Merton College MS. 241
Former shelfmark: C. 1. 16
GEOFFREY BABIO, DEFENSOR &c.; S. XI ex., XII 2/4
f. irv blank. The stubs (one preceding, two following f. i, two more following fols. 59 and 67) were all cut from the same small book, English s. xiii, an astronomical text with marginal notes.
Standard Merton s. xvii; sewn on four bands; formerly chained from the usual position. f. i was a pastedown in an earlier binding, which had an iron chain-staple from the front foredge near the foot.
Provenance and Acquisition
Probably made at and for Exeter Cathedral.
On f. 1v is a formal table of contents on ruled lines, which includes items now lost: ‘Haec continentur in hoc uolumine | Versus de monacho captiuo | Multi sermones | Excepciones Ysidori de diuersis uirtutibus | Expositio missae per uersus | Itinerarium Ierusolimitanorum | Descriptio sanctorum locorum | Excerptum ex gestis regum Francorum | Vita Willelmi nobilissimi regis Anglorum | Epitaphium eiusdem | Hystoria Appollonii Tyriensis | Liber Gildae sapientis de excidio Britanniae et quaedam pulchra miracula | Prophetia Merlini.’ The fine English hand of s. xii1, and the format, look very like the tables of contents found in manuscripts of that date or earlier from Exeter Cathedral.
At least some of the missing items were apparently still there in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries: John Bale (Appendix C, no. 58) mentions the ‘Vita Guilhelmi Anglorum regis’, beg. ‘Pater huius Guilhelmi fuit Robertus dux Normannorum’ (= Breuis Relatio de Guillelmo Nobilissimo, ed. RHS, Camden 5th ser, 10 , 7–48), and the Gildas at least went missing between 1600 and 1620: Edward Browncker, from Wadham College, to Archbishop James Ussher: ‘It is true, according to Dr. James his Catalogue, there was one Gildas in Merton Colledge Library, but he was Gildas Sapiens, not Gildas Albanius, whom Pitts says was the author of the book entituled, De Victoria Aurelii Ambrosii [i.e. the Historia Britonum]; neither is that Gildas Sapiens now to be seen in Merton Colledge, he has been cut out of the book whereunto he was annexed’ (R. Parr, The Life of ... James Ussher ... with a Collection of Three Hundred Letters ... [London, 1686], p. 72). The title ‘de excidio’ in the table of contents suggests the genuine work of Gildas; however, William of Worcester (Itinerary, ed. and transl. J. H. Harvey [OMT, 1969], p. 278) made extracts in 1480 ‘de libro Gilde sapientis ... in collegio Mertonis Oxonie’, and they show that what he saw was a copy of the Gesta Britonum commonly ascribed to Gildas.
Given to the College in 1374 by William Reed, fellow from 1344, still in 1357, d. 1385, for whom see MS 8: UO49. 48.
Inside the front board is a sheet of paper with ‘F. 4, 3’ (canc.) and titles, s. xvii, including ‘Multi sermones; et [desiderantur inserted] alii tractatus.’ Also ‘P. 3. 8. Act:’, canc. and replaced with ‘C. 1. 16 (CCXLI)’ in red; the College bookplate.
For enquiries relating to this manuscript please contact Merton College Library.
Funding of Cataloguing
Conversion of the printed catalogue to TEI funded by the Warden and Fellows of Merton College .
Last Substantive Revision
2019-09-09: First online publication