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

MS. Digby 171

Summary Catalogue no.: 1772


(fols. 1r-2(b)v)

Four paper leaves added in the 16th century, containing (fol. 1r) Stephen Batman's note of purchase (see Provenance) and (fol. 2r) his title page; fols. 1v, 2v, 2(a)r-2(b)v blank.

Language(s): English
(fols. 3r-62r)
William Langland, Piers Plowman (C text, II.217–XV.66) DIMEV 2460

Beginning imperfect, due to the loss of a quire, and apparently ending unfinished.

Incipit: ||Drede stod atte dore and þat deone herde | What þe kynges wille was and wiȝteliche he went
Explicit: And mad merþe with þis mete ac y mornede euere | ffor a doctor at þe heie deye drank wyn faste

Fol. 62v is blank.

Ed. G. Kane and G. Russell (London, 1997), siglum K, desc. pp. 7-8.
Language(s): Middle English (dialect of Herefordshire: eLALME LP 7330)
(fol. 60v)

Added Latin text in the lower margin (late 15th/early 16th century), damaged, apparently on the star at Christ's nativity and the eclipse at the crucifixion.

Language(s): Latin

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment, variable quality, FHHF in quires 1-4 and 6, HFFH in quires 5, 7
Extent: ii (parchment) + iv (paper, added in the sixteenth century, probably by Stephen Batman) + 60 + ii (parchment),
Dimensions (leaf): 260 × 175 mm.
Foliation: i-ii, 1-2, 2a, 2b, 3-64


[quire missing], 1(8) (fols. 3-10), 2(8) (fols. 11-18), 3(8) (fols. 19-26), 4(8) (fols. 27-34), 5(8) (fols. 35-42), 6(8) (fols. 43-50), 7(8) (fols. 51-8), 9(four) (fols. 59-62; three stubs between fols. 61 and 62, with fol. 61 conjugate with the first stub); catchwords with two dots each side, in the hand of the scribe. Occasional remains of medieval quire numbering (eg. '4', fol. 19r) and leaf signatures (e.g. 'iii', fol. 21r).


1 column, 33 lines; ruled in faint 'crayon', prickings sometimes visible; ruled space c. 195-205 × 125-135 mm.


One scribe; anglicana formata.


Space for 3-line initials, unfilled, at the beginning of each passus (fol. 11r, 14r, filled in later in pen).

Rubrics and Latin text in red.


Standard binding of the Digby collection.

Wormholes from an earlier binding at the end of the manuscript.


Origin: 14th century, late, or 15th century, early ; England (Herefordshire area (?))

Provenance and Acquisition

Initials (?) 'D. N.', 15th century, at the lower left and right corners of fol. 62v.

15th- and 16th-century annotations, fol. 25v (Latin), fol. 56r (supplying an omission or variant reading),

Erased inscription, 16th century, fol. 3r.

Fol. 1r: ‘Bowght this book anno 1578(?) of Harvy in Grac Street [London] the 14 October’ (in Stephen Batman's hand, see below), followed by an erased price (ending ‘vj d’; below, in a different (?) hand, another price, ‘pretium xvj d’

Stephen Batman; his note of purchase, fol. 1r, see above; his title page, fol. 2r, with inscription (see M. Parkes, 'Stephan Batman's manuscripts', repr. in his Pages from the Past (2012) XI.125-156, at 148, with full transcription) and emblem of a farmer sowing seed; occasional annotations by him.

Thomas Allen (?): possibly identifiable as folio 27 in his catalogue (ed. Watson in the Digby Quarto Catalogue, p. 163; Watson's identification of this entry with MS. Digby 145 is problematic, see the catalogue entry for that manuscript).

Kenelm Digby, 1603–1665

Donated to the Bodleian, 1634.

Record Sources

Description by Matthew Holford, June 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 (1 image from 35mm slides)


Last Substantive Revision

2022-06: Description revised for publication on Digital Bodleian.