptible gold ne siluer

but wiþ his precious blod : he wolde make

a notable soper wiþ hise disciplis er þan he

wolde departe from hem by deeþ in to a memo-

rial signe of recorde . & also þat he schulde

fulfille þe mysteries þat weren to be fulfil-

lid// ffor sothe þis soper was ful prisable / &

loueable weren þe þingis .` to beholde...", fol. 76r.




Secundo Folio

"of god or dredyt to breke þe comaundement of god", fol. 4r.


  • "Blessid be our lord god of israel:
    for he hath visited his peple / & maad redemp
    cione of hem/ þat regnyþ wiþ þe fadir & þe
    holy goost bi alle worldis of worldis Amen.
    A culpa cristi : protegat nos passio cristi
    ¶Amen", fols 102r-v.

Languages of the MS

English, although many of the texts incorporate Latin rubrics and headings.

Detailed Description of Contents


    Booklet I:
  • 1. On the Ten commandments, 'Here begynnyn þe ten comanndementis of god'; fols 3r-23r. The text is described by Doyle as, "of somewhat critical but orthodox tone" (Survey, II, n. 17, p. 30). This version of what is a widely adapted and copied text is found in BL Cotton Titus D.xix, BL Harley 211 and St. Albans Cathedral Library Catechetica  "where it is ascribed to William Trebivile" (Ogilvie-Thomson, p. 3). See Jefferson for an edition of a Lollard inflected version of this text, and pp. clxxxiv-clxxxix for discussion of the properties of this particular version (see comments by F. Somerset below).

  • 2. Lavynham's treatise on the Seven Deadly Sins, 'Christ þat deide for þe saluacion of manli pride up on þe cros.` greaunt vs grace to ascape þe sli3e ...', IPMEP 789, Jolliffe F. 2. (a). (ed. J. van Zutphen (1956) [from MS Harley 211]); fols 23r-39v.

  • Fol. 40r-v blank, with later (C15?) inscriptions.

  • Booklet II
  • 3. Treatise on the Seven Virtues I, 'Ere suen seuene vertues. a3ens þe vii dedly synns', Manual 7. 2495 [24]; fol. 41r. Ogilvie-Thomson notes an "obvious textual lacuna between 'holi bisynes' and 'glotonye'" (p. 3).

  • 4. Treatise on the Seven Virtues II, 'Ere suen seuene vertues', 'Temperaunce . prudence . Ry3twysnes . Strengþe . þese foure ben clepis cardinal vertues', Manual 7. 2495 [24]; fol. 41r.

  • 5. 'Hre suen þe fiue wittis bodili', Manual 7. 2495 [24] and 7. 2536 [156]; fols 41v-42r.

  • 6. 'Ere suen þe fiue gostly wittes', Manual 7. 2495 [24] and 7. 2536 [156]; fol. 42r-v.

  • 7. 'Ere suen þe werkys of bodyli mercy', Manual 7. 2517 [50]; fol. 42v.

  • 8. 'þe seven þe seuene [sic] werkys gostly of merci', fols 42v-43r

  • 9. 'Ere begynnyn þe vii 3iftis of þe holy gost', Manual, 7. 127. 2351; 43r.

  • 10. 'How man schal 3elde a streit rekennyng of þre goodys', Jolliffe I. 19, Manual 7. 137; fol. 43r-v. This MS is not noted by Jolliffe, nor the presence of the text TCC MS R.3.21, which shares other texts in common with Laud Misc. 23.  See Martin (1977), p. 172.

  • 11. 'Here suen þe seuene sacramentis of holi chirche þe whiche euery cristenman & woman moste bileue. þat þei han vertu to fulfelle þat þyng . for whiche þei ben ordeyned', Manual . 7: 83 . 2299; fols 43v-44r. The text is based on the exposition of the Sacraments in ch. 13 of the Mirror of St. Edmund.

  • 12. 'Prologue' introducing the subsequent item, but reflecting on previous items in the book, see Incipit; fol. 44r-v.

  • 13. 'xij lettyngis of prayere', Jolliffe M. 4, fols 44v-46v.

  • 14. Chapter AB of Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God, "Here bygynnyþa litil processe þat symple men or wymen of lytil cunnyng mowen þenke or praie in here bygynnyng [...] FIrst whanne þu schapist þe to praie . or to haue ony deuocion"; Jolliffe M. 15, fols 46v-49r.

  • 15. Incipit, 'Seynt Denis in his bok of goddis names in þe chapitre of ri3tfulnes', begins, 'He þat þenkyþ dilygently þe medys of lijf to comyng beri3t pacently alle yvelis of þis present lijf for he tempriþ þe bitternes of þis lijf bi swetnes of þat lijf"; IMEP XI, p. 26 [21], fol. 49r-v; this, the entire text, is only found elsewhere in Cambridge, Trinity College R.3.21, fol. 18r.

  • 16. Mirror of Sinners, IPMEP 213; Jolliffe F. 8, fols 49v-53v.

  • 17. Fourteen Manners of Peynes of Hell , "Seint paul spekyng of the ioyes þat god hath ordeynid to trewe keperis of his lawe . seþit is so gret þt no bodily i3e may se it ne ere it . ne herte þenke it", unique text; Manual, 7: 2582; fols 53v-55r.

  • 18. Meditation of St Anselm, II, IPMEP 462 (C. Horstmann ed., YW, II, 443-5); fols 55r-57v.

  • 19. Three Arrows of Doomsday, IPMEP 842 (C. Horstmann ed., YW, II, 446-8); fols 57v-60v.

  • 20. English Creed, 'Here sueþa schort declaracion of bileue in general', (this is the text referred to in the Prologue [the error of those who do not believe in the necessity of charitable works]; it has the running title 'Crede'); IMEP p. 10; fols 60v-61r. The text has "one passage, critical of the religious (not found in the other copies)", Doyle, Survey, II, n. 17, p. 30.

  • 21. Begins with rubricated heading 'Vos estis ciues sanctorum ephesians 20', and continues '[T]he wyse man tellis in his bok ecclesiates .9. þat þer was sum tyme a lytil cyte . and fewe dwellers þerinne', ends 'But alle þingis shal be rewled in þe trewe ordre of pees þus shal 3e cetesynis wt mercy & grace be brow3t to blisse wt outen ende. amen', fols 6Ir-70r. The text is a discussion of the few to be saved, and thus the Christian community, Christ's "lityl chosyn noumbre", and focuses partly on an exposition of Ephesians 2 (with the Vulgate translated into English), and with the idea of St. Paul, figuring the Christian community as 'cytesynys of seynts' (which is contrasted against David's description of man, in the Old Testament, as pilgrims and strangers in the world); the mayor of this City of Christian citizens is Charity / Love, who introduces his commandments (the Decalogue), and later in the text the five conditions of Charity and four conditions of Love are espoused. The text is studded with Latin biblical proverbs that are expounded, eg. "Nolite timere pusillus grex quia complacuit Patri vestro dare vobis regnum & c /. þt is .' Nil 3e drede my litil flok .' for it plesiþ my fader to 3eue 3ow a rewme", (Luke 12:32), fol. 61v. The text at times echoes Wycliffite (or reformist) sentiments regarding glossing (eg. fols 64v-65r), and in reference to Paul's Letter to Timothy 2, chapter 4, the duty of the priesthood to preach the Gospel, and to 'frely mynistre' the Seven Sacraments, 'ffor crist seiþ3e prestis haue receyuid þese sacramentis frely", fol. 65v. Some of these themes are continued in the treatment of the reasons for the destruction of the City- "þe cause of þis is to sey goddis lawe is medlid wt glosyng . fagyng & fals expounyng...siluer is turnid in to drosse". Interestingly, the text describes Lollards as those opposed to the false hypocrites, "Ffor he þt hatiþ synne is clepid a lollar : And he þt mys doiþ .' is clepid a pleyn lyuar", fols 67v-68r. The tract then describes a post apocalyptic 'fynal unite' in the city, when the Lord destroys the "ypocritis [who] defoylyn þe temple of þe lord . for þei clouten þer feyntyd [?] rewlis to þe clene gospel of oure lord Ihesu crist & leden þe peple be þer fals ypocrite sygnis", fol. 68v.

  • 22. Meditation of St Augustine, IPMEP 574, Jolliffe I. 32, Doyle, Survey, I, p. 170, n. 5.; fols 70r-74v.

  • 23. A sermon on the Beatitudes for All Saints day, which begins 'ffrendis seynt Jon Crisostom in þe omelie up on þe gospel of þis day sei3t þat euery beest resonable and vnresonable [...]', ends imperfectly, fols 74v-75(a)v. The text occurs elsewhere only in BL Cotton Titus D.xix, where it is complete.

  • Three blank leaves are foliated 75b,c,d.

  • Booklet III
  • 24. 'Middle English Meditaciones de Passione Christi, fols 76r- I02v.

  • 25. Counsels of Isidore, IPMEP 491, Jolliffe I. 22 (c), fols 102v-110v.

  • 26. Augustine, De contemptu mundi, IPMEP 338, Jolliffe I. 20 (a), fol. 111r.

  • 27. 'Erthe upon Erthe', IMEV 3985, fols 111r-114r.

  • * For lengthier incipits / explicits from the texts, and for the corpora MSS of containing each of these texts see Ogilvie-Thomson pp. 2-12.

Estimated Date of Production


Writing Support

Parchment; original binding, brown leather over boards; incomplete remains of strap fastening.


Front pastedown (an original flyleaf) + 118 fols (the 3 flyleaves preceding the texts are foliated, as are the concluding flyleaves); this foliation takes into account the three blank leaves foliated 75, b, c, d; the manuscript is thus foliated 1-115, and has been foliated in a later hand in the usual place.

Dimensions of Page and Writing Space

  • Leaf size: 155-157 mm x 100-101 mm approx.
  • Writing Space: 110-114 mm x 71-3 mm approx.


ii -i (fols 1-2 are flyleaves, made from a contemporary parchment bifolium, and are preceded by a pastedown and a stub, another contemporary bifolium) + 2 fols + 1-4 8 (fols 3-34), 56 (fols 35-40), 6-98 (fols 41-72; a stub or guard with a fragment of rubric written on it lies between fols 62 and 63); 106 (fols 73-75d), 11-158 (fols 76-115).


1 column, 31 lines, frames and lines drawn in ink, pricking visible.

Rubrication/ Ordinatio

  • Initials: Alternating blue and red initials of various sizes and usually with penwork flourishes throughout the production (major items, including the MEMPC tend to begin with a four line initial). The flourishes have an amateur appearance in the folios up to fol. 39 and from fol. 76 onwards, and it is possible that plain initials have been flourished by an owner of the book. There appears to be a name, "Cok[_?]" written in red on a blue initial on fol. 33.
  • Titles, Headings, Rubrics: Running titles for longer items in a slightly enlarged script in red ink, on verso and recto- longer running titles run across from the verso to recto sides, with item 22 for instance, penned thus: "Bonauenture maad" (verso) "of crists passione" (recto); item headings are also in red ink, and set against a blue paraph, Latin text is also in red; alternating red and blue paraphs provide subdivisions. Sidenotes are written in a slightly enlarged script in red.
  • Other: Catchwords are sometimes unadorned or set in a plain rectangular scroll device, and sometimes set in colourful abstract designs, with repeated cross motifs.



Number of Scribal Hands

"Lloyd distinguishes five hands, the first writing ff. 3-23, 41-65v (?61v), 63-75v, the second, ff. 23-35v, the third ff. 36-8v, the fourth f. 39r-v, and the fifth f.62r-v and f. 76ff. Some of these distinctions seem to me over subtle, but certainly three separate hands are discernible" (Ogilvie-Thomson, p. 12). I agree with Ogilvie-Thomson, and would suggest that three hands have written the book, with scribes A and B combining to produce booklet I, scribe A completely resonsible for booklet II, and scribe C penning the third and final booklet.

Style of Hands

All hands are hybrid Textura influenced by Anglicana Formata forms.

Estimated Date of Hands

Early C15?

Scribal Annotation

Scribal annotation usually amounts to providing a marginal number, if the text is so itemised, and Christ's last seven words on the cross duly receive this treatment in the MEMPC, under the marginal heading 'septem uerba in passione'. More unusually in the book, the text has a number of other notae and marginal tags, such as 'longitudo crucis' beside the account of the length and breadth of the cross, or the Latin nota drawing attention to the 'foure maner of wille' in Christ before the crucifixion.

Notable Dialect Features

Sample of Scribal Forms from the MEMPC
    again: a3en, a3eyn

    against: a3ens

    before: bifore

    buried: biried

    busily: bisily

    but: but

    church: chirche

    first: first(e)

    gave: 3aaf

    given: 3ouen

    her: hir

    little: lytyl

    much: miche, myche

    might: my3t

    self: silf, self

    shall: schal, schul

    should: schulde

    their: her

    them: hem

    then: þanne, þan

    they: þei

    when: whanne

    which: whiche

    would: wolde

    work: werk, wirche

    world: world

    yet: 3it.

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


Annotation and Marginalia

A number of maniculae, and other notes indicate the book was well read.


On fol. 2 is written, "for the dutie of þees [___] knights & [lords?] louk nere thend afor Bo[naventure?] bouk in this", C16.



    On the front pastedown are some notes relating to payments for lodging, "4 maii St Monica pd for my Chamber- 10s/ 4 Junii pd for my Chamber- 10s", and on fol. 1v is the note, "vn ryghtwes men þt knoo natt / good: haue power & Rychys/ this is good [and in a poss. different hand] In nomine patris et filii et spiritus sancti".

There are a number of little notes in Latin and English on the final leaves of the MS in a clear C15 hand:

  • He writes the playful verse, "I Had my Silver" IMEV 1297; Manual 9.XXII.130, fol. 114v.

  • "as other men hathe in londe
    as dothe bothe fre and bond
    Be cawse me thowght yt long
    Me thowght I had grete wrong", fol. 114v.

  • There is a note in Latin naming the guards at Christ's sepulchre, "syr gerrant / syr Ammueraunt / syr arphaxat / & syr cosdrant", fol. 114v (cf. N-town play- for discussion and bibliographical references for the occurrence of these soldiers in drama and text see Specter, vol. 2, no. 34, 516-9.).

  • 'Testamentum omnis da viri
    Comitatum london
    Terrain terra tegat
    Demon peccata resumat
    Mundus res habeat
    Spiritus alta petat", fol. 115r;
    [Let earth hide earth; Let the Devil take back my sins; Let the world have my goods; Let my spirit seek high Heaven] (from: R.T. Davies (ed), Medieval English Lyrics (London, 1963), pp. 287-8, no. 176 - this shorter Latin version was common during the 15th century in funerary and testamentary contexts.

  • "Numerus wlnus Ihesu [Christi] v M(l) iiij C
    lxxv / Teste sancta Brigitta"; this is a calculation of the number of wounds inflicted on Christ (5475)- the address to St. Bridget is perhaps an interesting indication of the writer's devotional inclinations, and possibly even indicative of a connection to Syon.
    There are a number of notes in the same hand that appear to be speculative calculations as to the amount of tax that might be raised from vills, parishes, knights and religious houses (115r), and on 115v, what appears to be an accurate record of the amount raised from a fifteenth taxation:
  • "Nota vna taxa In anglia vocata a fyfteme -
    Summa - xxxviij (t) M(li) ixC xxx(li) ix(s) ob." [38, 930 9s. 6d or 1/2d? ]
  • "Presbiteri nati neque quia ates neque beati
    sunt infelices que matres sunt [...]", fol. 115v. "[A]gainst the illegitimate offspring of priests" Doyle, Survey, II, p. 30).

Names recorded, signatures, ex libris marks

  • Fol. 2: 'Jhon noawes', C15; 'heu male... Petri Sulin[s] gere navim', C16?
  • Fol. 3, 'Liber Guielielmi Laud...1633'.
  • Fol. 115v: 'Beniamyne Ffell oweth this booke', C17?
  • Margaret Connolly notes the C16 name 'Wyllyam Body' in the book (179).
  • A possible name 'Cok[_?] occurs in an initial on fol. 33.  It is possible the name relates to one of the original producers of the book, or perhaps the amateur hand that provides flourishes to a number of initials in the book. See Initials.


A note at the end of the book appears to locate the MS to London, where a number of related MSS can also be placed, (see Connolly). The book shares items 14, 16, 17 and 22 with Laud Misc. 174 and substantially shares contents with John Rylands University Library MS Eng. 85. Durham Cathedral Library MS A. iv. 22 and British Library MS Cotton Titus D xix, and TCC MSS R.3.21. and O.1.74. The MS also has interesting textual correlations with another London book, Huntington MS HM 744 (click link for description in the Digital Scriptorium).


Connolly suggests that the Laud Manuscript may have been made for a priest, and many of the items do seem apposite for someone engaged in pastoral care, and some of the items, such as the sermon headed "Vos Estis Ciues Sanctorum", engage specifically with the responsibility of spiritual care owed by the Priesthood.


From J.A. Jefferson, 'An Edition of the Ten Commandments Commentary in BL Harley 2398 and the related version in Trinity College Dublin 245, York Minster XVI.L.12 and Harvard English 738, Together with Discussion of Related Commentaries', unpublished diss. (1995):

* 1. On the Ten commandments, 'Here begynnyn þe ten comanndement is of god'; fols 3r-23r. The text is described by Doyle as, "of somewhat critical but orthodox tone" (/Survey/, II, n. 17, p. 30). This version of what is a widely adapted and copied text is found in BL Cotton Titus D.xix, BL Harley 211 and St. Albans Cathedral Library Catechetica  "where it is ascribed to William Trebivile" (Ogilvie-Thomson, p. 3). See Jefferson for an edition of the base version of the text on which this is based, and pp. clxxxiv-clxxxix for discussion of the properties of this particular version.

Jefferson edits not the base version on which this text is based, her D1, but two versions closely related to one another and related to D1, but expanding it comprehensively and considerably to add lollard content.  All the versions she catalogues and describes in her introduction are related to her B and HTY group: she does not discuss other commentaries not related to her group.  Her D1 has also been called (by Raymo and Hanna) the 'Standard Orthodox Commentary'.  As she explains, the version in Laud Misc 23 is her DX, and its closest relatives are DI, and possibly DIX.  It's related to B and HTY, but through shared attitudes rather than influence (so she says).

Updated. Thanks Fiona.

References and Other Resources

J.A. Jefferson, 'An Edition of the Ten Commandments Commentary in BL Harley 2398 and the related version in Trinity College Dublin 245, York Minster XVI.L.12 and Harvard English 738, Together with Discussion of Related Commentaries', unpublished diss. (1995).

D. J. Lloyd, 'An Edition of the Prose and Verse in the Bodleian MS Laud Misc. 23' (unpublished doctoral dissertation, Yale University, 1943).

Margaret Connolly, 'Books for the "helpe of euery persoone pat penkip to be saued": Six Devotional Anthologies from Fifteenth-Century London", The Yearbook of English Studies, 33 (2003): 170-181.

G.A. Lester, The Index of Middle English Prose Handlist II (1985) 14-24. [A full bibliographical study of John Rylands 85, which shares many items with Laud Misc. 23].

C.A. Martin, 'Middle English Manuals of Religious Instruction", So Meny People Longages and Tonges ed. Michael Benskin and M.L. Samuels (1981) 283-298.

_ _ _, 'Edinburgh University MS. 93', unpublished diss. (1977).

S.J. Ogilvie-Thomson, The Index of Middle English Prose: Laudian Collection, Bodleian Library Handlist 16 (2000), 2-12.