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

MS. Bodl. 264

Summary Catalogue no.: 2464

A Alexander cycle (Roman d'Alexandre etc.); Flanders (probably Tournai), 1338-1344. B Alexander and Dindimus, Marco Polo; England (perhaps London), early 15th century

Physical Description

Composite: fols. 3-208 || fols. 1-2, 209-273
Extent: i (parchment, former pastedown) + iv (paper, modern notes) + iii (paper, modern notes) + ii (parchment, early endleaves) + 273 (2 + 206 + 65) + i (early parchment endleaf)
Dimensions (leaf): 420 × 295 mm.
Foliation: i-x, 1-274, in modern pencil and 16th(?)-century pen


Late 17th-century or 18th-century binding of speckled calf with narrow blind-roll tooling around the edges of the covers.

Traces of the 15th-century binding survive in its former parchment pastedown and endleaves (fols. i, ix-x, 274) and in the sewing on ten bands. Two nail-holes at the upper fore-edge of fol. i are the characteristic staple-marks of 17th-century chaining at the Bodleian.


Provenance and Acquisition

Part A modified and combined with parts Bi, Bii in England (perhaps London) in the early 15th century.

Erased inscription, fol. 274r.

Kathleen Scott's association of the manuscript with Humfrey duke of Gloucester (Later Gothic MSS., cat. 13) derives from a misprint (A. C. de la Mare, 'Duke Humfrey's English Palladius', BLR 12 (1985), 39-51 at 48 n. 2, where the shelfmark should be MS. Bodl. 294, ex inf. David Rundle)

Richard Woodville, first earl Rivers, d. 1469: ex libris, fol. 274r, recording that he acquired ('acetast') the book on the first day of the year 1466 and the fifth year of King Edward (i.e. 1 Jan. 1466) at London. Khalaf suggests with plausibility that the book may have been a new year's gift.

Anthony Woodville, second earl Rivers, d. 1483: incomplete poem apparently written by him, fol. 274r (O. Khalaf, 'An unedited fragmentary poem by Anthony Woodville', Notes and Queries n.s. 58 (2011), 487-90).

Thomas Smythe’, sixteenth(?) century, unidentified; with monogram (?or notarial mark), fol. 215v; the same monogram on fol. 208r, next to ‘Laus tibi sit Christe quoniam liber explicit iste | Nomen scriptoris est Thomas plenus amoris | Qui ultra querit’

Jasper Fyloll ys owner off thys boke’, fol. i verso, sixteenth century: Consuelo Dutschke, ‘The Truth in the Book: The Marco Polo Texts in Royal 19.D.i and Bodley 264’, Scriptorium, 52.2 (1998), p. 299n, surveys possible identifications including Jasper Fyloll of London, Essex and Dorset, c. 1467-1536, on whom see History of Parliament.

‘Thys ys Gyles Strangwayes boke’, ‘G. Strangwayes’, sixteenth century, fol. x recto, cf. fol. i verso and fol. 52r. Possibly Giles Strangways (1486-1546), and/or his grandson Giles Strangways (1528-1562), both of Melbury Sampford, Dorset.

'The book seems to have reached the library, probably from sir Thomas Bodley, in 1603, 1604, or the first half of 1605' (Summary Catalogue)

MS. Bodl. 264 - Part A (fols. 3-208)


(fols. 3r-208r)
Le Roman d'Alexandre

The Old French Roman d'Alexandre, in the redaction by Alexandre de Paris, supplemented by the Prise de Defur, the Voeux du Paon, the Restor du Paon, and the Venjance Alixandre; for similar combinations of these texts see for example BNF fr. 790 and fr. 1375, and for a convenient summary of the development of the text see G. Cary, The Medieval Alexander, ed. D. Ross (1956), 29-33.

For fols. 1-2, with added prefatory miniatures, see part B.

(fols. 3r-100v)
Alexandre de Paris, Roman d'Alexandre
Incipit: Qui uers de riche estoire
Explicit: Deuoit porter coroune lendemain hautement

The medieval French Roman d'Alexandre, ed. E. C. Armstrong et al., vols. 2-3, 5-7 (siglum P), branches 1-3 (see III.30, VI.19 for full details of text and order); fols. 22-37 also printed from the present manuscript in The Buik of Alexander, ed. R. L. Graeme Ritchie, Scottish Text Society 12, 17, 21, 25 (1921-9), vol. I.

Fol. 21r is blank; fol. 21v with a full-page miniature; branch 2 begins fol. 22r.

Fol. 43r blank; fol. 43v with full-page miniature; fol. 44r branch 2, stanza 111.

Fol. 51r part blank; fol. 51v with full-page miniature; fol. 52r branch 3, stanza 30.

Fol. 67r part blank; fol. 67v full-page miniature; fol. 68r branch 3, stanza 172.

Fol. 88r part blank; fol. 88v full-page miniature; fol. 89r branch 3, stanza 352.

Fol. 101r blank. For branch 4 see fols. 189r-195v.

(fols. 101v-109v)
Prise de Defur
Incipit: (fol. 102r) Alixandres ceuauche a loi dempereor
Explicit: Quatorze rois en fist ains que morust li ber

La prise de Defur and Le voyage d'Alexandre au paradis terrestre, ed. Lawton P.G. Peckham and Milan S. La Du (Princeton, 1935), pp. 1-73, siglum P, ending at l. 1204 (incomplete, due to the loss of a leaf after fol. 109).

See also below fols. 182vb-185ra.

(fols. 110r-163v)
Jacques de Longuyon, Voeux du paon
Incipit: Apres che qualixandres ot dedefur conquis | Et a force despee occis le duc melchis
Explicit: Au palais dephezon sen repairent atant
Final rubric: Chi finent le veu du pauon
ed. R. L. Graeme Ritchie, Scottish Text Society (see above, fols. 3r-100v), odd pages, II.107-IV.432 (line 8255), siglum P, desc. II.xxvi-xxix and III.xvii-xxi. A leaf is lost after fol. 134, but with the loss of only 19 lines (3793-3811 in Ritchie's edition); the recto of the missing leaf presumably in large part blank, the verso perhaps with a full-page miniature.

Fol. 164r blank.

(fols. 164v-182vb)
⟨Jean Brisebarre⟩, Le Restor du Paon
Incipit: (fol. 165ra) Seignor prince et baron et dames et borgois
Explicit: Du bien doit on bien dire choi dire piecha
Jean Brisebarre, Li restor du paon, ed. Enid Donkin (London, 1980), sig. P (desc. pp. 14-16 and the base manuscript for the edition); part 2 begins fol. 175ra.
(fols. 182vb-185ra)
Prise de Defur
Incipit: Au quinzime ior mut li rois et si senuait
Explicit: Au matin mut li rois qui maluestie ne daigne

Pr. La prise de Defur and Le voyage d'Alexandre au paradis terrestre, pp. 1-73, beg. at line 1302 and ending at line 1599. Continues without break from the previous item.

See above fols. 101v-109v.

(fols. 185ra-188rb)
Voyage d'Alexandre au Paradis Terrestre
Incipit: Or en vait li bons rois qui maint en gentillise
Explicit: A ioie le rechurent en la cite demaine

Pr. La prise de Defur and Le voyage d'Alexandre au paradis terrestre, pp. 73-90. Continues without a break from the preceding item.

Rest of fol. 188rb blank.

(fols. 188v-196r)
Alexandre de Paris, Roman d'Alexandre
Incipit: (fol. 189ra) Al issue de May tout droit en cel termine
Explicit: En letres de greiois el mur escrit les as
Final rubric: (fol. 196r) Chi finent les regres dalixandre

The medieval French Roman d'Alexandre, branch 4, lines 1-1597 = stanzas 1-69 (see VII.7 for full details of text and order). Fol. 188v is a full-page miniature.

Fol. 196r blank except for the final rubric.

(fols. 196v-208r)
Jean le Nevelon, Venjance Alixandre
Incipit: (fol. 197r) Seignor or faites pais vn petit mescoutes
Explicit: Cist qui cest romans fist nen uolt auant plus dire
Final rubric: Chi fenist la uengance du boin Roy Alixandre
La venjance Alixandre, ed. Edward Billings Ham (1931), siglum P, desc. pp. xxii-v).

Fol. 196v is a full-page miniature.

(fol. 208r)
Colophon: Chi define li romans du boin roi Alixandre | Et les veus du pauon . les acomplissemens . | Le Restor du pauon . et le pris . qui fu perescript | Le .xviije. ior de decembre . lan .M.CCC.xxxviij. [following an erased earlier colophon, damaged by the application of a chemical reagent, without the date]
Colophon: Explicit iste liber scriptor sit crimine liber | Xpristus scriptorem custodiat ac det honorem [in a smaller cursive script]
Colophon: Che liure fu perfais de le enluminure | au xviije Jour . dauryl . Per iehan de | grise .. Lan de grace .M.CCC.xliiij. [in gold]

For a 16th(?)-century addition on this page see under Provenance.

Fol. 208v blank.

Language(s): Old French (Picardy; on the scribal language see Jean Brisebarre, Li restor du paon, pp. 47-9)

Additions were made to this part when it was combined with the second part of the manuscript:

  • Rubrics were added by the scribe of part B beneath miniatures and elsewhere where space was available. (The following rubrics are part of the original production: fols. 21v, 43v, 49r, 59r, 72v, 132v, 133r, and 164v).
  • A note was added by the same scribe in blank space on fol. 67r: ‘Here fayleth a prossesse of þis rommance of alixand(re) þe wheche prossesse þat fayleth ȝe schulle fynde at þe ende of þis bok ywrete in engelyche ryme and whanne ȝe han radde it to þe ende turneþ hedur aȝen and turneþ ouyr þis lef and bygynneþ at þis reson Che fu el mois de may que li tans renouele and so rede forþ þe rommance to þe ende whylis þe frenche lasteþ’.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment


1(8-1)(wants 1) (fols. 3-9), 2(8)-13(8) (fols. 10-105), 14(8-1)(wants 5, after fol. 109, with loss of text) (fols. 106-112), 15(8)-16(8) (fols. 113-128), 17(8-1)(wants 7 after fol. 134, with loss of text, see above) (fols. 129-135), 18(8)-21(8) (fols. 136-167), 22(8)(wants 8 after fol. 174, no loss of text) (fols. 168-174), 23(8)-25(8) (fols. 175-198), 26(10) (fols. 199-208). Catchwords for most quires.


2 cols., 45 lines, column space 305-15 × 115 mm.


Formal gothic bookhand (textualis formata) by one scribe.

Musical Notation:

Notation on staves of five lines, fol. 181v, for the rondeau in the Restor du paon.


At least four artists collaborated on the decoration; see A. Stones, 'Les manuscrits du Roman d'Alexandre en vers français et leurs contextes artistiques', in Alexandre le Grand à la lumière des manuscrits et des premiers imprimés en Europe (XIIe-XVIe siècle), ed. C. Gaullier-Bougassas (Turnhout, 2015), 269-84 at 276-80:

  • Alison Stones has dubbed the artist of fols. 3r-25v the 'Maître d'Éracle' and has identified his work in five other manuscripts including a pontifical made for Gui de Boulogne, bishop of Tournai (1301-24) and Cambrai (1324-36).
  • The work of Pierart dou Tielt was first identified in our manuscript by François Avril; Stones suggests that he may have collaborated with the first artist on fols. 20v and 42v, and is responsible for miniatures on fols. 50r, 80r, perhaps 49r, 54v-57r, and contributed to fols. 66r, 67v, 72v, and numerous marginal scenes. Pierart's work has been identified in a number of other manuscripts, perhaps most notably BnF, Arsenal 5218.
  • The other two (or more) artists (and assistants?) are found above all in quires 11-25 where they seem to have collaborated closely; one of these was presumably the Jehan de Grise who signs on fol. 208r.

For fuller descriptions of the miniatures and marginal scenes see The Romance of Alexander. A Collotype Facsimile of MS. Bodley 264, ed. M. R. James (Oxford, 1933), and D. J. A. Ross, Illustrated Medieval Alexander-Books in French Verse, ed. Maud Pérez-Simon and Alison Stones with Martine Meuwese (Turnhout, 2019), 74-94, 135-141, 149-150, 169-171. In addition the digital images from the Bodleian's old 35 mm. slides (see links below) include detailed descriptions by Rigmor Batsvik.

Miniatures illustrating the narrative of Alexander the Great: 12 full-page miniatures and numerous column miniatures.

Numerous full and partial borders.

Numerous bas-de-page scenes of courtly and rural life, games, grotesques.

8- to 6-line decorated initials at major text divisions typically with foliate motifs on gold ground; 2-line decorated initials at lesser divisions, either foliate motifs on gold ground or human heads on gold ground; marginal extensions frequently supporting both grotesques and naturalistic birds.

Instructions to the illuminator (often cropped) occasionally survive in the upper or lower margins: eg. fol. 22r, and in the final ten quires (eg. fol. 182r, fol. 184v); Cruse, pp. 186, 188.


Origin: 1338-1344 ; Flanders, probably Tournai


Colophons, fol. 208r, for the completion of the text on 18 Dec. 1338, and for the completion of the illumination on 18 April 1344. The main ground for attributing the manuscript to Tournai is the involvement of Pierart dou Tielt in the decoration (see above and Stones, 278-9)

Medieval provenance uncertain. Possible patrons include Philip VI of France (Cruse), David II of Scotland (Ross, p. 70), and Edward III of England or his queen Philippa (Dutschke, p. 298; Barber, pp. 60-1). The volume has been identified (e.g. by Dutschke, op. cit.) with that listed in the 1397 inventory of the forfeited goods of Thomas of Woodstock, duke of Gloucester: 'un large liverre en Ffraunceis tresbien esluminez de la Rymaunce de Alex. et de les avowes al poun' (Viscount Dillon and W. H. St John Hope, 'Inventory of the goods and chattels belonging to Thomas, duke of Gloucester...', Archaeological Journal 54 (1897), 275-308 at 301). The volume was certainly in England by the early fifteenth century when it was extended with parts Bi and Bii.

MS. Bodl. 264 - Part B (fols. 1-2, 209-273)

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Foliation: Fols. 218-273 with incomplete separate pencil foliation beginning 1 in the lower corner (e.g '13', fol. 230r).


fol. 1, a singleton (hooked round with its own free-standing stub), fol. 2, a singleton (now attached with a parchment joint to the former pastedown at fol. i, and in the correct position to replace the missing first leaf of part A quire 1); 27(8) (fols. 209-216) | 28(8+1) (fols. 217-225, blank leaf added at the beginning of the quire), 29(8)-34(8) (fols. 226-273). Decorative catchwords in quires 28-33. Bifolium numbering apparently in both arabic (i-iiij) and roman (1-4) frequently visible in the bottom corner.

This section of the manuscript is comprised of two distinct codicological units (fols. 1, 209-16 and fols. 2, 217-273) with a blank leaf at the end of the first unit and an inserted blank leaf at the beginning of the second. The two units are the work of the same scribe, share the same layout (evidently modelled on the layout of part A), and have the same minor decoration of gold trefoils on sprays extending from decorated initials. At the same time the major decoration is the work of different artists, with part B noticeably higher in quality; the decorated initials are in different styles; the leaves are slightly narrower and the parchment of slightly lower quality. Although Scott argued (p. 69) that the two parts 'were produced and added to the original manuscript at the same time', it is also possible that two units represent distinct campaigns, perhaps separated by a few years, to expand the original manuscript (part A); this could also account for the added reference in part A, fol. 67r (in the lighter ink characteristic of fols. 209r-215v) to Alexander and Dindimus being 'at þe ende of þis bok'.


2 columns usually of 45 lines; overall ruled space c. 315 × 225 mm.


Formal gothic bookhand (textualis formata) by one scribe.


Scott (1996, cat. 13) distinguishes six artists:

  • A: miniatures on fols. 1r, 209r-215v
  • B: miniature on fol. 2v
  • C (signing 'iohannes', fol. 220r): miniatures on fols. 218r, 219r, 220r, 222r, 222v (?, 'probably by a close follower' according to Scott), 223v. Other manuscripts associated with this artist are listed by Scott, pp. 71-2.
  • D: miniatures on fols. 224v-270r; Scott identifies this artist's work in Oxford, Oriel College, MS. 75 and related manuscripts, probably from Western England.
  • Border artist A, throughout except fols. 220r-223v.
  • Border artist B: fols. 220r-223v


Origin: c. 1400-1410 ; England, perhaps London (Scott)


See the entries above relating to the volume as a whole. The miniature on fol. 1r contains the arms gules on a chevron argent a lion rampant (?) sable on a shield above the gateway.

MS. Bodl. 264 - Part B(i) (fols. 1, 209-216)


(fol. 1r)

Full page miniature, see Decoration.

Fol. 1v blank.

(fols. 209r-215v)
Alexander and Dindimus
Rubric: How alixandre partyd þennys
Incipit: Whan þis weith at his wil weduring hadde
Explicit: & alle meven his men fro þe marke euene
Final rubric: How alixandre picht a pelyr of marbyl þere

The unique manuscript; most recently edited by Omar Khalaf, Heidelberg, 2017.

Fol. 216r-v blank.

Language(s): Middle English

Physical Description


Fol. 1r: full page miniature of Babylon (?) with palace of Nectanebus (?)

Fols. 209r-215v: nine column miniatures illustrating the Alexander narrative.

Fols. 209r-215v: 5- to 3-line decorated initials in gold, red, blue, and green.

MS. Bodl. 264 - Part B(ii) (fols. 2, 217-273)


Fol. 2r blank.

(fol. 2v)

Full page miniature, see Decoration.

(fols. 218r-271v)
Marco Polo, Le devisement du monde
Rubric: Ci commence li liures du graunt Caam qui parole de la graunt Ermenie de persse et des tartars et dynde. Et des granz merueille qui per le monde sont.
Incipit: Pour sauoir la pure verite des diuerses regions du monde. si prenez cest liure si trouuerez les grandesimes merueilles
Explicit: & la portoit deuant son pere . & ce faisoit elle souuent
Final rubric: Explicit le liure noumme du grant Kaan de la graunt cite de Cambaluc. Dieux ayde amen.

The 'Court French' version of the narrative of Marco Polo.

C. Dutschke established that the text was copied directly from British Library, Royal MS. 19 D. i, made in Paris in the second quarter of the fourteenth century but evidently in England by the beginning of the fifteenth century, perhaps already part of the royal library as it probably was in 1535. (Consuelo Dutschke, ‘The Truth in the Book: The Marco Polo Texts in Royal 19.D.i and Bodley 264’, Scriptorium, 52.2 (1998), 278–300).

Fols. 272r-273v blank.

Language(s): Old French

Physical Description


Fol. 2v: full page miniature in four compartments with scenes from the life of Alexander.

Fols. 218r-271v: half-page miniature of Marco Polo's departure from Venice, fol. 218r; 37 column miniatures illustrating the narrative (Dutschke, pp. 292-3, shows that the subjects are often drawn from the chapter preceding rather than following the miniatures).

Fols. 218r-271v: full border on fol. 218r; partial borders on most other pages with miniatures.

Fols. 218r-271v: usually a 5-line decorated and inhabited initial after each miniature; at other chapter divisions usually 2-line decorated initials.

Fols. 218r-271v: 2-line blue initials with red pen-flourishing at chapter divisions on fol. 220r-223v.

Additional Information

Record Sources

Description by Matthew Holford (May 2022), with grateful acknowledgement to Bruce Barker-Benfield for assistance on several points. Previously described in the Summary Catalogue.


To ensure its availability to future readers, access to this item is restricted, and readers are asked to work from reproductions and published descriptions as far as possible. To apply to see the original, please send a message to specialcollections.enquiries@bodleian.ox.ac.uk, outlining the subject of your research, the importance of this item to that research, and the resources you have already consulted.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (802 images from 35mm slides) [part 1]
Digital Bodleian (15 images from 35mm slides) [part 2]
Digital Bodleian (48 images from 35mm slides) [part 3]


    Main published descriptions and facsimiles:

    D. J. A. Ross, Illustrated Medieval Alexander-Books in French Verse, ed. Maud Pérez-Simon and Alison Stones with Martine Meuwese (Turnhout, 2019), 74-94, 135-141, 149-150, 169-171
    Il manoscritto Bodley 264. Il Romanzo di Alessandro, I viaggi di Marco Polo, 2 vols., Edizione facsimile and Saggi e Commenti, ed. Laura Lucchetti and others (Rome: Istituto della Enciclopedia Italiana fondata da Giovanni Treccani, 2014)
    Mark Cruse, Illuminating the Roman d'Alexandre : Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodley 264: the manuscript as monument (2011)
    Kathleen L. Scott, Later Gothic manuscripts, 1390-1490 (1996), cat. 13.
    A. G. Watson, Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c.435-1600 in Oxford Libraries (Oxford, 1984), no. 74 (fols. 3-208 = part A)
    The Romance of Alexander. A Collotype Facsimile of MS. Bodley 264, ed. M. R. James (Oxford, 1933)

    Online resources:

Last Substantive Revision

2022-05: Description fully revised.