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

St John's College MS 48

Vulgate Bible


Language(s): Latin

Fols. 1ra–331ra:
Rubric: [the rubric added in the upper margin, s. xv2/4] Incipit epistola sancti IERONIMI presbiteri ad Paulinum de omnibus diuine historie libris
Incipit: Frater Ambrosius tua michi munuscula preferens detulit […] [fol. 3ra, the text] In principio creauit deus celum et terram […] [fol. 265rb] Plures fuisse qui ewangelia scripserunt et lucas ewangelista testator […] [fol. 266ra] Liber generacionis Ihesu cristi filij dauid filij abraham
Explicit: omnes sanctos Salutant uos de italia Gracia cum omnibus uobis Amen
The Vulgate Bible,

following the explicit, the remainder of fol. 331 is blank, the verso originally blank and unruled. The text lacks, owing to missing leaves, Gen. 5:19–11:4 and Jer. 21:7–25:3, and omits the Prayer of Manasses and 2/3 Ezra altogether. It has an aberrant order: Tobit follows Esther (fol. 136vb); it is immediately succeeded by 1–2 Maccabees (fol. 139va) and prophets, so that the Old Testment concludes with Job (fol. 217va), Psalms, and the wisdom books. In the New Testament, Acts follows the Gospels (fol. 295rb), and the Catholic epistles and Apoc. precede the Pauline epistles. Col. appears after 2 Thess. (fol. 326ra), and the volume ends with Hebrews.

In addition, the prologues differ substantially from those in Ker’s model manuscript (MMBL 1:96–7). Stegmüller, RB 327 to 2 Chron. (fol. 109vb) appears instead with 1 Chron. (fols. 103vb–4ra). Many prologues are simply absent: RB 547 and 553 to Maccabees (139va); RB 482 to Isaiah (155ra), RB 507 to Hosea (206rb), RB 511 to Joel (208rb); RB 515 and 513 to Amos (209ra); RB 524 to Jonah (210vb); RB 462 to Eccles. (247va); RB 468 to Wisdom (250va); RB 589 to Matthew (265vb). A later reader (s. xv) has made notes of deviant and missing prologues through the Old Testament and added identifications of the biblical books in the upper corners of rectos, now mainly cut away.

Particularly in the Minor Prophets, prologues other than the standard set appear: for Obadiah, RB 516, (210va); for Micah, RB 525, (211rb); for Nahum, RB 527, (212va); for Habakkuk, RB 529 , (213ra); for Zeph., RB 532, (213va); for Haggai, RB 535, (214rb); for Zech., RB 540, (214va); for Malachi, RB 544, (216vb); for the second to Job, RB 349, (217va); for Apoc., RB 834 (308rb).

Finally, there is a very large number of extra prologues, most simply Stegmüller, RB 456 presented as a second prologue to Proverbs (fol. 242rab); and RB 596 and 581 preceding 590 to Matthew (265rb–vb). The remaining ‘extras’ appear in two large blocks:

(1) Introducing Psalms (224va–5vb) RB 443, 10470, 384; the unidentified ‘Beatissime pape […] suplex legi literas ad prelatas nostri ut sed simplicitatem—canatur in aleph quod est altera’; RB 369, 382, 11596(?), 391; and the unidentified ‘Sca [sic for Sancta] quedam puella apud gallias prophete spiritu—in ecclesia tum intima cordis deuocione ipsa secreta cecinisse’.

(2) Introducing the Pauline epistles (312va–13vb). RB 651 and 654 (in verse), an index of topics related to ecclesiology in Paul, RB 670 and 674, all preceding the expected RB 677.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: et rursum
Form: codex
Support: Vellum (HSOS/HFFH).
Extent: Fols. ii + 333 (numbered fols. 1–331, but unnumbered leaves follow fols. 168 and 169) + i (numbered fol. iii). In the Old Testament historical books, numbers in lead in the upper corners of rectos, apparently to give an order to the books.
Dimensions (leaf): 313 × 200 mm.


112(–4) 2–1412 1512(–8) 16–2712 2812 (11 a fragment; –12, probably blank). Four isolated boxed catchwords in the gutter of final versos of quires (fols. 95v, 131v, 224v, 260v); no signatures.


The lower margins of fols. 190–207 have been cut away to the inner writing bound, and other leaves show similar losses: the lower corner of fol. 214, half the leading edge of fol. 261, and most of fol. 331.


In double columns, each column 203 × 55 mm. , with 7 mm between columns, in 61 lines to the column. Prickings frequently visible in the gutter; bounded and ruled in pencil.


Written in a spiky textura semiquadrata. Punctuation by point, medial point, and punctus elevatus.


Headings in red for books, frequently with guides surviving in the gutters (after fol. 86, usually unfilled).

At the heads of books, 7- to 9-line red and/or blue lombards on red flourishing, usually with the first text line in 2-line high red and blue lombards on red flourishing.

Chapter numbers in the margin in alternate red and blue roman numerals.

Running titles identifying the book in alternate red and blue lombards (routinely cut into, sometimes cut away; none for Nehemiah).

The text is occasionally broken (far from always at the traditional chapter divisions) with alternate red and blue 1-line lombards, occasionally with red paraphs (early on, there are a few red-slashed capitals).

In the Psalter, 2-line alternate red and blue lombards on flourishing of the other colour at the heads of individual psalms; 6- and 7-line initials of this type at the opening of the nocturns. One-line alternate red and blue lombards at the heads of verses.

There are two illuminations: Fol. 1ra: a half-column long gold-leaf, blue, and violet F on a brownish-violet ground, with floral terminations; within the letter, the tonsured Jerome teaching Ambrose from the book; the first text line is in gold leaf on a (faded) green ground.

Fol. 3ra (the head of Genesis): a half-column long gold-leaf and blue I on a gold leaf and green ground, with an internal vine and circle motif and three illustrated lozenges: God moulding a globe, God creating Eve from Adam’s side, Adam and Eve clothed and arguing.

See AT, no. 186 (20), dating s. xiii2/4, and plate x (fol. 3ra).


Dark brown leather over bookboard, s. xvi; with a lozenge-like fleur-de-lis centre-stamp, within a double rectangular frame, with fleurs-de-lis at the corners. Sewn on five thongs. Repairs to the leather in the upper corners of both boards suggest a lost strap and clasp, and a repaired nail-hole may be from a chain-staple in Watson’s position 4. Gold ‘48’ at the head of the spine, in black ink on the leading edges (with ‘Bib Lat’ and a further illegible inscription). Pastedowns and endleaves modern paper, a College bookplate on the front pastedown. At the front, two paper flyleaves; at the rear, a single paper flyleaf (iii).


Origin: s. xiii med. ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

‘Est fratrum heremitarum sancti augustini’ (fol. 3, the upper margin, s. xv ex.; in the lower margin an erased inscription (? s. xv2) ‘q habetur magnum ..... ’.

Two signatures: (a) ‘Champernan”; (b) the tops of the first line ‘Henricus’, with the remainder cut away (fol. 331v, s. xv). Arguably, these are copies of an ex-libris of Henry Chambron or Chambernoun, an Oxford OFM who fl. c.1380; cf. BRUO 2:xiii.

‘Liber Collegij Sancti Joannis Baptistae Oxon Ex dono Gwilielmi Balow in Artibus Magistri olim eiusdem Collegij postea AEdis Christi Oxon alumni Dedit Anno Domini 1598 Junij 17o’ (fol. 1, lower margin). Ballow, an MA in 1594 and later a recipient of two divinity degrees, was an important benefactor of Oxford libraries, also giving books to Christ Church and the Bodleian, seven of them from the library of the collegiate church at Crediton (Devon).

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.


    J. J. G. Alexander and Elźbieta Temple, Illuminated Manuscripts in Oxford College Libraries, the University Archives and the Taylor Institution (Oxford, 1985).
    A. B. Emden, A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford to A.D. 1500, 3 vols. (Oxford. 1957–9).
    N. R. Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries. 4 vols. (Oxford, 1969–92).
    Friederich Stegmüller, Repertorium Biblicum Medii Aevi, 11 vols. (Madrid, 1950–80).
    Andrew G. Watson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts of All Souls College Oxford (Oxford, 1997).

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2023-01: First online publication

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