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

MSS. Bodl. 340, 342

Summary Catalogue no.: 2404

Summary Catalogue no.: 2405

Homilies in Old English, with early pen-trial in Dutch; 11th century, beginning-middle, partly at Rochester


Summary of Contents: A homiliary in two volumes. The homilies in the first volume cover the period from Christmas until the Invention of the Cross, 3 May (arts. 1-32). Those on ff. 1-202 of the second volume are for the period from Monday in Rogationtide until the 2nd Sunday in Advent (arts. 33-74). All the homilies, except arts. 1, 7, 8, 19-26, are taken from Aelfric's two series of Sermones catholici. The order is that of the Church year, except that the homilies for Saints' days from 2 February to 25 March are grouped together (arts. 10-14). The homily De initio creaturae, which, introduces Aelfric's first series, is placed here at the beginning of the second volume (art. 33). Aelfric's homilies for the Common of Saints and the Dedication of a church (arts. 64-69) follow the homily for the 21st Sunday after Pentecost. MS. 342 ff. 203-18 are two added quires which contain, principally, Aelfric's homilies for St. Andrew, the patron saint of Rochester (arts. 78, 79). Apparently the scribe of these additions found part of his parchment in an unfinished quire of another manuscript, to which arts. 76, 77 belong. Art. 75 and numerous alterations and between the lines and in the margins are by a Rochester scribe, s. xi med. He employed several kinds of 'accents'. Other alterations are of s. xii. The first leaf of MS. 340 and several passages from the gospels in MS. 342, e.g. f. 46, are glossed in Latin, s. xiv in., probably in the hand which wrote the table of contents of MS. 342. Some words on the first leaf of MS. 342 are glossed in English, s. xvi. The table of contents of MS. 340 is in the main hand on the first leaf of the first quire (f. iv): the homilies are numbered I-XXXI: art. 32 is not listed. The table of contents of MS. 342, headed 'Sermones anglici', is on a flyleaf (f. ivv) in the hand which numbered the homilies in the upper margins of MS. 342, s. xiv in. : the numbers in table and margins run from I to XLII. For description of each volume see MS. Bodl. 340, MS. Bodl. 342.

Language(s): Old English

Physical Description


Arts. 1-75 are in a handsome square Anglo-Saxon minuscule by one hand: a heavy almost straight line inclined steeply from left to right forms the first stroke of a and e: the top of a is almost flat: round s occurs often before t, when doubled and finally: y has no dot: no high e ligatures: the final upward curve of a, r, t and the tongue of e are often prolonged at a line-end to fill up space : Latin quotations in the text are in a type of caroline minuscule in which r is a descender and g has a small head : a small number of hyphens are in the original hand : punctuation is by semicolon, reversed semicolon, and point. Titles are in red rustic capitals or minuscules in the hand of the text.

The hand of the Rochester corrector (and scribe of art. 76) is sprawling, but firm and well marked : his e tends to rise above the level of other letters and to be open at the top: the ink is brown and is often on top of pencil. Arts. 76-77 are in a heavy round script s. xi(1) and arts. 78-79 in a hand of about the same date which is clumsily imitative of the main hand, but in which the ends of descenders tend to turn to the left: for the relation of these additions to the rest of the manuscript see above.


Some fine, many good initials. (Pächt and Alexander iii. 42, pl. V). Initials of interlacing knot-work and beastheads are on the first page of each volume: other initials are in red, blue, green, or purple and slightly ornamented. The next letter after a coloured initial is often somewhat enlarged. (Ker)


Origin: 11th century, beginning to middle ; English, (partly Rochester, cathedral priory)

Provenance and Acquisition

Rochester, Kent, Cathedral priory of St Andrew: for evidence of Rochester ownership in s. xi see art. 76 and K. Sisam in Review of English Studies 7 (1931), p. 11. Catalogues of 1123 (B77.83) and 1202 (B79.112). (MLGB3: inferred evidence).

Sir Walter Cope MLGB3); his nos. 89, 90 (Ker)

Given by him to the Bodleian in 1602.

Record Sources

Description adapted and abbreviated (June 2022) from N. R. Ker, Catalogue of Manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), no. 309, with additional reference to published literature as cited. Previously described in the Summary Catalogue (1922).


Orderable via the records for MS. Bodl. 340, MS. Bodl. 342.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (11 images from 35mm slides) [MS. Bodl. 340]
Digital Bodleian (1 image from 35mm slides) [MS. Bodl. 342]


Last Substantive Revision

2022-06-21: Description revised for publication on Digital Bodleian.

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