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

Christ Church MS. 507

Ovid, Heroides; Italy (?Veneto or Milan), s. xiv2.


Language(s): Latin

Fol. 1r: blank, apart from a title to the following notarial document and some later doodled faces (the whole rubbed): ‘Inuestitura dominarum Mon’ noui facta m’ thomasinum et gaspereolum fratres de Ruyno’.

1. Fol. 1v

The opening part of a notarial document from Milan, dated 1363, the other part provided at fol. 50v. The text concerns bits of property apparently to be used to support a new nunnery in the ‘porta Vercellina’, with subscriptions by ‘Egidiolus natus domini Pasini de serono’ and ‘Vpoforus natus condam domini Alcherij de .uaschis’, the latter the notary who wrote the text.

Written in cancelleresca, s. xiv3/4. The document is mounted sideways with its head in the gutter and with notes written over the original.

2. Fols 2–49v
Rubric: [two-word heading added later] ^penelope vlixi^
Incipit: Hanc tua penelope lento tibi mittit ulixes | Nil michi rescribas
Explicit: uirginis annis | Quos uereor paucos non uelit esse michi | D.G.A. [ie Deo Gratias Ago?]
Ovid, Heroides

Ending, as do most copies, at 21.14, ed. Heinrich Dörrie (Berlin, 1971), 47–275. This copy, as a great many others, lacks (fol. 30v) epistle 15 (Sappho to Phaon); cf. Dörrie’s list of MSS with this letter (297–304). For the potential contribution of the manuscript to study of Ovid’s text, see Owen, ‘Manuscript of Heroides’. Six lines blank at the foot of fol. 49v.

Fol. 50r: originally blank.

Fol. 50v: lower part of the 1363 document.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Scirem (fol. 3)
Form: codex
Support: Parchment (FSOS)
Extent: Fols: iii (numbered fols i-ii, 1) + 48 (numbered fols 2–49) + iii (numbered fols 50–52). Fol. ii and 51 have stuck to them the remains of the medieval pastedowns; fol. 1r and 50r have the text of a legal document reused as a wrapper to the main text.
Dimensions (leaf): 255 × 175 mm.
Dimensions (written): 188 × 120 mm.


1–68. Catchwords centred within dots or lines ending in dots. All leaves in the first half of each quire originally signed, but nearly all cut away; surviving are ‘b i-iiii’ in quire 2, ‘c iiii’ (fol. 21), and parts of ‘e’ on several leaves in quire 4.


In long lines, 36 lines to the page.

No signs of pricking; bounded and ruled in brown crayon and rusty brown ink.


Written in Italian gothic textura rotunda, in the main a single scribe but odd leaves in the first and last quires look as if in another hand or style.

Punctuation by virgula for midline pauses, a triple point at the end of each couplet.

S. G. Owen, the early twentieth-century owner of the manuscript (see provenance), sought the advice of the palaeographer E. A. Lowe about its origins; the latter’s letter in response, dated 9 December 1929, is kept at the front of the volume; in it, he suggests ‘the curious errors of spelling make one think of the province of Venice. It is quite likely it was written in the Veneto, and then migrated to the province of Lombardia’. The supposition of a Veneto origin was repeated by Owen himself in print (‘A Manuscript of Ovid’s Heroides’, Classical Quarterly, 30 (1936), 155–69 and 31 (1937), 1–15, with discussion at very first page). The provenance of the illumination, however, may equally suggest that the manuscript was manufactured in Milan, with the scribe either being from the Veneto or working from a prototype from that area.

The manuscript has been previously described: Ker MMBL, 3:607–8.


At the opening of the text (fol. 1), a ten-line champe, violet with gold leaf, historiated with a turbaned Penelope, and blue and red ribbon-like border extenders; at the page foot, an unfilled blank for a blazon. Tilly de la Mare informed Ker (608 n1) that the decoration is Milanese. At the opening of each epistle, two-line red lombards. Capitals at the opening of each line set off in a separate column. AT no. 994 (103), identifies the initial as Milanese but suggests it was added, s. xv2/4, a date which is surely too late.


Red leather over millboards with a triple fillet in gilt, by Zaehnsdorf of Bermondsey, provided for its late nineteenth-century owner, Henry White of Kensington (see provenance), s. xix2. Sewn on five thongs. In gilt in the spine compartments, ‘Ovidii Heroides M.S. in membranis sec. xiv’. Pastedowns and endleaves (fol. i and 52) modern parchment, a ChCh bookplate on the front pastedown. The former medieval pastedowns, on paper, are pasted to paper flyleaves (fol. ii and 51).


Origin: Italy (?Veneto or Milan); s. xiv2

Provenance and Acquisition

There is on the former pastedowns an extensive series of inscriptions indicating use of the manuscript as a school text in northern Lombardy in the fifteenth century: (a) ‘Iste liber ouidi est nostrorum videlicet petri Antonii filiorum domini Iohannis de Nailate pergentium ad scolas Bertrami da Lucino qui est bonus doctor in sua grammatica’ (fol. iiv, s. xv; Piero signs again several times on the same folio); (b) ‘Iste ouidius est mei francisi Iohannis et donati filiorum antonii de naylate qui pergunt ad scolas domini magistri georgij de erba qui est bonus doctor in sua gramatica et in ?allis scienciis’ (fol. 51); (c) ‘Ego simon de n..... de superiori sum bonus ... xvj. menssis februarij Mcccclvj.’ (fol. iiv); (d) ‘Iste liber est mei franci\s/cus [sic] de remondis qui pergit at scolas domini magistri teodori de lucino qui est bonus doctor . . .’ (several times, in one form or another, on fol. 50, ? s. xv); this last probably the annotator the volume, adding the titles to each epistle and regularly marking ‘nota’ in the margin, as well was making rhetorical figures at fol. 38 (Anostropha | Repetitio vel anaphora ...). The loconyms of the teachers (Lucino, Erba) suggest the presence of the manuscript in or around Como. Ker (608 n2) notes the existence of a Theodore Lucinus Comensis, who wrote a grammar, Moralium dictorum isagogicus libellus ([Ferrara: Andreas Belfortis, c. 1493]; ISTC, no. il00332800); he taught in Como and has been tentatively identified as the first schoolmaster of Paolo Giovio: see T. C. Price Zimmermann, Paolo Giovio: the historian and the crisis of sixteenth-century Italy(Princeton, NJ, 1995), 6.

The manuscript was still in Italy in the eighteenth-century when a reader, in the volgare , notes a textual irregularity (fol. 33). It moved – perhaps in the Napoleonic period – to France in the mid-nineteenth century: it was sold as the property of the Cambrai printer Armand-François Hurez on 12 February 1856, as lot 13 (Schoenberg 76097). It appeared again at sale in Paris six years later (Schoenberg 93472) but then crossed the Channel, being auctioned in Sotheby’s rooms on 29 June 1865 (Schoenberg 65020), as lot 64. It was subsequently sold by Sotheby’s as lot 1629 in the sale of Henry White’s books which began on 21 April 1902 (Schoenberg 9082); according to the marked-up copy in the Bodleian, it was sold for £4 18s to Slatter and Rose. It was presumably from that Oxford bookseller that it was purchased by S[idney] G[eorge] Owen (‘Manuscript of Heroides’ (1936), 155), who bequeathed it to ChCh. Owen, born in 1858, matriculated at Balliol in 1877; he received his BA in 1882 (with two prizes) and his MA in 1886. He was elected Student and Tutor in Classics at Christ Church in 1891 and served until his retirement in 1927. He was an important editor of poetic texts, of Catullus (1893), of Juvenal (whom he also translated, 1902), and of Ovid’s Tristia (1915; see the next MS). He died in 1940 aged 81.

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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