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

MS. Bywater 3


(fols. 1r-183v)
Diogenes Laertius, Vitae philosophorum,

tr. Ambrogio Traversari

Language(s): Latin; verses in Greek
Incipit: [P]hilosophiam: a barbar[ris i]nitia: svmpsisse plerique autumant.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: sibi deos
Form: codex
Support: Paper, watermark crossed arrows (cf. Briquet, nos. 6270–1)
Extent: i (modern) + 183 leaves.
Dimensions (leaf): 290 × 200 mm.
Dimensions (ruled): 210 × 101 (111 incl. bounding lines) mm.
Dimensions (written): 210 × 103 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in modern pencil: i, 1–183.


I-XVI10 (fols. 1–160), XVII12 (fols. 161–172), XVIII12–1 (12th leaf cancelled) (fols. 173–183); the first quire becoming loose each quire with vertical catchwords, aligned downward between the bounding lines leaf signatures A-S (e.g. 'A.i.'-'A.v.') in the bottom left corner of leaves.


Blind-ruled on the innermost side of each bifolium, with 32 horizontal lines per page, the top two and bottom two lines extending to the edges of the leaf, the remainder within two pairs of vertical bounding lines. 32 lines of text per page.


Written in fine humanistic script; the scribed used the laid lines of the paper to guide the justification of his marginal notes and headings; and he arranged last lines of text in patterns: a pyramid and a globe. The scribe wrote in a similar style another manuscript of Diogenes Laertius: see U. Hoepli's sale catalogue, April 1927, no. 87 and tav. XIII, and also Rome, Vatican, Vat. lat. 1771, , Quintillian, Declamationes, produced in Florence by Vespasiano da Bisticci in 1459; Eton College, MS. 153, Juvenal and Persius, c. 1440–50; Berlin, MS. Hamilton 42, translations of Aristotle by Johannes Argyropoulos, c. 1460–70; Budapest Nat. Mus., MS. 415 (formerly Vienna 831), Basil from the collection of archbishop Janos Vitez (d. 1472). The Greek verses quoted by Diogenes were added either in the text, framed within insets of various shapes, or in the margin, the Latin text being often crossed out. The Greek hand is probably that of John Scutariotes.


Headings in the text and margins in red.

Plain blue initials, usually two- to three-line, not indented into the text; many not filled in.


Contemporary blind-tooled leather binding over oak boards, sewn on three wide split straps; with four clasps (straps missing) at the head and tail, and two at the fore-edge; original(?) parchment pastedowns (ruled in ink); rebacked and repaired after 1914.


Origin: Italian, Urbino ; 15th century, second half

Provenance and Acquisition

Written by the same scribe as Vatican, Vat. lat. 1771, which was sold by Vespasiano da Bisticci in 1459.

Inscribed in the 17th-century: 'W.B.' and 'Jo. Sauage' (upper pastedown, top right), in the same brown ink and perhaps both by the same hand.

Inscribed in the 19th century with a bookseller's notes in the top left corner of the upper pastedown, 'US/ 1381 Pm/qs' (1381 below US, separated by a line); another in pencil in the top right corner of the lower pastedown is erased.

Inscribed in the 19th century: 'F.R. | 1829' (upper pastedown, top right).

Inscribed in the 19th century with a thirteen-line note on the text on the upper pastedown: 'I think it very probable that this is the translation "a Fratre Ambrosio" from which the first Latin Edition was printed in 1475. ... It is quite perfect'.

With a clipping from a bookseller's catalogue stuck to the upper pastedown; inscribed (presumably by Bywater) 'Selden, March 1914', in which the present manuscript was item 196, priced £5; this price also inscribed in pencil on the upper pastedown.

Ingram Bywater

Bequeathed to the Bodleian in 1915; the upper pastedown inscribed in pencil with the Elenchus number, and in ink with the Bodleian shelfmark.

Record Sources

Draft description by Peter Kidd, late 1990s

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (3 images from 35mm slides)


Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.