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

St John's College MS 23

Genealogical chronicle, Kings of England


Language(s): Latin

Fol. 1va–22:
Incipit: Considerans historie sacre prolixitatem necnon et difficultatem scolarium quoque circa studium
Explicit: Edwardus quartus […] in regem anglie apud Westmonasterium xxviijo. die Iunij anno domini Mocccclxjo.
PETER OF POITIERS, Compendium historie in genealogia Cristi,

with added materials to include English regnal history; cf. Kingsford, 164 and n. 5, where the work here and in our MS 58 is presented as that of ROGER ALBAN (cf. Sharpe, no. 1544 [580]). The roll begins with biblical history, with the succession of Jewish high priests and of kings of Troy presented in parallel. Trojan kings are succeeded by those of Britain, who eventually take over the centre of the roll, and at fol. 14, high priests by the popes and Roman and Holy Roman emperors. Fols. 16–18v have separate lines for the kings of the heptarchies.

Added texts, a sequence of adjustments running to s. xvii ex.:

a. Fol. 22:
Incipit: Regnauit xxij. Annis diebus xxxvj. et obijt Anno domini […]

an extension to the original explicit with the usual information on the reign of Edward IV Written in secretary s. xv/xvi.

b. Fol. 21v:

a note outlining the collateral descent from John of Gaunt through to the children of Joan Beaufort, countess of Westmoreland. Written in secretary s. xvi in., by the same hand which wrote further notes on fols. 23v and 24. Perhaps contemporary are an added series of six lozenges for children of Henry V (fol. 21v); these have subsequently been connected by a blue line (unique on the roll) to the added Henry VII entry (fol. 22).

c. Fols. 18v–19:

a note (s. xvi) concerning the Holy Roman Emperor Arnulphus (887–99).

Fols. 22rv, 25:

the genealogical sequence extended through ‘Carolus 1us Martyr’ (fol. 22rv) and eventually ‘Carolus 2us’ (after interruptions, fol. 25).

And on fols. 21v–2, the list of popes has been extended from the concluding Alexander VI (1492–1503) up to Paul IV (1555–9); and, on fol. 22 only, that of emperors from Maximilian (1493–1519) up to Rodolphus II (1576–1612).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Enoch placens
Form: roll-codex
Support: Vellum (written on FS).
Extent: The manuscript is a roll, folded in concertina fashion; see A. C. de la Mare, Catalogue of the Collection of Medieval Manuscripts bequeathed to the Bodleian Library Oxford by James P. R. Lyell (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971) 82 (and 82–5 in general), Scott, 2:315–16. Thus, each ‘folio’ in fact presents two consecutive sections of the original recto of the roll, and the original blank dorse falls between the ‘recto’ and ‘verso’ of each folio. Consequently, the text must be read beginning at the gutter and ending at the leading edge for rectos, and from the leading edge back to the gutter for versos. The original document comprised 21 folios, numbered to 22. Fol. 1 is not in concertina, but the head of the roll, with the recto the blank dorse, and the text beginning on the recto of the original roll, now fol. 1v. Fol. 4 has been split and fol. 4 now numbered 4 (with blank dorse) and its original ‘verso’ now numbered 5 (with blank recto). And the original final ‘folio’ was the tail of the roll, written on the recto only, now fol. 22; this has been cut off 60 mm shorter than the other ‘folios’. To this original production have been added (a) a new ‘foot’ to fol. 22 and its extension as fol. 22v; (b) three additional leaves, fols. 23–5, all only a recto and its dorse. Fol. 24, written on the recto only in a hand which appears elsewhere (see Added Texts [b] and Binding) is probably the blank lower half of fol. 22. Thus, as now bound, there are ii + 24 (numbered to 25) + ii (numbered fols. iii–iv) folios. Overall, the original roll measured 9225 mm x 340 mm (including full dimensions for fol. 22 and assuming fol. 24 was the end of the roll); as bound, with the horizontal dimension now the height of the page, each full leaf is 340 mm x 225 mm. To this has been added the extra 60 mm at the leading edge of fol. 22 and a further 675 mm (fols. 22v, 23, and 25).


Variable writing areas, most typically two or three columns of discontinuous brief entries, separated by the lines indicating genealogical descent; e.g., the three columns on fol. 7 are 70 mm, 90 mm, and 40 mm respectively. Prickings usually survive, bounded and ruled in pencil.


Written in textura prescissa. Punctuation by point and occasional punctus elevatus.

The same scribe also copied our MS 58. Indeed, he is responsible for a good many more copies of these texts, in the late Jeremy Griffiths’s account (personal communication), more than fifty in all, including BodL, MS Lyell 33, in English (illustrated de la Mare, plate vi). These rolls were plainly mass-produced in a London (or Westminster?) shop.

Our MS is ignored in Watson, DMO, although at least four related books (e.g., no. 637 [115]) are described there. In its original form, the roll includes six lozenges for children of Edward IV (i.e., through Richard, b. 1473, but not including Anne, b. 1475); the scribe wrote in the names of the first four children, perhaps following his exemplar—‘margareta’ and ‘ricardus’ are later additions. And a pair of extra, unfilled lozenges have been added, presumably 1477 x 1479, predating the more extensive additions noted above.


Paragraphs of narrative open with alternate 1-line blue lombards on red flourishing and gold lombards on brownish-purple flourishing.

Golden crowns on various coloured grounds to indicate rulers, their progeny presented in elaborate lozenges in red, blue, and green with connecting lines in the same colours.

At the head, a circular illustration with gold frame: the Fall, with Adam, Eve holding the apple (both in fig-leaves), and the serpent (with a woman’s head) in the apple-tree (fol. 1v).

See further Scott, 2:315–16, where our MS is cited along with other copies of Scott’s ‘Group I’; and AT no. 590 (58).


A modern replacement. Sewn on five thongs. At both the front and rear, two modern paper flyleaves (the rear iii–iv). The current fol. 24, probably originally the end of the roll, has been used as a pastedown in a former binding; it has repaired nail-holes from a chain staple attached at the leading edge of the foot of the leaf.


Origin: 1473 x 1475 (with additions, s. xv ex.–s. xvii ex.) ; England (London?)

Provenance and Acquisition

‘Liber Collegij Divi Ioannis Baptistae Oxon Ex dono Ioannis atkinson generosi hujus Collegij quodam Conuictoris’ (fol. 1).

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.


    Alexander, J. G. G., and Elźbieta Temple, Illuminated Manuscripts in Oxford College Libraries, the University Archives and the Taylor Institution (Oxford, 1985).
    Kingsford, Charles Lethbridge, English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford, 1913).
    de la Mare, A. C.,Catalogue of the Collection of Medieval Manuscripts bequeathed to the Bodleian Library Oxford by James P. R. Lyell (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971).
    Scott, Kathleen L., Later Gothic Manuscripts, 1390–1490. 2 vols. (London, 1996)
    Sharpe, Richard,A Handlist of the Latin Writers of Great Britain and Ireland before 1540. Publications of the Journal of Medieval Latin 1 (Turnhout, 1997).
    Watson, Andrew G.,Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c.435-1600 in Oxford Libraries, 2 vols. (Oxford, 1984).

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2023-07: First online publication

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