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

St John's College MS 28

Gregory the Great, Cura pastoralis


Language(s): Latin with some Old English glosses

1. Fol. 6v:
Incipit: Gregorius urbis romȩ aepiscopus hunc librum pastoralis curȩ scripsit pro excusatione
Explicit: tantam unitatem multarum animarum et multorum cordium facit

An unidentified preface to item 2. The text follows a table for the next item (fols. 5–6v); the first four folios were originally blank.

2. Fols. 8–77v:
Incipit: Nulla ars doceri praesumiatur nisi intenta \id est sollerti/ prius meditatione \perscrutatu/ discatur
Explicit: pondus proprium deprimit tui meriti manus leuet
Gregory the Great, Cura pastoralis (CPL 1712), ed. Floribert Rommel, SC 38 1–2 (1992); the text lacks the prefatory letter. Because of a lost quire following fol. 13, the MS also lacks ed. cit. 158/29–200/66. A good many added glosses, generally ceasing after fol. 14, the end of 2.5. The form of our text is that of a superseded Gregorian ‘first edition’; see Richard W. Clement, ‘Two Contemporary Gregorian Editions of Pope Gregory the Great’s Regula pastoralis in Troyes MS 504’, Scriptorium 39 (1985), 89–97 (especially 90 n. 8).

Added texts:

Fols. 1ra-4vb, fol. 7rab:
Rubric: Precibus clauigeri etherii mereamur conciti poenis eximii flammi uomoi eius martirium suscipiamus […] hab⟨ent⟩es ⟨e⟩x aratum for⟨e⟩ ve⟨ne⟩rabilis LINI stilo episcopi Romani […]
Incipit: Post multimoda et multifaria uie uiteque salutaris documenta et eximia
Explicit: cui est gloria et potestas uirtus et eternitas et horatio [sic for hortatio] et iubilatio decus et imperium per eternorum secula seculorum amen
Final rubric: Explicit martyrium sancti petri principȩ \i/s apostolorum
Pseudo-Linus, Martyrium beati Petri apostoli,

‘Martyrus petri et pauli per Linum Romae papae’ (a note of contents, s. xvii in., in lower margin, fol. 1), BHL 6655 (967), ed. MBVP 2.1:67–70. The first seven lines, as well as the head of item (b) (fol. 7rb) are very faded; the red ink has oxidized and flaked away. This has also affected the only decoration, a 2-line red capital at the head of each item. Notes in brown ink (anglicana, s. xiv in.) on fols. 1, 4vb and 78ra direct the reader through the non-continuous text.

Fols. 7rb-vb, fols. 78rb-81ra:
Rubric: Incipit martirvm beati pauli apostoli a Lino [the last three letters re-inked over erasure] episcopo romano conscriptum
Incipit: Cum uenisse\n/t romam lucas a galatia at a dalmatia expectauerunt paulum in urbe
Explicit: baptizati sunt in nomine domini nostri ihesu cristi cui cum [form ending] amen
Final rubric: Explicit martirium beati pauli apostoli deo gratias amen
Pseudo-Linus, Martyrium beati Pauli apostoli

BHL 6570 (953), ed. as in (a), 2.1:70–3. Only eight lines appear on fol. 81ra; the remainder and the verso were originally blank. The glossing hand added the explicit.


Two Old English glosses: fol. 14/14 (ed. cit. 200/70): ‘luterem \id est ceac/’; fol. 49/31 (388/84): ‘\hi/striones \id est fæþelas mimarii grece/’, with a marginal direction to correct the reading to ‘histriones \id est ioculatores/’.

Ed. A. S. Napier, Old English Glosses, Anecdota Oxoniensia, Medieval and Modern Series 11 (Oxford, 1900), no. 39. Hence described Ker, Cat no. 361 (435).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: quod aliter Fol. 6, queritur (fol. 9)
Form: codex
Support: Vellum.
Extent: i + 77 + vi (numbered 78–81, ii–iii)
Dimensions (leaf): 333 × 240 mm.
Dimensions (written): 237 × 145 mm.


Following T. A. M. Bishop, English Caroline Minuscule (Oxford: Clarendon, 1971), 3, probably 16 28 (–2, a bit of the leaf showing before its conjoint fol. 12) [a lost quire], 3–108 with the added 114. There are, however, some complications which this reconstruction, predicated upon the sewings, does not fully accommodate, for fols. 41 and 44 appear to be singles. The bifolium fols. 71 + 76 is on a heavier vellum than the remainder. No signatures. No catchwords.


The bottom edges of many leaves are water-spotted and, in some cases, eaten away.


In long lines, 32 to the page. Extensive prickings; bounded and ruled in stylus.

The added materials (fols. 1–4v, 7rv, 78–81v) are in double columns, each column 243 × 90 mm. , with 13 mm. between columns, in 32 lines to the column. Prickings; no bounds or rules.


Written in insular square minuscule with both long and 8-shaped caroline s alternating with the insular form. Punctuation by double point, punctus versus, punctus elevatus, and occasional point and medial point. As one expects in this script at this date, the book was produced in the insular manner, and it is difficult to be certain which side of the skin appears on the outside of the quires.

The added materials written in caroline. Punctuation as in the main portion of the MS, but lacking the medial point.


Red headings in rustic capitals at chapter divisions.

At the heads of chapters, 4- and 6-line green extended rustic capitals; enlarged capitals in text ink to divide sentences.

Exceptionally, two chapters have branch and interlace initials with animal forms, on fol. 8 four lines high with a marginal extender in ink with red highlights; on fol. 27 a 6-line A in green.

On fol. 2 (plate III), a full-page drawing of Christ in red with a book and cross; on fol. 81v, a blank page, three sketches of figures (one an angel) and two sketches of interlace patterns. The illustration of Christ was drawn before the text was written (the scribe carefully tried to avoid the figure, but in three minor instances wrote over the paint).

For discussion of the drawings, major pieces of mid to late tenth-century illumination, see most recently Temple, no. 13 (42), heavily dependant upon Francis Wormald, English Drawings of the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries (London, 1952), esp. 25, 63, and 74. Wormald draws attention to the similarity of the figure to that of the slightly earlier ‘Dunstan miniature’ in BodL, MS Auct. F.4.32 and further notes connections with the drawing of Boethius’s Philosophy in Cambridge, Trinity College MS O.3.7 and of the Trinity in Paris, BN, MS lat. 943 (the Sherborne Pontifical, probably a direct copy). Temple identifies the initials with Wormald’s ‘Type II (b)’. Further discussions appear in Barbara Raw, ‘The drawing of an angel in MS. 28, St John’s College, Oxford’, Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institute 18 (1955) 318–19; and Robert Deshman, ‘The Leofric Missal and Tenth-Century English Art’, Anglo-Saxon England 6 (1977), 145–73; and a cautionary note, Richard Gameson, ‘La Bible de Saint-Vaast d’Arras et un manuscrit anglo-saxon de Boéce’, Scriptorium 52 (1998), 316–21 at 318 n. 15.

Illuminations and decoration of our MS are frequently discussed and reproduced, e.g., Temple figs. 42 (fol. 2), 43 (fol. 81v); Bishop 3 and the accompanying plate 5 (fol. 6v); Wormald, no. 51 (77) and plate 2 (fol. 2); ASIllum 7–8,9 and plates 7, 8, 14a and b (fols. 2, 81v, 26, 27); J. J. G. Alexander and C. M. Kauffmann, English illuminated Manuscripts 700–1500 (Brussels: Bibliotheque royale, 1973), no. 3 (22–3); 0. Pächt, Hunt Exhib, xvii.1 (73); Janet Backhouse et al., The Golden Age of Anglo-Saxon Art 966–1066 (London, 1984), no. 32 (55) and fig. 32 (54). See also AT nos. 2 and 4 (3) and plate i (fol. 2). Alexander and Temple are certainly wrong to separate fols. 1–4 categorically from the remainder (and appear to have thoroughly missed the text run-over on fol. 7); on this basis, the drawing may have been part of the original Gregorian programme, protected, just like the contents table (and the head of Cura pastoralis, if fol. 7 is integral) by blank leaves. Thus, the drawing might be dissociated from those on fol. 81v, on leaves supplied when the MS was expanded to include the two saints’ lives.


A modern replacement, probably s. xvii. Sewn on five thongs. At the front, one modern paper flyleaf; at the rear, two modern paper flyleaves (ii–iii), following the added eleventh-century materials.


Origin: s. x2 and x/xi ; English, Canterbury, St Augustine's

Provenance and Acquisition

Although not listed in Ker, MLGB, both script and decoration point to production at St Augustine’s, Canterbury (OSB). Bishop (3) finds the scribe again in Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 389, certainly a St Augustine’s book (Ker, Cat no.66 [113], MLGB 41). Our MS appears as no. 25 in Bishop’s listing of twenty-eight books produced at St Augustine’s, s.x med.–ex., Aethici Istrici Cosmographia... , Umbrae codicum occidentalium 10 (Amsterdam, 1966), pp. xix–xx. And Wormald makes the same identifications on the basis of the style of the initials.

'Sed meritis pauli capiamus dona salutis | Hec davno uerbum sed scriptum metrice uersum', not in Walther (fol. 81rb, lower margin; in the glossing hand). Below this, another glossing hand has added 'Sancti vincentii meritis capiamus dona salutis', which Wormald suggests (77) would point to ownership at Abingdon (OSB), where, at least after the Conquest, there was a cult of St Vincent.

'Iohannes White de Suthwyke in Comitatu Suth’ armiger dedit hunc librum Thome White de london’ militi ad vsum colegij per ipsum de nouo erecti in Oxon’ Anno 1553' (fol. 1 upper margin); at the foot of the page, '76', perhaps an old shelfmark.

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

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