MS. Ashmole 304
Summary Catalogue no.: 25168
Texts on prognostication; England (St Albans), before 1259
Language(s): Latin with some additions in Middle English
Closely related to Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys MS. 911 (13th century, second half); for items 1–5 the present MS. and the Pepys MS. may both derive from a common exemplar (see Iafrate (2012) 61–7). MS. Digby 46, copied from the present MS. in the third quarter of the fourteenth centry, gives some idea of what is now missing from the present MS., although the question is complicated by the possibility that the Digby MS. also includes material from another source (Iafrate, op. cit., 67–74).
See C. S. F. Burnett, 'What Is the Experimentarius of Bernardus Silvestris?: A Preliminary Survey of the Material', Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge 44 (1977) 62–108; M. Brini-Savorelli, in Rivista critica di storia della filosofia 14 (1959) 306–342.
Apparently Burnett's 'Sententia II' (incomplete) (cf. Burnett, 'Experimentarius', p. 125); most of the page taken up with later additions and notes of ownership.
Pr. ibid., p. 124.
Burnett's 'Associated tract I', an onomantic text in the tradition of 'The Victorious and the Vanquished'
Pr. Burnett, 'Experimentarius', 123–4.
Cf. Thorndike-Kibre 850H, 1627B.
Pr. Burnett, 'Experimentarius', 110.
Tables 1–4 (first version)
Pr. Burnett, 'Experimentarius', 103–5.
Text, version 1 (incomplete)
Begins imperfect, lacking the first two sections due to the loss of a folio before fol. 5; a folio containing sections 15–16 also missing after fol. 10.
Ed. Savorelli, pp. 323–32, 333–42
See E. M. Cartelle and A. A. Guardo, Los "Libros de Suertes" Medievales: Las Sortes Sanctorum y Los Prenostica Socratis Basilei (2004), with edition of the text, pp. 250–75
Full-page miniature of Plato and Socrates, with later marginal addition in English.
Cf. Thorndike-Kibre 93J
Diagrams: Spera specierum (fol. 33av), Spera florum (fol. 33br), Spera fructuum (fol. 33bv, fol. 34r), Spera bestiarum (fol. 34v), Spera volatilium (fol. 35r, fol. 35v, fol. 36r) Spera ciuitatum (fol. 36v, fol. 37r, fol. 37v, fol. 38r, fol. 38v).
A. A. Guardo, 'Los Prenostica Pitagorice consideracionis: un libro de suertes medieval. Estudio introductorio', Studi medievali 47 (2006), 839–53.
Alphabetical index to the 36 questions (later addition, 15th century (?))
Full-page drawing of 'Pitagoras', with marginal texts added later (see Decoration, Additions)
Table of 36 questions
See T. C. Skeat, 'An Early Medieval 'Book of Fate': the Sortes XII Patriarcharum', Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies 3 (1954), 41–54.
Table of 12 questions
Cf. Cat. Lyell MSS., p. 98 (MS. Lyell 36, part D, item 6, fols. 75v-84). Here apparently incomplete, lacking a preliminary table and 36 questions. 36 twelve-line stanzas.
See A. A. Guardo, 'La Divinacio Ciceronalis: un libro de suertes medieval. Estudio introductorio', in De lo humano y lo divino en la literatura medieval: santos, ángeles y demonios, ed. Juan Paredes Núñez (2012), 17–34.
The surviving section in this MS. comprises the responses, fourteen (of originally 20) sections of 21 lines, the first line of each in red, each section attributed to sun, moon, a planet or a sign of the zodiac (Guardo's section 4). The text in MS. Digby 46 has in addition a miniature of Cicero, twenty prognostical questions, and directions for use (see Guardo).
Layout variable according to the text: fols. 1–30, 1 col. (or tables), 28 lines; fol. 31, 2 cols., 29 lines; fols. 39r-40r, 2 cols., 30 lines; fol. 40v, 2 cols, 28 lines; fols. 43v-63v, 2 cols., 27 lines; fols. 64r-, 1 col., 21 lines
Written by Matthew Paris, except for fols. 53r-55v.
'Author' portraits: fol. 2v: upper half of page, Euclid and Hermanus; fol. 31v, full page, Socrates and Plato; fol. 42r, full page, Pythagoras; fol. 52v, upper half of page, the twelve patriarchs.
Fol. 1v, lower margin, battling monk.
Fol. 2r, diagram of constellations.
Fol. 3v, marginal drawings of the seven planetary towers.
Fols. 33a-38, appropriate images in the spheres (flower, fruits, animals, birds, etc.).
Fols. 43v-52r, images of the answering birds at the head of their stanzas.
Throughout: initials in red and blue, with pen-work flourishing in alternating blue and red.
Provenance and Acquisition
Written at St Albans Abbey, mostly by Matthew Paris (d. 1259).
A copy was made from the MS. in the third quarter of the fourteenth century (MS. Digby 46).
The Middle English annotations, which probably date from the second half of the fifteenth century, perhaps suggest that the MS. was no longer in monastic ownership.
'Thomas West writt this same anno domini 1602': otherwise unidentified (fol. 67v, cf. fol. 1r).
A copy was made from the MS. in the seventeenth century (British Library MS. Sloane 3857)
'Ex dono – Vaughan coll. En. nasi schol.' (note in the hand of Edward Lhuyd, d. 1709, fol. 1r). Not in the 1697 catalogue, so presumably entered the Ashmolean Museum between 1697 and 1709 (Summary Catalogue V.82).
Transferred to the Bodleian Library in 1860.
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Last Substantive Revision
2017-07-01: First online publication.