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

St John's College MS. 63

Gregory the Great, Epistles


Language(s): Latin

Fols. 1ra–134va:
Incipit: ⟨S⟩usceptis epistolis fraternitatis uestre magnas omnipotenti deo gracias retulimus quia de congregatione
Explicit: nobis moribus seruare concedat Amen Data kalendis nouembris indictione xii
GREGORY THE GREAT, Registrum epistolarum

(CPL 1714), books 8–14 and an appendix only, ed. Dag Norberg, CC 140–140A (1982), the main text ending at fol. 122rb with 14.13 and corresponding to Norberg’s 2:513–1085. There is a large number of marginal corrections.

The subsequent appendix in this MS (fols. 122va–34va) does not represent the odd addenda printed by Norberg; the heading describes its contents as ‘Epistole que pretermisse sunt superioribus indiccionibus’, and the MS presents, in order: 5.6, 11.2; 2.45, 27, 26, 48; 9.123, 145, 158, 170, 172, 3–5, 20, 195, 201, 61, 66, 69, 70, 84, 86, 90, 92, 99, 114; 5.29, 30, 32. The final two items (fols. 131ra–4va) do not occur in Norberg’s edition and correspond to Migne’s 14.16–17, PL 77:1320–8.

Following the explicit, in a contemporary hand, is a quatrain ‘Expositor ueri fac nos pietate repleri […] ’ The remainder of the leaf and the following leaf are blank.

This is presumably the second volume of a two-volume set.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: maliciosam
Form: codex
Support: Vellum (HSOS/HFFH).
Extent: Fols. iii + 135 (numbered fols. 1–134, iv) + iii (numbered fols. v–vii).
Dimensions (leaf): 295 × 200+ mm.


1 a singleton 2–510 6–168 176. Fol. 1 is a supply leaf in a hand that does not recur in the MS, perhaps an early replacement for a projected but never completed decorated leaf; its verso has a catchword. The final quire is sewn as a six, and the blank but partly ruled fol. iv was pricked with its other leaves; this leaf has been a pastedown in an earlier binding. Catchwords, both a few original ones deep in the gutter, and a slightly later set under the inner column. All quires were apparently signed, but most signatures have been cut away: all leaves in the first half of each quire were marked with letters (in non-alphabetic order) or arbitrary signs, repeated to indicate the leaf number. Thus fols. 2–6 = e–eeeee; 12–16, p–ppppp; 22–6, +–+++++, etc.


In double columns, each column 183–208 × 75–80 mm. , with 14 mm between columns, in 30–1 lines to the column (formats vary a good deal by the scribe and the quire). Frequent prickings; bounded and ruled in black ink.


Written in a variety of protogothic bookhands and transitional protogothic bookhand/gothic texturas (the final one most emphatically textura in its duct, if not letter formation), above top line. Punctuation by point and occasional punctus elevatus.

The volume is a disorganized communal job, not apparently well supervised. There may be as many as a dozen scribes contributing, often very small stints; at least provisionally, I would identify these major divisions in the work: one scribe for fols. 1–44; fols. 45–9 alternating between two other scribes; two new scribes for fols. 50–73 and 74–88, the second perhaps also responsible for fols. 101v–16 (with some other hands in the first five leaves of the first stint); fols. 89–101v a different scribe, with fols. 91–4 copied by yet another individual not otherwise involved in the volume). Three new hands follow at 116–21v, 121v–4vb, and 124vb–34.

The appendix may indeed be a tribute to this form of production. The scribal ‘team’ sought to make good omissions by checking contents against an exemplar and collecting items overlooked in the earlier copying. But the relative disorder in which items have been added appears every bit as random a procedure as the original copying seems to have been.


Headings in red, some unfilled and some in rustic capitals (all those in quire 5, for example).

At the head, fol. 1ra, space for a 4-line capital unfilled.

Only books 13 and 14 have large decorated capitals, 4-line arabesque initials, the first (fol. 101vb) with a marginal descender in red and blue, the second (fol. 117ra) formed by a red and blue vine design.

At the heads of individual letters, 2-line alternating red and blue arabesque capitals on flourishing of the other colour.

Running titles in red with book numbers (ending on fol. 122 at the end of the main series of letters).


A modern replacement. Sewn on five thongs. At the front, a marbled paper leaf and two modern paper flyleaves; at the rear, two modern paper flyleaves, and another marbled paper leaf (v–vii).


Origin: s. xii / xiii ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

‘karissimo domino et amico suo willielmo salt ⟨ ⟩’, in blue ink (nearly cut off, fol. 56v, lower margin; s. xiii2). The same hand writes a note on the Trinity in rubricator’s red (fol. 41, lower margin) and a third note in brown ink (fol. 69, lower margin).

A label, identifying the MS as the second part of Gregory’s epistles (pasted on fol. iiiv, s. xviii).

'Iohannes White de Suthwyk in Comitatu Southt Armiger dedit hunc librum Thome White de london’ miitis ad vsum Colegij per ipsum de nouo erecti in Oxon’ Anno 1555’, with an old College shelfmark ‘63’ (fol. 1, upper margin). Although the MS lacks any ex-libris, White’s donation may well indicate that the volume came from Southwick (Hants., OSA); the compilers of Registrum entered a copy of Gregory’s register from the house under R.2.7 (59, 262).

Record Sources

Ralph Hanna, A descriptive catalogue of the western medieval manuscripts of St. John's College, Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) (with correction to a page reference in Registrum)


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


    Eligius Dekkers and Aemilius Gaar, Clavis patrum latinorum, 3rd edn. (Turnhout, 1995).
    Jacques-Paul Migne (ed.), Sancti Gregorii Magni. Patrologia Latina 77 (Paris, 1849).
    Dag Norberg (ed.), S. Gregorius Magnus: Registrum epistularum, Corpus Christianorum 140 (1982).
    Richard H. and Mary A. Rouse and R. A. B. Mynors (eds.), Registrum Anglie de libris doctorum et auctorum veterum. Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues 2 (London, 1991).

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2022-04: First online publication

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