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

Christ Church MS. 104

Johannes de Platea, Commentary on Justinian, Institutes; England, s. xv2.


Language(s): Latin

Fols 1ra-312vb
Incipit: Sacratissimus imperator noster Iustinianus suum deuotissime inchoauit inicium A nomine domini nostri
Incipit: [fol. 1rb] Et hoc Rubricum siue hec Rubrica diuiditur in quinque partes In prima
Explicit: Ego Iohannes de Platea minimus legum doctor vnumquemque lectorem vt non liuoris aculeo sed caritatis zelo corrigere et emendare dignetur cum pocius ex transcursu leccionum et temporis angustia quam ex alio processerint ideo coreccioni cuiuslibet melius sencientes me subicio et laudem reddo Ihesu cristo saluatori nostro qui semper est Benedictus per infinita secula seculorum. Amen.
Johannes de Platea (Giovanni di Matteo della Piazza), Lectura super Institutionibus [Justiniani]

First ed. Pavia, 1504. See further Robert Feenstra, ‘Johannes de Platea, Bologneser Professor aus dem Anfang des 15 Jh. Die Überlieferung seiner Schriften . . .’, in id., Le droit savant au moyen âge et sa vulgarisation (London, 1986), ix (39–62). This copy lacks text because of a lost leaf after fol. 56, probably removed for the decoration at the opening of Book 2. Feenstra lists this manuscript among the twenty-one surviving full copies at 48–51; it belongs to Feenstra’s type B2, the version printed. The only other manuscript in a British library is Oxford: All Souls College, MS 56 (see Watson, All Souls, 118–20).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: se patent
Form: codex
Support: Parchment (usually FSOS, but in early parts, before fol. 104, sometimes does not follow Gregory’s Rule, and unlike sides face one another); many leaves have marks of mould
Extent: Fols: i + 312 + i (numbered fol. 313). Flyleaves parchment.
Dimensions (leaf): 410 × 275 mm.


1–78 88 (wanting first, before fol. 57) 9–398 402 (with second an unnumbered stub). Horizontal catchwords at bottom centre. All leaves in the first half of each quire signed with a letter and arabic number, a few cut away or faded with damp near the end; in addition, there are quire numbers in roman at the gutter edge of the final verso of each quire. The signatures run a-z, &, con, 2a-2o on the recto and i-xxxviii on the verso (ending with quire 38).


Writing area: in double columns, each column 277 × 73 mm. , with 29–30 mm between columns, in 61 lines to the column (above top line).

Pricking the length of the written space usually visible; bounded and ruled with dry-point, leaving a grayish mark; single borders on all sides, extending across the page, while the lines are ruled through the central reservation and are ragged in the margins.


Written in gothic secretary with frequent use of anglicana double-bowled g, with headings and section openings in a thick gothic textura quadrata which is the height of two lines.

The scribe adds occasional annotations in margins and central reservation (eg fol. 221, 227, 234, 306).

Punctuation by point only.


At major divisions, four-line blue lombards with red flourishing; these do not appear usual English work, but, rather, are Italianate in style, and employ experimental capitals: eg variants of A (fol. 71va: slanted-backed majuscule; fol. 73ra, 109vb: v-shaped horizontal; fol. 116va: heavy wedged horizontal arms at top), variants of E (fol. 38ra: round-backed; fol. 39ra: double-backed; fol. 39vb and 40ra: square-backed), H with hooked horizontal (fol. 46rb), variants of I (fol. 2vb, 4va, 5va etc), humanist N (fol. 8ra, 27rb, 80ra etc), flat-topped R (fol. 134vb), key-shaped T (fol. 163v), variants of V (fol. 29vb, 64va: U-like with a hooked left arm; fol. 29va: heart-shaped). A very few of these near the end have been missed out, and blanks left, e.g. fol. 203va. These letter-forms (but not the background on which they stand) have a generic similarity with those in, eg, the later leaves of BL, MS Arundel 66 (Astrological collection, London, 1490). At subsidiary divisions, ornamental text-ink paraphs with the lemma in textura.

It is perhaps the scribe, in a smaller script distinguished by its use of double-bowled d, that adds at top right of each recto, up to fol. 199, a note of the subject that folio.


Uncovered pasteboards, with half-leather for the spine, ?s. xviii. In the top spine compartment ‘Jo. de Platea in Justinian’, s. xix. Sewn on five thongs. The pastedowns are old parchment, a ChCh bookplate on the front pastedown. On the front and back pastedowns there are holes from a quincunx arrangement of bosses from an earlier binding, presumably that of the first owner himself.


Origin: England; s. xv2

Provenance and Acquisition

Armorial information indicates the patron of the book: a coat-of-arms ‘quarterly gules and ermine, in the first and fourth quarters a goat’s head erased argent’ below first column of fol. 1 and a rebus ‘MOR’ in blue on a brown painted tun below the second. Both signify John Morton (d. 1500), who was bishop of Ely from 1478 until he was elevated to the archbishopric of Canterbury in 1486, Chancellor of England from 1487, and, from 1493, a cardinal. That his arms appear without any reference to him as bishop, let alone cardinal or archbishop, may date what we may assume was his commissioning of this manuscript to earlier in his career. For him, see BRUO, 1318–20, where this volume is ignored in the account of his eight surviving books (1320). These include two other civil law commentaries, a printed Bartolus de Sassoferrato on Justinian (Venice, 1475, now BL, IC.20238) and BL, MS Arundel 454, a glossed Justinian, as well as two books of canon law (BL, MSS Arundel 435 and 461). At MS Arundel 454, fol. 1 Morton’s coat-of-arms and rebus appear in the same position as in our manuscript (see the on-line BL Illuminated MSS Catalogue [last accessed 3rd October 2012]). The only other indication of an early provenance is the inscription ‘Rawlyn’ (upside down on the front pastedown, s. xvi in.?).

Although the book itself contains no note to the effect, it was bequeathed by Wake, and is the first in his autograph schedule of his manuscripts (MS 352/8, fol. 1): ‘Jo: de Platea Comment in Institutiones Justiniani’.

Record Sources

Ralph Hanna and David Rundle, A Descriptive Catalogue of the Western Manuscripts, to c. 1600, in Christ Church, Oxford (Oxford, 2017).


For enquiries relating to this manuscript please contact Christ Church Library.

Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.

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