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

St John's College MS 167

Bridgettine Processional


Language(s): Latin and Middle English

1. Fols. 1–79v:
Rubric: Vppon cristemasse day at the procession in goynge forthe
Incipit: Descendit de celis missus ab arce patris
Explicit: ut sua nos defensione munitos iocundos faciat presentem celebrare festiuitatem Qui uiuis [form ending] amen

The processional proper, for the temporale from Christmas to Corpus Christi; thereafter mainly a sanctorale: the translation of Bridget, nativity of John the Baptist, Peter and Paul, the visitation, ‘relike sonday’, nativity of Bridget, Anne, Peter ad vincula, Assumption of the Virgin, Augustine, nativity of the Virgin, Michael, the canonization of Bridget, All Saints, the conception of the Virgin, dedication day. Most rubrics are in English, and there are a few extensive English portions, e.g. at fols. 14rv, 17rv (none indexed in OT). Fol. 122, the scrap, contains a ‘Gloria patri’ for the dedication. Heavily corrected with instructions for deletion (‘vacat’) and substitutions noted in the margins.

A companion volume, one of the other four surviving Syon processionals, South Brent, Syon Abbey 1 (1480–1500), has been published in full facsimile, ed. James Hogg, ‘Processionale for the Use of the Sisters of Syon Abbey’, Analecta Cartusiana 35/11 (1991) 45–299; cf. the description in Ker, MMBL 4:335–6. Syon is essentially similar, but has rubrics in Latin, not English, and generally writes out anthems in full rather than using cross-references to prior appearances, as our MS. Syon lacks the note before Peter and Paul (fol. 52v), directing the reader to materials on Katherine of Sweden added at the rear of our copy, and adds at the end (fols. 125–6) St Augustine (fols. 66–7v in our copy). In Syon 1, the canonization of Bridget and the Conception of the Virgin follow the dedication, and All Saints is completely lacking.

For further discussion of these books, see James Hogg, ‘Brigittine Manuscripts Preserved at Syon Abbey’, Analecta Cartusiana 35/19 (1993) 228–42;, and ‘An Early Sixteenth Century Book of Devotions from Syon Abbey’, ibid. 243–53;, de Hamel, 1991; and the descriptions of CUL, MS Add. 8885 (formerly Bristol Baptist College MS Z.d.40), , at Ker, MMBL 2:194–5 and Sotheby’s, London, 17 December 1991, catalogue 96–8, with a plate on 97 (lot 63).

2. Fols. 79v–106:
Rubric: letania so
Incipit: Kyrieleyson Cristeleyson Criste audi nos Pater de celis deus miserere nos
Explicit: dei genitricem credimus eius apud te intercessionibus adiuuemur Per eundem cristum dominum nostrum Amen

The litany (fols. 82v–90, in double columns), with fourteen virgins, beginning with Anne and Briget; followed by a series of anthems of unspecified occasion, ending ‘Vota pulcra es amica mea […] ’ Syon 1, fols. 101v–18 is similar, but not entirely parallel.

3. Fols. 106–7v:
Incipit: In die professionis postquam episcopus assignauerit abbatisse sororem professam siue sorores
Explicit: [fol. 107] milicia suam dignissimam domi | nam mariam uirginem laude ineffabili confitetur

The service for profession; see Syon 1, fols. 118–20. This text is followed (fols. 107v–8) by additional liturgical instructions:

(a) ‘Feria iiija in capite ieiunij fiat genufleccio in choro a sororibus et dicat vnaqueque priuatim […] ’; see Syon 1, fol. 120.

(b) ‘In die autem parasceue non dicatur missa de beata uirgine per sorores sed […] ’; see Syon 1, fol. 120rv

(c) ‘Ut sorores monasterij sancti salua | [fol. 108] toris de syon tam presentes quam future a consciencia scrupulosa—occasione habitas uel habendas auctoritate predicta remouendo’; see Syon 1, fol. 120v, like our MS, including a reference to privileges granted by bishop John Kempe of London.

4. Fols. 108–9:
Rubric: De sancta Anna
Incipit: antiphona Anna stellam matutinam magni maris et reginam peperit
Explicit: pro salute mundi humanam assumere dignatus es carnem Qui viuis et regnas cum deo patre’

At this point, Syon 1 has (fols. 121–4v) an antiphon to the Virgin. In our copy the remainder of fol. 109rv was originally blank and the end of the book.

Added texts

a. Fol. 109:
Incipit: Ostende nobis domine misericordiam tuam Et salutare tuum da nobis
Explicit: in quo uiuimus Ecclesie tue domine preces placatus
A prayer.

Fol. 109v is blank.

b. Fols. 110–20:
Rubric: Vppon the circumcion [sic for circumcicion] day yf it be sonday at procession
Incipit: Responsus a Sancta et immaculata uirginitas quibus te laudibus referam
Explicit: domine iam veni per viscera virginis visitans nos oriens exalto

Anthems for the Circumcision, Annunciation, Corpus Christi (with variants lettered c–p), St Catherine of Vadstena, and Advent. Written in a new contemporary hand; these materials are lacking in Syon 1.

c. Fols. 120v–1:
Incipit: Induit me dominus vestimento salutis et indumento leticie
Explicit: cantibus gemmis Et tanquam Gloria patri et filio et spiritui sancto Et tanquam

This item and the next are each written in different hands, both contemporary textura. Added after the explicit in bastard secretary, s. xv/xvi, is the note: ‘Ibo michi e The antems at mattyns and evynsong of saynt catheryne be two levys befor’ (i.e., at fol. 118v; the ‘Ibo michi’ direction refers to the text at fol. 112rv).

This text answers the direction written in the upper margin of fol. 52v: ‘In þe fest of saynt Kateryn of sweth At procession Regnum mundi E and Induit me at the bokes ende’. In Syon 1, the antiphon added here appears at fols. 126v–7, written by the bastard secretary hand responsible for the added note here. De Hamel (1991:68–9) identifies the hand of CUL, MS Add. 8885 with that of Syon Abbey MS 6, fols. 3–136, and states that it is ‘very close’ to that of our MS and of BL, MS Harley 487 (a Psalter with other materials). Sotheby’s, London, 17 December 1991, catalogue 96 notes that ‘Thomas Raile was employed by the Abbess of Syon in 1482 for the writing and updating of the liturgical manuscripts at Syon, specifying that he was to write musical notes’; cf. Robert J. Whitwell, ‘An Ordinance for Syon Library, 1482’, English Historical Review 15 (1910), 121–3 and Mary C. Erler, ‘Syon Abbey’s Care for Books: its Sacristan’s Account Rolls for 1506/7–1535/6’, Scriptorium 39 (1985), 293–307. The cataloguer, de Hamel, thinks the Cambridge MS too early to be in Raile’s hand and the earliest of the surviving Syon processionals. But Raile’s could well be the bastard secretary hand which wrote the notes in the St John’s book and added texts in Syon 1.

d. Fol. 121v:

'Salue festa dies toto venerabilis euo qua resonante iesu flectitur omne genu [added in bastard secretary, s.xv/xvi:] ‘Beata dei genitrix D’.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: nos protege
Form: codex
Support: Vellum (FSOS/FHHF).
Extent: Fols. ii + 113 (numbered fols. 1–121) + i (numbered fol. iii). Eight ‘leaves’ in the numeration—fols. 81, 82, 84, 85, 87–89, 92—are assigned to small tipped-in tabs with additional materials, and fol. 122 is a similar small sheet loose at the rear (cf. the unnumbered tip-in after fol. 51). Lettered tabs mark sections of the book. For the tabs and tip-ins as typical of Syon books, see Christopher de Hamel, ‘The medieval manuscripts of Syon Abbey, and their dispersal’, in Syon Abbey: The Library of the Bridgettine Nuns ... Roxburghe Club (Otley, 1991), 48–150 at 104–8.
Dimensions (leaf): 193 × 135 mm.
Dimensions (written): 135 × 90 mm.


1–68 78 (with an unnumbered tip-in after fol. 51) 8–98 108+1 (+1; with four tip-ins, assigned fols. 81, 82, 84, 85) [to fol. 85] │ 118 (with four tip-ins, assigned fols. 87–9, 92) [to fol. 97] 128 [to fol. 105] 134 [to fol. 109] 148 [to fol. 117] 154 (1 and 4 are singles, 1 pasted to a stub) [to fol. 121]. Fol. 122 is assigned to a loose tipped-in part-sheet. Boxed catchwords. Some fragmentary signatures, in the main early on; these suggest all leaves in the first half of each quire were signed with a letter and roman or arabic numerals. In this system quires 3–6 = b–e; fol. 101 may have the signature l iiii.


In long lines with musical staves, seven lines to the page. Prickings; bounded and ruled in black ink.


Written in gothic textura semiquadrata; for one of the scribes involved, see added text (c) below. Punctuation by point and double point.


A fine 6-line champe with floral sprays in green and gold leaf, fol. 1.

On fol. 4, a pasted-in woodcut from a printed book, the Adoration of the Magi, partly painted.

Headings and musical staves in red.

One-line blue lombards on red flourishing and smaller unflourished alternate red and blue lombards at subsidiary divisions; after the litany (fol. 93v on) many spaces apparently left unfilled and swag capitals supplied in text ink, usually without penwork flourishing.

See AT, no. 432 (43) who follow Richard W. Pfaff’s misdating of the volume c. 1419–26 at New Liturgical Feasts in Later Medieval England (Oxford, 1970), 29 n. 1, 57 n. 1.


Brown leather over wooden boards, s. xvi, with stamped rolls, within a roll of Oldham’s type FL.(a) or FL.(b), his roll FP.(a) 6 (plate xli, no. 648). This was in use by a London binder ‘F I.’ 1535 x 1549 (46). Sewn on four thongs. The upper board patched to repair the seatings of removed straps; nail-holes from the seatings for the posts to which they attached towards the spine on the lower board. Gold ‘167’ at the head of the spine, in black ink on the leading edges. The front pastedown old vellum, with a College bookplate, an old shelfmark and notation of a new shelfmark dated 1792, and an s. xv musical gamut identical with that on fol. ii. The rear pastedown apparently also old vellum but now with a modern paper leaf pasted over it. At the front, two medieval vellum flyleaves; at the rear, one modern paper flyleaf (iii).


Origin: s. xv/xvi ; England (Syon)

Provenance and Acquisition

‘Syster mare Neuel │ syster tomysyn groue │ Brother Iames Stock’ (fol. ii above a musical gamut; s. xv/xvi, the first textura, the latter two anglicana). De Hamel (1991:85–6) describes the abbey’s use of processionals, that the nuns processed in pairs by their date of profession, and that the same pairs were together for life sharing a processional. Listed by de Hamel (1991:121) as no. 63 among the surviving Syon books, and assigned to Syon by Ker, MLGB 187, ; Ker notes Mary Newell as a nun in 1539 and 1557; she died in 1558 and gave the present Gottingen University Library copy of de Worde’s Chastising of God’s Children to another nun, Awdry Dely. See further de Hamel 1991:142 n. 87, where Thomasina Grove is identified as a nun who d. 1566.

‘I lent þys bok ⟨from⟩ for tym B ste’ (fol. 121v, lower margin; s. xv/xvi).

The old shelfmark ‘Abac: N.54’.

Record Sources

Ralph Hanna, A descriptive catalogue of the western medieval manuscripts of St. John's College, Oxford (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002) (with corrections to typographical errors in added text [c] and provenance 2)


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


    We are grateful to Vincent Gillespie for advice and aid in preparing this description.
    Alexander, J. J. G., and Elźbieta Temple, Illuminated Manuscripts in Oxford College Libraries, the University Archives and the Taylor Institution (Oxford, 1985).
    Erler, Mary C., ‘Syon Abbey’s Care for Books: its Sacristan’s Account Rolls for 1506/7–1535/6’, Scriptorium 39 (1985), 293–307.
    de Hamel, Christopher, ‘The medieval manuscripts of Syon Abbey, and their dispersal’, in Syon Abbey: The Library of the Bridgettine Nuns ... Roxburghe Club (Otley, 1991), 48–150.
    Hogg, James, ‘An Early Sixteenth Century Book of Devotions from Syon Abbey’, Analecta Cartusiana 35/19 (1993) 243–53.
    Hogg, James, ‘Brigittine Manuscripts Preserved at Syon Abbey’, Analecta Cartusiana 35/19 (1993) 228–42;
    Hogg, James (ed.), ‘Processionale for the Use of the Sisters of Syon Abbey’, Analecta Cartusiana 35/11 (1991) 45–29.
    Ker, N. R., Medieval Libraries of Great Britain: A List of Surviving Books. Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks. 2nd edn. (London, 1964), extended by Andrew G. Watson, MLGB: Supplement to the Second Edition. RHS Guides and Handbooks 15 (1987).
    Ker, N. R., Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries. 4 vols. (Oxford, 1969-92).
    Ogilvie-Thomson, S. J. (ed.), The Index of Middle English Prose VIII: Manuscripts Containing Middle English Prose in Oxford College Libraries (Cambridge, 1991).
    Oldham, J. Basil, English Blind-Stamped Bindings (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1952).
    Pfaff, Richard W., New Liturgical Feasts in Later Medieval England (Oxford, 1970).
    Whitwell, Robert J., ‘An Ordinance for Syon Library, 1482’, English Historical Review 15 (1910), 121–3.

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2023-07: First online publication

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