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

Merton College MS. 269

Former shelfmark: F



Summary of Contents: Commercially produced textbooks for university students were sometimes expensively decorated. MS 269, probably made at Oxford, contains a standard commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, with exceptionally handsome major initials. Despite its high value, it was part of the College’s circulating collection by 1372, and in 1388 it was pledged by a Fellow in a university chest to raise a loan.

Language(s): Latin

On f. iv are many faint pencil notes, and a title and ‘13’, s. xvii.

(fols. 1–286v)
AVERROES, Commentarium Magnum on ARISTOTLE, Metaphysica (transl. MICHAEL SCOT)
Incipit: (Text) ||(beg. mutil.) unusquisque eorum nichil aut minimum comprehendit de ueritate
Explicit: etiam non ponere contrarium boni et intellectus.
Incipit: (Comm.) Quia iste perscrutatur scientia simpliciter
Explicit: secundum quod est agens motum.
Final rubric: Expliciunt libri methafisice commentate.

Pr. Aristotelis ... Opera, 11 vols (Venice 1573–6), VIII.

eTK 1222J

Copious marginal and interlinear glosses, in small, neat anglicana hands contemporary with the main text, accompanied by pointing hands and profile monks’ faces as nota-signs. Chapter-numbers added early on in the margins.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: li et si gerosius
Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Extent: 291 leaves (i + 290)
Dimensions (leaf): 300 × 210 mm.
Dimensions (written): 180 × 115 mm.
The edges heavily retrimmed and spattered with red.


A bifolium, the first leaf (formerly a pastedown) largely excised, 1–1212, 1310, 14–2412 / 254.


Ruled with pencil in 2 cols for 41 lines of gloss; the text, in blocks of larger script, on alternate lines.


Written by a single expert scribe, probably French, in two sizes of gothic quadrata bookhand.


Exceptionally handsome historiated initials in colours and gold with decorative extensions, in Oxford style, with preliminary marginal sketches in pencil, open each book: those on fols. 1 and 28 excised; f. 55 11-line U enclosing ‘scientia’ as seated queen, sheltering in her cloak other disciplines also shown as queens; f. 90 I full length of the page, with standing doctor pointing upward; f. 132 12-line M enclosing two philosophers disputing; f. 140v 12-line E enclosing seated philosopher holding a representation of ‘ens’; f. 185v 10-line O enclosing two men raking up stubble, threatened by a man with a knotty club; f. 200 11-line D enclosing two seated philosophers disputing; f. 222v 12-line D, ditto; f. 248 10-line C, two seated philosophers disputing, between them a hierarchy of angels topped by a bust of the Deity.

Blue initials flourished in red; large blue paraphs, sometimes flourished in red, in the text; small plain red initials in the gloss; running heads in both colours, between ruled lines; red highlighting.

Marginal drawings in pencil or ink of text on fols. 43, 49, 51, 158.

A red line-filler formed of an arrow chasing a spotted hound on f. 131v.


Standard Merton s. xvii; sewn on four bands; formerly chained from the usual position.


Origin: S. XIII 3/4 ; England, Oxford (?)

Provenance and Acquisition

Perhaps made in Oxford.

At the College by 1372, when it was in circulation (UO48. 56), again in 1375 (UO50. 103).

On the verso of the stub of the leaf before f. i is the end of an erased cautio, s. xiv, with part of a name ‘do de Clehangr’. This will be Richard de Cleanger (BRUO 430–1), fellow of Merton in 1331, still in 1346, recorded by Anthony Wood as a donor of books to the College. The place is Clehonger (Herefs.).

On f. i are several more thoroughly-erased cautiones.

At the foot of f. 286v is a partly-erased cautio: ‘⟨Cautio de Welpyngton⟩ exposita in cista d’ in festo sancti Iohannis ante portam latinam anno Domini M. CCC.LXXXVIII et habet duo supplementa unum Commentatorem super libros phisicorum secundo fo. linie et Albertum super librum de Causis secundo fo. in omnia’. Richard Whelpyngton (BRUO 2032) was fellow 1386–7, still in 1401–2. Below is another inscription, very faint.

There are marks of the large iron chain-staple near the foot of f. 286 and preceding leaves, but not on fols. 287–90.

At the head of fols. i and 1 is the James no. ‘90’, s. xvii. Inside the front cover is a sheet of paper with the contents and ‘Q. 1. 1 Art.’, s. xvii, ‘CCLXIX’ in modern pencil, and the College bookplate. ‘1’ is inked on the foredge.

Merton College MS. 269 - fragment (fols. 287–90)


Language(s): Latin

(fols. 287–90)
Commentary on Decretals III. 43-IV. 17.

From a larger copy. On f. 288v ‘Hic incipit liber iiii. de sponsalibus et male nuptis’. On f. 289v is a table of consanguinity in red and blue, without captions. The text below beg. ‘In arbore affinitatis doctrina ista seruetur prius ponantur regule’.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Dimensions (written): 235 × 185 mm.


Ruled in crayon for 2 cols of more than 64 lines.


Written in a small English gothic rotunda bookhand.


Red and blue flourished initials, red or blue initials flourished in the other colour; red titles. On f. 289v is a table of consanguinity in red and blue.


Origin: s. xiii ; script of English appearance

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. 107; Powicke, no. 391; AL Codices, no. 365; N. R. Ker, ‘The books of philosophy distributed at Merton College in 1372 and 1375’, in Books, Collectors and Libraries, pp. 331–78, at 355–6, fig. 32; Alexander & Temple, no. 241, and pl. XIV; Morgan, Early Gothic, II, no. 146 (b); C. Donovan, The de Brailes Hours(London, 1991), p. 204 no. 30.

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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