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

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).

1. (fols. 1r-30v)
Bernardus Silvestris (?), Experimentarius

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.

(fol. 1r)

Apparently Burnett's 'Sententia II' (incomplete) (cf. Burnett, 'Experimentarius', p. 125); most of the page taken up with later additions and notes of ownership.

Incipit: Nugas set subtiles (?)
Explicit: Que magis apparent recia vitat auis (?)

Pr. ibid., p. 124.

(fol. 1v)

Burnett's 'Associated tract I', an onomantic text in the tradition of 'The Victorious and the Vanquished'

Rubric: Prime combinacionis distinccio
Incipit: Unum et unum minor corpore vincet
(fol. 2r)


Incipit: Materia huius libelli est effectus et efficacia lune et aliorum planetarum
Explicit: Non quia inuentor fuit sed fidelis ab arabico in latinum interpres

Pr. Burnett, 'Experimentarius', 123-4.

Cf. Thorndike-Kibre 850H, 1627B.

(fol. 2v)

Regula I

Incipit: Primo fiat linea casualiter numero punctorum
Explicit: repetatur a capite ipsa pagina

Pr. Burnett, 'Experimentarius', 110.

(fols. 3r-4v)

Tables 1-4 (first version)

Rubric: Tabula prima
Incipit: [in blue:] De vita [in red:] Quid erit dic [in green:] Quare a sedente super [in red:] Orientalem faciem [in blue:] Turris Saturni
Explicit: [in red:] 1ma [in blue:] Redi [in red:] responde [in blue:] perge ad Iudicem [in red:] fatorum [in blue with red initial:] Algargalafar [in red:] xxviij

Pr. Burnett, 'Experimentarius', 103-5.

(fols. 5r-16v)

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.

Incipit: ||Venit qui compedes diuina potencia soluit
Explicit: Opta que dei sunt fauebit dominus ipse
Final rubric: Explicit libellus de constellacionibus

Ed. Savorelli, pp. 323-32, 333-42

(fols. 17r-30v)

Text, second version, Thorndike-Kibre 633E.

Rubric: Almazane Iudex primus
Incipit: Hoc ornamentum decus est et fama ferentum
Explicit: Vite solamen cupis hoc tibi det deus. Amen.
Final rubric: Explicit hoc opusculum


2. (fols. 31r-40r)
Prognosticon Socratis Basilei

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

(fol. 31r)
Rubric: Documentum subsequentis consideracionis que socratica d(icitu)r
Incipit: In prenosticis Socratis basilei que in subsequenti folio scribuntur hoc est rudimentum. Primo iaciantur casualiter puncta infra numerum denarium
(fol. 31v)

Full-page miniature of Plato and Socrates, with later marginal addition in English.

(fol. 32r)


Rubric: (at bottom) Tabula consideraconis pronosticorum secundum Basileum Socratem
Incipit: An erit bonum ire extra domnum vel Non
Explicit: An erit bonum rem suam aliter comendare vel non.

Cf. Thorndike-Kibre 93J

(fols. 32v-33ar)


Rubric: Computentur capita epigramatum
Incipit: AE Aquila auis
Explicit: Baccelauri
(fols. 33av-38v)

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).

(fols. 39ra-40rb)

Answers of the 16 kings; 16 stanzas of 9 nines.

Rubric: Primum locum teneant rubrice in conputacionibus | Rex turcorum
Incipit: Quod uis erit et bonum tibi eueniet
Explicit: Grauida pariet filiam de qua bona erit ei
3. (fols. 40v-52v)
Prenostica Pitagorice consideracionis

A. A. Guardo, 'Los Prenostica Pitagorice consideracionis: un libro de suertes medieval. Estudio introductorio', Studi medievali 47 (2006), 839-53.

(fol. 40v)


Rubric: Manifestacio operis subsequentis
Incipit: In prenosticis pitagorice consideracionis primo iaciantur puncta casualiter sine intencione
(fol. 41r)

Alphabetical index to the 36 questions (later addition, 15th century (?))

(fol. 42r)

Full-page drawing of 'Pitagoras', with marginal texts added later (see Decoration, Additions)

(fols. 42v-43r)

Table of 36 questions

Incipit: Si puer viuet Vade ad Columbam
Explicit: Si amissio per latrone inuenietur Vade \ad/ arfarperet
(fols. 43v-52r)

Answers to the questions, 12-line stanzas each attributed to a bird, accompanied by drawings of the birds.

Rubric: Columba iudex primus
Incipit: Iste puer viuet satis et prosperabitur in diebus suis
Explicit: Debilis eris corpore et odiosus omnibus
4. (fols. 52v-55v)
Sortes duodecim patriarcharum

See T. C. Skeat, 'An Early Medieval 'Book of Fate': the Sortes XII Patriarcharum', Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies 3 (1954), 41-54.

(fol. 52v)

Table of 12 questions

Incipit: De cognitacione Responde Quere in libro prophetie Ivde
Explicit: De fortuna si prospera Responde Quere in libro prophetie Beniamin
(fols. 53r-55v)

Answers to the questions, 12-line stanzas.

Rubric: Iudas Iudex Regalis confitens ueritatem. Primus Iudex.
Incipit: Velle dei nosse casu non est tibi posse
Explicit: Sors bene succedit aderit que mens tua credit
Final rubric: Finis huius operis (15th cent. (?))

Pr. A. Boutelmy, 'Notice sur le recueil poétique du manuscrit Cotton Vitellius A xii, du British Museum', Latomus 1/4 (1937), 278-313, at 300-3

5. (fols. 56ar-63v)
Quaestiones Albedaci

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.

Rubric: Gosal iudex primus. Qui presagus uel primicerius interpretatur
Incipit: Sub fatis uita fiet diuturna beata
Explicit: Eger erit sanus scias quamuis ueteranus
6. (fols. 64r-70v)
Divinacio ciceronalis (incomplete)

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).

Rubric: Sol iudex primus
Incipit: ||(first line in red) Mittam te ad amicum meum et dicet tibi uerum Certe tibi dico prope est ut gaudeas et mutes fortunam
Explicit: Sauabitur infirmus da gratias d(e)o||

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: i + 72 + i (foliated i, 1-71; 33 and 56 are double)


Uncertain. Quires 3-8 numbered in roman numerals on the first folio (fols. 20r, 29r, 33r, 42r, 50r)


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.


Fine miniatures (coloured drawings). Illuminated by Matthew Paris of St. Albans, d. 1259. The MS. is mutilated. (P&A iii. 437, pl. XXXVIII)

'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.

Additions: Occasional contemporary glosses. Later annotations in Middle English (fols. 31v-32r, 42r, 52v-53r, 56ar: the longer passages printed in Index of Middle English Prose: Ashmole, p. 12). Later note of missing text, fol. 59 'hic deficit versus de debito';


Origin: 13th century, middle (before 1259) ; English, St. Albans, Benedictine abbey

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.

Record Sources

Draft description (in progress) by Matthew Holford, March 2018. Previously described in the Quarto Catalogue (W. H. Black, A descriptive, analytical, and critical catalogue of the manuscripts bequeathed unto the University of Oxford by Elias Ashmole Esq...., Quarto Catalogues X, 1845).


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 (49 images from 35mm slides)


    Allegra Iafrate (ed.) Matthieu Paris, Le moine et le hazard: Bodleian Library, MS Ashmole 304, Textes littéraires du moyen âge 39, Série Divinatoria 5 (Paris, 2015) [colour facsimile with introduction]
    Otto Pächt and J. J. G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library Oxford, III (1973), no. 437

    Online resources:

    JONAS: Répertoire des textes et des manuscrits médiévaux d'oc et d'oïl(the present MS. does not contain the Anglo-Norman Divinations, as stated, but that text is a translation of Divinacio Ciceronalis, item 6 in the present MS.)