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

Merton College MS. 317

Former shelfmark: M. 2. 11



Summary of Contents: MS 317, in grand format, is the most extensively and handsomely decorated book at the College. Made probably at Liège, it was acquired by Nigel Waver, fellow c. 1312–1330. Already it was incomplete, being the first of a two-volume set and lacking leaves from the end. It was presumably Waver who had the missing leaves replaced, and when he gave it to the College he laid down provisions for the strict security of such a valuable book.

Language(s): Latin

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: CREAVIT DEUS or Sed dum
Form: codex
Support: Parchment
Extent: 166 leaves (iii + 162, incl. 66A)
Dimensions (leaf): 410 × 305 mm.
Dimensions (written): 320 × 230 mm.
The edges heavily retrimmed and spattered with red; the top half of f. 66A excised.


A bifolium (fols. iii and 1), 18(lacks 1), 2–68, 78(7 canc.), 88, 98(4 mutil., lacks 5), 10–178, 188(7–8 canc.) / 19–2010; the quires numbered at the end, in red as far as 10. f. 66A and the excised leaf following are wrongly bound as the innermost bifolium of quire 9, having originally been leaves 3 and 6. A quire is missing before 19.


Ruled with plummet in 2 cols of c. 60 lines; pricked in both margins.


s. xix, doubtless replacing one of s. xvii; rebacked and resewn on four bands; fols. i-ii, 160–2 are modern paper blanks. f. iii was formerly a pastedown in an earlier binding. Its lower edge was excised and has been replaced with modern paper. The mark apparently of a brass chain-staple at the upper edge near the spine. Rust probably from an iron chain-staple is at the foot of f. 1.


Provenance and Acquisition

Erased inscriptions occur on fols. 158v and 159. On f. iiiv ‘[?Liber] Nigelli de Wauere’. On f. 1, s. xiv in., ‘Liber domus scolarium de Merton’ Oxon’ et scolarium eiusdem domus ex dono magistri Nigelli de Wauere quondam socii eiusdem domus quem dedit ad incathenandum in loco communi et inde non transferatur ad usus priuatos nisi de consensu scolarium predictorum qui presentes fuerint pro tempore in collegio eorundem.’ Waver (BRUO 2000) was fellow from c. 1312 until c. 1330, when he was elected chancellor of the University; he was canon of St David’s, Lichfield and Chichester, d. by Sept. 1339. He also gave the College Powicke, no. 269, Peter Comestor, Historia Scholastica, which does not survive: UO47. 13.

On f. iii is ‘Liber Coll: Merton: Oxon:’, s. xvii, and a sheet of paper with contents and notes, and ‘O. 2. 13. Art:’, s. xvii. Inside the front board is the College bookplate with ‘O. 2. 13”, canc. and replaced with ‘M. 2. 11’ in red, and ‘No. 317 in Mr Coxe’s Catalogue’. ‘1’ is inked on the foredge.

Merton College MS. 317 – Part I (fols. 1–139v)


Language(s): Latin

1. (fols. 1v-72v; 95–111v)
FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS, Antiquitates Iudaicae

I-XII fols. 1v-72v, XVIII-XX fols. 95–111v.

Rubric: Incipit prologus in historia Iosephi historiographi. Historiam conscribere disponentibus
Incipit: (beg. impf.) CREAVIT DEUS CELVM ET TERRAM. Sed dum terra ad aspectum non ueniret
Explicit: aliud facere permittimus, aliud prohibemur.
Final rubric: Explicit liber ultimus de antiquitatibus Iudaicis.

The opening of bk. 1 is lost with the leaf before f. 2. On f. 55 the scribe writes on every second line, still not quite filling col. b.

Pr. Basle 1524 &c.; books I-V ed. F. Blatt, The Latin Josephus I: Introduction and Text (Copenhagen, 1958) (see p. 117 for early editions).

2. (fols. 72v-95, 11v-39v)
Rubric: Incipit prologus libri de bello iudaico.
Incipit: Quoniam bellum quod cum populo Romano gessere Iudei
Explicit: habuerunt coniecturam. Bene nauigat fretum, qui peruenit usque ad portum.

Pr. Basle 1524 &c.

The texts of 1–2 belong to Blatt’s Northern Group, subsection σ, in which the end of art. 1 bk. IV is missing. The other seventeen members of the group are all Continental.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Parchment


Practised protogothic bookhands, some of German, some of English appearance.


Thirty-one historiated and decorated initials of exceptional quality, in Mosan style. Historiated initials, some very large, outlined in ink of text, filled with red, blue, green and buff: f. 7v nearly full-page P, Joseph before Pharaoh; f. 13v I as standing nimbed Moses with book and budding rod; f. 19v H, The Creator with Moses, The punishment of Chora and his brethren; f. 31 M, the return of the ark and the idol of Dagon; f. 38 P enclosing bust of David, crowned; f. 45v D, ditto; f. 53 I as standing Iosaphat, crowned and with drawn sword; f. 58 H with king kneeling before an altar whereon an idol in the shape of a ram; f. 63 P enclosing seated king with crown, sceptre and blank scroll; f. 67v A enclosing King Antigonus crowned and seated, with orb and sceptre, at his feet his predecessor Alexander being placed in a coffin by two men while his wife mourns; f. 85 T with hanging man; f. 95 unpainted H enclosing mounted armed knight. Large decorated initials in similar style and colours: fols. 1v H, 25 M, 38 H, 45v H, 53 H, 58v C, 63 Q, 67v H, 72v Q, 73v C, 95 Q, 96v F, 102v Q and C, 108 M, 111v N, 117 Q, 120v A, 124 T. Numerous smaller initials, flourished or arabesqued in red and green, sometimes also blue and yellow; red highlighting. On the leaf lost before f. 2 were probably a full-page miniature, and on the verso certainly IN PRINCIPIO.


Origin: S. XII 3/4 ; Flanders, Liège (?)


Perhaps made in Liège.

Merton College MS. 317 – Part II (fols. 140–59v)


Language(s): Latin

3. (fols. 140–58v)
FLAVIUS JOSEPHUS, Antiquitates Iudaicae


Incipit: quoniam interpellauerunt in ciuitate Iudei
Explicit: et domum Archelai redditurus. Explicit liber xvii.

This was to supply an omission in art. 1: at the foot of f. 72v the same scribe has written ‘Hic deficiunt octo ultimi libri liber xiii. liber xiiii. liber xv. et liber xvii. Residui uero tres ultimi libri ponuntur statim post librum secundum de bello Iudaico, scilicet liber xviii. liber xix. et liber xx.’ Even so, book XIII and the beginning of XIV are missing, presumably due to a lost quire before f. 140.

f. 158v ‘Quod hic sequitur deficit supra in fine quarti libri hystoriarum antiquitatus Iudei. Ego autem discedo gaudens...hoc modo sufficiat.’ At the foot of f. 25, by the same scribe, ‘Hic in fine libri quarti deficit littera que ponitur in fine huius tocius uoluminis ad tale signum’.

f. 159rv blank except for a one-line note referring to material in the text, at the foot of 159v.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Parchment


A single English gothic rotunda bookhand. As far as f. 135v there is marginal annotation in an anglicana hand of s. xiv in., doubtless that of Nigel Waver (see below). Annotation contemporary with the text occurs early on. Large, formal Nota monograms, sometimes with red, appear to have been copied by the scribes from the exemplar.


Red or blue initials flourished in the other colour. Running heads in red, at first contemporary with the text, later s. xiv, including art. 3; rubrication.


Origin: s. xiv in. ; England, Oxford


Almost certainly made professionally in Oxford.

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. 125; Powicke, no. 270; Blatt, The Latin Josephus, no. 101, p. 63; W. Cahn, ‘An illustrated Josephus from the Meuse region in Merton College, Oxford’, Zeitschrift für Kunstgeschichte 29 (1966), 295–310, figs 1–4, 8; L. M. Ayres, ‘The Tanner MS. in the Bodleian Library ...’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes 32 (1964), 47; Alexander & Temple, no. 802, pl. LII; U. Liebl, Die illustrierten Flavius-Josephus-Handschriften des Hochmittelalters (Frankfurt am Main and Berlin, 1997), pp. 227–9; G. N. Deutsch, Iconographie de L’illustration de Flavius Joséphe au Temps de Jean Fouquet (Leiden, 1986).

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2019-11-13: First online publication

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