MS. Digby 166
Summary Catalogue no.: 1767
Scientific and poetic anthology
Rigg identifies the hands in the manuscript as A through F:
Parts I and II were written by A, a semi-cursive hand of the mid-fourteenth century. This scribe writes above the top line of the frame.
An Anglicana business hand B was, at various times, responsible for several parts of the manuscript: B1 wrote Part III fols. 21ra–26vb (No. 5, Sacrobosco De sphera); B2 wrote Part IV fols. 36ra–44rb to near the end of No. 10 (Odoric of Pordenone); in Part V B3 wrote the first two items (Nos. 11–12, fols. 46ra–48va) and B4 wrote the next two (Nos. 13–14, fols. 48vb–50va); in Part VI B5 wrote No. 44 (fols. 68rb–71va), followed by B6 who wrote Nos. 45–47 on fols. 71va–74rb. These varieties of B’s script differ only in size and thickness of ink and are, Rigg believes, by one scribe, writing probably in the later part of the fourteenth century (certainly after 1330, the date of No. 10).
Another Anglicana hand, C1, augmented Part III and wrote Nos. 6–9 on fols. 27ra–30rb; No. 9 was completed by a similar but distinct hand, C2, on fols. 30va–35ra.
In Part IV, where B2 had left the text of No. 10 incomplete on fol. 44rb, a fifteenth-century hand D completed it and finished on fol. 45rb.
The original poems of Part VI (the collection related to Bodley 603) were written by two hands, also late fourteenth-century: E1 (fols. 51ra–58ra, Nos. 15–23) writes a Textura, with ‘biting’ and a habit of drawing doodles and small faces from the ascenders on the top line; E1 (fols. 58rb–68ra, Nos. 23–43) is similar to E but without the doodles.
One hand, F, wrote the fifteenth-century Parts VII–VIII.
Titles (where supplied) are usually by the scribe who wrote the text (as in Part I), but that on fol. 13r is by a somewhat later hand. The title of No. 13 (fol. 48vb) is perhaps by the fifteenth-century hand F.
At the foot of fol. 51r (perhaps referring to No. 16) is written ‘amonicio quedam ut caueamus male age’ (? agere, agendo); at the foot of fol. 53vb (referring to No. 18) is written ‘incipiunt sermones golie’: these notes may be by the hand which wrote the prices (below).
On fol. 61ra an extra line has been added (see No. 30).
In blank space on fol. 74rb is written: ‘In isto libro continentur: Algorismus prosaicus’; this incipient contents list, written in the fourteenth century, perhaps shows that Part II was once the first booklet in what was by now perceived as a single book.
On fol. 74v is a diagram of the winds and a short extract from Isidore (No. 48).
Standard binding of the Digby collection, between 1632 and 1634: light brown leather, stamped on each cover in gilt with the large armorial stamp of Sir Kenelm Digby, with his arms in a laurel leaf within a pointed oval frame which carries the legend ‘INSIGNIA KENELMI DIGBY EQVITIS AURATI’; two clasps.
Rigg argues that the volume was assembled in the late 14th century from six booklets, purchased from a bookseller; and augmented by another set of booklets in the fifteenth century. He draws attention to the phrase ‘val. iij s.’ on fol. 36r as indicating value rather than copying cost. See Rigg, ‘Medieval Latin Poetic Anthologies (III)’, p. 476.
The hands of Parts I–VI are of the late fourteenth century. Odoric’s Travels (No. 10) gives a date of 1330; the Battle of Najara (No. 52) notes 1366. Rigg dates hand F to the fifteenth century. Rigg suggests that the contents point to a university provenance: ‘Oxford offers itself as the ideal milieu for the circulation and crossfertilization of poetic anthologies’ (p. 505). He notes that Digby 166, Part VI is linked textually with MS. Bodley 603, and that ‘the prose satire in Part V, the additions to Parts III and VI, and the poems of Part VIII bring Digby 166 thematically into association with Cotton MS. Titus A. xx, MS. Rawlinson B. 214, and MS. Bodley 851’ (p. 469). Andrew G. Watson, ‘Thomas Allen of Oxford and His Manuscripts’ in Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts and Libraries: Essays Presented to N. R. Ker, ed. M. B. Parkes and Andrew G. Watson (London, 1978), pp. 279–314, notes that some of Allen’s Oxford manuscripts ‘may have been in Oxford since long before Allen’s time, having been brought to the University by student monks. … when we consider his Benedictine manuscripts (which are by far the commonest) it is more than tempting to recollect that Allen’s residence, Gloucester Hall, was the descendant of a college which had a special place among houses of the Benedictine order’ (p. 286).
Rigg hypothesizes: ‘a fourteenth-century bookseller offered for sale five booklets: mathematical commentaries (Part I), Peter Dacia on the Algorismus (Part II), Sacrobosco De sphera (Part III, quire iii only), the Travels of Odoric of Pordenone (Part IV, incomplete), and a collection of satirical poems (Part VI). To these he added a collection of prose satire (Part V) in a scrappy booklet of two bifolia and an extra leaf: this was perhaps included in the price of Part IV. As one hand B was responsible for Parts III, IV, V and the two extra sets of poems in Part VI, this scribe may have been a principal scrivener in the bookseller’s operation. Both Text and Court Hands are found in Digby 166, but the Textura section by hands E1 and E2 (Part VI, fols. 51–68ra) could have been obtained separately. The fact that the booklets were prepared for, but did not receive, illumination, suggests that they were not commissioned by the purchaser. The bookseller may also have been responsible for the title of No. 4, the notes on the poems (fols. 51r, 53vb), the start of the contents list on fol. 74r, and the added line on fol. 61ra’ (pp. 471–473).
Provenance and Acquisition
At some stage Part III was augmented by the addition of an extra quire and the ‘Trojan’ entries by hands C1 and C2. The fact that two scribes were involved suggests that this was done while the booklets were still with the bookseller; on the other hand, the removal of the last leaf from quire iii shows that that booklet was once regarded as complete as it stood. Clearly, the addition was an afterthought: the parchment of quire iv is thicker and coarser than that in the rest of Parts I–VI.
In the fifteenth century someone supplied the missing end of the text of Odoric (No. 10) and added an extra bifolium. The quire signatures a–b–c–d–a on quires x–xiv show that Parts VII–VIII were originally quite separate from Parts I–VI, and also that the final quire (Part VIII C) was once the first booklet in a compilation. On the other hand, the union of Parts I–VI with VII–VIII must have taken place in the fifteenth century, especially if the title on fol. 48vb is by hand F. The whole codex was supplied with quire signatures a–o. By error, fol. 45r was signed T: this is the first leaf of the bifolium attached to quire v to take the missing text of No. 10, but must have been counted with quire vi, which consists of only five leaves.
Throughout the manuscript are various notes and scribbles, such as a student’s notes on fols. 1r and 2r, and the scribe’s notes in No. 5.
Monogram ‘G.I.’ and other scribbles on fols. 50v and 90v.
Thomas Allen (1542–1632): his inventory number, ‘A.174’, appears on fol. 1r; ‘MS. 4º 37’ in his catalogue.
Donated to the Bodleian, 1634.
Last Substantive Revision
2021-10-22: Andrew Dunning Revised with consultation of original.