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

MS. Digby 181

Summary Catalogue no.: 1782

Miscellany of courtly poetry by Hoccleve, Lydgate, Peter Idley, Chaucer; English, 1450s × 1490s

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Paper. Modern parchment endleaves.
Extent: ii (modern endleaves) + 93 + ii (modern endleaves, foliated 94-95)
Dimensions (leaf): 280 × 200 mm.
Foliation: Flyleaves unnumbered. The manuscript has been foliated twice: firstly, an older ink foliation which numbers every tenth folio and the last folio, regularly inconsistent by 5 folios; secondly, a modern pencil foliation which numbers fols. 1–93 correctly and emends the older ink foliation. There are catchwords on fols. 17v and 35v only.


118-1 (fols. 1-17; first excised), 220 (fols. 18–37), 32 (fols. 38–39), 416-2 (fols. 40–53; fifteenth and sixteenth lacking) | 524 (fols. 54–77), 68-6 (fols. 78–79; second, third, fourth, fifth, seventh, and eighth lacking), 714 (fols. 80–93). Collation following D. W. Mosser, ‘A new collation for Bodleian Digby MS 181’, Papers of the Bibliographical Society of America, 82 (1988), 604-11.


Front board detached. Some pages affected by damp in the lower and upper margins. Significant staining in the first quire and at the break between quires 1 and 2. Occasional tears.


Standard Digby binding with armorial stamp with two metal clasps, c. 1632–34.


Provenance and Acquisition

Inscribed, ‘this is John Fayerproutes(?) bock’, 16th century (fol. 77v).

Inscribed, ‘John pper’, 17th century (fol. 93v), visible under UV light (see Michael C. Seymour, ‘The manuscripts of Chaucer's Troilus’, Scriptorium, 46:1 (1992) ).

‘Peter Idywerte’: inscribed, 17th or 18th century ? (first parchment flyleaf, a pastedown to a previous binding), possibly a bastardisation of ‘Peter Idley’ (cf. rubric fol. 10v).

Kenelm Digby, 1603–1665: inscribed, ‘Vindica te tibi Kenelme Digby’ (fol. 1r).

Donated to the Bodleian, 30 December 1634.

MS. Digby 181, fols. 1–53


Language(s): Middle English and Latin

1. (fols. 1r-6v)
Thomas Hoccleve, Letter of Cupid
Incipit: To hire name ȝhit is it no reprefe | ffor all to vertu was þ(a)t she wrowght
Explicit: The yeer of grace ioyfull and iocound | A thowsand(e) foure hundred(e) the secunde
Final rubric: Explicit l(itte)ra Cupidinis directa | Subditis suis Amatoribus
DIMEV 1092
2. (fols. 7r-8v)
John Lydgate, The Pain and Sorrow of Evil Marriage
Incipit: ⟨G⟩lory vnto God laude and benyson | To Iohn to Petir & also to Laurence
Explicit: Wherfore yonge men(ne), to eschewe sorowe & care | W(i)t(h)drawe your foot or ye ffall in the snare
Final rubric: Explicit
DIMEV 1525
3. (fols. 8v-10r)
John Lydgate, Examples against Women
Incipit: ⟨T⟩O Adam and Eve Crist gave the sou(er)aigte| Of Paradice and domynacio(u)n
Explicit: Some renne in riote of custome this is no faile | Suche woll disceyue there nature is so frayle
Final rubric: Explicit
DIMEV 5962
4. (fols. 10v-30v)
Peter Idley, Instructions to his Son
Rubric: ⟨I⟩niciu(m) mei tractus sit in no(m)ine do(m)ini Ih(es)u Chr(ist)i a quo ...
Incipit: In the begynnyng of this litle werke | I pray god my penne to lede
Explicit: Safe only nature þe which doth me spede | To the my Childe to þis simple dede
Final rubric: Explicit liber consolac(on)is & consilij
DIMEV 2594

Book I only

5. (fols. 31r-39r)
John Lydgate, A Complaynt of the Black Knight
Rubric: The man in the erber
Incipit: ⟨I⟩N May whanne fflorra the lusty Quene | The soill hath cladde in grene rede and whight
Explicit: Exiled be that I may not atteyn(e) | Recou(er) to ffynde of myn(e) adu(er)site
Final rubric: Explicit Edorb q(uo)d
DIMEV 2541
6. (fols. 39v-43v)
Geoffrey Chaucer, Anelida and Arcite
Incipit: ⟨O⟩ Thowe fers god of armes mars the rede | That in thy ffrosty Cuntre called Trace
Explicit: With in the Temple w(i)t(h) a sorowfull chere | That Shapyn was as ye shall aftir here
Final rubric: Explicit lamentacio Annelide | Regine Ermonie
DIMEV 5823
7. (fols. 44r-52r)
Geoffrey Chaucer, Parliament of Fowls
Rubric: The p(ar)lement of ffowlis
Incipit: The life so short the crafte so longe to lerne | The assay so harde so sharp(e) the conqueryng
Explicit: That I shall mete some thyng for to fare | The bettir and thus to rede I woll not spare
Final rubric: Explicit | Here endith the parlement of ffowlis
DIMEV 5373
8. (fols. 52r-53v)
John Lydgate, Fall of Princes
Rubric: (W)here Bochas rep(re)uyth hem(me) þat yeue | hasti credence to eu(er)y report or tale
Incipit: All though so be in eu(er)y maner Age | ffolkis been dyu(er)s of Condicions
Explicit: Bethe circumspect not hasty but prudent | And yeuyth no credence w(i)t(h)out auysement
Final rubric: Explicit expliceat sic scriptor ludere eat
DIMEV 1904

Book I, lines 4458-4662, 4817-4844.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Paper. Fols. 1-17: ‘Armoires-Pal’ (Briquet, 2064); fols. 18-53: ‘Armoires-Trois Fleurs de Lis’ (similar to Briquet, 1725).


Frame ruled in ink (faded) in 34-44 long lines. 202 × 70 mm.


Anglicana: Daniel W. Mosser identifies the scribe as John Brode, whose hand also appears in John Rylands Library, MS. English 113 (copied c.1475–1500). Brode may also be responsible for the anadrome, ‘Explicit Edorb quod’ (fol. 39r). See Daniel W. Mosser, ‘The Scribe of Chaucer Manuscripts Rylands English 113 and Bodleian Digby 18’, Manuscripta, 34 (1990), 129-47.


A space of two to three lines left for initials at the beginnings of texts and textual units: fols. 7r, 10v, 31r, 39v, 44r, 52r.


Origin: 1470s × 1490s ; English

Dating from Late Medieval English Scribes.

MS. Digby 181, fols. 54–93


Language(s): Middle English

9. (fols. 54r-93v)
Geoffrey Chaucer, Troilus and Criseyde
Incipit: ⟨T⟩he dowbill sorowe off Troilous to tell | That was the kyng Priam(us) son(n)e of Troy
Explicit: Vs lakkis nought but þat we witt wolde | A certeyn houre in which she come sholde
DIMEV 5248

Incomplete (unfinished, ending at 3.532).

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: Paper. Fols. 54-93: ‘Anneau’ (similar to Briquet, 689).


Frame ruled in ink (faded) in 38-42 long lines. 195 × 70–90 mm.


Two unidentified scribes:

Secretary, fols. 54r-93r.

Anglicana, fol. 93v.


Spaces of six to seven lines left for initials at the beginnings of texts and textual units: fols. 54r, 59r, 68r, 69r, 86v, and 87v.

Occasionally, but inconsistently, the first initial of the leaf is flourished.


Origin: 1450 × 1470s ; English

The Troilus has watermark used 1457 which is also found in MS. Bodl. 414.

Dating from Late Medieval English Scribes.


Inscription on fol. 54r, blacked out.

Additional Information

Record Sources

Description by Charlotte Ross (September 2022). Formerly 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 (3 images from 35mm slides)


    Online resources:

    Printed descriptions:

    Michael Seymour, A Catalogue of Chaucer Manuscripts, vol.I (Aldershot, 1995), 30-1
    Daniel W. Mosser, ‘The Scribe of Chaucer Manuscripts Rylands English 113 and Bodleian Digby 181’, Manuscripta, 34 (1990), 129-47

Last Substantive Revision

2022-09-16: Charlotte Ross Revised with consultation of original.