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

MS. Digby 102

Summary Catalogue no.: 1703

Poetic miscellany including Piers Plowman (C text) and the ‘Digby poems’

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: ii (modern parchment) + ii (medieval endleaves) + 142 + ii (modern parchment) leaves
Dimensions (leaf): 220 × 155 mm.
Foliation: Modern foliation: i–iv, 1-96, 97a, 97b, 98–143.


two, [2 quires lacking], 3–68, 74 (lacks 4), 8–148, 158 (lacks 7), 16–208, 214. Catchwords appear on all quires except the last quire (15) of Piers Plowman and at the end of the volume.


Ruled in pencil. Written in 30–40 long lines, ruled space 190 × 150 mm.


Horobin (2010) argues that the manuscript is the work of a single scribe working over several stints, ‘a clerk working for the Brewers’ Guild during the opening decades of the fifteenth century.’


Standard Digby binding (Delisle type I). Clasps missing.

Decorated with Digby’s arms, surrounded by wreath, with legend ‘INSIGNIA KENELMI DIGBY EQVITIS AVRATI ✠’.


Origin: 15th century, second quarter ; English, London

Provenance and Acquisition

Pen trials, early 16th century (fol. iii recto).

Rebus, ‘R A E O’ (?) and ‘I’ (?) (fols. 97v, 139v); ‘R’ (fol. 128r), 16th century?

Thomas Allen; Allen/Digby inventory ‘A·139’ (fol. 1r).

Kenelm Digby (inscribed, fol. 1r).

Donated to the Bodleian, 1634.

MS. Digby 102, fols. 1–97b


Language(s): Middle English with Latin

(fols. 1r–97v)
William Langland, Piers Plowman (C text)
Incipit: ||of notaries/ To fette fauel forth · floreynes ynowe/
Final rubric: Explicit etc.

Begins at Passus II, line 159.

DIMEV 2460
(fol. 97b r–v)


Physical Description


Initials in blue, flourished with red penwork.

Rubricated; verse divisions marked in red. Stanzas separated with paraphs alternating between blue and red.

MS. Digby 102, fols. 98–141


Language(s): Middle English with Latin

(fols. 98r–127v)
Collection of religious and satirical lyrics, known as the ‘Digby Poems’

Barr, The Digby Poems (Exeter, 2009) and Verheij (2012) argue for a single author of fols. 98r–127v as ‘a Westminster Benedictine monk, not a member of parliament but a royal Chancery clerk’.

1. (fols. 98r–99v)
Rubric: Loue god & drede
Incipit: Eche man be war that bereth astate
DIMEV 1159
2. (fols. 99v–100r)
A dialogue between a soldier and a courtier
Rubric: Mede & muche thank
Incipit: In blossemed buske I bode boote
DIMEV 2483
3. (fols. 100r–101v)
Rubric: Treuth reste and pes
Incipit: For drede ofte my lippes y steke
DIMEV 1344
4. (fols. 101v–103v)
Rubric: Lerne say wele say litel or say noȝt
Incipit: As þe see doþ ebbe and flowe
5. (fols. 103v–104r)
Rubric: Wyt & Wylle
Incipit: Man be war of wikkid counsaile
DIMEV 3342
6. (fols. 104r–104v)
Satirical injunctions on the evil life
Rubric: To lyf bodyly is perylous.
Incipit: Lerne bodyly to lyue
DIMEV 3041
7. (fol. 104v)
Rubric: Man know þy self and lerne to dye
Incipit: Mannys soule is sotyl and queynt
DIMEV 3397
8. (fols. 105v–106r)
Rubric: A good makynge of iour delaye
Incipit: Man haue hit in þy þouȝt
DIMEV 3351
9. (fols. 106v–108r)
Rubric: With god of loue & pes ȝe trete
Incipit: This holy tyme make ȝow clene
DIMEV 5699
10. (fol. 108r)
Rubric: A good steryng to heuenwarde
Incipit: Many man is loþ to here
DIMEV 3401
11. (fol. 109v)
Rubric: God & man ben made atte on
Incipit: Glade in God þis solempne fest
DIMEV 1514
12. (fols. 110v–111v)
Rubric: God kepe oure Kyng and saue the Croune
Incipit: Glade in God, calle hom ȝoure herte
DIMEV 1513
13. (fols. 111v–113r)
Exhortation to the rulers of England
Rubric: Dede is worchyng.
Incipit: Whanne alle a kyngdom gadrid ysse
DIMEV 6268
14. (fols. 113r–114r)
Rubric: Man bewarre er the be woo
Incipit: The herrere degre þe more wys
DIMEV 5330
15. (fol. 114r)
The State compared to man's body
Rubric: The descryuyng of mannes membres
Incipit: Where of is mad al mankynde
DIMEV 6505
16. (fols. 115r–116r)
The follies of the duke of Burgundy
Rubric: A remembraunce of lij folyes
Incipit: Loke how Flaundres doþ fare wiþ his folyhede
DIMEV 3175
17. (fols. 116r–117v)
Rubric: Loue þat god loueth
Incipit: That ilke man wole lerne wel
DIMEV 5146
18. (fol. 117v)
Rubric: The declaryng of Religioun
Incipit: Who þat wole knowe condicion
DIMEV 6577
19. (fols. 119v–120r)
God's Appeal to Man
Incipit: In my conscience I fynde
DIMEV 2547
20. (fols. 120r–121v)
The Complaint of Man's Flesh against Christ
Incipit: The tixt of holy writ men sayn
DIMEV 5498
21. (fols. 121v–123r)
Rubric: A lernyng to good leuynge
Incipit: Pore of spirit blessed be
DIMEV 4387
22. (fols. 123r–123v)
Rubric: Knowe thy self & thy god
Incipit: Thenke hertely in þy þouȝt
DIMEV 5634
23. (fol. 123v–124v)
Rubric: Of the sacrament of the Altere
Incipit: I wole be mendid ȝif y say mys
DIMEV 2314
24. (fols. 124v–127v)
Rubric: The Lessouns of the Dirige
Incipit: Almyȝty God Lord me spare
(fols. 128r–136r)
Richard Maidstone (attrib.), Paraphrase of the penitential psalms
Rubric: Septem psalmi etc.
Incipit: ‘Domine ne in furore tuo arguas me neque in ira tua corripias me/’ Lord in þyn angur vbbraide me nouȝt/ And in þy wratthe þou blame not me
Explicit: Into heuene kyngdom me resseyuen/ This graunte me god in persones þre. Amen.
Final rubric: Expliciunt septem psalmi.
DIMEV 3207
(fols. 136r–139v)
Rubric: Disputacio inter corpus et animam
Incipit: As I lay in a wynter nyȝt/ in a derkyng bifore þe day
Final rubric: Explicit disputacio inter corpus et animam.

Later addition, written in different ink and with a separate decoration scheme.

(fol. 139v)

Added note on the afterlife

Incipit: Proditus et in inferno sepultus cum demonibus areptus illis
Language(s): Latin
(fol. 140r)

Pen trials

(fol. 140v)

Added medical notes

Incipit: Species crocii et virtutes sunt hee
Language(s): Latin
(fol. 141r)

Pen trials

Physical Description


Initials in blue, flourished with red penwork. From fol. 136r onwards the initials are outlined in black ink.

Rubricated; verse divisions marked in red.

From fol. 136r onwards new psalm verses begin with a red initial.

Additional Information

Record Sources

Description by Andrew Dunning (November 2021). Previously described in the Quarto Catalogue (W. D. Macray, Bodleian Library Quarto Catalogues IX: Digby Manuscripts, repr. with addenda by R. W. Hunt and A. G. Watson, 1999).

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (1 image from 35mm slides)


Last Substantive Revision

2021-11-30: Andrew Dunning Revised with consultation of original.