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

Exeter College MS. 4

Priscian, Institutiones I–XVI; Canterbury?, England, s. xiiin


Language(s): Latin

(fols. 1r-143r)
Priscian, Priscian major,

on the eight parts of speech

Incipit: Iuliano Consuli ac Patricio Priscianus salutem. cum omnis eloquenie[sic] doctrinam. et omne studiorum genus sapientiae
Explicit: [fol. 1v] in contextu orationis eiusdem.
Rubric: Incipit Pars Prisciani Grammatici Cesariensis Doctoris urbis Romae Constantinopolitanae de uoce et eius speciebus.
Incipit: Phylosophi diffiniunt vocem esse aere
Explicit: nec lucidus aethra. Sideribusque polus.
Final rubric: Prisciani Cesariensis Grammatici viri disertissimi doctoris vrbis Romae Constantinopolitanae De octo partibus orationis liber .xvi. explicit.

ed. H. Keil, Grammatici Latini, ii (Leipzig, 1855); CPL 1546. Because of the loss of a leaf between fols. 19/20 there is a gap in the text between ‘fiunt diminutiua’ (edn. 112/18) and ‘genitiuum que secundae’ (edn. 119/9). First printed Venice 1470 (Hain-Copinger-Reichling, 13355). On later editions see M. T. Gibson, ‘The collected works of Priscian: the printed editions 1470–1859’, Studi medievali, 3ª ser. 18/1 (Spoleto, 1977), 249–60. Described briefly by M. Passalacqua, I Codici di Prisciano, Sussidi eruditi, 29 (Rome, 1978), no. 467; listed by M. Gibson, ‘Priscian, “Institutiones Grammaticae”: a handlist of manuscripts’, Scriptorium, 26 (1972), 105–24, at 117, and by Bursill-Hall, Census, 181 no. 193.1. Commented on by M. T. Gibson, in MSS at Oxford, IX. 4.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: illiterata.
Form: codex
Support: parchment HFFH
Extent: 143 leaves of English appearance and variable quality; numbered in modern pencil, preceded and followed by an 18th-century paper flyleaf.
Dimensions (leaf): 258 × 155 mm.
Dimensions (written): 185 × 115 mm.
The outer and lower borders of fol. 143 have been entirely cut away.


1–28 38 (wants 4) 5–188. Quires numbered by scribe in small roman figures at bottom centre of last versos, marked with lower-case letters bottom right of first rectos (s. xv) and in red crayon bottom left of first rectos, presumably in s. xviii.


One column, 43 lines. Fully pricked and ruled in crayon.


In two styles of English Caroline minuscule, one the round and the other the Norman-influenced angular style, which can be compared in N. R. Ker, English Manuscripts in the Century after the Norman Conquest (Oxford, 1960), pls. 2 and 3, 4 and 5, etc. The English script, by one hand, is used for quires 1–6 (fols. 1–47v) and is thereafter in general replaced by one or perhaps two hands writing a script of Kentish aspect. In eight places the round script appears for lines immediately preceding and following a major initial and rubric at the beginning of a new book, viz. fol. 48v (3 + 2 lines, i.e. 3 before and 2 after), fol. 84v (3 + 5½ lines), fol. 106r (3¼ + 6½ lines), fol. 113v (4½ + 8½ lines), fol. 119r (fol. 7½ + 3½ lines), fol. 125r (4½ + 6½ lines), fol. 133v (7 + 5½ lines), fol. 140rv (4 + 7 lines). The round script is also used for fol. 54v/1–7, two lines in the lower margin of fol. 56v and notes in margins elsewhere. The scribe of the round script therefore seems to have been a corrector and perhaps wrote the lines before and after the major initials because they included unfamiliar square and rustic capitals as well as the minuscule script (which, however, another scribe did well on fol. 65v, using the angular script).1 Watson's Plates. I(a) and I(b) reproduce fols. 24v and 48v respectively.


Major illuminated initials, on fols. 1r, 1v, 8v, 15r, 24v, 34v, 48v, 65v (not quite completed), 84v (drawn, and dark blue colour only), 113v and 140v (drawn, dark blue and crimson only) in a continental style. For the initials that this artist actually finished or nearly finished, there are threads or holes that indicate the one-time presence of covers and on fol. 15r is a surviving fabric cover.

Throughout the text are also 2/3-line initials in blue, red, or green, some plain and some with simple flourishing, and on fols. 1–6r, 119r, 125r, and 135v blue-and-red lombards were added in s. xiii. I am grateful to Michael Gullick for his examination of this book and observations on the script.

Rubrication throughout is by the first scribe: see above.

Alexander and Temple, no. 8, pl. 1, repr. initial fol. 34v, reduced. Watson's Plates I(a) and I(b) reproduce initials on fols. 24v and 48v respectively.


Sewn on five bands. Standard Exeter binding: simple and quite elegant, calf over millboards, the calf bearing blind decoration of a floral type, early 19th century.


Origin: s. xiiin ; Canterbury, St Augustine's Abbey?, England

Provenance and Acquisition

The script suggests that the book originated in SE England, perhaps Kent, perhaps St Augustine’s Abbey, Canterbury (see above, Script, Decoration), where an English scribe was joined by a continental visiting scribe to produce a luxury book that was abandoned by the artist before completion.

No evidence survives in the manuscript to show where it was in the centuries before it reached Exeter College unless a London connection is to be inferred from a pen-trial(?) of s. xiv on fol. 143v, ‘Londonias et Willelmus Kyrkeby salutem in domino Willelmo de Stanton iii s. Nicholao andreu Johanni s. quatraginta In Lundonijs soluendis Henrico Sueth [or Sneth].’

There are two inscriptions in a hand of s. xv on fol. 143v: ‘Post mortis morsum vertit dileccio dorsum | Finita vita finit amicus ita’ (Walther, Proverbia, 22027) and ‘Ingenium nisi sit studium flos est sine fructu’ (ibid., 12376), but how the book reached Exeter is unknown.

It is not recorded in Ecloga but may nevertheless have been at the College in the medieval period: see Watson, Exeter, Introduction, pp. xxii–xxiii. Perhaps CMA, no. 30, ‘Linguae Antiquae Dictionarium perantiquum’.

Exeter library identifications are on the front pastedown: ‘Ex: Coll. Oxon: Q6–4–Gall’, ‘174–K–4’ deleted and replaced by ‘170–I–4’, the College book stamp and ‘Coxe iv’ (pencil).

Record Sources

Andrew G. Watson, A descriptive catalogue of the medieval manuscripts of Exeter College, Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press), 2000.


For enquiries relating to this manuscript please contact Exeter College Library.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)

Funding of Cataloguing

Conversion of the printed catalogue to TEI funded by the Rector and Fellows of Exeter College.

Last Substantive Revision

2020-04-29: First online publication