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

MS. Bodl. 959

Summary Catalogue no.: 3093


Language(s): Middle English (see Solopova 2016 for further information on the dialect)

(fols. 1r-332r)
Old Testament (earlier Wycliffite version)

Genesis–Baruch 3:20 in EV with usual prologues, including Jerome’s prefatory epistles (Plate 5). Ends with ‘…þe place of hem risen þe ȝunge’. Lacks the beginning of Judith (1:1–4:16) and the prologue to Judith because of the loss of a leaf after fol. 210. Commendation of Ezra is inserted in the lower margin of fol. 191r. Most books start on a new leaf; psalms start on the verso of a new quire, though the prologues to psalms are in the preceding quire. Two pages (fols. 232v–233r) are left blank before the start of psalms. Approximately a third of a column is left blank on fol. 4r at the end of Jerome’s prefatory epistles and before the beginning of Genesis. Rubrics in red or black in English or Latin. Running titles in red or black, some only on the versos, others on both sides of an opening, consisting of abbreviated titles of books without chapter numbers. Chapter numbers are usually in the margins in black or brown ink, written by the scribe rather than rubricator. Psalms are written as prose with verses starting with 1-line plain red initials. English psalm titles in red. Psalm numbers in the margins in the original hand as Roman numerals. Larger initials with penwork at psalms 26, 38, 52. 68, 80, 97, 109. Latin incipits of psalms are added in the margins in a different later hand on fols. 233v–235r. Fol. 232v is blank.

Heavily corrected in several contemporary hands, both in the margins and within the text. Corrections in the stint of the first scribe are particularly frequent and are often over erasures. Parts of the text on fols. 1–26 have been retraced in a later hand. Many corrections throughout are linguistic or stylistic, including the additions of the forms of the verbs ‘have’ and ‘shall’, the definite article, demonstrative and personal pronouns and other function words. Many corrections in the stint of the first scribe are orthographic, including the additions of final -e and -n, or insertions of punctuation.

(fol. 333r)

2. (fol. 233r) A list of words added on the last flyleaf: ‘|preuarians |e lawbreakers |angle / corner |[…]ers (?) exasterent |wrathede |laur / brede |ees / bees |ie foelai (?) |I errede |de gaust e urs |wastynge |vnai |alas |cultiueresse |comelyng ’ (see S. L. Fristedt, The Wycliffe Bible, 3 vols (Stockholm: Almquvist & Wiksells, 1953–73)Fristedt (1953–73), vol. 1, pp. 70–1).

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment; quality very variable, some is thin and white, whereas other is rough; some leaves have several holes (e.g., fol. 119)
Extent: i (paper flyleaf) + 333 + i (paper flyleaf)
Dimensions (leaf): c. 330 × 230 mm.
Cropped in rebinding, occasionally causing the loss of marginal text, such as the running titles.
Foliation: i, 1-334 in modern pencil


(fol. i) paper flyleaf | (fols. 1–204) I–XVII (12) | (fols. 205–215) XVIII (12–1) missing 7 | (fols. 216–323) XIX–XXVII (12) | (fols. 324–333) XXVIII (12–2 (?)) missing 10 and 12 (?) | (fol. 334) paper flyleaf. Catchwords survive, quire signatures occasionally survive.


Ruled for two columns with single vertical and horizontal bounding lines extending the full height and width of page; 52–62 lines per page; written space: c.210–230 × 150–160 mm.


Four or more scribes:

first scribe: Prefatory epistles– Exodus, fols. 1r–44v, Anglicana.

second scribe: Leviticus–Judges 7:13, fols. 45r–93v, Anglicana.

third scribe (this section may be the work of two or more scribes): Judges 7:13–Ecclesiasticus 48:6, fols. 93v–288r, Anglicana.

fourth scribe: Ecclesiasticus 48:6–end, informal textura, fols. 288r–332r. According to Forshall and Madden, the last hand is identical to the last hand of MS Douce 369 (1850, vol. 1, p. l). This was questioned by de Hamel who pointed out, probably correctly, that only the added note naming Hereford in MS Douce 369 may be by the last scribe of MS Bodl. 959 (2001, p. 172).


4- to 10-line initials with blue penwork at the beginning of prefatory epistles and books.

2- to 3-line plain red initials at the beginning of chapters.

Rubrics in red or black ink. The text of a rubric in black ink in the margin and a note ‘wryte þis with red[…]’ next to a rubric on fol. 300r. sec. fol.: ‘my self ’ (fol. 2r)


English, 16th century. Green velvet with brass bosses and corner-pieces, backed with green leather.


Origin: 1390s (?) ; England

Provenance and Acquisition

Execution is highly variable, suggesting that it is a working copy; heavily corrected, perhaps used in a workshop. There is no attempt to match hands, the format of rubrics, running titles or chapter numbers. The last hand may be the hand responsible for the Hereford inscription in MS Douce 369 (de Hamel (2001), p. 172). The text may have been checked against MS Douce 369, or a version similar to it, and corrected to bring it in conformance with this version. A break at the same point in the text occurs in MS Douce 369 and Cambridge University Library MS Ee. 1. 10.

‘þat þing þat ȝe spac of touchynge Sauages douȝter wole not ȝet be’, 15th century, fol. 333v.

Bodleian Library: presented through Thomas Bodley with MS Bodl. 665 by Springham in 1602 (Summary catalogue, vol. 2, part I; Wheeler (1926)). Richard Springham, Magdalen College (?), Foster (1891–92), p. 1401.

Record Sources

Description adapted from Elizabeth Solopova, Manuscripts of the Wycliffite Bible in the Bodleian and Oxford College Libraries (Liverpool, 2016), cat. 9, with grateful acknowledgement to Exeter Medieval Texts and Studies and Liverpool University Press. Previously described in the Summary Catalogue (1922).


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Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (6 images from 35mm slides)


    Published descriptions:

    Elizabeth Solopova, Manuscripts of the Wycliffite Bible in the Bodleian and Oxford College Libraries (Liverpool, 2016), cat. 9

Last Substantive Revision

2022-06: Matthew Holford: Adapted description by Solopova 2016.