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

Christ Church MS. 152

Geoffrey Chaucer, Canterbury Tales, and John Lydgate, poems; England (?Winchester), s. xvmed and xv3/4


Language(s): Middle English

Fol. 1r: originally blank (see Provenance).

1. Fol. 1v

Table of contents, added in the hand of the second scribe (with item 5 a later insertion).

2. Fols 2–276v
Rubric: Incipit tractatus Galfredi Chaucer de Gestis Peregrinorum versus Cantuariam
Incipit: Whan that Auerell with his shoures soote | The droght of Marche hath perced
Explicit: wole ware that thow ne be nat oute of charite This holy orison||
Geoffrey Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales

IMEV 4019; DIMEV 6414–12; basically complete but disordered, ed. Larry D. Benson et al., The Riverside Chaucer, 3rd ed. (Boston, MA, 1987), 23–326, breaking off in ‘The Parson’s Tale’ 1044. The text also lacks ‘The Knight’s Tale’ 1554–1634, ‘The Canon’s Yeoman’s Prologue 627–719, and ‘The Parson’s Tale’ 886–944, owing to missing leaves; in addition, fol. 24v is blank, but with no text loss. Items 3 and 4 are intercalated into Chaucer’s text, each at the end of a production unit.

The manuscript has been described at Manly and Rickert, 1:85–91. The text of The Canterbury Tales is disordered. Fragment A and ‘Gamelyn’ (item 3) appear in the first production unit, followed (at the head of a new quire) by Fragment D, ‘The Clerk’s Tale’, Fragments C, B2, H, and ‘The Franklin’s Tale’. This production unit concludes with ‘The Man of Law’s Tale’, ‘Merchant’s Tale’, and ‘Squire’s Tale’, with the added item 4. The final production unit contains Fragments G and I and ends with item 5. For full particulars, see Sir William McCormick and Janet E. Heseltine, The Manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales: A Critical Description of their Contents (Oxford, 1933), 77–84. On the quality of the text, drawn from very good older archetypes collected from diverse sources, see Charles A. Owen Jr., The Manuscripts of the Canterbury Tales (Cambridge, 1991), 77–79. Owen suggests (117) that the same archetypes may underlie the two prose tales in Cambridge: Magdalene College, MS Pepys 2006.

3. Fols 58v-71v
Rubric: Here begynnytht the Cokys tale etc.
Incipit: Lithen and lystenyth and herkenyth aright | And ye shul heren
Explicit: may there no man flee | God brynge vs to the Ioye that euer shall be
The Tale of Gamelyn

IMEV 1913; DIMEV 3090–7; ed. Walter W. Skeat, The Works of Geoffrey Chaucer, 6 vols (Oxford, 1894), 4:645–67. Added on blank leaves (and in an added quire) by the scribe of item 2 at a slightly later date. Fol. 71v is about one-third blank.

4. Fols 228v-31
Rubric: The prologe of the Ploughman
Incipit: As the Pylgrymys Forth ded ryde | Owr ^host^ began to loke aboute
Rubric: [fol. 229] Here begynnyth the Ploughmannys tale of owr’ lady
Incipit: There was whilom as that seyth the scripture | In Fraunce a ryche man
Explicit: cherly fort to stonde | Her
Thomas Hoccleve, The story of the monk who clad the Virgin

IMEV 4122; DIMEV 6603–1; ed. I. Gollancz, EETS es 73 (1925), 16–19, here with an added prologue (not in IMEV; DIMEV 681–1), the ensemble most recently ed. John M. Bowers, The Canterbury Tales: Fifteenth-Century Continuations and Additions(Kalamazoo MI, 1992), 26–30. Added in anglicana, c. 1480, on blank leaves by the scribe who writes the contents table (item 1) and corrects readings elsewhere. There are only four lines on fol. 231, and the verso is blank.

5. Fols 278, 277, 279–81v
Incipit: ..olemes of lyknes and fygurys | Whyche proved been fruttuus
Explicit: vndyr correccion | With supportacion of your
John Lydgate, The churl and the bird

IMEV 2784; DIMEV 4420–2; ed. Henry N. MacCracken, The Minor Poems of John Lydgate, Part II Secular Poems, EETS, 192 (1934), 468–85. The text is disarranged and lacks lines 274–341, owing to a missing leaf. By the scribe of item 4 but at a later sitting (see item 1).

6. Fols 282–342v
Rubric: The sege of Thebes
Incipit: Whan Phebus passed was the Ram | Midde of Aprile
Explicit: [fol. 342] whan we shull hens wende | And of my tale thus I make an ende
John Lydgate, The Siege of Thebes

IMEV 3928; DIMEV 6276–6; ed. Axel Erdmann, EETS, es 108 (1911). The scribe apparently missed a page in his exemplar and skipped from line 4653 to 4696, which heads fol. 342. The omitted lines 4654–95 appear on fol. 342v, in mixed anglicana/secretary (with secretary g), s. xv3/4.

A. S. G. Edwards, ‘Fifteenth Century Middle English Verse Author Collections’, Griffiths FS, 101–12, at 103 and 110 n19, discusses manuscripts which join Chaucer and Lydgate. Only four other manuscripts follow Lydgate’s direction and offer The Siege of Thebes as a pendant to The Canterbury Tales: BL, MSS Add. 5140 and Egerton 2864; Longleat: Longleat House, MS 257; and Austin: University of Texas, Harry Ransom Center, MS 143 (olim Delamare).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: in alle his lyfe
Form: codex
Support: Paper, folded in folio.

There are five watermarks:

  • A: Cloche: not in Briquet, although as John M. Manly and Edith Rickert, The Text of the Canterbury Tales, 8 vols (Chicago, 1940) state (1:85), no. 3984 (Italy and Bruges, 1435 × 1468, most uses 1435 × 1443) is the published mark most nearly resembling this one: excepting the two central bifolia of quire 12, universal in quires 1–3, 5–12, 106 full sheets, fol. 41 a watermarked half-sheet, fol. 101 one without watermark.
  • B: Monts/Dreiberg: cf. Manly-Rickert’s identification with Briquet no. 11845 (Genoa, 1441–42): the stock of the intruded quire 4, five full sheets.
  • C: Ciseaux: most closely resembles Piccard 9 (Werkzeug) iii, no. 668 (London, 1450): the second inmost bifolium of quire 12, fols 220+223.
  • D: Tête de bœuf/Ochsenkopf: not in Piccard or Briquet, generally of the type Piccard 2 (Ochsenkopf) v: the central bifolium of quire 12, fols 221+222.
  • E: Monts/Dreiberg: generally of the type Piccard 16 (Dreiberg) iv, nos 1151–1223, Italian papers of 1430 × 1450: universal in quires 13–18, 50 full sheets; fols 244, 275, and 284 half-sheets with watermark; fols 274, 276, 279, 283 and 299 unwatermarked half-sheets.
Extent: Fols: iii (numbered fols i-ii, 1) + 334 (currently numbered fols 2–342) + ii (unnumbered). All flyleaves paper (first and last marbled), apart from last at front (fol. 1), which is medieval parchment.
Dimensions (leaf): 290 × 210 mm.
Dimensions (written): 205 × 138 mm.
(to the bounds, not the line ends)
Foliation: There are several different foliations, including, in early portions, bits of an early modern one. The foliation followed here is that imposed by the last binder, which assigns folio numbers to the missing 22, 102, 239, 272–73, and 300.


120 220 (lacking first, assigned fol. 22) 320 410 [fol. 71, the end of a production unit] | 520 620 (lacking eleventh, a cancel, with no text loss, assigned fol. 102) 7–1220 [fol. 231, the end of a production unit] | 1320 (lacking eighth, assigned fol. 239) 1420 1520 (lacking first and second, assigned fols 272 and 273; lacking sixth, seventh, twelfth and all from fourteenth to last, with eleventh [fol. 277] bound in before eighth [fol. 278]) [fol. 281, the end of a production unit] | 1620 (lacking nineteenth, assigned fol. 300, the stub of a cancelled leaf; but with one inserted as its replacement, the text continuous at lines 1355–56) 17–1820. No catchwords; all leaves in the first half of each quire assigned a letter and arabic numeral, the letter signatures in the upper right corners and typically cut away or obscured by later paginations.


In long lines, about 40 lines to the page (varies, up to 55 lines in the final quire).

Occasional signs of single prick-hole at outer top corner of text block; bounded in stylus, no rules.


Written in anglicana, originally a single scribe for items 2 and 6, who later added item 3; subsequently, another scribe, also writing an anglicana, inserted item 4 and, at another sitting, item 5. The second scribe has been tentatively identified with the ‘Morganus Scribe’, responsible for BodL, MS Ashmole 45: see the Late Medieval English Scribes website [last accessed 16th June 2016]. However, the contrast between the script in the Ashmole manuscript and in ours goes beyond a matter of grade; the differences of ductus suggest the identification should be rejected. More plausible is the possibility that this second scribe is the Thomas Vause who adds his name in the margin at fol. 72 (see provenance).

Punctuation in the verse by occasional point at mid-line, occasional virgula and comma at line ends, and punctus interrogativus; in the prose, by point, virgula, and double virgula (these last perhaps unfulfilled instructions for paraphs).


Headings in red. At the openings of the texts, three- and four-line lombards, all except four of them red; the exceptions, in blue, include that at the opening of ‘Gamelyn’ (fol. 58v, and a number of one- and two-line examples dividing that text, a presentation unique within this manuscript), fols 261v and 270v (in ‘The Parson’s Tale’), and the opening of Lydgate’s Thebes (fol. 282).


Plain tan leather over millboards, with punches, s. xx. A note on fol. iv: ‘resewn and rebound 1975 (by A. B. R. Fairclough of Burford) and papers preserved from previous early 19 cent. binding’. Sewn on five thongs. ‘Chaucer’ in gilt in the top spine compartment. Pastedowns and endleaves modern marbled paper, a ChCh bookplate on the front pastedown. In a previous – presumably the first – binding that preceded the foliation now affixed in an early modern hand, the leaves of two quires, the 2nd and 10th, were misbound. They bear notes (s. xv) with signes de renvoi to direct a reader through the text, e.g. ‘turne over v. lefes to thys sygne [a diamond]’ (fol. 21v); given the rebinding, the answering signs now appear on the immediately following rectos. In quire 2, the five inner sheets were bound on the outside, and in quire 10, the two pairs of inmost sheets exchanged positions. See further Manly-Rickert, 1:88.


Origin: England (?Winchester); s. xvmed and xv3/4

Provenance and Acquisition

There is reasonably extensive evidence for production and early ownership in the mid-south and near southwest: (a) ‘Thomas vause’ (fol. 72), perhaps the scribe of the additions (items 1, 4 and 5), whom Manly-Rickert identify (1:90) with an attorney for Winchester College, s. xv2. (b) ‘Grace and good manners maketh mann’, s. xv/xvi, completed as a distich, s. xvi2, ‘but who Louethe him that no good cand’ (IMEV 1009.3). The first line expands on a motto associated with Winchester College (fol. 1; the expanded Winchester motto appears again at fol. 151v); (c) ‘Ioh: Long [? Yong] liber’ (fol. 342, s. xvii). Late sixteenth/early seventeenth-century probate evidence suggests this was a common surname across a broad band of Wiltshire and Somerset, and nowhere else. Early in the seventeenth century, a ‘T. Long of Dorchester’, probably related to the widow of the early sixteenth-century antiquary Ralph Coppinger, owned BodL, MS Laud misc. 581 (Piers Plowman, B Version).

Donated by John Verney, as revealed by a note entered by Edward Smallwell at fol. 1: ‘D. D. Praenobilis Vir Iohannis Peyto Verney Baro Willoughby de Broke, A.D. 1769’ (fol. 1); cf. the 1769 entry in the Donors’ Register, MS LR 1, p. 252ª, recording the gift as ‘Librum MS Chauceri opera, Lidgate et aliorum complectentem’. Manly-Rickert document (1:91) the Verney family’s connection with Winchester College. Verney matriculated at Christ Church in 1755, but took no degree. He was elected MA in 1758, DCL in 1759, and died in 1816, aged 77 (AO mod, 1469). The New Library shelfmark ‘C.6’ appears, in Edward Smallwell’s hand at fol. 1, and in another script at the centre of fol. ii (see Appendix IV).

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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