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

Exeter College MS. 55

Hugo de S. Caro, In Proverbia, Ecclesiasten, Cantica; Oxford, England, 1465


Summary of Contents: Exeter College MSS 51–68, most of the texts in which are by or attributed to Hugo de Sancto Caro, were produced in Oxford for Roger Keys, d. 1477, whose many positions included the visitorship of Exeter College (1442), the wardenship of All Souls College (1443–5), the archdeaconry of Barnstaple (1450), and the precentorship of Exeter Cathedral (1459) (see BRUO, ‘Keyes’). His arms are found in the borders of several of the manuscripts (although others have been excised) and several manuscripts include a long ex dono inscription (see MS 53) recording his gift of the books to the rector and fellows of Exeter College on 1 January 1469/70. On Hugo de Sancto Caro see E. Mangenot, Dictionnaire de théologie catholique, vii (Paris, 1921), 221–308. For two other great series of illuminated volumes produced in Oxford contemporaneously with these, then and now at Balliol College and Merton College, see K. L. Scott, ‘Two series of dated illuminated manuscripts made in Oxford 1450–64’, Watson Essays, 43–69. So far as is known from the incomplete series of dated colophons and the ex dono inscription, the manuscripts were written between 1452 and the late 1460s, but it is probable that they were delivered to the College singly or in twos or threes; a 1458 entry in the Rector’s Accounts records payments to John Godysson, stationer, for providing chains for three volumes of the set (Boase1, 21, Boase2, 40). Another series of entries in the Rector’s Accounts reveals, however, that MS 68 and another, probably MS 60, were not completed until after Keys’s death, between 1480 and 1484, perhaps for lack of money until that was supplied by M. John Combe (see Watson, Exeter, p. 85, and MS 68, History). In the whole series three principal scribes took part, assisted by several others in the last volume, MS 68. Four artists shared the illumination of the borders (and some of them also the spray decoration and small initials). For detailed analysis, see Watson, Exeter, pp. 85–87.

Language(s): Latin

1. (fols. 1r-119r)
Hugo de S. Caro, Comm. Prov.
Incipit: Dicit Ecclesiasticus. XXXIX. V. Occulta proverbiorum exquiret sapiens …
Explicit: [fol. 1v] sicut Cromacius et Heliodorus ||
Incipit: || [fol. 2r] quodcumque audierit
Explicit: [fol. 46v] odientis se habet ad ilium dum ||
Incipit: || [fol. 47r] dua est ecclesia. bos prelatus
Explicit: quod manifestum est cuilibet inspicere volenti.
Final rubric: Explicit notabile opus famosi doctoris Hugonis de Vienna super prouerbia Salomonis .xvijº. die Julij. Anno domini millemo. ccccmo. lxvto.

Stegmüller, Bibl., 3677. Because of the excision of leaves our text has gaps between fols. 1/2 (Jerome’s prologue, to ch. 1.5; Paris, 1504, edn., pt. 3, fols. iiv/1 to iiiva/23) and fols. 46/47 (Prov. 13.24–14.4, edn. fols. xxvirb/28 to xxvivb/19).

2. (fols. 120r-181r)
Hugo de S. Caro, Comm. Ecclesiasten
Incipit: ||translacione huius libri nullius interpretis ... Memine me ... Verba ecclesiastes. id est concionatoris
Explicit: siue bonum siue malum sit. quod factum est suple.
Final rubric: Explicit Ecclesiastes.

Stegmüller, Bibl., 3679. Because of the loss of the first leaf of quire 17, the text begins in Paris, 1533, edn. fol. lxiivb/66.

3. (fols. 181r-223v)
Hugo de S. Caro, Comm. Cant.
Rubric: Incipiunt cantica canticorum.
Incipit: Deus in gradibus eius cognoscetur. Ita dicit alia edicio
Incipit: [fol. 182r] ... istum desiderancium et expectancium et deprecancium ait. Osculetor me. osculo oris sui id est ad erudiendum et reconciliandum me Deo
Explicit: montes aromatum id est inter sanctos et angelos ut ibi insequaris ... in quibus salit transilit et discurrit.

Stegmüller, Bibl., 3682, ed. Venice (1703), 105–38, but with the explicit close to that of Stegmüller, Bibl., 3683. The excision of the first leaf of quire 29, between fols. 214/15, does not lead to loss of text: the catchword runs on. There is a distinctio on fol. 181v. At the end, fo. 223v, low down in the margin, is a cursive note ‘ecclesiastes et cantica canticorum.’ This may confirm the suggestion below, under Structure, that Proverbs, which has its own colophon, was written separately from the other two items.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: [petierant].
Form: codex
Support: parchment HFFH
Extent: 223 leaves preceded and followed by one 18th-century flyleaf.
Dimensions (leaf): 420 × 280 mm.
Dimensions (column): 283 × 80 mm.


18 (wants 2) 2–58 68 (wants 8) 7–158166 (wants 2–6, blank) 178 (wants 1) 18–288 2910 (wants 1). Catchwords by the scribe; no quire signatures or numbers. The excision of five leaves after fol. 119 (sig. 16 leaves 1–6) and the leaf before fol. 120 (sig. 17 leaf 1) suggest that items 2 and 3 were planned and written as separate volumes: see also note on item 3 above.


Two columns, 60 lines. Ruled in crayon


Fols. 1–218ra/9 written by Scribe 2; see Watson, Exeter, pp. 85–87.

Fols. 218ra/9–23r written by Scribe 3 (William Osborne?); see Watson, Exeter, pp. 85–87.


Of the same type as in MS 51 and by the same artist, Artist B, for a characterization of whose work see Watson, Exeter, pp. 85–87.

Item 1 fol. 1r has an illuminated border, illuminated initials at the beginning of chapters, red underlining of lemmata, blue and red paraphs, and rubrics. Item 2 has a similar border on fol. 120r, and blue and red paraphs. Item 3 has a border on fol. 181r which contains Keys’s arms, red and blue paraphs, and illuminated initials for chapter beginnings.


Stamped leather bindings over square-edged wooden boards, (presumably) rebound; stamp used was employed in Oxford between 1535 and 1621, here in the second phase state, probably c. 1605–10. Two straps held by nails. Refurbished in the 19th century (1839?): that volumes were resewn is indicated by the very tight binding, which makes collation difficult, and by the provision of new endbands; edges were stained red; book was reinforced by pasting long strips of canvas round the spine and attached to the boards, and the old spines were replaced. Sewn on seven bands. For other details see Watson, Exeter, p. 87.


Origin: 1465 ; Oxford, England

Provenance and Acquisition

Arms excised from the border of fol. 1r will have been Keys’s. For his ex dono inscription, once probably in this volume, see MS 53, History.

Exeter library identifications are: on fol. 1r ‘Liber Coll: Exon.’ (s. xvi/xvii?); on the front pastedown bookplate 3, and on it ‘173–F–5’, deleted and replaced by ‘213.E.6’, also ‘Coxe LV (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.

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