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

Christ Church MS. 88

Augustine, Homilies on John; England (Buildwas), 1167


Language(s): Latin

1. Fol. iv
Rubric: Hic notantur initia euuangeliorum secundum iohannem que leguntur in ecclesia per annum ut expositiones eorum facile inueniri possint in hoc uolumine...

Added s. xiii in., not precisely a table of contents (as Sheppard has it) but a concordance of episodes in the Gospels, with the number of relevant homily written in red in the margin.

Fol. 1r: blank.

2. Fols 1v-172ra
Rubric: Aurelii Avgustini doctoris hiponiensis episcopi omelie in ewangelium domini ihesv secundum iohannem quas ipse colloquendo prius ad populum habvit et inter loquendum a notariis ^uel ex^ acceptas eo quo habite sunt ordine verbum ex verbo postea dictavit
Incipit: || [fol. 2ra] lite esse tenebrę nolite esse infideles iniqui rapaces auari amatores seculi
Explicit: euangelista terminante euangelium suum eciam ipse compellerer meum terminare sermonem
Final rubric: Expliciunt omelie sancti augustini yponiensis æpiscopi in euangelium ihesu cristi secundum iohannem euangelistam
Augustine, In Iohannis Evangelium Tractatus CXXIV

CPL 278, ed. Radbod Willems, CC 36 (1954), 22-688. Fol. 1v is reserved for the ex-libris and the extended decorative heading (see textual presentation). The text begins at fol. 2 (the conjoint of fol. 1) but in medias res: the first surviving words follow six lost leaves and occur in 3.5/5; also absent are 48.9/22--77.1/16 (417-520); and 102.3/2--104.2/23 (595-602), owing to lost leaves after fol. 122 and fol. 145.

3. Fol. 172ra
Incipit: Augustinus. Cotidie eucaristię comunionem accipere nec laudo nec uitupero. Omnibus tamen dominicis diebus comunicandum hortor. Si autem mens in affectu peccandi est magis grauari dico sacre communionis perceptione quam purificari.
Gennadius of Marseilles, Liber siue diffinitio ecclesiasticorum dogmatum (extract)

CPL 958, ed. C. H. Turner, ‘The Liber Ecclesiasticorum Dogmatum attributed to Gennadius’, Journal of Theological Studies,7 (1906), 78-99 at 94 (par. 22/1-5) (corresponding to par. 53 atPL 42:1217). The text here may more closely resemble the quotation version from Ivo of Chartres, Decretum 2.25 (PL 161:166) or Panormia 1.149 (PL 161:1079).

4. Fol. 172ra-vb
Rubric: Sermo sancti Augustini episcopi de lazaro quatriduano secundum iohannem.
Incipit: Licet omnes uirtutes quas in terris dei filius maiestatem suam proditurus impleuit
Explicit: Et ne quid quisquam deesse diceret resurgenti presentibus cunctis agit gratias Redemptorj.
Ps.-Augustine, appendix sermo 96

CPL 284 (=Ps.-Augustine, Sermones), ed. PL 39:1929-31.

The whole manuscript has been previously described, Sheppard 1997, 1-5, with three reproductions, figures 1 (fol. 1v), 3 (fol. 65v), and 6 (fol. 77); another reproduction appears as Sheppard 1990, plate 17 (fol. 143v). As a dated book, the manuscript also appears in Watson DMO, no. 760 (126) and plate 75 (fol. 4); and there are two brief discussions in N. R. Ker, English Manuscripts in the Century after the Norman Conquest (Oxford, 1960), 3, 38-39, with another reproduction, plate 17 (fol. 34).

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: lite esse tenebrae
Secundo Folio: qui nati sunt (fol. 3)
Form: codex
Support: Parchment (HSOS)
Extent: Fols: i + 172. The flyleaf is original parchment, as are the pastedowns.
Dimensions (leaf): 410 × 300 mm.


18(-2 to -7) 2-168[lost quires, probably four in number, after fol. 122] 17-188198(-8, after fol. 145) 208(-1, before fol. 146) 21-228234. One surviving catchword, in the gutter along the lower edge (fol. 138v), in an informal protogothic hand, brown ink. No signatures, but the leaves were kept in order by letters at the foot of each page in the inner column ruled for capital letters; in this system, where intact, leaf 1vof each quire = a, leaf 2r= b, etc., running to leaf 8r= o.


Regular signs of full pricking; bounded and ruled in lead and brownish ink.

In double columns, each column 295 × 95 , with 15 mm between columns, in 41 lines to the column, apart from fol. 171v-172v (44 / 43 lines).


Written in protogothic bookhand.

Punctuation by low point, punctus elevatus, and punctus interrogativus.

The scribe of this manuscript has been said to be the ‘Master Scribe’ of the scriptorium at Buildwas in its early years: Jennifer M. Sheppard, ‘The Twelfth Century Library and Scriptorium at Buildwas: Assessing the Evidence’ in Daniel Williams ed., England in the Twelfth Century (Woodbridge, 1990), 193-204 at 198-201, and ead., The Buildwas Books: Book Production, Acquisition and Use at an English Cistercian Monastery, 1165-c. 1400, Oxford Bibliographical Society 3 ser. 2 (Oxford, 1997), 4. She identifies him as the copyist of the final sections of another Buildwas book, Cambridge: Trinity College, MS B.1.3 (Gregory, Homeliæ in Ezechielem), a manuscript in which the opening flyleaves are discarded leaves in a script which Sheppard attributes to the ‘Flyleaf Scribe’ who, she hypothesises, was a fellow pupil of the ‘Master Scribe’. However, though there are similarities between the script here and her ‘Master Scribe’, there are enough differences to query the attribution. The differences are both in letter-forms – there are shared features in thegbut they are formed rather differently, with our scribe placing the lower bowl a little to the right of the upper bowl – and in presentation, with the last scribe of Trinity MS B.13 writing slightly above the line, while our scribe writes on it. Overall, the aspect of the script in this manuscript is more accomplished. Given the near-contemporaneous production of the two volumes, this is unlikely to be a reflection of increasing ability; it may rather be that our scribe was the master to the so-called ‘Master Scribe’ – and to the ‘Flyleaf Scribe’ who, it might be added, is so close in style to the ‘Master’ that the two are surely one. The role of our scribe as overseer would also explain Sheppard’s plausible supposition that our scribe produced not just the initials in this volume but also one in a further Buildwas book, London: Lambeth Palace Library, MS 109, fol. 16 (Gregory, Moralia; reproduced in 1990 as plate 18, and, in 1997, as figure 2, in both instances as from fol. 12).


The main body of the manuscript opens with the decorated title page (fol. 1v), with, at top, the ex-libris in alternate red and black, followed, after four blank lines, with the title in display lombards in alternate blue, red, and green, with a gold bar to the left of the text and a pattern of gold leaf-like swirls to its right, reproduced Sheppard 1990, plate 12. The is preceded by the opening table (fol. iv), with red headings and homily numbers, and alternate red and green lombards for the first letter of each line. For the text pages, headings in red. Five- and six-line arabesque initials at the opening of each homily, in blue, green, red, or gold, very often with black and ochre ink floral infilling (mainly, but not exclusively, in the blue capitals). One of these (fol. 124rb) has been only partly completed, with the penwork but not the ochre wash. Sheppard (1997, 5) believes these executed by the scribe, who also provided one example in another Buildwas book, Lambeth Palace Library, MS 109. The individual homilies are divided into sections by capitals in the text ink placed in a marginal column. Running titles added s. xv at top across the central tramlines give chapters of the gospel treated; at very top right, often cropped, are added, also s. xv, the number of the homily.

See AT no. 64 (10); Christopher de Hamel, A History of Illuminated Manuscripts (Oxford, 1986), plate 85 (fol. 18v, at 92).


Brown leather (turn-in at lower board shows red), comprised of sewn patches (rather than a single skin), over bevelled wooden boards, s. xv. Sewn on five thongs, taken into the board as in Pollard’s Figure 6, with parchment reinforcing pieces visible, one of them with text (s. xv in.). Nailholes on both boards from four corner bosses. On the upper board, the stubs of two red leather straps; a single nail-hole for each at the centre of the lower board from the seatings for the clasps. Marks and nails or holes from three chain staples, in Watson’s positions 1, 2, and 5; only the last of these dates from the manuscript’s time at ChCh (see Appendix I).


Origin: England (Buildwas); 1167

Provenance and Acquisition

The volume was produced for, and belonged to, Buildwas abbey (Salop., OCst): ‘Liber sancte Marie de bildewas scriptus anno ab incarnatione domini MoColxoviio’ (fol. 1v). See further MLGB3 and Registrum, 17, 326 (where this volume is not noted). This is not, as is frequently claimed, ‘the earliest dated English book’; Oxford: St John’s College, MS 17, produced at Thorney (Cambs., OSB), is dated 1110 (fol. 3vb).

There are several signs of readership at Buildwas – and the annotations also suggest a tentative date for its departure from that house. The first reader was the scribe himself who often adds a diagonal stroke surmounted by a loop as a nota-mark next to the text (fol. 4v etc). Soon after him, another reader adds a large ‘Nota’ monogram regularly in the margin (it takes two forms: the first to appear, at fol. 5v etc, is formed around a single vertical line, while the second which first appears at fol. 8v in colour and then fol. 9v in black and is the more frequent is formed around the shape of the ‘N’). A thirteenth-century annotator wrote in plummet which is now so faded that only a very few notes are visible (fol. iv, 34). There is also a nota monogram of the same century (fol. 119v) by another reader. The most copious annotations, however, date from the earlier fifteenth century and were produced, it seems, by two readers. The two sets appear together at fol. 2 and often through the volume; the larger anglicana script came chronologically before the smaller current script that sometimes expands on the annotations (see fol. 41, 103v, 104v, 124). The frequency of annotation signifies renewed interest in the volume – interest which perhaps occurred because the book had left its first home. In this context, one feature of the lower board of the binding is suggestive. At centre right of it, there is a set of small nail-holes forming a rectangle (40 x 65mm: four holes high, five holes across); these were presumably from a lunette provided to cover a title tag. They hint at its presence in an institutional collection, separate from that of Buildwas, which seems not to have had such a system of marking its books. There is substantial other evidence of the abbey allowing volumes out of its ownership: note, for instance, the inclusion of Buildwas manuscripts in the bequests of both Robert Thwaites (d. 1458) and William Gray (d. 1478) to Balliol: MSS 35A and 150 from the former, MSS. 173B and 229 from the latter (Sheppard, 160-65, 109-113, 166-71 and 50-56 respectively).

The first definite indication of a non-abbey provenance is the inscription: ‘ Millesimo Quingentesi T⟨h?⟩ illiams Iohan Er⟨l? ⟩ warde⟨n⟩ ⟨o⟩ur lady of Red ther Resty on the ⟨R? ⟩e ⟨ o⟩v gret and small⟨e ⟩st with [st] cheyll sa’ (the front pastedown, mostly torn away; s. xvi in.). Especially given subsequent ownership, this suggests that the book may have been chained in the parish church of St Mary Redcliffe, Bristol during the sixteenth century.

The volume then passed to George Salteren (or Saltern): ‘Christus non deseret G: Salteren J.C. Bristowensis’ (the front pastedown, s. xvi); he also signed, with the same Latin motto, Edinburgh: National Library of Scotland, MS Advocates 33.4.12 (Ranulph Higden, Polychronicon). He matriculated at Christ Church 1582, aged 14; and was admitted barrister at law at the Middle Temple in 1590 (AO, 1303); he wrote Of the Antient Lawes of Great Britaine (London: John Jaggard, 1605) [STC 21635] and is said to have had a hand in John Clapham’s Historie of England (London: Valentine Simmes, 1602), later re-named Historie of Great Britannie (London: Valentine Simmes, 1606) [STC 5347 & 5348]. A religious tract has also been attributed to him – Sacrae heptades, or Seaven problems concerning Antichrist ([Amsterdam], 1625) [STC 21492] – and ‘George Salteren, Esquire’ appears on the title-page of a later anti-Laudian pamphlet, A Treatise against Images and Pictures in Churches (London: ‘for William Lee’, 1641). Recently, he has been identified of a tragedy, called Tomumbeius, and two poems that survive in one manuscript (Oxford: Bodleian, MS. Rawl. Poet. 75) and which have been edited on-line by Roberta Barker (spelling his surname Salterne) on the Philological Museum website [accessed 17th January 2013]. The dating of the text to Elizabeth’s reign allows the possibility that Salteren participated in the culture of Latin drama that was active at Christ Church in the last decades of the sixteenth century (see our MS 486).

Salteren gave the book to ChCh: ‘Ex dono Georgij Salteren J:C Bristowensis quondam huius Ædis Commensalis’ (fol. 1). Noted in the Donors’ Register, MS LR 1, p. 60b for 1621: ‘Liber sanctae Mariae de Bilde scriptus ab Incarnatione Domini nostri 1160 anno’. At the same time, Salteren also presented ‘La Sancte Bible duobus voluminibus fol. A. Lion 1566’; those volumes are still in situ (shelfmarks: NA.1.6 and 7, each having the note of Salteren’s donation on the first page).

At the front pastedown, the volume bears two ChCh shelfmarks: at very left, ‘C.2’, equating with its entry in the 1676 Catalogue (see Appendix I), is present but overwritten to read ‘E.3’, its placing in the New Library Catalogue (see Appendix IV); that shelfmark is entered again to the first note’s right.

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.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)