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

St John's College MS 57

Prick of Conscience, etc.


Language(s): Middle English with some Latin. Scribal dialect placed in Essex, Lewis and McIntosh 118. The most closely related manuscripts of Prick are of dispersed scribal provenances from Lancashire (as well as Ireland).

1. Fols. 1–135:
Incipit: The myʒte of the Fadir almyʒty | The witt of the son
Explicit: That vouche saff for vs on rode to hyng Amen
Final rubric: Explicit stimulus consciencie
The Prick of Conscience (IMEV 3428), ed. Richard Morris (Berlin, 1863); for a description, including references to lost lines, see Robert E. Lewis and Angus McIntosh, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Manuscripts of the Prick of Conscience, Medium Ævum Monographs NS 12 (Oxford, 1982), 117–18. Followed (fols. 135–7) by a group of verses omitted, divided by book, ‘Hic suplementum defectus libri precedentis’. Five parts of this addition (fol. 137) are provided with signes de renvoi , but these do not correspond to any notation in relevant portions of the preceding text (fols. 109v–34). Fol. 137v is blank.
2. Fols. 138–223:
Rubric: ⟨N⟩omina custodum et Balliuorum tempore Regis Ricardi primi qui coronatus est tercio die septembris Anno domini Millesimo Centesmo [sic for Centesimo] iiijxx ixo.
Incipit: ⟨I⟩n die coronacionis Regis facta est strages magna omnium Iudeorum
Explicit: and quartrid the tewisday in witsonweke Iohan Welles maior Iohan Atherley Stephyn Broun vicecomites Anno xmo
A London chronicle, ending in 1431/2 (cf. IPMEP 365E), ed. Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, Chronicles of London (Oxford, 1905), 1–116. Especially late in the account, our MS is fuller than Kingsford’s base, BL, MS Cotton Julius B.ii, fols. 4–101; it is perhaps closer to BL, MS Cotton Julius B.i (and perhaps also Longleat, Marquess of Bath MS; BL, MS Harley 565). The expanded portions here include descriptions of the festivities attending Henry V’s marriage and Henry VI’s coronation, in the latter case with the verse ‘scriptures’ explaining the ‘sotiltes’ enacted (IMEV 1929, fols. 219v–20v), ed. Rossell Hope Robbins, Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries, 2nd edn. (Oxford, 1955), 98–9. Most of fol. 223 and its verso are blank. For description and discussion of the text, see Kingsford, 76–7, 80–7; and Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England II (London, 1982), 227ff.; Mary-Rose McLaren, ‘The Textual Transmission of the London Chronicles’, English Manuscript Studies 3 (1992), 38–72.
3. Fols. 224–36:
Incipit: ⟨T⟩he lyff so short the crafft so long to lern | Thassay so sharpp
Explicit: The bett and thus to rede I woll nat spare Explicit
GEOFFREY CHAUCER, The Parliament of Fowls (IMEV 3412), ed. Larry D. Benson et al., The Riverside Chaucer (Boston, 1987), 383–94. Our copy is fully transcribed in Chaucer Society 1st ser. 59 (1879), 50–99 (the middle column of odd pages only). It is perhaps the earliest with the roundel (part lacking); see Ralph Hanna, Pursuing History (Stanford, Calif., 1996), 186–90; and Nick Havely, in Helen Phillips and Havely (eds.), Chaucer’s Dream Poetry (London, 1997), 279. Our MS is described by M. C. Seymour, A Catalogue of Chaucer Manuscripts, vol. I (Aldershot, 1995), 23–5.
4. Fols. 236v–40v:
Military Ordinances of Henry V
Rubric: These been the Statutis and ordenauncis to be kept in the hoost ordeyned and made by our most excellent and soveren lord kynge harry the Fifft
Incipit: First that all maner of men whatsoevir nacion estate or condicion
Explicit: And also moreovir his body atte kyngis will
Final rubric: Explicit liber [added later]

Ed. Sir Harris Nicholas, History of the Battle of Agincourt (1832; rept. London, 1971), Appendix 31–44, from a College of Arms MS.

Added texts:

a. fol. ii:

'Amen dyco wobys decset domenus convertemene a ⟨ ⟩’, s. xvi in.

b. fol. ii:

‘The Red Rosse and ƿe wythe | be knyght togeder wt grett delythe’ (IMEV Supp. 3452.6), s. xv/xvi (between two drawings, one incomplete, of the Tudor rose).

c. fol. vi:

‘So it is that the redresse of thinges amysse restithe onely In the handes of Almyghty God’, s. xvi med.

d. fol. vi (upside down at page foot):

‘Item fowrs [perhaps the name ‘Iam’ fow..’?] Item sold iij. yerdes of wylett in grayne prys le yerd att xij. s vi. d summa xxxvij. s vi. d the xiij. daye off awgust’, s. xvi2/4.

e. fol. 46:

the opening of a letter, ‘most intirly belove […]

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: And the riʒte
Form: codex
Support: Paper (with vellum strips round the quire sewings, outside and centre). The quires, excluding losses and additions (fol. 236 has the watermark) are regular groups of four sheets folded in folio. There are two paper stocks, appearing in large blocks:

A Waage/Balance: resembles Piccard V 5, nos. 258–319, 382–4, in common use 1441 × 1499; and Briquet’s no. 2446 (1443), but here on two chain-lines (Piccard’s type II), not three (his type III) in all the examples illustrated; the sole stock of booklet 1, sixty-seven full sheets and three half-sheets.

B Drache/Basilic: most like, but not identical with, Briquet, no. 2692 (1460) (cf. no. 2691, 1457), with the mark at right angles to the chain-line, two wings and a twisted (not looped) tail; Piccard X ( Fabeltiere ), nos. 866–918 (in use 1413 × 1434) are dissimilar; the sole stock of booklets 2–3, fifty full sheets and two half-sheets.

Extent: Fols. iv + 241 (numbered fols. 1–240, but an unnumbered leaf following fol. 210) + iii (numbered fols. v–vii).
Dimensions (leaf): 305 × 215 mm.
Dimensions (written): 208–15 × 120–30 mm.
varies with the text.


18 (–2, –3) 2–78 8–98 108 (with second bifolium bound inside out pre-foliation) 11–138 148(–8) 158 168 (–2, –3, –6, –7) 17–188 [fol. 137, a booklet boundary] | 19–288 298 (–8, probably blank) [fol. 223, a booklet boundary] | 308 318+1 (+5). Catchwords; all leaves in the first half of each quire signed with a roman numeral (often pared in binding).


In long lines, generally 31 lines to the page. No prickings; bounded in stylus, no rules.


Written by a single scribe in anglicana, with patches more given to secretary forms, (sporadic use of secretary g and simplified w). Punctuation by medial point and double virgula (the verse unpunctuated).


Headings and names of sheriffs and their years in red, with red brackets in item 2; a heading in red for item 4.

At the head of item 1, a 5-line lombard in text ink on marginal flourishing, unfilled blanks at the heads of items 2 and 3.

In item 1, the scribe’s running titles indicate subjects of individual books; frequent marginal ‘Nota’ marks by the scribe.


A modern replacement. When Ralph Flenley, Six Town Chronicles of England (Oxford, 1911) described the manuscript (60–2), it was apparently bound in wrappers comprising the current flyleaves. Sewn on six thongs. At the front, a modern paper flyleaf and three of medieval vellum; fol. i is glued to the stub of fol. iv, replacing its conjoint, presumably the pastedown of the medieval binding; fols. ii and iii are a conjoint bifolium. At the rear, two medieval vellum flyleaves and one of modern paper (v–vii); fol. vii is glued to fol. vi, and the latter leaf was a pastedown in an earlier binding.


Origin: s. xv med. ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

Guide directions ‘hole’ and ‘hole w’ (s. xv), for an inscription ‘Hoole’ on a flourished plate, beneath it on a lozenge attached to the plate by a lock, with arms: two bugles above a portcullis, one bugle beneath; below all this a capital M and a capital W surmounted with a crown (fol. ii).

A variety of early signatures: ‘Thomas wryghet bok’ (fol. v, s. xv med.); ‘Nicolas Holdaornss’ (fol. vv, s. xv/xvi); ‘Dodlay’ (fol. v, s. xvi); ‘Mathew quytarell’ (fol. v, s. xvi med.); ‘Iohn Sparke oweth this booke 1579 (?)’ (fol. v) and ‘To my most lovinge Freind lohanne sparke in angellitara’ (fol. 118v).

Iohan Davynant’ (fol. v, s. xvi); ‘Iohn dauenant wryt this same’ (fol. 188, s. xvi/xvii), the first presumably an ancestor of the second, the donor.

‘Liber Collegii Divi loannis Baptistae Oxon Ex dono Magistri Dauenet Oenopoli Ciuitatis Oxon’ (fol. 1). Davenant, a taverner, was mayor of Oxford at his death in 1621; his eldest son Robert was a Fellow of the College and a DD.

Record Sources

Ralph Hanna, A descriptive catalogue of the western medieval manuscripts of St. John's College, Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), with a correction to the dialect section and a revision to the collation. We are grateful to Professor Michael Benskin for bringing these aspects to our attention.


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

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)


    Larry D. Benson et al. (eds.), The Riverside Chaucer (Boston, 1987).
    C-M Briquet, ed. Allan Stevenson, Les filigranes: Dictionnaire historique des marques du papier des leur apparition vers 1292 jusqu'en 1600: A Facsimile of the 1907 edition with supplementary material contributed by a number of scholars, 4 vols. (Amsterdam, 1968).
    Carleton Brown and Rossell Hope Robbins, Index of Middle English Verse (New York, 1943); Robbins and John Cutler (eds.) Supplement (Lexington, Ken., 1965).
    Ralph Flenley, Six Town Chronicles of England (Oxford, 1911).
    Antonia Gransden, Historical Writing in England II (London, 1982).
    Ralph Hanna, Pursuing History (Stanford, Calif., 1996).
    Charles Lethbridge Kingsford (ed.), Chronicles of London (Oxford, 1905).
    Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford, 1913).
    R. E. Lewis, N. F. Blake, and A. S. G. Edwards, Index of Printed Middle English Prose (New York, 1985).
    R. E. Lewis and Angus McIntosh, A Descriptive Guide to the Manuscripts of The Prick of Conscience (Oxford, 1982).
    Mary-Rose McLaren, ‘The Textual Transmission of the London Chronicles’, English Manuscript Studies 3 (1992), 38–72.
    Richard Morris (ed.), The Prick of Conscience (Berlin, 1863).
    Sir Harris Nicholas (ed.), History of the Battle of Agincourt (1832; rept. London, 1971).
    Helen Phillips and Nick Havely (eds.), Chaucer’s Dream Poetry (London, 1997).
    Gerhard Piccard, Die Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard im Hauptstadts-archiv Stuttgart: Findbuch, currently 17 vols. (Stuttgard, 1961– ).
    Rossell Hope Robbins (ed.), Secular Lyrics of the XIVth and XVth Centuries, 2nd edn. (Oxford, 1955).
    M. C. Seymour, A Catalogue of Chaucer Manuscripts, vol. I (Aldershot, 1995).

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2022-10: Edited to correct an error in the dialect section and to revise the collation. We are grateful to Professor Michael Benskin for bringing these aspects to our attention.

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