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

St John's College MS 124

Thomas Walsingham, Archana deorum


Language(s): Latin

1. Fols. 9–144
Incipit: In cristo patri venerabili domino Simoni Priori Monasterii sancti Albani sacre pagine professori THOMAS DE WALSINGHAM suorum minimus subditorum reuerentias debitas et honores libellum de generacione naturaque deorum simul cum interpretacione fabularum libri Methamorphoseos […]
Rubric: [fol. 9v, the text] Incipit liber primus Ouidij Methamorphoseos
Incipit: Primus liber habet octo fabulas principales Prima est de gigantibus
Explicit: que magis visa eos perduxit ad locum vbi erat puer ihesus
Thomas Walsingham, Archana deorum (Sharpe, no. 1850 [688–90]), ed. Robert A. van Kluyve (Durham, DC, 1968) (the pastedowns and endleaves reproduce leaves of our MS). Van Kluyve’s edition should be used with care; see A. G. Rigg’s review, Speculum 44 (1969), 501–4, and the identification of a second MS unknown to van Kluyve, BL, MS Lansdowne 728, by J. Engels, ‘Note sur quelques manuscrits mythologiques’, Vivarium 6 (1968), 102–7. The text is preceded (fols. 1–8v) by an alphabetical table. Other important discussions include F. W. Hall, ‘An English Commentary on Ovid’, Classical Quarterly 21 (1927), 151–4; and V. H. Galbraith, The St Albans Chronicle 1406–20 (Oxford, 1937), pp. xli–xlii.
2. Fols. 144v–52v
Incipit: Demogorgon primus omnium pater dictus fuit quia demones genuit id est terram genuit
Explicit: Orcanium qui genuit leuchotoen que facta est thurea virga

A genealogy of the gods, not corresponding to that promised by Walsingham in his dedication, by another hand, and progressively more incomplete; see further van Kluyve, pp. xvii–xviii, but contrast Engels’s views.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Athlanta (fol. 2)
Secundo Folio: phocis (fol. 10)
Form: codex
Support: Vellum (FSOS/FHHF).
Extent: Fols. v + 152 + iii (numbered fols. vi–viii).
Dimensions (leaf): 225 × 150 mm.
Dimensions (written): 155–60 × 90 mm.


1–198. Catchwords in half-boxes, usually in red or purple ink; all leaves in the first half of each quire signed with a letter and an arabic numeral (the numeral only in quires 1–2). Quires 3–18 = b–r.


In long lines, 33 lines to the page. Prickings; bounded and ruled in pencil and brown crayon; the final quire unpricked, rough pencil bounds only for a writing area 165 × 93 mm. .


Written by four scribes:

scribe 1 = fols. 1–8v, 113–44, in anglicana formata;

scribe 2 = fols. 9–16v, in gothic textura prescissa;

scribe 3 = fols. 17–113/2 or 3, in anglicana formata;

scribe 4 = fols. 144v–52v, in mixed anglicana/secretary.

Scribe 1 does not punctuate; scribe 2 punctuates by occasional medial point and double point (some added virgulae); scribe 3 punctuates by occasional medial point; scribe 4 punctuates by point.


Headings in red.

At text divisions, 2- and 3-line red lombards on purple flourishing to fol. 64v, blue flourishing thereafter.

In earlier portions, marginal finding notations in red half-boxes.

Item 2 adopts a genealogical presentation, with names in circles connected by family ‘lines’, with some prose explanations intruded. The circles are in red early, then in black crayon or unfilled.


A modern replacement, with the spine lacking. Sewn on three thongs. At the front, a modern marbled paper leaf, two modern paper flyleaves, and two medieval vellum ones (the first of these, fol. iv, a pastedown in a fifteenth-century binding on five thongs, the outer pairs pegged two to a hole, as in Pollard’s figure 6); at the rear, two modern paper flyleaves and another marbled paper one (vi–vii).


Origin: s. xv med. ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

Indication of contents (fol. ivv, s. xvii).

‘Libellus Thomae de Walsingham de generatione naturaque Deorum simul cum interpretatione Ouidij Metamorphoseon Simoni Priori Sancti Albani dedicatus Praefatio in arcana Deorum’ (fol. 9, upper margin; s. xvii).

The old shelfmark ‘Abac: ij. N. 92’ (fol. iv).

Record Sources

Ralph Hanna, A descriptive catalogue of the western medieval manuscripts of St. John's College, Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002). The binding of MS 124 has been repaired since the publication of the printed catalogue.


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


    J. Engels, ‘Note sur quelques manuscrits mythologiques’, Vivarium 6 (1968), 102–7.
    V. H. Galbraith, The St Albans Chronicle 1406–20 (Oxford, 1937).
    F. W. Hall, ‘An English Commentary on Ovid’, Classical Quarterly 21 (1927), 151–4.
    Graham Pollard, 'Describing Medieval Bookbindings.' In J. J. G. Alexander and Margaret T. Gibson (eds.), Medieval Learning and Literature: Essays Presented to R. W. Hunt (Oxford, 1976), pp. 50–65.
    A. G. Rigg, 'Thomas Walsingham, De Archana Deorum [sic]. Edited by Robert A. van Kluyve. Durham, North Carolina: Duke University Press, 1968. Pp. xxii+227. $14.75', Speculum 44 (1969), 501–4.
    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).
    Robert A. van Kluyve (ed.), De Archana Deorum (Durham, NC, 1968).

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2022-12: First online publication

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