BL Harley MS. 53

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Production Practicalities and Reception Issues:

checked against microfilm, complete 14-10-2003

  • Pressmark / Name of  Book: BL MS Harley 53
  • Matheson no. 172.
  • Date(s): Mid C15, prob. between 1452 and 1453 (see PB, p. 297).
  • Type of book: collection of historiographical texts
  • Manuscript or print?: MS
  • No of items: 3
  • Contents: 1) Latin notes, fols. 1r-v; 2) Latin genealogy from Adam to Henry VI; fols. 2r-11v; Brut chronicle, fols. 14r-164v.
  • Writing support: paper
  • Watermark?:
  • Book Construction: Folio, Quarto etc.
  • Collation:
    • No of leaves: i + 164 + i fols.
    • Quires: (tentative, from film): i14; ii14-3; iii-x14 unclear after this.
    • Foliation: modern, top right corner.
    • Composite MS? no
    • Booklets?: no
    • Catchwords? (on which fols?): 25v; 39v; 53v; 67v; 81v; 95v; 109v; 123v; 137v;
    • Quire signatures? (where?): none visible
    • Damage?: bottom outer corner of fol. 14 torn away, text missing.
  • Page layout:

a. ruling: frames in lead or ink
b. columns: 1
c. lines: 46-54

  • Ink:
  • Dimensions: taken from film
    • front board: approx. 275 x 207 mm.
    • Folio / page: approx. 265 x 190 mm.
    • Writing space: approx. 1): 193 x 120 mm.; 2): 220 x 160; 3): 225 x 162 mm.
  • Binding:
  • Decoration?:
  • Artist?:
  • No. of Scribes: A: item 1; B: items 2 and 3.
  • Named scribes?:
  • Hand date; style; version; holograph, autograph?: A: C15 Secretary with some Anglicana forms (e.g. double-compartment ‘a’, ‘d’ with looped ascender); B: C15 Secretary, with some Anglicana forms (e.g. ‘d’ with looped ascender).
  • Hand, rubrication in other MSS?:
  • Compiler?:
  • Rubrication, sigla: 2): fol. 2r: heading set off with line markers (prob. in red or blue ink); two line cap (prob. in red or blue ink); names in roundels, underlined with crowns (prob. in different coloured ink) to indicate kings and queens, roundels of founders of races and noble kings (e.g. Adam, Noah, Brutus, Arthur) in different coloured ink. 3): fol. 14r: Latin verse heading with two line cap, decorated with pen drawing of human face, set off with line markers and bars in margin (prob. in red or blue ink); English heading with two line cap; eight line cap at beginning of text, decorated with shield (St. George’s cross) and filigree work. Rest of ms: running titles in Latin, rubricated (prob. in red or blue); Latin verse headings set off with line markers and sometimes two line caps decorated with human faces and flourishes, prob. in red or blue ink (e.g fols. 16r, 27r, 34v) followed by six line caps; lists of names rubricated and set off from the text (e.g fols. 21r, 76v-r); two line caps at new chapters, prob. in red or blue ink with flourishes; headings prob. in red or blue ink, underlined, with markers; markers at new sentences, prob. in red or blue ink; some proper names underlined; Queen Isabella’s Letter (fols. 126v-127r ) underlined in red ink; ascenders of some letters (often ‘w’) in top lines flourished; lists of kings and the length of their reign rubricated, prob. with red or blue ink (e.g. fols. 26r-v), catchwords rubricated, except on fols. 53v, 137v.
  • Biobibliographical information: marginalia, glosses, signatures, compiler/ scribe / owner / authorial identification:
    • Front pastedown: ‘66, b’, modern.
    • 1r: modern pressmarks and mathematical calculations
    • 1v: Latin notes, prob. additions to item 1, flourished signature of William Chaury / Chaucy (three times), same hand C17-18.
    • 2r: modern pressmark: ‘34.A.14’; see fol. 1r.
    • 12r-v: Latin lines and signatures of William Chaury, see fol. 1v.
    •  13r: pen drawing of bird.
    • 13v: arms of Stokes family (see heading xxvi below).
    • 49r: ‘Anthony Smyth’, C16.
    • 67r: erasure in bottom margin.
    • 82r: memorandum, signed ‘JS’, C16.
    • 91r: memorandum, C16, see fol. 82r.
    • 95v: ‘tynis’?, C16?
    • 107v: ‘delahay’, prob. a gloss, C16?
    • 143v-144r; illegible, poss. C16, needs UV.
    • 162v: ‘[…] a hulbrigse’ (Hulbrigge?), C16, inverted.
    • End flyleaf (pastedown): ‘164 ff. ex. Lir. Nov 1874’.
  • Glosses and underlining:
    • 10v: six roundels added concerning the offspring of Alicia, daughter of Phillippa, daughter of Lionel duke of Clarence (son of Edward III), C15-16 (cf. BL MS. Additional 70514, for a genealogy of the later descendants of the Yorkist line).
    • C15-16 English glosses and ‘nota’ marks on fols.: 19v, 21r-25v, 26v-32v, 33v, 34r, 35r-36r, 37v, 41r-42r, 44r, 45r-v, 47v-49r, 50r, 51r, 52v, 53r, 54r-v, 55v, 58v, 59v, 60v, 61v-63r, 64r-65r, 66r-v, 67v, 69r-70r, 71r, 72v, 75r, 78r, 80r-81r, 83r-85r, 87r, 89r, 91v-93v, 100v, 101v, 108v, 111r-v, 113r-115r, 116r, 117v, 118v-120v, 124r.
    • C17-18 English glosses on fols.: 43v, 44r-47r, 156v, 157v, 159v.
    • C16 gloss at fol. 156r.
    • Underlining on fols. 126v-127r (in red ink, prob. scribal), 132v, 151v-152r.
    • Erasure at fol. 150v (date).
  • Immediate Ownership(s) / Patronage: prob. Stokes family; their arms are on fol. 13v, See PB, p. 298, and Kingsford, p. 125, n.4.
  • Later ownership(s): poss. Anthony Smyth, C16; William Chaury / Chaucy C17-18.
  • Affiliations: (geo-)political, institutional etc:
  • Language(s); translation activities:
  • Dialect:
  • LALME vol., page, LP, grid no.:
  • Locality: region; household (secular/religious) urban / rural:

Intertextual relations:

  • Textual descent: Matheson ‘Peculiar Version’, group PV-1436:A. See Matheson, PB, pp. 296-298.
  • Evidence of exemplar: blank spaces at fols. 34r (1/3 fol.), 69r (1/4 fol., between Latin verse heading and new chapter), 154v (2 lines, poss. a heading missing); text ends imperfectly.
  • Intra-textual relations to texts in same MS: It would seem that the genealogy and Brut were intended to accompany each other; item 1 is prob. a later addition. 
  • Extra-textual to other books, texts, traditions:
  • Decoration:
  • Translation, language:


Credits and acknowledgments:

The description of this MS is largely based on Microfilm work by J O’R. Textual descent based on Matheson, PB.

Select Bibliography for this MS:



Hunterian MS 83

BL MS Harley 3730
BL MS Royal 18 A. ix
BL MS Royal 18 B. iv
Bodl. MS Digby 185

Secondary Texts:
Kingsford, Charles L., English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford: Claren­don Press, 1913; repr. New York: Franklin, 1972), p. 125, n. 4.

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