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

St John's College MS. 18

Roland of Lisbon, Reductorium physiognomie


Language(s): Latin

Fols. 1–253v:
Incipit: Illustrissimo ac serenissimo principi metuendissimo domino domino lohanni Patruo domini nostri regis Francie Gubernanti ac regenti regnum francie ROLANDUS scriptoris vestre celsitudinis phisicus VLIXBONEN’ Seipsum ex debito iuramenti Inclitissime princeps michi dum mandatum daretis colligendi totam scienciam phisonomie […] [fol. 2v, the text] Cvm agendi modus et operandi necnon paciendi seu recipiendi ab essendi modo
Explicit: Qui vestram altissimam dominacionem seruare feliciter et longeue dignetur
Final rubric: Explicit Reductorium phisonomie ROLANDUS
Roland of Lisbon, Reductorium physiognomie

The text is followed by a contents table (fols. 253v–5); fol. 255v is ruled but blank. Roland was physician and astrologer to his dedicatee John, duke of Bedford, regent of France, as well as a master in the Parisian medical faculty 1424 × 1439 and a canon of the Sainte Chapelle, Paris; see Ernest Wickersheimer, Dictionnaire bibliographique des médecins en France au mojen âge, 2 vols. (Paris, 1936), 723–4. In addition to this work, he wrote at least two others, both of them unpublished: a text on mathematics also dedicated to John, in Columbia University Library, MS Plimpton 173; and another on geomancy, in BL, MS Sloane 3487. . For further discussion of his work, in the context of his patron’s efforts, see M.J. Barber, ‘The books and patronage of learning of a fifteenth-century prince’, Book Collector 12 (1963), 308–15 at 311–12; and Jenny Stratford, ‘The Manuscripts of John, Duke of Bedford: Library and Chapel’, in Daniel Williams (ed.), England in the Fifteenth Century (Woodbridge: Boydell, 1987), 329–50 at 348–9.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: clarissimis
Form: codex
Support: Vellum (FSOS/FHHF)
Extent: i + 255
Dimensions (leaf): 355 × 245 mm.
Dimensions (written): 205 × 135 mm.

An original foliation runs iii–cclvj, including one leaf now lost.


1–318 328 (–4). Early in the book virtually all leaves have an arabic number in brownish crayon indicating their order in the quire; through the whole, all leaves in the first halves of quires are numbered, probably in text ink. Alphabetical quire signatures added later (quires 1–23 = a–c; 24–32 = & con, pp, qq, ss, tt, w, xx, A). Catchwords towards the right edge of the writing area.


In long lines, 40 to the page. No prickings. Bounded in black ink, but rules usually lead, occasionally stylus.


Written in anglicana formata with secretary a (and occasionally a pronounced secretary duct). Punctuation by medial point and punctus elevatus.


Chapter headings in red.

At the head of the final five tractatus (of six), floral champes in blue, violet, green, and orange on gold leaf with full page marginal sprays with leaves and flowers; chapters introduced by gold leaf champes on blue and violet grounds with green and gold sprays.

Running titles in text ink prefaced by alternate blue paraph on red or red paraph on blue, chapters divided by similar alternate paraphs.

In the contents table, blue, violet, and gold-leaf champes at heads of tracts and alternate red on blue and blue on red paraphs for chapters.

On fol. 1, a full floral and leaf vinet, within it a gold bar with orange, blue, and violet leafy ribbon, above the text becoming simply a gold ellipsoid outline. The text prefaced with a painted frontispiece on four levels: the signs of the zodiac, twelve men exhibiting the influence of these constellations, the stars (or planets generally), and seven men with rays shining on them exhibiting the appropriate influence.

Jonathan Alexander assigned the work to the London illuminator William Abell in ‘William Abel “lymnour” and 15th Century English Illumination’, in Artur Rosenauer and Gerold Weber (eds.), Kunsthistorische Forschungen: Otto Pächt zu seinem 70. Geburtstag ([Salzburg]: Rezidenz Verlag, [1972]), 166–72 at 167 (no. 15 in his list of twenty-one Abell MSS). For the most contemporary survey of Abell’s work, with a reference to our MS, see Scott 2:264–5. Following Stratford (348 n. 68), Scott argues (1:68 n. 4) that the frontispiece was copied directly from Bedford’s presentation copy, now Lisbon, Biblioteca d’Ajuda MS 52,XII,18. See AT no. 495 (49), dating c.1440–65, and plate xxx (fol. 1).


A modern replacement. Sewn on six thongs. A vellum front flyleaf.


Origin: s. xv 2/4 ; English

Provenance and Acquisition

‘Hnry Savil’ in shorthand (fol. 1), the early seventeenth-century collector Henry Savile of Banke (West Yorkshire). See Watson, Savile, no. 3 (17).

‘Liber Collegij Diui Joannis Baptistae Oxon’ ex dono Domini Gulielmi Paddei Militis et ejusdem Collegii olim Convictoris 1634’ (fol. 2). Watson, Savile, 12 notes Paddy’s acquisition of several Savile MSS; also from this source are our MSS 46 (no. 1 [17]), 51 (no. 9 [18]), and 65 (no. 23 [22]).

Record Sources

Ralph Hanna, A descriptive catalogue of the western medieval manuscripts of St. John's College, Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002)


For enquiries relating to this manuscript please contact St John's College Library.

Funding of Cataloguing

Conversion of the printed catalogue to TEI funded by the Thompson Family Charitable Trust.

Last Substantive Revision

2020-11: First online publication

See the Availability section of this record for information on viewing the item in a reading room.