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

St John's College MS 266

John Lydgate, The Siege of Thebes (bound with printed book b.2.21)


Language(s): Middle English

Fols. 1–61v:
Rubric: ⟨H⟩ere Begynnyth the prolog off the Story of Thebees
Incipit: ⟨W⟩han bright Phebus passed was the Ram | myd of Aprell
Explicit: whan he hens wend | Of my tale thus I make an ende Amen
Final rubric: ⟨H⟩ere now Endeth as ye may se | The destruccioun of Thebes þe Cite
JOHN LYDGATE, The Siege of Thebes (IMEV 3928), , ed. Axel Erdmann, EETS ES 108 (1911), 1–193, . Fols. 62–7v are blank. See Gavin Bone, ‘Extant manuscripts printed by W. de Worde, with notes on the owner, Roger Thorney’, The Library 4 ser. 12 (1932), 284–306,, where our MS is identified, on the basis of textual readings and compositors’ marks, as the copy used to set Wynkyn de Worde’s edition of The Siege of Thebes (STC 17031, 1497?). Bone, following 306, provides a facsimile of fol. 42 and the corresponding leaf of STC 17031.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: The same tyme
Form: codex
Support: Paper. With one exception (fols. 59 and 62 are probably half-sheets, both with watermarks), all quires but the last are formed of four sheets folded in folio. There are two marks:

A: Chien/Hund, resembling Briquet 3623 (Dutch and Flemish, 1475 × 1478) and Piccard XV, 3, no. 1424 (Utrecht, 1480): the principal stock, in the first seven quires and part of the eighth, thirty full sheets and one half-sheet total.

B: Chien/Hund, probably Briquet, no. 3624 (Dutch and Flemish, 1476 × 1482): part of the eighth and the ninth quires, three full sheets and one half-sheet total.

Extent: Fols. 67 (I have disregarded a continuous foliation for the whole volume imposed in 1994).
Dimensions (leaf): 266 × 190 mm.


1–88 94 (–1, a stub). No catchwords or signatures.


Writing area 193 × 121 mm. to the frame, with a separate leading edge gloss column about 40 mm wide. In long lines, 39 lines to the page. No prickings; bounded and ruled in red ink, the gloss column usually with brown bounds.


Written in secretary. Punctuation by virgula, medial point, and a combination of both (punctuation at the caesura only). A. I. Doyle suggests that the scribe is ‘possibly’ identical with the hand responsible for Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.3.19, fols. 217–33, 247–51; and for Glasgow University Library MS Hunter U.3.5 (232), both with further Lydgate. If so, the scribe would have collaborated with that of Trinity College MS R.3.21, for which see Decoration below. Fully described in Ker, MMBL 3:704.


Spaces left for capitals unfilled.

Headings, running titles (giving book number), and marginal notations of contents in red.

The volume includes illumination apart from the Lydgate: sig. a i of STC 5094 (Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde) is lacking and has been replaced by a vellum leaf, with a full-page tinted drawing (listed among examples of the technique, Scott, 1:75 n. 59) of the lovers outside Troy, with Pandarus looking on.

See Kathleen L. Scott, The Mirroure of the Worlde (Oxford, 1980), 32–3 and fig. 19 (the Troilus illustration). For the general absence of illustration in Troilus MSS, see Scott, 2:182. She believes the artist may be identical with that in Cambridge, Trinity College MS R.3.21 (Middle English poetry and prose), a book which also belonged to Roger Thorney (2:338). See AT, no. 820 (82) and plate lv (the Troilus illustration).

In addition, all the pages in the printed books have been bounded and ruled in red ink, and painted decorative initials (gold on red and/or blue) with alternate red and blue paraphs have been supplied in the printer’s blanks. The woodcuts in STC 5083 (Chaucer, Canterbury Tales) have all been painted.


Bound following copies of STC 5094 (Chaucer, Troilus; William Caxton, 1483), 5083 (Canterbury Tales; Caxton, 1483), and 17957, part 2 (John Mirk, Quattuor sermones; Caxton, 1483). Dark brown leather over bookboard, a stamped decorative lozenge in the centre of double rectangular line frame with stamped fleur-de-lis in each corner, an Oxford rebinding, s. xvii in. Sewn on four thongs. Holes for ties on both boards, a chain-staple mark in Watson’s position 6. On the spine, a red leather label with gold-stamped title ‘Chaucer by Caxton’ and flowers in each corner. The front paste-down from MS, the rear old vellum, both with College bookplates. One medieval vellum flyleaf at the rear.


Origin: s. xv ex. ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

Following a mark resembling a ligated ‘TR’, ‘Roger Thorney mercer of london’, above a Tudor rose (fol. i, the rear flyleaf; secretary, s. xv/xvi). For him and his supplying the MS to de Worde for copy-text, see Bone.

‘Constat Wylliam Myddelton’ (Troilus, sig. p iiii, lower margin; Tales, sig. q viv, lower margin; Sermones, sig. d viv, lower margin; MS fol. 61v); in addition, his monograms (Troilus, sig. a ij, lower margin; Tales, sig a iiij; MS fol. 1; and fol. i, the rear flyleaf). Middleton married Thorney’s widow.

The old shelfmark Arch ⟨45⟩ A 47’ (the front pastedown).

Liber Collegii Sanctj Johannis Baptistae Oxon’ ex dono Gulielmj Paddy Equitis Auratj olim Collegii ejusdem Conuictoris’ (Troilus, sig. a ij, upper margin).

MS 266 - the front pastedown

the front pastedown


Language(s): Latin

Incipit: [The first full entry begins:] Caput est cristi diuinitas ut in cantico \v/ Caput eius aurum optimum quia in cristi diuinitate fulgor incomparabilis est
From an alphabetical dictionary, perhaps one devoted to scripture or exegetical symbolism

Ker, Paste-downs, no. 1509.

Physical Description

Extent: Most of a bifolium.
Dimensions (leaf): 194 × 140 mm.
the larger surviving leaf (the upper, very nearly complete).


In double columns, each column 174 surviving × 50–55 mm. , with 9 mm between columns, in 40 or 41 surviving lines. Bounded and ruled in pencil.


Written in textura, s. xiii in.


Two-line red and green lombards, with flourishing in the other colour, at the head of each entry.


Origin: s. xiii in.

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) (with correction of a typographical error in the final rubric)


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

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)


    J. J. G. Alexander and Elźbieta Temple, Illuminated Manuscripts in Oxford College Libraries, the University Archives and the Taylor Institution (Oxford, 1985).
    Gavin Bone, ‘Extant manuscripts printed by W. de Worde, with notes on the owner, Roger Thorney’, The Library 4 ser. 12 (1932), 284–306.
    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)
    Axel Erdmann (ed.), Lydgate's Siege of Thebes, Part I: The Text Early English Text Society extra series 108 (1911), 1–193.
    N. R. Ker, Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries. 4 vols. (Oxford, 1969-92).
    Neil R. Ker, Pastedowns in Oxford Bindings. Oxford Bibliographical Society Publications NS 5 (1954).
    Gerhard Piccard, Die Wasserzeichenkartei Piccard im Hauptstadts-archiv Stuttgart: Findbuch, currently 17 vols. (Stuttgard, 1961– ).
    Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic Manuscripts, 1390–1490. 2 vols. (London, 1996).
    Kathleen L. Scott, The Mirroure of the Worlde (Oxford, 1980).
    Andrew G. Watson, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Medieval Manuscripts of All Souls College Oxford (Oxford, 1997).

Funding of Cataloguing

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

Last Substantive Revision

2022-11: First online publication

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