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

Exeter College MS. 56

Hugo de S. Caro, In libros sapientiae et Ecclesiastici; Oxford, England, c. 1466?


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-47r)
Hugo de S. Caro, Comm. Sap.
Rubric: [At top of page, in scribe’s hand] Introitus in librum sapiencie
Incipit: Fili concupiscens sapienciam conserua iusticiam et Deus prebebit illam tibi. Ecc. .i. Justitiam siquidem
Explicit: Et in omni loco assistens eis liberans et saluans.
Final rubric: Explicit liber Sapiencie.

Stegmüller, Bibl., 3684. In the bottom margin of fol. 31v the scribe wrote ‘Iesus. Maria. Johannes’ and in the bottom margin of fol. 32r ‘Hec tibi mente nota: quoniam sunt aurea tota.’ Fol. 47v is blank.

2. (fols. 48r-171v)
Hugo de S. Caro, Comm. Ecclesiasticus.
Incipit: Summi regis palacium in quatuor consummatur. hoc est in fundamento et parietibus
Explicit: Alia ancilla est Ysaias quem post istum librum iuuante domino proponimus nos lectures. Deo gracias.

Stegmüller, Bibl., 3686. At the top of fol. 48r is ‘Sancti spiritus assit nobis gracia’ and at the foot of fol. 80r ‘Hec tibi mente ...’, as above, fol. 32r.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: enim cogitaciones.
Form: codex
Support: parchment FHHF
Extent: 171 leaves preceded by one 18th-century paper flyleaf and one medieval flyleaf, and followed by one 18th-century flyleaf.
Dimensions (leaf): 410 × 280 mm.
Dimensions (column): 285 × 80 mm.


1–58 68 (wants 8) ∥ 7–228. Elaborate ornamental catchwords by scribe. No quire signatures or numbers.


Two columns, 60 lines. Ruled in crayon.


Fols. 1–82v/19 written by Scribe 2; see MS 53, Script.

Fols. 82v/19–172v written by Scribe 3 (William Osborne?); see MS 51, Script. The proposed date of writing, c. 1466, is suggested by the same two scribes having written MS 65 in the previous year.


Of the same type as MS 51 and by the same artist, Artist B, for a characterization of whose work see Watson, Exeter, pp. 85–87. There are borders on fols. 1r, 48r, and 49r.


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. The remains of only one of the two straps survive. For other details see Watson, Exeter, p. 87.


Origin: c. 1466? ; Oxford, England

Provenance and Acquisition

Keys’s arms are in the borders on fos. 1r and 48r. On fol. iiv is ‘Hunc librum Hugonem de Vienna super sapienc. et ecclesiastic. 2º fo enim cogitacionem[sic] M. Rogerus Keys …’ etc., as MS 53.

On fol. iir, a pen-trial, ‘Henry by the Grace of god Kynge of E(?)’, s. xviin.

Exeter library identifications are, on the front pastedown, bookplate 3, on which are ‘173–F–6’ deleted and replaced by ‘213.E.7’, and ‘Coxe Lvi’ (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.

Last Substantive Revision

2020-04-29: First online publication