A catalogue of Western manuscripts at the Bodleian Libraries and selected Oxford colleges

Merton College MS. 123

Former shelfmark: M. 2. 7

VINCENT OF BEAUVAIS; S. XIV in. (before 1330)


Language(s): Latin

MSS 123–6 is a set, containing the third part of the huge encyclopedia (Speculum Maius) by Vincent of Beauvais (d. ?1264). Written professionally in Paris by two named scribes (one an Englishman) and splendidly decorated, it was bequeathed to the College by Roger de Martival (d. 1330), bishop of Salisbury and formerly University chancellor.

Fols. iii, ivv, 1 blank. On fol. iv, in a large and handsome anglicana formata hand, is a list of all four parts of the Speculum on ruled lines. At the head of fol. 1v is ‘Prima pars speculi historialis continet historiam naturalem’, in a smaller, less formal hand.

(fols. 2–4v)
Alphabetical index of persons mentioned in the work.
(fols. 5–240v)
VINCENT OF BEAUVAIS, Speculum Historiale, I-VIII
Rubric: Incipit speculum historiale fratris Vincencii. Apologia tocius operis.
Incipit: (prologue) Quoniam multitudo librorum et temporis breuitas

Capitula in 4 cols. (fols. 11–37)

Incipit: Deus est substancia incorporea simplex et incommutabilis
Explicit: ut machinis labefactis opifices diffugerint.
Final rubric: Explicit primum uolumen speculi hystorialis Alleluya.

Pr. Douai 1624 / Graz 1964–5; Kaeppeli 3987.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: uel super Iohannem
Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Extent: 246 leaves (iv + 242)
Dimensions (leaf): 370 × 250 mm.
Dimensions (written): 260 × 165 mm.
Fols. iii-iv are of thick, stiff parchment.


A bifolium, 14, 2–2012, 218; framed catchwords; quire-signatures of the usual late medieval form in red.


Ruled with fine pencil in 2 cols of 50 lines. Running heads between lines ruled right across the page.


The expert French gothic rotunda bookhand of Robert of Longjumeau (see MS 124). Corrector’s marks at the end of each quire.


Splendid 9- or 10-line historiated initials in colours and gold with partial vinet borders open each book : fol. 5 Q on a square ground, enclosing Vincent seated expounding his text, his library at his elbow; a full border, on the lower limb a hound chases a hare; fol. 37 D enclosing God the Creator; fol. 72v E enclosing horned Moses expounding the Ten Commandments to the Israelites; fol. 104 A enclosing seated king with sword, giving orders to two knights; in the background a Master expounds a text; a hound chases a hare across the lower limb of the border; fol. 127v A enclosing seated king with sword, a hound and hare at the foot; fol. 144 I with coiled foliage, a patch excised from the foot; fol. 170v R, in the upper register a seated queen with sword, below the Nativity, a hound chases a rabbit at the foot; fol. 202v M, to the left two kings with swords, divided by a fortified tower; on the right, the Assumption of the Virgin; a hound chases a hare at the foot. Red or blue initials flourished in the other colour, with long 1-sided borders; running heads in capitals of the colours; red highlighting.


Maltby 1965, brown goatskin; resewn on four bands. Fols. i-ii, 241–2 are blank paper binding leaves. On fol. iii, formerly a pastedown, are the marks of two foredge straps, of a chain-staple at the foot, and possibly of a brass chain-staple near the foot of the foredge.


Origin: S. XIV in. (before 1330) ; France, Paris

Provenance and Acquisition

Made in Paris, vol. 1 of the set with MSS 124–6.

This is presumably the ‘4or librorum Vincencii’ rebound and (?re-)chained in 1466–67: Appendix B, no. 116.

On fol. 1v ‘Liber domus scolarium de Merton’ ex legato Magistri Rogeri de Martiuall’ quondam episcopi Sarum’, in the same hand as the inscriptions in MSS 56, 124–6. Martival (BRUO 1233) was chancellor of Oxford University 1293–5, bp. of Salisbury, d. 1330.

Appendix B, no. 30 (1330) records ‘Item Iohanni Wyly versus Sarum ad querendum libros nobis legatis iiis vjd.’ UO47. 12.

On fol. iiiv are titles, s. xvii, ‘O. 2. 7. Art:’, and the College bookplate. ‘7’ is inked on the foredge. Inside the front board is pencilled ‘M. 2. 7’ and ‘Merton College MS. CXXIII’.

Record Sources

R. M. Thomson, A descriptive catalogue of the medieval manuscripts of Merton College, Oxford (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer), 2009.


For enquiries relating to this manuscript please contact Merton College Library.


    Coxe, p. 56; Powicke, no. 143; Alexander & Temple, no. 716; M.-C. Duchenne et al., ‘Une liste des manuscrits du Speculum historiale de Vincent de Beauvais’, Scriptorium 41 (1987), 286–94, at p. 293.

Funding of Cataloguing

Conversion of the printed catalogue to TEI funded by the Warden and Fellows of Merton College .

Last Substantive Revision

2019-06-04: First online publication

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