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

MS. Bywater 1


Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum,

tr. Ambrogio Traversari

Language(s): Latin with marginal notes in Latin and Greek
(fol. iv verso)

Alphabetical list of contents, with folio references

Incipit: Anacarsis – 14
Explicit: Zenoeleates. – 121 Sunt omnes uite Lxxviiij
[Preface, fol. 1r-v:]
Incipit: (preface) Volventi mihi qvedam greca volvmina venit ad manus Laertij diogenis de philosophis prolixum opus
Explicit: (preface) superflua existima ueris iure tuo consecabis: vale:
[Text, fols. 2r-151r:]
Incipit: (text) Philosophiam a barbaris initia svmpsisse plerique autumant
Explicit: (text) Lamentis prosequuti [sic] non sunt defuncti. celeriorem obitum.
Final rubric: Laertii Diogenis vite atqve sententie eorvm qvi in philisophia clarvervnt. Liber decimvs et vltimvs explicit.
(fol. 151v)

Numbered alpahabetical list of contents, with folio references, almost as on fol. iv verso

Incipit: 1 Anacarsis – 14.
Explicit: 79. Zeno. eleates. – 121 Finis:

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Philosophiam
Form: codex
Support: Paper with parchment flyleaves. Watermarks: tulip (cf. Briquet, no. 6653–4); letter R (not in Briquet); scissors (cf. Briquet, no. 3668).
Extent: ii (modern paper) + i (catalogue clipping, tipped in) + i (medieval parchment) + 152 (paper) + i (medieval parchment) + ii (modern paper)
Dimensions (leaf): 335–40 × 230–5 mm.
Dimensions (ruled): 225 × 140 (152 including the bounding lines) mm.
Dimensions (written): 225 × 140 mm.
Foliation: The main text foliated in ink 1–151 in a 16th(?)-century hand; fols. i-iv, 152–155 foliated in modern pencil.


I-III10 (fols. 1–30), IV-XVII8 (fols. 31–142), XVIII10 (fols. 143–152); catchwords in the middle of (quires I-III) or to the right-hand side of the lower margin.


Ruled in blind on the innermost faces of each bifolium, with 37 horizontal lines, the top two and bottom two sometimes extending towards the edges of the page, the reminder bounded by two pairs of vertical bounding lines usually extending the full height of the page; the first contents page ruled in two columns. 36 lines of text per page, the first table of contents in two columns, the second in three columns.


Written in a good humanistic hand


Headings in the brown ink of the main text; the tables of contents with red and blue paraphs.

Plain blue initials: two large (fols. 1r, 2r), the remainder usually four-line.


Original binding. Sewn on four wide straps, and bound in contemporary Italian blind-tooled brown leather over wood boards with rounded edges, the covers with simple fillets forming a saltire within a frame; with the remains of two clasps at the fore-edge (straps missing); the fore-edge of the leaves inscribed 'LAER[gap for strap]TIVS DIOGE[gap for strap]NES'; considerably repaired.


Origin: Italian ; 15th century, third quarter

Provenance and Acquisition

Inscribed throughout with marginal notes in Greek and Latin, in various 16th-century hands; and with a title in the top left corner of the upper pastedown: '[Laer]tius diogene de vite & moribus ph[i]l[o]sophorum[?] ...[?]'.

Inscribed, 16th century: ' Lucas Maripetro | me vidit' (fol. 1r).

Inscribed in a 17th(?)-century Italian hand 'pnn' in the top right corner of the lower pastedown; the top right corner of fol. 1r inscribed 'xxii.x.'(? the fourth character overwritten and unclear, ther last character perhaps a z or an alpha).

Perhaps among the Saibante-Canonici manuscripts sold by Celotti, at Sotheby's, Saibante and Canonici manuscripts: a catalogue of a singularly rare collection of manuscripts on paper and vellum ... the whole are in fine condition, and were brought to this country by the Abbé Celotti ... which will be sold by auction ... Mr. Sotheby ... 26th of February, 1821 and two following days (London), lot 171, described as 'Diogernes Laertii Vitæ, Sententiæ, &c. Philosophorum Vers. Latine, MS. ON PAPER', bought by Thorpe for 5 shillings.

Thomas Thorpe, London bookseller: probably the 'Diogenis Laertii Vitæ, Sententiæ, &c. Philosophorum, Vers. Lat. ON PAPER, Sæc. XVI. large folio, leaves uncut' in his Books and manuscripts: a catalogue – Part I. - 1821. – of ancient and modern books ... a singularly rare collection of manuscripts ... (London, 1821), item 4068 (the table of contents states: 'Manuscripts, on Vellum and Paper, from the Saibante, Canonici and Celotti Collections, various sizes'), priced 15 shillings; the pencil price-code 'gw/' in the top right corner of the upper pastedown is perhaps Thorpe's.

Inscribed 'Thorpe March 1821' (upper pastedown, top left).

Various 19th-century booksellers' notes in pencil on the upper pastedown: 373', '1/5/[...]', '172', and fol. iv recto 'No 297EO[?]'.

Howel Wills (1854-?1901), of Florence : with his paper shelf-mark label pasted to the upper left corner of the upper pastedown, inscribed 'A. | II. | 25.' (cf. MSS. Don. d. 85, Lat. th. c. 34, and Lyell 77); his sale, Sotheby's, 11 July 1894 and five following days, lot 1169, bought by Quaritch for £1 13s., perhaps on behalf of Bywater, since it was not included in Quaritch's Rough list, no. 144, August 1894 (A rough list of choice and valuable books ... [f]rom the library of Howel Wills, Esq., of Florence). Fol. iii is a leaf from Quaritch Rough list no. 180, in which item 11 was another copy of the text, on vellum.

Ingram Bywater

Bequeathed by him to the Bodleian in 1915; inscribed on the upper pastedown and fol. 1r with the shelfmark 'Byw B 6 5', now obsolete, and with the current shelfmark; provisionally given the Summary Catalogue no. 40033, also now obsolete.

Record Sources

Draft description by Peter Kidd, late 1990s

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (1 image from 35mm slides)

Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.