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

St John's College MS. 78

Latin Brut Chronicle and Gesta Romanorum

Physical Description

Comprising two originally separate MSS.
Form: codex
Support: The first is on vellum, the second paper.
Extent: Fols. iii + 156 + iii (numbered fols. iv–vi).
Dimensions (leaf): 280 × 195 mm.


A modern replacement. Sewn on five thongs. At the front, a marbled paper leaf, a modern paper flyleaf, and part of a medieval vellum one (mounted on modern paper, with a College bookplate); at the rear two modern paper flyleaves and another marbled paper one (iv–vi).


Origin: s. xv med. and s.xv2 ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

‘Shyrburne’ (fol. 54v, at the end of item 1); ‘Chyrburn ⟨ ⟩’ (fol. 153v, in rubricator’s red by the explicit); ‘frater Iohannes Schyrburne me fecit fieri’ (fol. 156v, lower margin). Given the final style, he is presumably the Dominican who appears in the historiated initial. A. B. Emden, A Survey of Dominicans in England (Rome, 1967) includes two John Shirbournes, both too early to be this man. Although produced separately, the Sherburne materials in both portions imply that the two parts of the book have been joined since the fifteenth century and may in fact have been originally intended as companion items.

A blazon ‘per pale, paly gules and [? faded], in chief azure a lion passant or’, impaling an illegible coat, ‘azure a rubbed design or’ (within the historiated initial, fol. 1, the arms of Shyrburne’s client). The arms of Waldegrave are ‘per pale argent and gules’; perhaps closer are Widnam (Sussex) ‘argent two pallets gules, on a chief azure a lion passant of the field crowned or’.

John lloyd bangorn’ (fol. 156v, below the previous signature, s. xvi in.). We have not identified this Bangor man.

‘Babyngton’, with a description of the contents of the first manuscript (fol. iiiv; s. xvi ex., italic). Francis Babington was an important Oxford figure of the early 1560s: master of Balliol 1559, rector of Lincoln 1560–3, Vice-Chancellor of the University. He was deprived as a concealed papist and died abroad in 1569 (DNB). Andrew Watson informs us that Neil Ker once assembled a list of thirty-six of his books, eight of them MSS.

The old College shelfmark, cancelled, ‘Abac: ij N.31’ (fol. iiiv).

Manuscript 1 = Fols. 1–54


Language(s): Latin

1. Fols. 1–54v:
Incipit: Britannia que nunc Anglia dicitur primitus vocabatur Albyon set qualiter aut quomodo
Explicit: Regis camisiam postmodum domino pape vt dicitur differebat
Final rubric: Shyrburne
The Latin Brut chronicle,

extending from Dardanus of Troy to the assassination of James I of Scotland (1437), described Kingsford, 127–32, with the continuation covering 1399–1437 (the only portion of the text printed) ed. 310–23. See further Lister M. Matheson, The Prose Brut: The Development of a Middle English Chronicle (Tempe, Ariz., 1998), pp. xxi, 42–6.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Troiano (fol. 2)
Support: Vellum (does not follow Gregory’s law, with HS and FS frequently facing in quires).
Extent: Fols. 54
Dimensions (written): 185–90 × 130 mm.


1–68 78 (–7, –8, both probably blank). Catchwords, half of them cut away, two boxed, towards the gutter. All leaves in the first half of each quire have double signatures, for the leaf only, roman numerals and letters a–d, most cut away.


part of the leading edge of fol. 2 cut away.


In long lines, 31–2 lines to the page; a substantial shift of duct around fol. 28. Frequent prickings; bounded and ruled in purplish brown ink.


Written in mixed anglicana/secretary (secretary forms of g, r, and w, intermittently of a), s. xv med. Punctuation by point and medial point.


No headings. At chapter breaks 3-line red lombards on purple flourishing; red paraphs to divide the text. Decorated top-line ascenders with leaves and faces, ochre-slashed.

At the head (fol. i), a 10-line decorated capital in red and blue on a green ground, historiated: a tonsured Dominican looking up at God, depicted as an earthly king with a golden crown, a partly defaced blazon within the letter (see Provenance below); border of leaf and floral sprays in red, orange, blue, violet, and gold leaf (open at the page foot). Overlooked in AT.


Origin: s. xv med. ; England

Manuscript 2 = Fols. 55–156


Language(s): Latin

2. Fols. 55–153v:
Incipit: Arselinus in ciuitate romana regnauit prudens valde qui portabat scutum de argento
Explicit: percipite regnum quod vobis paratum est ab origine mundi ad quod nos perducat qui viuit et regnat deus Amen
Final rubric: Explicit tractatus de Gestis Romanorum
Gesta Romanorum

Ed. Hermann Oesterley (1872; rept. Hildesheim, 1963) passim , an edition recently superseded by one based upon Anglo-Latin copies by Philippa Bright and Diane Speed for Oxford Medieval Texts. Followed (fols. 154–6v) by a table of contents. The exact transmission of the text remains unclear, but copies produced in England clearly differ radically in contents and order from continental ones; see, most recently, Walter Röll, ‘Zur Überlieferungsgeschichte der “Gesta Romanorum”’, Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 21 (1986), 208–29.

There is a signe de renvoi at the foot of fol. 116v, ‘require plus in 7. folio 6. quaterni’; according to Speed, the text here is disordered.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: quod datur (fol. 56)
Support: Paper. The quires have been constructed from varying numbers of sheets, all of them combinations of sheets folded in folio and oversized heavy sheets folded in quarto. For example, three quires (12–14) have five sheets in folio within a single large sheet folded in quarto to form the inner and outer bifolia, but quires 10 and 11 have two of the large sheets in quarto and consequently, only three smaller sheets in folio. The sheets in folio represent at least three separate stocks:

A Char: of the general type presented as Briquet, nos. 3527, 3528, 3540, 3543–4, of various dates early in the fifteenth century, although no. 3540 is of 1470; four sheets in quires 8 and 9, perhaps one sheet in quire 11 (eight or nine sheets total).

B Waage / Balance: a probable identification of the indistinct mark on three sheets in quire 10 and either two or three sheets in quire 11 (five or six sheets total).

C Ochsenkopf / Tête de Boeuf: of the general type Piccard II, 2, type vii, nos. 111–955, in wide use c.1445–80; the fifteen relevant sheets in quires 10–12. There is a total of nine oversized sheets folded in quarto plus two half-sheets. Since the watermark falls in the gutter of a tightly bound book, it is seldom visible; a full mark can be seen only on fols. 83 + 96:

D Indéterminé (?): cf. Briquet, no. 16068 (Genoa, 1470), without notation of sheet size. None of the four leaves in quire 15 is marked; fol. 153 is a leaf from stock D.

Extent: Fols. 102 (numbered fols. 55–156).
Dimensions (written): 197–202 × 127 mm.


8–1414 154. Catchwords in half-boxes near the gutter; fully signed, with quire number, in the form ‘primus quaternus’, on the first recto and all leaves in the first half of each quire numbered in arabic. Quires 8–14 currently bear the signatures primus–7us, but the current quire 11 was originally numbered 7us, and its movement in the MS has required correction of the original numbers assigned.


In long lines, 40 lines to the page. No prickings; bounded in black and brown ink, no rules.


Written in secretary, with sporadic anglicana letter forms, s. xv2. Punctuation by an occasional virgula.


Red 2-line lombards at the heads of the 98 numbered chapters; the moral readings are marked in the margin, sometimes with introductory red paraphs.


Origin: s. xv2 ; England

Additional Information

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).
    N. Scott Amos, 'Babington, Francis (d. 1569?)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (this entry published online in 2004).
    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)
    Philippa Bright and Diane Speed (eds.) The Anglo-Latin Gesta Romanorum: from Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS 310, Oxford Medieval Texts (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).
    A. B. Emden, A Survey of Dominicans in England (Rome, 1967).
    Charles Lethbridge Kingsford, English Historical Literature in the Fifteenth Century (Oxford, 1913).
    Lister M. Matheson, The Prose Brut: The Development of a Middle English Chronicle (Tempe, Ariz., 1998).
    Hermann Oesterley (ed.) Gesta Romanorum (1872, rept. Hildesheim, 1963).
    Gerhard Piccard, Die Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard im Hauptstadts-archiv Stuttgart: Findbuch, currently 17 vols. (Stuttgard, 1961– ).
    Walter Röll, ‘Zur Überlieferungsschichte der “Gesta Romanorum” ’, Mittellateinisches Jahrbuch 21 (1986), 208–29.

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2022-08: First online publication

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