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

MS. Ashmole 40

Summary Catalogue no.: 6920

Fifteenth-century single text codex of Thomas Hoccleve's Regiment of Princes.


(fols. 1r-97v)
Thomas Hoccleve, Regiment of Princes

English text accompanied with Latin glosses. Lines 3645-3703, 3928-3985, and 4157-4216 were excised through the loss of leaves and later supplied on paper in the seventeenth century.

Incipit: MUsynge up on the resteles besynes | wiche that this trowbly worlde haþ ay on honde
Explicit: To yee þat al seist of loues feruence | That knoweth he whom no þing is hid fro
Final rubric: Explicit Egidius de regimine principium | Grace growith aftir gouernaunce

According to Marcia Smith Marzec's stemma, the manuscript sits on the second and larger side of the stemma, descended from a lost exemplar and a genetic ancestor to Cambridge University Library MS Hh.iv.11, and Fitzwilliam Museum MS McClean 182 and 185.

DIMEV 3581
Language(s): English

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Parchment with paper leaves supplied and paper endleaves. Supply leaves watermark similar to Briquet 206 ('Aigle'). Paper endleaves consist of two types: a thin outer paper leaf with watermark initials ‘DV’, and four thick paper bifolium with watermark similar to Briquet 7207 ('Fleur de lis').
Extent: i (modern endleaf, paper) + viii (modern endleaf, paper) + 98 (parchment with paper leaves supplied at ff. 65, 70, 74) + viii (modern endleaf, paper) + i (modern endleaf, paper).
Dimensions (leaf): 275 × 192 mm.
Foliation: Flyleaves unumbered. Modern pencil foliation throughout (including paper leaves) one leaf unnumbered after folio 81; paginated in ink until fol. 16r.


1-88 (fols. 1-64), 98-2+2 (fols. 65-72, first and sixth leaves replaced with paper leaves), 108-1+1 (fols. 73-80, second leaf replaced with paper leaf), 118 (fols. 81-87, second leaf unfoliated), 1210 (fols. 88-97). No catchwords, although ruling is present. Leaf signatures survive on many leaves, beginning 'ai' through 'aiiij' in first quire.


Good. Some staining on outer edge of leaves, slight wear to illuminated initial on folio 1r.


Ruled in lilac ink: text area with double inner and triple outer vertical bounding lines, ruled from the outer inner vertical to the centre outer vertical; double horizontal bounding lines at top and bottom, all extending the full width of the page; double horizonal lines in upper margin and lower margin extending the full width of the page; single vertical in outer margin creating a column for the gloss; the gloss, when on a recto, sometimes beginning at the middle outer vertical bounding line of the text area (2-31/2-2/2-2/). On fols. 1r-16v ruled lines are occasionally a reddish brown. Width of the ruled space (recto) 6 + 98 + 7 mm. for the text, 7 + 34 mm. for the Latin apparatus. Ruled for 31 lines, regularly 28 long lines of text in 4 stanzas.

Paper leaves which replace excised leaves (added by William Brown(e)) replicate this ruling pattern in brown ink, but omit flourished initials. Pricking visible in outer margin, and occasionally in lower.

Ruled space (see also above) 190 × 108 mm.


Anglicana Formata, in a professional and bold hand of the late fifteenth century. Typical double-compartment ‘a’, looped ‘d’, and sigma-shaped ‘s’. The tight form ‘g’ and the angular looped ‘d’ with a triangular lower lobe suggest a hand of the third quarter of the fifteenth century with Secretary influences.


Fols. 1r, 44v, 59v, 62v, 80v, 84v, 86v, 89v contain large seven-line gold illuminated initial on a red and blue background with white details. These mark the beginning of the Dialogue and the Regement Proper, and each section within the Regement Proper (excluding supplied leaves).

Fol. 97r contains a three-line illuminated initial in the same style.

Every stanza opens with a blue lombardic capital with red flourishes, predominantly one-line, but also two-line (fols. 41r-v, 46r-v, 49v, 51v, 54v, 55v, 56r-v, 57v, 58v, 59r, 63v, 67r, 68v, 69r-v, 72r-v, 73r, 75r, 78v, 79r, 81r, 95v) and three-line (fol. 22v). Occasionally flourished initials extend down the margin without impeding the text (fols. 46v, 48v, 61v, 68r, 71r).

Glosses and running titles rubricated.

Blue paraphs mark glosses.

Additions: Erased marginal drawing of a bow and arrow on fol. 1r. Several marginal additions not recoverable under UV: Fols. 40v, 59v, 60r, and 96v contain unidentified erased drawings in the lower margin. Fol. 62v contains four marginal erased imitations of the illuminated initial at the top of the page. Erased manicule on fol. 92v. Fols. 39v, 40r, and 96v-97r contain illegible erased notes in the outer vertical margins, in a fifteenth/sixteenth-century hand in black ink. Fol. 54v contains two erased inscriptions: one line enclosed in a box in the top margin, and two short lines in the outer margin, both in black ink. Fol. 97v, below the explicit, contains seven (?) erased lines of illegible script in the same hand. This leaf also contains two erased drawings in red ink in the outer vertical margin.


Late seventeenth-century binding typical of Elias Ashmole's collection. Leather over pasteboard, rebacked.


Origin: 15th century, third quarter Inserted paper leaves from the early seventeenth century ; English

Provenance and Acquisition

The manuscript formerly belonged to the poet William Brown(e), author of Britannia’s Pastorals (1613–16) and Oxford alumnus (matriculated 30 April 1624). He acquired the book in 1612, noted in his ownership inscription on the first folio: ‘Liber W. Browne 1612’. In the same year, he acquired Durham University MS Cosin v.ii.15 and Longleat MS 50 (see A.S.G. Edwards, 'Medieval Manuscripts owned by Browne of Tavistock'). Brown(e) supplied three paper leaves that were excised (fols. 65, 70, 74) two marginal stanzas (fols. 40v, 80r), and missing lines (fols. 7r, 10v, 52v) in his own hand from an unknown exemplar. His annotations to the poem can be seen throughout, and it is likely that he was at one point preparing an edition of the text.

Brown(e) also describes Hoccleve in one of his pastorals, The Shepheards Pipe (1614), and owned other manuscripts which contained his works (Durham University MS Cosin v.iii.9, MS Cosin v.ii.13). Brown(e) is thought to have died in 1645, and left no will. It is unclear if the manuscript was still in his possession, and his widow was granted administration of his estate.

The manuscript was later owned by Elias Ashmole, who signs his name on folio 1r in the upper right margin: ‘E. Ashmole’. Ashmole also acquired other manuscripts formerly belonging to Brown(e), now MS Ashmole 59 and MS Ashmole 767, possibly after Browne(e)'s death.

Bequeathed to the Ashmolean Museum by Elias Ashmole in 1692 as part of his donation of 1,100 printed books and 600 manuscripts.

The manuscript was kept in the Ashmolean until 1860, when the collection was transferred to the Bodleian Library .

Record Sources

Description by Charlotte Ross (December 2022). 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). Localization and date follow Pächt and Alexander (1973).


    Online resources:


    Edwards, A.S.G., 'Medieval Manuscripts owned by Browne of Tavistock', in Books and Collectors, 1200-1700 : Essays Presented to Andrew Watson, eds. James Carley et al. (London, 1997), 441-449.
    Feola, Vittoria, Elias Ashmole and the Uses of Antiquity, Collection Sciences et Techniques En Perspective, Ser. II, Vol. 15, Fasc. 1. (Paris, 2012).
    Feola, Vittoria, Elias Ashmole: The Quartercentenary Biography, Storia Della Medicina 2 (Rome, 2017).
    MacGregor, Arthur, Melanie Mendonça, Julia White, and Moira Hook, Manuscript Catalogues of the Early Museum Collections, 1683-1886, BAR International Series 907 (Oxford: Archaeopress; Ashmolean Museum; Hadrian Press, 2000).
    Marzec, Marcia Smith, The Latin Marginalia of the Regiment of Princes as an Aid to Stemmatic Analysis, Text 3 (1987): 269-84.
    Seymour, M.C., The Manuscripts of Hoccleve’s Regiment of Princes, Edinburgh Bibliographical Society Transactions 4.7 (1974): 253–97.
    Wakelin, Daniel, Designing English: Early Literature on the Page (Oxford, 2018).

Last Substantive Revision

2022-12-15: Charlotte Ross Revised with consultation of original.