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

Merton College MS. 181

Former shelfmark: A. 1. 9



Language(s): Latin

A collection of ancient and contemporary commentaries on the Old Testament Wisdom books, was made c. 1125 by monks of Malmesbury abbey, Wiltshire, for their famous precentor and historian William. Presumably it came to Oxford via a monk studying there, and was bought on the open market by Fellow John Gygur (d. 1504), who gave it to the College.


Fols. i-iiv blank.

1. (fols. 1–54v)
Bede, Commentary on Proverbs
Rubric: Incipit liber primus expositionis Bede presbiteri in parabolas Salomonis.
Incipit: Parabolae Salomonis ...; Parabolae grece latine dicuntur similitudines
Explicit: in presenti uita conlaudare seruitiis Amen

CPL 1351; CCSL 119B (1983), pp. 21–163; Stegmüller, Bibl. 1609.

2. (fols. 54v-87v)
JEROME, Commentary on Ecclesiastes
Rubric: Incipit prologus beati Ieronomi presbiteri in librum ecclesiastes Salomonis filii David regis Ierusalem
Incipit: Memini me ante hoc ferme quinquennium
Incipit: Verba ecclesiastis ... Tribus nominibus uocatum fuisse Salomonem
Incipit: Vanitas uanitatum ...; Si cuncta quae fecit Deus erant ualde bona
Explicit: bonum malum et malum bonum.
Final rubric: Explicit expositio sancti Ieronimi presbiteri in ecclesiasten Salomonis.

CPL 583; CCSL 72 (1959), pp. 250–361; Lambert 205.

3. (fols. 87v-111v)
ALCUIN, Commentary on Ecclesiastes
Rubric: Incipit prefatio Albini ad Oniam et Candidum presbiteros et Nathanahelem diaconum super ecclesiasten.
Incipit: Dilectissimis in Christo filiis
Incipit: Postquam de paterne pietatis nido in publicas secularium negociorum euolastis auras
Incipit: Verba aecclesiastis ...; Trinomium fuisse Salomonem scripturae docent
Explicit: siue boni iudicii equitate permansura in eternum.
Final rubric: Explicit liber Albini super Ecclesiasten.

PL 100. 667–720; Stegmüller, Bibl. 1093.

4. (fols. 111v-20v)
ORIGEN, Homilies on the Song of Songs (transl. JEROME)
Rubric: Incipit prologus beati Ieronimi presbiteri ad Damasum papam super Origenem in Canticis Canticorum.
Incipit: Beatissimo pape Damaso Ieronimus. Origenes cum in ceteris libris caeteros uicerit
Incipit: In exordium cantici canticorum usque ad eum locum
Incipit: Quomodo didicimus per Moysen
Explicit: sponso sermone sapientia Christo Iesu cui ....
Final rubric: Explicit liber Origenis super Cantica Canticorum.

CPG 1432; ed. W. A. Baehrens, GCS 33 (1925), pp. 26–60; Stegmüller, Bibl. 6199; Lambert 206.

5. (fols. 120v-31)
Rubric: Incipit libellus super Cantica Canticorum qui uocatur sigillum sancte Mariae.
Incipit: Quia pondus diei et estus decreui in uineam
Incipit: Dicitis uos mirari cur euangelium Intrauit Ihesus
Explicit: ut post hanc miseram peregrinationem cum ipsa regnetis in s. amen.
Final rubric: Explicit sigillum sancte Marie.

PL 172. 495–518; Stegmüller, Bibl. 3574.

6. (fols. 131–220v)
Bede, Commentary on the Song of Songs
Rubric: Incipit liber primus Bede presbiteri super Cantica Canticorum specialiter editus contra Iulianum Pelagianum.
Incipit: Scripturus Dei iuuante gratia in Cantica Canticorum
Explicit: incomprehensibilis permanes.
Final rubric: Explicit liber septimus uenerabilis Bede presbiteri super Cantica Canticorum.

CPL 1353; CCSL 119B (1983), pp. 165–375; Stegmüller, Bibl. 1610.

7. (fols. 221–9; 229v-30v blank)
PAUL THE DEACON, Vita Gregorii (interpolated version)
Rubric: Incipit uita beati Gregorii pape.
Incipit: ⟨G⟩regorius hac urbe romana patre Gordiano matre uero Siluia editus non solum expectabili senatorum prosapia uerum etiam religiosa originem duxit
Explicit: Sepultus uero est in ecclesia beati Petro apostoli ante secretarium die iiiito iduum martiarum prestante ....
Final rubric: Explicit uita uel uirtutes beati Gregorii.

PL 75. 41–59; BHL3640.

Notes and corrections by William of Malmesbury on fols. 1, 2va line 20, 14, 28, 47va, 79va (?). Other notes may be by him.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: archana pie
Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Extent: 233 leaves (ii + 231)
Dimensions (leaf): 270 × 180 mm.
Dimensions (written): 210 × 140 mm.
The edges retrimmed and spattered with red.


A bifolium, 18, 210, 3–128, 136, 14–178, 1810, 19–268, 2710, 286 (lacks 4), 294 (4 canc,), a bifolium, a singleton. Fols. i-ii are probably post-medieval.


Blind-ruled in 2 cols of 40 lines (fols. 1–97v), 38 from fol. 91, 34 on fol. 111v, although originally ruled for 38 (the new ruling is in plummet), 35 from fol. 112. On fols. 221–9 the original ruling has been redone in crayon.


English protogothic bookhands of varying quality, belonging to Malmesbury monks contemporary with William:

Hand I fols. 1–6.

Hand II fols. 6v-54va line 16 (end of work).

Scribe B fols. 54v line 22–87vb line 3 (end of work).

Hand IV fols. 87vb line 11–90va line 21, 147vb-149vb line 21, 155a line 11–155vb.

Scribe D fols. 90va line 22–94b line 23, 100vb-111va, 120va line 19–120vb lines 1–6.

Hand VI fols. 94b line 24–100va.

Hand VII fols. 111vb-17b line 22.

Hand VIII fols. 117v line 22-l20va line 13 (end of work), 137a lines 1–27.

Hand IX fol. 117vb.

Scribe C fols. 120vb line 7–136va (end of work), 196va line 15–220va (end of work).

Hand XI fols. 137 line 28–147va, 149vb line 21–155a line 10.

Hand XII fols. 131va lines 2–14, 165a-196va line 14. person_205295992Hand XIII fols. 221a-229b line 11 (all of art. 7). This hand is of s. xii2.

There are three rubricators, all of whom use a mixture of upper- and lower-case letters: R. I to fol. 87; R. II (this is Hand XII) fols. 87v-220v; R. III fols. 221–9.


Modest arabesque initials in 1–4 of red, blue, purple, green and yellow. On fols. 1–54 alternating plain red and purple; fols. 55–87, small minium or red-touched initials; fols. 88–220v, alternating plain red and green.


Standard Merton s. xvii, sewn on four bands; formerly chained from the usual position. Fols. i and 231 were once pastedowns.


Origin: S. XII 2/4 ; England, Malmesbury Abbey

Provenance and Acquisition

Made at Malmesbury Abbey for William of Malmesbury (d. c. 1143). To fol. iivis pasted a sheet cut from a former flyleaf, with a table of contents, s. xiv, and ‘.xvi.’, the abbey pressmark.

On the dorse, which is partly raised, is the monogram of the Oxford stationer John Godsond (1438–56) and his valuation ‘xxx s.’

Above is an erased cautio of John Gygur in the Selton chest. Given to the College by Gygur, fellow 1438–54, d. 1504, for whom see MS 98. The donation was made in July 1486 (Registrum, p. 79).

The James no. ‘226’ is at the head of fol. 1. Inside the front board is a sheet of paper with ‘E. 5, 5’ (canc.) and a table of contents, s. xvii, and ‘O. 7. 9. Art:’, canc. and replaced with ‘A. 1. 9 (CLXXXI)’ in red; the College bookplate. ‘9’ is inked on the foredge.

Merton College MS. 181 - flyeaf (fol. 231)


Language(s): Latin

(fol. 231)
EUSEBIUS, Historia Ecclesiastica (transl. RUFINUS)
Incipit: ab apostolis subrogatur. Anno post quem et uno mense Alexandrinae ecclesiae moderamen Eumenes sexta successione suscepit ... (illegible) (iv. 5. 5–7. 5)

The text breaks off at the foot of fol. 231va.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Dimensions (written): 215 × 135 mm.


Ruled in 2 cols of 43 lines.


In the formal hand of William of Malmesbury.


Unfilled spaces for coloured initials and rubrics.


Origin: c. 1125 ; England, Malmesbury Abbey

Additional Information

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. 73; Powicke, nos. 1069, 1210; R. M. Thomson, William of Malmesbury (2nd edn., Woodbridge, 2003), pp. 91–93, 103, 205, 209–10, 212.

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2019-07-15: First online publication

See the Availability section of this record for information on viewing the item in a reading room.