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

Christ Church MS. 178

French New Testament, ‘version du xiiie siècle’; France (north-east), s. xiii3/4.


Language(s): Old French

1. Fols 1ra-6va

An index to the volume, indicating the contents of each biblical chapter.

In a different hand and format from the main text (item 2), arranged in four columns of 38 lines; the leaves, thought, are ruled in blue like the main part of the manuscript. Text finishes at l. 15 of fol. 6va and the rest of the folio is blank.

2. Fols 7ra-133vb
Rubric: [in gold in the top bar of the initial] MATHEVS
Rubric: Ci commence matheu li euangelistes
Incipit: Li liures de la generacion ihesu crist fuilz dauid fuilz abraham
Explicit: Sire ihesu criz ge uieng la grace de nostre seingneur soit o uos touz Amen Ci fine lapocalypse Amen
New Testament in Old French, ‘version du xiiiᵉ siècle’

Unprinted, described Samuel Berger, La Bible française au moyen âge (Paris, 1884), 109–56 and, with important revisions, Clive R. Sneddon, ‘The “Bible du XIIIᵉ siècle”: its Medieval Public in the Light of its Manuscript Tradition’ in W. Lourdaux and D. Verhelst ed., The Bible and Medieval Culture, (Louvain, 1979), 127–40. The gospels from this version ed. Sneddon, ‘A critical edition of the four gospels in the thirteenth-century Old French translation of the Bible’, 2 vols (unpublished Oxford University D.Phil. thesis, 1978). See further Sneddon (1979:128 n2) for other portions ed. in Ghent dissertations; W. Decoo, ‘La Bible du XIIIᵉ siècle et l’Evangile selon Marc. Remarques critiques’, Romanica Gandensia, 12 (1969), 53–65; and Michel Quereuil, La Bible française du XIIIe siècle. Edition critique. La Genèse (Geneva, 1988). Sneddon describes our manuscript, 1:191–94, and Berger also discusses it, 413–14.

The text is a full representation of the New Testament, though, rather than being a strict translation of the Vulgate, it includes gloss materials, e.g. the rendition of Luke 14:27 (fol. 45rb): ‘Et cil qui ne porte sa croiz et uenient apres moi ne puet estre mon deciple ce est a dire cil qui ne fet peneance et ne fet bonnes oeures ne puet estre mon deciple’. It presents the books in the usual order, and includes, starting with Romans, translations of Ker’s usual set of prologues (MMBL, 1:96–97), in a version, according to Sneddon (1978), unique to this codex. The prologue to I Timothy has been repeated before II Timothy, and thereafter the prologues follow the epistles they should introduce. The disposition of the unique prologues, following the actual texts, strongly implies that they were being intercalated into this copy from a source alien to the text proper. The text lacks the end of Jude and the start of Apocalypse, owing to a removed leaf.

The arrangement of the contents is thus: [fol. 7ra-22rb] Matthew, [fol. 22va-33vb] Mark, [fol. 33vb-52rb] Luke, [fol. 52rb-66vb] John, [fol. 66vb] ‘Li Romani sont...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 677), [fol. 67ra-73ra] Romans, [fol. 73ra-rb] ‘Li chorintien sont...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 685), [fol. 73rb-79rb] I Corinthians, fol. 79rb] ‘Pres ce que li corinthien...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 699), [fol. 79va-83va] II Corinthians, [fol. 83va-vb] ‘Li galathien sont...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 707), [fol. 83vb-85vb] Galatians, [fol. 85vb] ‘Li ephesien sont...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 715), [fol. 85vb-88ra] Ephesians, [fol. 88ra] ‘Li philippensien sont...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 728), [fol. 88ra-89va] Philippians, [fol. 89va] ‘Li colocensien autre...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 736), [fol. 89va-91ra] Colossians, [fol. 91ra] ‘Li thessalonicensien sont...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 747), [fol. 91ra-92va] I Thessalonians, [fol. 92va] ‘Aus thessalonicensiens escrit...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 752), [fol. 92va-93rb] II Thessalonians, [fol. 93rb] ‘Li apostres endoctrine...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 765), [fol. 93rb-95ra] I Timothy, [fol. 95ra] ‘Li apostres endoctrine...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 765), [fol. 95ra-96rb] II Timothy, [fol. 96rb] ‘Sainz Pouls escrit...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 772), [fol. 96va-97rb] Titus, [fol. 97rb] ‘Li apostres amonneste...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 780), [fol. 97rb-vb] Philemon, [fol. 97vb] ‘Li apostres fet letres...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 783), [fol. 97vb-102va] Hebrews, [fol. 102va-vb] ‘Nos devons dire...’ (cf. Stegmüller, Bibl. 793), [fol. 102vb-119va] Acts, [fol. 119va-126vb] Catholic Epistles, ending imperfectly at v.5 of Jude¦¦ [fol. 127ra-133vb] Apocalypse, acephalous, opening at 2:12.

Although only the New Testament, the manuscript is most likely not part of a two-volume set, since, in two-volume format, this Bible version usually is split at Proverbs; at least one other example of an independent New Testament is known. That said, as Berger points out (119), manuscripts like this one often accompany, as a second part, the Old Testament portions of Guiart des Moulins’s Bible historiale. However, Sneddon’s extensive researches have not discovered any companion volume for ours. Sneddon considers this manuscript with three others to represent the earliest recension of the translation, which he proposes has was made ‘as a result of royal interest’, may have been composed in Orleans but, by 1260, was more widely available: id., ‘Pour l’édition critique de la Bible française du XIIIe siècle’ in Lino Leonardi ed., La Bibbia in italiano tra Medioevo e Rinascimento (Florence, 1998), pp. 229–246; ‘On the creation of the Old French Bible’, Nottingham Medieval Studies,xlvi (2002), 25–44, and ‘The Old French Bible’ in Susan Boynton and Diane J. Reilly ed., The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception, and Performance in Western Christianity (New York: Columbia University Press, 2011), 296–314.

Two early readers leave their mark in this manuscript; one regularly adds a descending horizontal manicula in both the contents list and the main text (fol. 1–2, 8v, 9, 11, 13v, 15v (with words), 16, 18v (with words), 23, 23v, 25v, 26v-30, 31 (word only), 39v, 41, 43–47v, 54, 101). Another reader intervenes only twice, later in the volume (fol. 127, 128v).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Il auint
Secundo Folio: ame fill (fol. 8)
Form: codex
Support: Parchment (FSOS)
Extent: Fols: i + 133 + i (numbered fol. 134)
Dimensions (leaf): 350 × 270 mm.


16 2–168 176 (+1, the last added as fol. 133, with its conjoint stub wrapped around first leaf of the quire). No catchwords; two surviving signatures, in an informal hand, ‘b iiij’ on fol. 98, ‘e iiij’ on fol. 122.


In double columns, each column 244 × 85–87 mm. , with 13mm between columns, in 42–44 lines to the column.

Some signs of prick-holes at very bottom of the folio in line with the vertical borders, but no signs of pricking in outer or upper margins; bounded and ruled in blue ink, with an extra set of tram-lines 20mm above the top of the written space (for running titles), another set 50mm below the bottom (left blank), and another 28mm from the outer edge of the written space (also left blank).


Written in gothic textura quadrata.

Punctuation by point and punctus elevatus.


Headings in red. Each book introduced by a large (variously sized) historiated initial, that for Matthew (fol. 7ra) most extensive, sixteen lines, a Jesse tree rising from the slumbering Adam, with the Virgin in the centre, in the four shoots David, Solomon, Joseph, and Jacob, surmounted by Christ in majesty holding the open book; the initial itself a champe type, extended into a blue and violet bar in the upper margin with ‘Mathevs’ in gold leaf. The subjects of the initials opening the other books are:

  • Fol. 22va: John the Baptist standing on the River Jordan preaching to a seated crowd (Mark 1:4–5).
  • Fol. 33vb: Angel appearing to Zacharias, before an altar
  • Fol. 52rb: John the Evangelist seated and writing at a lectern
  • Fol. 67ra: bearded Paul seated at a writing stand
  • Fol. 73rb: ‘P’ divided into two images, above the bar a bald Paul with upright sword preaching to a crowd, and below the bar, Paul baptizing a naked man in a small red font
  • Fol. 79va: at centre, a seated Paul with upright sword surrounded by four full and two half roundels, depicting scenes of him in discussion
  • Fol. 83vb: a similar set of roundels to previous
  • Fol. 85vb: divided horizontally into two scenes, the upper twice showing bald Paul with upright sword with the apostles, and the lower twice showing Paul in a similar attitude but preaching before seated men
  • Fol. 88ra: bearded Paul with upright sword surrounded by men, including (incongruously) a bishop
  • Fol. 89va: a seated Paul writing, with on-lookers (drollery in bottom margin)
  • Fol. 91ra: similar to previous
  • Fol. 92va: two roundels of Paul with upright sword in discussion, with a third roundel placed behind those depicting twice a seated Paul writing at a desk
  • Fol. 93rb: a seated Paul writing, with on-lookers (drollery in bottom margin)
  • Fol. 95ra: two roundels of Paul with upright sword in discussion, upper one with a scroll (‘s. pol la seconde’) and two half roundels of seated Paul writing at a desk
  • Fol. 96va: similar to previous
  • Fol. 97rb: Paul seated at a writing stand, with a group of on-lookers
  • Fol. 97vb: two roundels, one above the other, the top having Paul seated at a desk, the bottom him preaching, with a third roundel placed behind them depicting Paul with his upright sword and a listening crowd
  • Fol. 102vb: rectangle full column width with four roundels (the Last Supper, showing Christ with eight men behind the dinner table; the Ascension; Pentecost, with the Holy Spirit taking the form of an eagle; St Peter with his key in discussion) above the historiated initial with two scenes of St Peter
  • Fol. 119va (James): a strip with three roundels of James preaching
  • Fol. 121rb (I Peter): ‘P’ divided into three sections, each showing a seated Peter preaching (with drollery in bottom margin)
  • Fol. 123rb (II Peter): Peter with his key preaching
  • Fol. 124va (I John): John, with open book, preaching
  • Fol. 126rb (II John): two images of John, the upper showing him seated at a writing stand with on-lookers and the lower him preaching with an open book
  • Fol. 126va (III John): similar to previous.
  • At fol. 126vb, Jude opens with no image and that for Apocalypse is lost through removal of the leaf.

In the first three gospels and after quire 11, chapters introduced by in-column roman numerals in alternate red and blue and two-line blue lombards with red flourishing with an extended red and blue bar for much of the column. The text is divided by red-slashed capitals. Running titles in large lombards, alternate red and blue, with flourishing in both colours.

From John 2 to Ephesians 4 (fols 53–86, the last two leaves of quire 7 to quire 11), each chapter has an historiated initial, with summary narrative images, usually three or four of them in boxes, circles, or lozenges; these intermittently, again probably on a quire basis, are supplemented with animals, centaurs, monsters, knights, etc. in the lower margin – and these drolleries continue after illumination of chapter openings ceases, e.g. an archer shooting a man in the arse (fol. 91ra, cf. fol. 121rb ), a man preparing to slaughter an ox (fol. 93rb), a lion attacking a stag (fol. 95ra). Sneddon (1978:192) identifies the atelier responsible for the illumination with the one which decorated another copy of this text, Bern: Burgerbibliothek, MS 28. In contrast, Doris Oltrogge, Die Illustrationszyklen zur ‘Histoire ancienne jusqu’à César’ (1250–1400) (Frankfurt am Main, 1989), 16 suggests that the illuminations are related to three copies of the Historie and one further manuscript, the four being The Hague: Koninklijke Bibliotheek, MS 78 D 47; London: BL, MS Add. 19669; Pommersfelden: Gräflich Schönborn’sche Schlossbibliothek, MS 295, and Paris: BnF, MS nouv. acq. fran. 23686. She suggests all come from Lille in the third quarter of the thirteenth century, an attribution accepted by Elizabeth Morrison et al. ed., Imagining the Past in France(Los Angeles CA, 2010), 101, though it is also noted there that François Avril has made the alternative suggestion of Soissons / Compiègne as the location of the workshop. Alison Stones, A Survey of Manuscripts Illuminated in France. Gothic Manuscripts 1260–1320, 2 parts in 4 vols (London, 2013–14), ii/2:127 (note 3) rejects the association with the Bern manuscript and suggests the date of the illumination must be c. 1270 at the latest. See AT no. 672 (67) – they place production at Paris, s. xiii3/4 – and plate xl (fols 7ra and 79va).


Plain brown leather over millboards, with a thin gold stamped fillet, early s. xvii. Sewn on six thongs. On a red leather tab in the top spine compartment in gilt ‘Novve. Testa.’. Nails (17mm apart) and staining from a chain staple in Watson’s position 4 (see provenance). Nailholes on the back pastedown (but not in the lower board), apparently for the seatings of two straps, implying an earlier French binding running from the lower to the upper board. Edges red speckled. The front pastedown is old parchment, conjoint with the front flyleaf fol. i (manuscript waste, with bounds and rules in reddish brown ink for a text in double columns), with a ChCh bookplate.

Accompanying Material

The rear pastedown and rear flyleaf (fol. 134) are a bifolium formed by binding in sideways, with both head and tail at the leading edge, part of a Latin document, recording an arbitration agreement to be enforced by an unnamed archbishop of Lyons in the jurisdiction of Mâcon (in French secretary, s. xv med.)


Origin: France (north-east); s. xiii3/4

Provenance and Acquisition

Extensive indications of late medieval and early modern ownership and use in France, primarily in or near Mâcon: see not only (a) the document forming the rear flyleaf and pastedown but also (b) the motto ‘A triste [a heart] Ioye desplaict’ (read by AT as a name ‘Jove Desplacet’) (fol. 1, s. xvi); (c) beneath a shield with a growing oak and acorn, ‘Hane..‘ (fol. 1, s. xv) and the note ‘Le penultime jour de octobre l’an mil cinq cens quarante quatre je Sebastien Tixier clerc de greffe au baillis t(er)re de Mascon ayt escript ce que dessus en la ville de Treffort en Bresse estant illec venu pour les affaires de messire Jehan Hanel avec Maistre Pierre Gras, chorial en lesglise Cathedral sainct Vincent de Mascon’ (fol. 1, as recorded by Sneddon; Treffort-Cuisiat is about 35 miles east of Mâcon); (d) the ‘Hane..‘ inscription has been altered and extended to ‘Iehan baptiste deforest’, and ‘1431 Valois’ added beneath (fol. 1, s. xvii).

The manuscript was given to ChCh in 1692, by Moses Le Cartier. Of French origin, he was ordained into the Church of England in 1686, in which year he also became chaplain of Christ Church and was awarded an MA by a decree of Convocation in 1686 (AO, 245). He held the chaplaincy until 1695, when he became rector of Shellingford (then Berks, now Oxon) until his death in October 1736. Among his correspondents were the bibliographers Edward Bernard and Thomas Smith, with both of whom he discussed manuscripts: see the Early Modern Letters and Clergy of the Church of England databases [both accessed 19th October 2012]. His gift is recorded in the Donors’ Register (MS LR 1), at p. 206ª, and deserves quoting in full:

Ornatissimus Vir| Moses Le Cartier| A. M. et hujus Ædis Capellanus| D.D.|

  • [1] Joh: Potken Cantica & psalterium Æthiopicum Colon: 1518. 4º A confused entry: the volume Potken published in Cologne in 1518 was actually a quadrilingual Psalter, not an edition of the Ethopian Psalter; the gift is probably to be equated with the copy of the Rome, 1513 printing which now has the shelfmark MB.5.24; it has no internal evidence of ownership but its binding of brown leather over boards with florid centrepiece is probably French (s. xvii) and has a fore-edge shelfmark, not from ChCh, of ‘A.78’.
  • [2] Censura Paraenetica in 4r libros de Repub. Ecclesiastica M. Ant: de Dominis Aut: R:D: Zacharia Boverio Mediol 1621 fo. Not present.
  • [3] Novum Testamentum Gallice MS. valde Antiquum in quo multa textui inserta reperiuntur Our manuscript.
  • [4] Matthæi Cantacuzeni in Canticum Canticorum Expositio Gr: Lat: Inteprete Vincentio Riccardo cum notis ejusdem fo: Rom. 1624 NE.3.7, with no sign of provenance and in a plain leather binding (s. xviiin) with print scraps as binding strips; signs of a chain-staple in Watson’s position 4 (nails 12mm apart).
  • [5] D. D. Didaci del Castillo Commentarij in Cap: 28 Exodi fo. Antw. 1663 Hyp.O.92, in a plain leather binding (s. xvii), with printed sheets of J. C. Scaliger’s De subtilitate used as flyleaves.
  • [6] Gulielmi de Sancto Amore opera 4º Hyp.O.58, a copy of the Constance 1632 edition, with on the title-page the handwritten inscription ‘Ce livre Est a Daniel Dumonstier avant este donne par monsieur de Revel mon bon amy’; Dumonstier was presumably the artist (1574–1646) famous for his crayon drawings, whose books were sold at auction on his death; the limp leather binding has at top right of the front turn-in a deleted note of ‘10 shellings’.
  • [7] Opera Balthasar: Paes 2 vol. fo. Not present (there is only one volume of the works of Paez in ChCh, his Commentarii in Epistolam B. Iacobi Apostili (Lyons, 1617), Hyp.P.45, in a plain leather binding (s. xviiin?), with binding strips from an English notarial document (s. xv), and with no sign of provenance).
  • [8] Bibliotheca Classica Geor: Drautij 4º. This and the next either a.1.320 (Frankfurt, 1610 and 1611 printings, in a dark leather binding with holes of a chain-staple at Watson’s position 5) or a.1.315 (both printed in Frankfurt in 1625, in a suede binding with marks of three chain-staples, one at Watson’s position 6 and two at Watson’s position 4).
  • [9] Bibliotheca Exotica. 4º. See above.

The lack of internal evidence in most of these volumes does not allow us to reconstruct fully Cartier’s collecting of books, though it is clear that he came to England with some in his possession, including our manuscript. There is one detail which may be significant: two of the printed books ([4] and [8], if the latter is a.1.315) share with our manuscript signs of a chain-staple, all of them in the same position. As that position is unusual for Christ Church (and, anyway, by the time of donation, manuscripts were no longer chained: see Appendix I), it is likely that those two printed books and our manuscript reached Cartier from the same chained French library.

The manuscript includes, in Edward Smallwell’s hand, the New Library shelfmark ‘E.6’ at top left of the front pastedown and top right of fol. 1 (see Appendix IV). While this demonstrates it was placed in the Archives when the building in Peckwater Quad opened, in the later nineteenth century, it (along with MSS 92 and 101) was displayed in a glass cabinet in the Upper Library: Thompson, 247. Interest in it was also shown by Thomas Vere Bayne, librarian from 1872 to 1899, who is responsible for the slip of paper which sits between fol. 126 and 127 and has the note: ‘Here a leaf has been cut out, probably for the sake of the Illumination at the beginning of the Apocalypse. T.V.B.’ (on him as an ‘administrator extraordinary’ see Curthoys, 272).

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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