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

St John's College MS 256

Register of writs


Language(s): Latin

1. Fols. 13–227v:
Incipit: Henricus dei gracia Rex Anglie et Francie et dominus hibernie balliuis suis de N salutem Precipimus vobis quod sine dilatione plenum rectum teneatis Iohanni Shirlond
Explicit: contra formam statutorum in huius casu prouisorum error interuenit manifestus etc.
A register of writs,

in forty-six chapters; fol. 228rv blank at the end, but bounded and ruled. Cf. the early printed examples, Elsa de Haas and G. D. G. Hall, Early Registers of Writs, Selden Society 87 (1970), , where our MS is noted at p. xxiii. Preceded by two indexes: one alphabetical (fols. 1–5v), the second a ‘⟨k⟩alendarium’ giving the forty-six chapters of the work (fols. 7–12), printed, as an example of a fully developed register, by W. S. Holdsworth, A History of English Law, 3rd edn. (London: Methuen, 1923), 2:618–36 (our MS described 2:615–18). Fol. 6rv, between the two indexes, is blank but bounded and ruled; fol. 12v is blank, as are scattered leaves at the ends of sections, left so to receive additional writs.

2. Fol. 229:
Incipit: R vniuersis et singulis Admiralls etc. ad quos etc. supra Supplicauit nobis A mercator ville de G vt ei licenciam concedere velimus
Explicit: prouiso semper quod peregrini illi etc. vt supra quouis modo In cuius etc. T etc.
Three added writs,

‘De frumento traducendo’, ‘de peregrinis traducendis’, and ‘Aliter inde’, in the main hand; fols. 229v and iv–viiiv are blank, as is also fol. ix, a former pastedown; all are bounded and ruled, except for the verso of the pastedown.

Physical Description

A full description at Ker, MMBL 3:700–1.
Secundo Folio: infra regnum (fol. 14)
Form: codex
Support: Vellum (FSOS/FHHF).
Extent: Fols. ii (Ker’s—, i) + 236 (numbered fols. iii [Ker’s fol. 1], 1–229, iv–ix) + i (numbered fol. x).
Dimensions (leaf): 250 × 173 mm.
Foliation: A medieval foliation in which fols. 13–229, iv–viii = 1–222 (28 repeated in the foliation).


16 26+1 (+7) 3–198 208 (–5) 21–308. Catchwords at the edge of the gutter preceded by a coloured paraph (red and blue alternating with that at the head of the writ); no signatures.


Writing area 170 × 113 mm. , with an additional column of 25 mm along the leading edge to identify texts. In long lines, 41 lines to the page. No prickings; bounded and ruled in pencil.


Written in anglicana ‘of a set legal kind’ (Ker). Punctuation by point, medial point, and occasional virgula.


At the head of the text (fol. 13), a 9-line champe in blue and violet on gold leaf, with painted vinet of flowers, leaves, and buds, pared by the binder.

At the heads of chapters, 3-line blue lombards with red flourishing.

Separate writs within chapters marked with alternate red and blue paraphs, with marginal finding notes introduced by a paraph of the other colour.

Running titles introduced by red and blue paraphs indicate chapter number and subject.


Plain brown leather, with a thin stamped egg and dot border, s. xvii, rebacked. Sewn on five thongs. Title ‘Registrum Brevium’ in gold on a red tab on the spine. Gold ‘256’ in top compartment of the spine. Pastedowns modern paper, a College bookplate on the front pastedown. At the front, one modern paper flyleaf and a medieval vellum one; at the rear, one modern paper flyleaf (x); the preceding fol. ix is a former pastedown).


Origin: s. xv med. ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

‘Ad intelligendam grandis est afflictio | Scientiae pars est quis sint obscura cognoscere’ (fol. iii top: s. xvii, with two additional notes drawing attention to specific writs).

The old shelfmark ‘A.10.18’ (in red), corrected in red to ‘2.15’ (on the bookplate, front pastedown).

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.


    Elsa de Haas and G. D. G. Hall, Early Registers of Writs, Selden Society 87 (1970).
    W. S. Holdsworth, A History of English Law, 3rd edn. (London: Methuen, 1923).
    N. R. Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries. 4 vols. (Oxford, 1969-92), 3:700–1.

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2022-02: First online publication

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