Bodleian Library, MS. Digby 185

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Production Practicalities and Reception Issues:

checked against microfilm; complete on 5-12-2003

  • Pressmark / Name of  Book: Bodl. MS Digby 185
  • Matheson no.: 125
  • Date: C15
  • Type of book: collection of texts of different genres and content including poetry by Hoccleve, stories from the Gesta Romanorum, a romance and the Brut.
  • Manuscript or print?: MS
  • No of items: 5
  • Contents: 1: Brut chronicle, fols. 1r-79v; 2: Hoccleve, Regiment of Princes, fols. 80r-144v; 3: Hoccleve, Gesta Romanorum (story of Emperor Gerelaus), fols. 145r-157r); 4: Hoccleve, Gesta Romanorum (story of Jonathas), fols. 157v-165r; 5: King Ponthus and the Fair Sidone in prose, fols. 166r-203r.
  • Writing support: parchment
  • Watermark?:
  • Book Construction: Folio, Quarto etc.
  • Collation: from microfilm
    • No of leaves: 203 fols. (flyleaves not filmed).
    • Quires: (edited/corrected by Ryan Perry):  discounting non-rubricated catchwords: i-ix 8; x 10 -1 [prob. leaf viii trimmed with no loss of text, as new item begins in the following fol.]; xi-xx 8; xxi 8 -2 [2 stubs between fols 165 and 166 indicate that vii-viii were trimmed with no loss of text; new item begins in fol. 166]; xxii-xxv 8; xxvi 8(?), [fols not filmed beyond the sixth folio of the quire, but, because this leaf has had a considerable section removed, it is possible that this was a quire of 8].
    • Foliation: top right corner, C18?; item 2 also has alternative foliation in brackets, top right corner, poss. C18?
    • Composite MS? poss.
    • Booklets?: poss.: quire sigs. re-lettered: Brut lettered a-k; Hoccleve, c-k (sigs. a-b prob. trimmed away); Ponthus, a- poss. d). Numeration of sigs. changes from Roman to Arabic at fol. 136 (quire h of Regiment), to the end of the ms.
    • Catchwords? (on which fols?): 16v; 24v; 32v; 40v; 48v; 56v; 64v; 72v; [ no catch word at 79v or 80v]; 87v; 95v, 103v; 111v; 119r; 127v; 135v; 141r (not rubricated); 143v; 151v; 159v; 164v (not rubricated); 173v; 181v; 189v; 197v.
    • Quire signatures? (where?): [ms trimmed and dog-eared so some sigs. not visible on film] 4r: a iiij; 9r-12r: b i-iiij; 17r-19r: c-iij (fol. 20r quire sig. not visible on film); 25r-28r: d j-iiij; 33r-36r: e j-iiij; 41r-44r: f j-iiij; 51r-52r: g; 58r-59r: h ii-iij; 66r-68r: J; 74r-76r: k ij-iiij; 96r-98r: c j-iij; 104r-107r: d j-iiij; 136r-139r: h 1-4; 144r-147r: J 1-4; 152r-155r: k 1-4; 167r-169r: a 2-4; 174r-177r: b 1-4; 182r-184r: c 1-3; 190r: d? 1?; 
    • Damage?:
  • Page layout:

a. ruling:  All items); frames and lines (poss. in lead or crayon?), prickings visible (e.g. fol. 185).
b. columns: All items): 1
c. lines: 1): 44-46; 2-4): 42; 5): 46

  • Ink:
  • Dimensions:
    • front board:
    • Folio / page:
    • Writing space:
  • Binding:
  • Decoration?:
  • Artist?:
  • No. of Scribes: 1
  • Named scribes?:
  • Hand date; style; version; holograph, autograph?: poss. last quarter of C15; Anglicana (See Parkes, plate 3.ii); holograph.
  • Hand, rubrication in other MSS?:
  • Compiler?:
  • Rubrication, sigla: 1): fol. 1r: 14 line cap, decorated with drawing of Brutus(?) and the arms of arms of Swillington (also poss. Swinlington or Rivers in 2nd and 3rd quarters), prob. in colour; fol. 43v: 2 line cap with Swillington arms in bottom margin; rest of item: 2 or 3 line caps, flourished into margin (sometimes quite elaborately, with human or animal faces, leaves etc), prob. in red or blue; chapter headings, prob. in red; side notes with chapter numbers, and occasional glosses, poss. in red; 2-4) fol. 80r: 21 line cap with Swillington arms impaling Townley and Alford(?); four smaller shields with arms: 1) Swillington; 2): Swinlington or Rivers; 3): Fitzgerald or Gerard; 4): Waterton, decorated with knotwork and floriated, prob. in colour; fol. 104r: 9 line cap with Swillington arms (Swinlington or Rivers in 2nd and 3rd quarters), flourished into side margin, prob. in colour; fol. 113r: running title in Latin, poss. in red; fol. 144v explicit in scrollwork with vine decoration;  fol. 145r: 17 line cap (I), flourished into side margin; fol. 157v: 12 line cap with small shields, arms as follows: 1): Swinlington or Rivers; 2): Swillington; 3): Vavasour; 4): Waterton; 5): Gascoigne; 6): Fitzgerald or Gerard; 7): Alford or Alesford; 8): Alford; 9): Townley; 10): Houghton,  knot work and elaborate flourish into side margin with cat o’ nine tails?, prob. in colour; fol. 165r: explicit with elaborate knot work; rest of items: 1 line caps, prob. in blue, with occasional minimal flourishing; occasional 3 or 4 line caps flourished into side margin, prob. in colour; line markers to indicate rhyme, poss. in red; side notes in Latin, rubricated poss. in blue; 5): fol. 166r: 12 line cap with arms of Swillington and Rivers, impaling Townley and Alford, flourished into top margin, prob. in colour; rest of item: 3 or 4 line caps flourished into side margin, prob. in colour; throughout MS: some ascenders of top lines and descenders of bottom lines flourished into margins (bottom lines sometimes with vine decoration); catchwords (except 141v and 164v) rubricated in different styles: 16v, 48v, 56v, 64v, 72v, 95v, 103v, 111v, 143v, 197v: scrollwork, 24v: hat, 32v: shield with St. George’s(?) cross, 40v: spider’s web, 87v: two circles with vine, 119v: leaf (prob. pun on text: ‘Itt is to leve’), 127v: crown, 135v: human head and scroll (prob. Seneca, text: ‘Senec sayth’), 151v, scroll and bird, 159v: lion (rampant?); 173v: oak leaf, 181v: human head in armour (prob. Ponthus, text: ‘Ponthus’); 189v: fish.
  • Biobibliographical information: marginalia, glosses, signatures, compiler/ scribe / owner / authorial identification:
    • 1r: ‘Jhesu’, C15; ‘Nicholas Gilbourne’, C17-18; Latin note in hand of N. Gilbourne; Latin note signed ‘Kenelme Digby’, C18?
    • 79v: ‘arms of Swillington …’, modern.
  • Glosses and underlining:
    • C15 English gloss on fol. 23v
    • C15-16 English gloss on fol. 22v.
    • C17-18? Latin glosses on fols. 1r-2r.
    • Maniculum at 66v. 
  • Immediate Ownership(s) / Patronage: Hopton family of Swillington, Yorks. Poss. commissioned poss. for Sir William Hopton.
  • Later ownership(s): C17-18 Kenelm Digby; poss. also Nicholas Gilbourne.
  • Affiliations: (geo-)political, institutional etc:
  • Language(s); translation activities:English, Some Latin glosses and marginalia.
  • Dialect: Yorkshire, West Riding ‘somewhat northernized but of late type’. (LALME, vol. I, p. 147).
  • LALME vol., page, LP, grid no.: vol. I, p. 147
  • Locality: region; household (secular/religious) urban / rural: West Riding, Yorkshire, prob. secular household, prob. rural.

Intertextual relations:

  • Textual descent: Matheson ‘Abbreviated Version’, group AV-1419:A  . See Matheson, PB, pp. 206-7.
  • Evidence of exemplar: 79v, 165v, blank.
  • Intra-textual relations to texts in same MS:
  • Extra-textual to other books, texts, traditions: Links the Brut with the works of Hoccleve and the Romance of King Pontius.
  • Decoration: texts are linked by the coats of arms on initials.
  • Translation, language: King Ponthus poss. translated from French.

Credits and acknowledgments:

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

Select Bibliography for this MS:



University of Glasgow MS Hunterian 83.
BL MS Harley 3730.

Mather, Frank J., Jr., ‘King Ponthus and the Fair Sidone’, PMLA,12 (1897), i-150, esp. pp. xxiii-xxiv.

Secondary Texts:
Meale, Carol M., ‘“… alle the bokes that I haue of latyn, englisch, and frensch”: Lay­women and Their Books in Late Medieval England’, in Women and Lit­erature in Britain 1150-1500,ed. by Carol M. Meale, 2nd edn (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996), 128-58, esp. p. 141.
Parkes, Malcolm B., English Cursive Book Hands 1250-1500 (1969; repr. Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1980), p. 3 and plate 3.ii.

Seymour, M. C., ‘The Manuscripts of Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes’, Edinburgh Bib­liographical Society Transactions,4 (1974), 253-97, esp. pp. 276-77.

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