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

Merton College MS. 259

Former shelfmark: C. 2. 10



Language(s): Latin

f. 1 is occupied by an astronomical table and canon with AD dates to 1302, and an ?explanatory note of about that date, much obliterated, beg. ‘Qui res annos Arabum ex annis Latinorum ...’. On f. 1v are two tables of contents, one of s. xiii, the other, partly mutil., in the same hand as Reed’s ex libris and ex dono (see below). They include items now missing after art. 6: ‘Liber introductorius Zahel’ (as MS 281 art. 8) and ‘Liber Alkyndi de introducto et iudiciis’ (eTK 0224G, 1162H), and from the end ‘Liber Albumasar in reuolucione annorum mundi’ (cf. eTK 0347K, 0447L, 0984A, 1408E, 1410B).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: (f. 3) Tabule Numeri
Secundo Folio: (f. 43) -tarius
Two originally independent volumes, together by the date of the table of contents.
Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Extent: 102 leaves (ii + 100)
Dimensions (leaf): 250 × 185 mm.
The edges retrimmed and spattered with red.


18(+ 1 before 1), 2–58 / 68, 710, 8–128. One or more quires are missing after 9. The quires of I are numbered at the end, and have leaf-lettering in a later hand.


Small, neat English early gothic bookhands of scholastic type, that of I perhaps somewhat later than those of II, which are very homogeneous. Later additions and marginal notes in bookhand and early anglicana.


Standard Merton s. xvii, sewn on four bands; formerly chained from the usual position. Fols. i-ii, 100–1 are paper binding leaves, the outermost from the same printed book as in MS 68. At the foredge of f. 1 is the mark of single strap, near the foot the mark of the large iron chain-staple. Although f. 1 is covered with text, it was used as a pastedown in an earlier binding. ‘10’ is inked on the foredge.


Provenance and Acquisition

At the head of f. 2 is an early press-mark ‘h vo’.

On f. 1v are inscriptions, the first two in the hand of Walter Roberti: over erasure, ‘Liber M. Willelmi Reed’ archidiaconi Roffensis ex dono reuerendi domini sui M. Nicholai de Sandwyco. Oretis igitur pro utroque’; ‘Liber ⟨aule de Exon⟩ [mutil. and obliterated with ink] in communi libraria eiusdem aule et ad usum communem sociorum ibidem studencium cathenandus. Ex dono uenerabilis patris domini Willelmi episcopi Cicestrie. Oretis igitur pro eodem et benefactoribus eiusdem ac fidelium animabus a purgatorio liberandis’; two words, obliterated with ink, the first perhaps ‘Volumen’. Not in the list of Reed’s books given to Exeter College in 1374 (UO34). For William Reed, fellow from 1344, still in 1357, d. 1385, see MS 8.

Inside the front board is a sheet of paper with contents, s. xvii, and ‘P. 4. 10. Art:’, canc. and replaced with ‘C. 2. 10 (CCLIX)’ in red; the College bookplate.

Merton College MS. 259 – Part I (fols. 2–41v)


Language(s): Latin

1. (fols. 2–39v)
Toledan Tables (Pedersen’s Ca version)

Ed. F. S. Pedersen, The Toledan Tables (4 vols, Copenhagen, 2002).

(fols. 40–1v)

Large astronomical diagrams (Venus and Mercury models; wheel for signs; astrolabes).

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Dimensions (written): 210 × 145 mm.
Tables ruled in red.


Large astronomical diagrams, fols. 40–1v.


Origin: c. 1200 ; England


Made in England.

Merton College MS. 259 – Part II (fols. 42–99v)


Language(s): Latin

2. (fols. 42–8)
HERMANN THE LAME, De mensura astrolabii
Incipit: Heremannus Christi pauperum peripsema et philosophie tironum ...; In mecienda igitur subtilissime inuencionis Tholomei
Explicit: per eos halhidida sibi proporcionabatur.

PL 143. 381–90; eTK 0611D, 0692B.

3. (fols. 48–53)


Rubric: In nomine Domini misericordis et pii incipit liber in scientia astrolabii a magistro Iohanne de Arabico in Latinum translatus, et sunt xi. capita ...
Incipit: (capitula)
Incipit: Primum horum est armilla per quam suspenditur astrolabium
Explicit: ex annis Arabum si Deus uoluerit.
Final rubric: Finit liber operis astrolabii ediciore Albchacim de Magerith qui dicitur Almacherita.

Ed. J. Millás Vallicrosa, Las traducciones orientales en los manuscritos de la Biblioteca Catedral de Toledo (Madrid, 1942), pp. 261–84; Carmody, pp. 142–3; eTK 1118J; Diaz 978.

4. (fols. 53–4)
Canons for selected Toledan tables (Pedersen’s Ca version)
Incipit: Quicunque uult coequare planetas oportet eum primum scire radices eorum
Explicit: ascensum in meridie, scito hoc si Deus uoluerit.
eTK 1239K

From f. 53v line 19 this is completed in later, less formal hands, which make additions in 2 cols fols. 54–5v: rules for eclipses and for ascendant: ‘Cum uolueris sumere motum lune in una hora’, on 55v an undated horoscope diagram.

5. (fols. 56–66v)
ALCHABITIUS, Liber Introductorius,


Incipit: (prol.) Incipit prologus. Postulata a domino prolixitate uite Ceif Hauddaula
Rubric: Incipit liber introductorius Acabizi qui Abdilazi dicitur, id est seruus Dei ad totam astronomiam.
Incipit: (text) Prima differentia in esse circuli signorum essenciali uel accidentali
Explicit: cum laude Dei et eius adiutorio.

Ed. C. S. Burnett, K. Yamamoto and M. Yano (London, 2004), noting that this text is very close to that in Bodl. Libr., MS Bodl. 430; Carmody 144–9; eTK 1078D, 1090I; Diaz 977.

Followed by a table of ‘termini Ptolomei’.

f. 67 is filled, in a slightly later hand, with canons for planetary longitudes: ‘⟨A⟩d uerum motum solis inueniendum ... ne autem ubique repetatur semel dictum sufficiat.

6. (fols. 67v-75v)
ALFRAGANUS, De Scientia Astrorum,


Incipit: Incipit liber Alfragani de motibus celestibus. Differencia prima in annis Arabum et Latinorum
Explicit: (ends impf. in c. 24) ortus eius et occasus in die et non

Ed. F. J. Carmody (Berkeley, Cal., 1943); Carmody 113–14; eTK 0429E, not this copy.

7. (fols. 76–89v)
Canons for Toledan tables (Pedersen’s version Cc)
Incipit: Sciencia inueniendi radices. Cum uolueris scire qua die ingreditur unusquisque mensium Arabum
Explicit: et hoc est quantum obscurabitur de sole. Expliciunt canones Arzachelis.

Pr. Venice 1547; Carmody 161.

eTK 1408I

In the lower margin of f. 76, a later hand has written examples for AD 1242, and ‘Incipiunt lectiones tabularum s. Arzachel. In nomine Domini scito quod annus lunaris sit ex ccc et liiii. diebus ... ex 30. diebus. Cum uolueris scire’, the beginning of Canons (Pedersen’s version Ca).

8. (fols. 89v-94)
JOHN OF SEVILLE, De constructione astrolabii
Incipit: Astrologice speculationis exercicium habere uolentibus eius instrumenti rationali
Explicit: fuit altitudo rei xx. cubitorum et dimidii. Explicit liber regularum astronomie.
Final rubric:

Ed. Millás Vallicrosa, Las traducciones, pp. 316–21; Carmody 170.

eTK 0156I
9. (fols. 94v-8)
ALBUMASAR, Flores Astronomiae,


Incipit: Oportet te primum scire dominum anni et sciencia huius rei scitur
Explicit: considera hoc quia non errabit sideris uolumen.

Pr. Venice 1488, &c.; Carmody, pp. 92–4.

eTK 1013K
10. (fols. 98–9v)
Tractatus in Partibus Latitudinis Planetarum in Signis XII
Incipit: Debes considerare planetis in hora reuolutionis
Explicit: (ends impf.) multitudine fulminum et ignium


eTK 0396A
11. (fol. 99v)
Rubric: Quid significat caput et cauda ⟨et⟩ stelle que dicuntur cometes
Incipit: Scito quod caput cum fuerit in ariete

Not in eTK.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Dimensions (written): 180 × 125 mm.


Ruled with crayon in 45 long lines.


The works open with handsome red and blue arabesque initials; otherwise red or blue initials, sometimes with a little ornament or flourishing in the other colour. The ornament is suggestive of the west midlands, and of Worcester in particular. Frequent astronomical diagrams in red or ink of text, sometimes omitted.


Origin: c. 1200 ; England, perhaps West Midlands, Worcester

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. 102; Powicke, no. 546; Al-Qabisi: The Introduction to Astrology, ed. Burnett, Yamamoto and Yano, pp. 177–8; Pedersen, The Toledan Tables, I, pp. 153–4.

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2019-10-01: First online publication

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