Welcome to the Geographies of Orthodoxy project
Van der Weyden, Descent from the Cross
Click to view the corresponding corpus

Oxford, Bodleian Library MS Ashmole 41

Described by: Ryan Perry from microfilm analysis.
Revision Date: June 1st, 2010


2 volumes of English religious literature bound together (in the C16?), C15.

Condition of the MS

Both volumes are in good condition (the Prick of Conscience book showing less signs of handling); there are a number of missing leaves in book II- the stub of a folio preceding the first leaf of the volume is visible, and it is possible more leaves (or quires) have been lost from the opening of the book. The Chastising ends imperfectly during chapter 14 (27 chapters are promised on the table of contents, and 2 leaves have been lost between fols 141 and 142. Half of fol. 149 has been cut away (vertically).

Number of Items

7 (1 + 6)

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

'Short Rule of the Life of Our Lady'


"Abowte þe gloryouse mayden of wham owr lord Ihesu crist
took flesshe and blood. We may be thynk vs of her lyfe
of wyche þu schalt wyte þat whanne scho was þre 3ere
old: scho was offred in to þe temple of her fadyr & of hyr modyr", fol.135v.



Secundo Folio



"for soþe þat sowle haþ no perfyt vertu þat louyth nowt god whyt all hys herte / and of þys loue comyth alle fulnes of grace", (cf. YW, I, 158); fol. 135v; it is likely that a bifolium is missing from the middle of this quire, and the text continued, however, the brevity of the other items in this part of the MS means that it is possible that the item ended at this point. The fact that the lyric on fol. 136r preserves only the concluding 28 lines from a 120 line poem adds weight to the idea that there is missing text.

Languages of the MS

All items in English.

Detailed Description of Contents

    Book 1:
  • 1. Prick of Conscience (main version), fols 1-130r. A C16 hand supplies a title and explicit, "Stimulus Conscientie thys boke ys namyd I tel the...Stimulus consentie thys boke ys I tel the"; IMEV 1193, 3428, 3429, 3561; Lewis and McIntosh MV 59, pp. 92-3; fols 1-130.

    Book 2:
  • 1. Unique verse on the passion, begins imperfectly "Throw hys hond with hamer knak . þai made a gresely wound/ With an o. & a I. þat wound blede als bylyue./ þat blod gussched out as of a best. þat wer styked with a knyue", ends, "Stones brosten þe ert shoke. & dede folk ganne a wake/ þat þis is soth in holy boke. seynt Ione to borow I take/ With an o. & an. I. seynt Ione I tak [?] to borw/ Marie & cristes passionne. vs helpe [to mak?] a sorow. amen.", IMEV *3719.5 (K. Hammerle, "Verstreute me. und frühne Lyrik," Archiv 166 (1935), pp. 196-97); fol 134 r-v.

  • 2. Prose tract on 'reson, wyll [and] myende', begins, "Iche crysten sowle hath þre myghtes. reson. wyll. myende", ends, "whyt owtyn ymagynacyouns and rennand thowghtes"; Jolliffe D.5 and O.10

  • 3. Short prose 'counsels' for enclosed religious, begins, "Be deuoute in god and tempere þyn herte whyt hym als mykyl as þou may", ends, "hate monye . loue puerte . ffle women . haue pyte of dyssesyd . be chast in all & þu shalt be saf", Jolliffe I.4 and O.6; fol. 135v.

  • 4. 'Short Rule of the Life of Our Lady'; poss. a short extract, or perhaps continued in a now lost bifolium (see Explicit); fol. 135v.

  • 5. 'A Song of Love to Jesus', IMEV 1781; begins imperfectly, "To 3eld him hys lufe haue I no myght", ends, "Whyt þe to wone wtowtyn eende", (C. Brown, Religious Lyrics of the Fourteenth Century (1924), pp. 61-5; this partial version runs from ll. 93-120); fol. 136r.

  • 6. Chastising of God's Children, IPMEP 343; text ends imperfectly during chapter 14 of 27 (Bazire and Colledge ed., p. 153, l. 18); fols 136v-149v.

Estimated Date of Production

The Prick of Conscience may date from the late C14-early C15; the second volume may date from the mid C15-2nd half C15. Lewis and McIntosh dated the fiirst volume to the late C14; Bazire and Colledge dated both portions of the MS to the second half of the C15, a possibility in respect of book 2, but unlikely in the case of the Prick of Conscience.

Writing Support



vii + 160 fols + v; (including an unfoliated leaf between fols 2 and 3).

Dimensions of Page and Writing Space

  • Leaf Size: (Booklet 1) 265 X 175 mm approx.; (booklet 2) 250 x 175 mm approx.
  • Writing Space: (Booklet 1) 185 X 95 mm approx.; (booklet 2): 180 x 110 mm approx.


Book 2: 18 -3 (wants 1, 4 and 5), 28 -2 (wants 4 and 5), 38. 48 -1 (wants 8).

Fols 134 and 135 are marked 'ii' and 'iii'; the next 2 quires have some surviving quire signatures ('b i'-'b iii' and 'c i').


  • Prick of Conscience: 1 column, 34 lines, frames and lines ruled.
    Book 2:
  • Fol. 134r-v: 1 column (long lines of verse) 34-6 lines, frames ruled.
  • Fol. 135r-v: 1 column (prose block), 33-6 lines, frames ruled.
  • Fol. 136r: 28 lines, within previously ruled frame.

Rubrication/ Ordinatio

    Book 2:
  • Initials: Items 2-4 and 6 have initials with pen work flourishes- some similarity in the execution of the flourishes in the items penned by scribe C and the Chastising suggests that the same person may have executed the capitals.
  • Titles, Headings, Rubrics: Chapter headings to the Chastising in Textura script (red ink), with 1-line blue capital; paraphs, or 1-line capitals provide further subdivisions; Latin text is underlined (in red?).
  • Other: Corrections are enclosed in marginal boxes.



Number of Scribal Hands

  • A: book 1.
  • B: fol 134r-v (a stub from the preceding folio shows that the same scribe had penned the opening of the item).

  • C: fols 135r-v.

  • D: fol. 136r.

  • E: fols 136v-159.

Style of Hands

  • A: A stylish and fluid Anglicana Formata.
  • B: Stiff Anglicana, with influence of Secretary forms.

  • C: Good book hand based on Secretary forms.

  • D: Unattractive Anglicana, with Secretary influence.

  • E: Good Secretary book hand.

Estimated Date of Hands

  • A: Dated by Lewis and McIntosh to the late C14.
  • B: C15.

  • C: C15.

  • D: C15.

  • E: C15.

Scribal Annotation

The scribe of the Chastising has carefully corrected his transcription, with missing text added in boxes in the margins. The text has a great deal of nota marks which are possibly scribal, although the script is less formal and might belong to a later annotator. A contracted nota mark consisting of a single n is often found beside underlining in the text of the Chastising, eg. p. 150, ll. 13-18 (that righteous and holy men will be tested with adversity by God).

Notable Dialect Features

  • The dialect of Speculum Vitae has been profiled in LALME, vol. I, p. 145; vol. III, pp. 459-6, LP 598. Grid 392 323 (central Staffordshire)

  • Sample of Forms from Book II:
      Mainly from the Chastising of God's Children (with forms from scribe B in bold, scribe C underlined, and scribe D italicised):

      against: a3ens, ageyns; ageynys

      any: any, ony

      are: ben

      busy: besy; besy

      but: bote, but

      call: clepe

      church: chirche; chyrche

      each: eche, iche; ylk; iche

      flesh: flesshe; flesshe

      gave: 3af; gaf

      give: 3if; 3eue; gyf

      her: her;

      if: 3if; 3if

      -ing: -yng, -ieng; -yng; -yng;

      is: is; is; ys; ys

      it: it; it. hyt; yt

      length: lenght

      much: moche; mykyl

      not: nat, noth, no3t; noght; nowt, nowth; nowt, nat

      shall: shal(l), shul, (sal); schall

      she: she; sche; sche, scho

      sister: suster

      should: shuld; schuld

      strength: strengthe; strenght; strenkþe

      such: suche, swiche; syche

      their: her(e)

      them: hem; hem

      then: þanne
      ; þan(ne)
      they: þey, þei; þai, þei;

      two: twey

      when: whan(ne), when(ne); whan

      which: wheche, which, whice; wylk(e), wyche

      whom: wham

      with: whit, whyt, with; with; whyt; whit, whyt

      work (noun): werk; werk; werk

      work (verb): werche, worche; werk

      world: werd

      worldly: werdly, wordly

      yet: 3it

  • The Chastising demonstrates linguistic features of West Norfolk, near the Ely border, in the approximate dialectal area of the Stonyhurst College Liber Aureus MS. The other texts share some interesting and unusual foibles with scribe E (scribes C and D, for instance, similarly penning 'whit/whyt' for 'with'), but there are some pointed differences, with B and C's scripts including relatively Northern forms such as 'ylk' (each), 'wylke' (which), and 'scho' (she). Nevertheless, the forms written by scribes B and C may be represent a West Norfolk dialect, with perhaps, some alien forms.
  • Localisable on Google Earth
    (click markers to view sample dialect forms)


    Annotation and Marginalia



    • Fol. 130r: Below the explicit added to Prick of Conscience by the C16 hand, is the date "1567", poss. by the same hand.

    • Fol. 146v: a pen trial in the lower margin. smudged and illegible from microfilm analysis, C16.
    • Fol. 148v:
        Poem penned in the outer and lower margins:
        'Why I of partyng do complayn
        I shall you tell yf yow wyll here
        I loued vn wtout dysdayn
        Whych in myn hert holdst dere
        that yf I had ben lord or kyng
        and al thyngs had at myn own wyll
        she shold have ben ladyn of everye thyng
        By us partyng is the caus of payn
        wheryn can be no stedfast staye
        But hir grace [?] at lengthe may grow agayn
        To led my hert in a happy way"

    • Fol. 159r: "[___?] for [or 'son'] stelyng of the", C16.

    Names recorded, signatures, ex libris marks

    • Fol. 1r: 'E Ashmole', C17.

    • Fol. 130v: "Sir Gorge Heenlie [?] [I sey?]", C16?

    • Fol. 136r: 'Henry Scales', humanistic hand, C16-17?

    • "Antony alderley is oner of this boke & ho so ever will say the contrary wytnes I haue of god almity [.] Willam hedge will not say the contrary", C16. The Lewis and McIntosh description connects Alderley to the hand who supplies the explicit on fol. 130r, and thus to the 1567 date, but the scripts are not definitely written by the same person.

    • Fol. 133r: "le per nom [?] Thom[son?] huett [...]", C15?

    • Fol. 142v: "Rogiers", C16?

    • Fol. 144v: "Edward G [?] Koll", C16?


    The two volumes appear to have become attached after the late C16. It is possible that the book containing the 'Short Rule' was owned by a member of an enclosed order. The Chastising is particularly appropriate reading for female Religious, although the injunction in the counsels for the Religious (item 3) to 'ffle women' may suggest a monastic readership. The manner of compiling the book is somewhat unusual, with miscellaneous short items preceding a much longer piece. The quire signatures appear to reveal that the first quire of Book 2 was the original opening quire of that volume (although it is possible that the quire was recycled.

    References and Other Resources

    L.M. Eldredge, The Index of Middle English Prose: Handlist IX (1992), p.2.

    Hyperbibliography: Ashmolean Collection.

    Robert E. Lewis and Angus McIntosh, A Descriptive Guide to the Manuscripts of the Prick of Conscience, pp. 92-3.

    J. Bazire and E. Colledge eds, The Chastising of God's Children and the Treatise of Perfection of the Sons of God (1957).