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

MS. Digby 145

Summary Catalogue no.: 1746


Language(s): Middle English

1. (fols. 2r-130r)
William Langland, Piers Plowman
Rubric: Primus passus de visione Petri Plowghman
Incipit: In a somer season whan soft was the sone | I schope me into schrubbes as I a schepe were
Explicit: And send me happe & heale til I haue pers plowman | And sith I grad after grace til I gan awake
Final rubric: Finis totaliter

Rest of fol. 130r blank. Fols. 130v-131r frame-ruled, blank.

Composite A- and C-version text, mostly following A until fol. 56v (end of A.11, with erased marginal note 'finis de dowell'; DIMEV 2458) and C thereafter, but with earlier additions from C in the prologue and A.5; 6 lines on fol. 33v composed by Fortescue himself. See Turville-Peter (2000) and also below, Collation.

Marginal notes by the scribe and by several later hands.

Fol. i r-v blank; fol. ii v, iii r-v, 1r blank; for fols. ii r, 1v see Provenance.

2. (fols. 131v-159(a)r)
John Fortescue, Governance of England
Rubric: Here folowyth the table of this treatise onsewyng writyn
Incipit: Fyrst the defference betwen dominium regale & dominium polictum et regale
Explicit: Aduertisement for makyng of patentys of gyftes
Final rubric: Explicit tabula

Fol. 132v blank.

Rubric: The dyfference betwene dominium regale et dominium politicum et regale
Incipit: There be ijº kyndes of kyngdomys
Explicit: when hym likyth and God save the kyng
Colophon: Explicit liber compilatus et factus per Johannem Fortescue militis quondam capitalis iustic' Anglie et hic rudabiliter scriptus manu propria mei Adriani Fortescu militis 1532

With his device underneath.

Fols. 159(a)v-159(j)v blank.

3. (fols. 160v-161v)
Proverbial collection
Incipit: Many man makes ryme and lokes to no reason
Explicit: This is garres me to make / for shortnes of tyme | Many man makes ryme & lokes to no reason

A slightly later addition; fols. 162r-170v blank. Other copies, all in Scottish manuscripts, are listed by Watson in the notes to the Quarto catalogue.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Paper; four different stocks. (a) fols. i (?), ii-iii, 1-5, 26-33 (b) fols. 6-25, 34-59 (c) fols. 60-137 (d) fols. 138-170. Watermarks, all variants on hand/glove with 5-pointed star/flower with letter or device, none closely paralleled in Piccard or Briquet, but for (a) cf. WZIS DE4620-PO-155789.
Extent: 182 leaves
Dimensions (leaf): 300 × 198 mm.
Foliation: i–iii, 1–159(a), 159(b)–159(j), 160-170
Foliation: Separate original foliation in roman for art. 2.


The collation cannot be determined with complete confidence, but some aspects are clear from the watermarks and from a continuous but incomplete series of bifolium signatures in the first five quires. This sequence runs iij (fol. 6) - xij (fol. 15), xv (fol. 34) - xxvij (fol. 46), xxviij (fol. 60) - xl (fol. 72), xli (fol. 86) - lij (fol. 97), liij (fol. 110) - lxvj (fol. 123). This suggests that the original collation of the first five quires was 1(24), 2(30), 3(26), 4(24), 5(28), and this collation still seems to be correct for quires 3-5 (fols. 60-137). Fols. ii, iii, 1, 2-5, 26-9 and 30-3 are on different paper stock and seem to have been written at a different time from the surrounding folios. The first two leaves (originally numbered i, ij) and last two leaves of the original first quire were removed at an early stage, as were the first two leaves of the second quire (originally numbered xiij, xiv). These were replaced with eight leaves added at the beginning and eight at the end of the first quire, making a quire of 36 (fols. i-iii, 1-33; or, fol. i is later and the first leaf of the quire formed the front pastedown). The occasion for this was presumably the desire to incorporate material from the C-text prologue and additional material in passus A.5 (see above, Text). The collation of fols. 138-170 is apparently 6(16) (fols. 138-53), 7(16-1, 8 cancelled?) (fols. 154-159(j)), 8(14-3, 12-14 cancelled?) (fols. 160-170); but the back pastedown is the same paper stock as quire 8.


(fols. 2r-159(a)r): 1 col., c. 25–27 lines, frame-ruled in plummet or with a hard point for c. 225–30 × 125–30 mm.


Anglicana with some secretary forms; mostly one hand, Adrian Fortescue.

On fols. 52r and 123v are passages noted by a contemporary as being in the hand of Anne Fortescue (as pointed out by Turville-Petre, p. 33).

Fols. 160v-161v in another hand ( pace Watson)




17th-century leather over pasteboard, re-using 16th-century leather with blind-rolled decoration (Oldham roll HEk, London 1547–1589, and a roll similar to Oldham MW).

Worm-holes from an earlier binding with wooden boards.

Accompanying Material

Between fols. 159 and 160 is a small parchment strip from a manuscript of Gregory the Great, Hom. in Evangelia, 19.2-3: English (?), 12th century (?).


Origin: 1532 (colophons, fols. 1v, 159(a)r) ; English

Provenance and Acquisition

Adrian Fortescue (–1539), on whom see Oxford DNB. ‘Iste liber pertinet Adriano Fortescu militi | sua manu propria scriptus Anno domini 1531\2/ | et anno regni regis Henrici viijui xxiii\j/’ (fol. 1v); his monogram AF and motto (?) at the bottom of fol. 1v. ‘Garde lez portes de ta bouche | Pour souyr(?) peryl e reproche’; also on fol. 1v his device (as fol. 159(a)r), here damaged); note on fol. ii recto about the birth of his second son Thomas at 'Shirbourne' in Oxfordshire on Wednesday 13 May 1534, with a note of godparents.

Passed after his execution to his widow Anne (née Rede or Reade), who married (about 1540) Thomas Parry (-1560) (on whom see Oxford DNB and History of Parliament): cf. fol. 1v, ‘Omnium rerum vicissitudo | Parry’, with ‘Anne Fortescu’ below; ‘A hart of trobles and in dispaire nought | Parry’, on a paper slip pasted to fol. 170v.

Andrew Watson identified this manuscript as Folio no. 27 in Thomas Allen's catalogue, but the identification is questionable: the catalogue entry makes no mention of the other texts in this volume, and it is perhaps more likely that (as suggested by Lord Clermont) Kenelm Digby (see below) acquired the manuscript from Adrian Fortescue's grandchildren with whom Digby was 'an intimate friend' (A history of the family of Fortescue in all its branches [= The Works of Sir John Fortescue, vol. 2] (1869), 179.

Kenelm Digby, 1603–1665, ‘Vindica te tibi Kenelm Digby’, fol. 2r.

Donated to the Bodleian, 1634.

Record Sources

Description by Matthew Holford, May 2022. 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 (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (3 images from 35mm slides)


    Online resources:

    Selected studies and descriptions:

    Turville-Petre, Thorlac. ‘Sir Adrian Fortescue and his copy of Piers Plowman’. The Yearbook of Langland Studies 14 (2000): 29–48
    Andrew G. Watson, Catalogue of Dated and Datable Manuscripts c. 435-1600 in Oxford Libraries (1984), no. 428

Last Substantive Revision

2022-05: Description revised for publication on Digital Bodleian.