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

St John's College MS 58

Biblical genealogies and diagrams of virtues


Language(s): Latin

1. Fol. 1rab
Incipit: Equa lege capit mors magnos atque pusillos | Nunc hoc nunc illos precipitando rapit
Explicit: Non potes ante deum viuere preter eum
A poem in which death seizes various social classes,

Walther, no. 587, with references to two other Oxford MSS; Walther compares no. 19965, where he cites more than twenty versions of similar poems with different orders approaching death, all with the incipit ‘Vado mori...’

Fols. 1v–2, 10–11: Five tree diagrams

All with labelled branches and leaves, the first pair with explanatory texts, the whole explained by a note on fol. 2: ‘Dicit apostolus primo corinthiorum 14. In ecclesia volo quinque verba sensu meo loqui etc. Ista quique verba possunt dici quinque documenta vtilia in quinque arboribus hic scripta scilicet fugienda querenda credenda seruanda petenda fugienda sunt vicia virtutes sunt querende credende sunt articuli fidei seruanda sunt mandata domini et petenda sunt dona spiritus sancti’. See Decoration below. Fol. 11v is blank.

3. Fol. 2v:
Rubric: Tabula docens pro 210. annis ab anno domini 1410 quis sit annus bisextilis
Table of leap years
4. Fols. 3ra–9va:
Incipit: Considerans historie sacre prolixitatem necnon et difficultatem scolarium quoque circa studium
Explicit: xiiij. anno neronis est passus codem die quo petrus
PETER OF POITIERS, Compendium historie in genealogia Cristi,

cf. Kingsford, 164 and n.5, where the work here and in our MS 23 is presented as that of Roger Alban (cf. Sharpe, no. 1544 [580]). Ends with the last biblical information, Paul and Barnabas as replacement apostles. In the upper margin of fol. 3, a numbered mnemonic for the six days of creation: ‘Lux firmamentum mare terraque lumina pisces Et volucres pecudes fera reptile cum prothoplasto’, Walther Sprichwörter, no. 14138b.

Added texts:

Fol. 1rab:
Incipit: Infans In lamentis orior in cunis quiesco | Lacte puro nutrior et paulatim cresco
Explicit: Mors consumit o⟨m⟩nia singula sunt vana
Walther, no. 8960,

there cited as unique. Added in the original lower margin in a contemporary textura prescissa. The same hand has also added a note ‘⟨N⟩otandum est quod causa longiuitatis antiquorum est multiplex Prima raro est propinquitas […] ' (fol. 3, lower margin); and further materials at fols. 3 (in the gutter), 8ra (the lower margin), and 9rb (in a blank part of the text column).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Dicit
Form: codex
Support: Vellum (FSOS/FHHF).
Extent: Fols. iv + 11 + iv (numbered fols. v–viii).
Dimensions (leaf): 303 × 208 mm.


Not the customary roll in concertina folds, as MS 23, but a single quire of 12; the stub of the final leaf (probably an excised blank) following fol. 11 is conjoint with fol. 1.


The text is written in a variable double-column format, depending on the extent of the information and the genealogical links to fill in; typically the total writing area is c.215 × 160 mm. . No prickings; pages bounded in black ink, no rules.


Written in gothic textura prescissa, by the same (London?) scribe as MS 23. Punctuation by medial point, very occasional punctus elevatus, and descendant of the punctus versus at ends of entries.


Headings in red.

A single ochre line down the centres of pages for the main genealogies; the circles for members of subsidiary branches are connected by red and blue lines.

A 5-line blue lombard on red flourishing at the head; individual entries introduced by 2-line examples.

The five tree figures outline a complete Christian instructional programme:

Fol. 1v: ‘Fugienda’, illustrating the ‘parts’ of the seven deadly sins, with a brief inscription, ‘Superbia spoliat virtutibus virum .ustum […]

Fol. 2: ‘Querenda’, showing the four cardinal plus three theological virtues and their ‘parts’, with a brief inscription, ‘Humilitas exornat virtutibus virum iustum […]

Fol. 10: ‘Credenda’, aligning twelve prophets, a quotation from each, the twelve articles of the Creed, and the apostles; excepting the marginal note in rubric ‘Iste est ordo secundum sanctum thomam de veritatibus theologie libro 5o. capitulo 19. vel 20.’, the only text is the labels in the diagram.

Fol. 10v: ‘Seruanda’, linking the ten plagues of Egypt, the denial of a commandment, the decalogue, a vice each command counteracts, and an action opposed to each commandment, the only text being the labels.

Fol. 11: ‘Petenda’, a standard septenary aligning petitions of the Pater Noster, gifts of the Holy Spirit, the seven remedial virtues, and the deadly sin each extirpates, the only text being the labels.

In addition, the MS includes a number of other diagrams: (a) the forty resting places of the Hebrews, under three arches supported by four green columns (fol. 4vb); (b) a circular map of the Hebrews’ camp, with the tabernacle at the centre, based on Numbers (fol. 4vb); (c) a map of Jerusalem, as rebuilt by Nehemiah, with intact walls and the six gates (fol. 8ra); (d) the elements and spheres (fol. 9rb).

See AT, no. 510 (50), dating the MS s. xv med. and associating it with Oxford.


A stiffened plain vellum wrapper perhaps s. xv (the lower board has a substantial, but perhaps early, repair along the entire leading edge). Sewn on five thongs. Gold ‘58’ at the head of the spine, in black ink at the centre of the upper board. Impressions in the upper board and metal studs under the front pastedown to anchor straps, now lost. Pastedowns of modern paper, a College bookplate on the front pastedown. At the front, four modern paper flyleaves; at the rear, four further modern paper flyleaves (v–viii).


Origin: s. xv ex. ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

‘Liber Collegii Sanctj Johannis Baptistae Oxon’ ex dono Gabrielis Coling Artis Magistrj ejusdem Collegii Capellanj 1618’ (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.


    J. J. G. Alexander and Elźbieta Temple, Illuminated Manuscripts in Oxford College Libraries, the University Archives and the Taylor Institution (Oxford, 1985).
    Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford, 1913).
    Richard Sharpe, A Handlist of the Latin Writers of Great Britain and Ireland before 1540. Publications of the Journal of Medieval Latin 1 (Turnhout, 1997).
    Hans Walther, Initia carminum ac versuum Medii Aevi posterioris Latinorum, 2nd edn (Göttingen, 1969).
    Hans Walter, Proverbia sententiaeque latinitatis medii aevi: Lateinische Sprichwörter, 5 vols. (Göttingen, 1963–7).

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2022-03: First online publication

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