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

MS. Digby 185

Summary Catalogue no.: 1786

Prose Brut; Thomas Hoccleve; King Ponthus. England, 15th century, middle

Physical Description

A composite volume of three seemingly independent sections, closely related in origin, and all apparently written by the same scribe, but perhaps not bound together until the sixteenth or seventeenth century. This is suggested in particular by the independent foliation of part II, and the erased ex libris notes at the beginning and end of that section, and perhaps also by the sixteenth-century annotation which is confined to part I.
Extent: ii (early modern parchment) + 203 (79 + 86 + 38) + ii (early modern parchment) leaves
Dimensions (leaf): 285 × 190 mm.
Foliation: i-ii, 1-205 in 19th-century pencil.

Binding

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. Rebacked.

History

Provenance and Acquisition

The arms quarterly (1, 4) argent a chevron azure, a label of three points ermine (2, 3) gules a griffin segreant argent, occur in all three codicological units: in I and II by themselves (fols. 1r, 104r), and in III impaling another coat (fol. 166r), also in part II alongside various other shields. The arms are associated with the Swillington family and were assumed in the fifteenth century by the Hopton family of Blythburgh, Suffolk, and Swillington, Yorkshire, for which see C. Richmond, John Hopton (1981) with pedigree at p. 100; Dictionary of British arms : Medieval Ordinary, ed. D. H. B. Chesshyre et al., 4 vols. (1992-2014), II.277-8 and IV.234. On fol. 1r the arms appear with the crest a monk's head hooded, which is attributed to George Hopton (d. 1489) in a Tudor book of arms: C. Meale, ‘The Politics of Book Ownership: The Hopton Family and Bodleian Library, Digby MS 185’, in Prestige, Authority and Power in Late Medieval Manuscripts and Texts, ed. Felicity Riddy (2000), 106 and n. 14. In addition to George other candidates for the patronage and/or ownership of the different sections include John Hopton (d. 1478), his wife Thomasia (d. 1498) and John's son Sir William (d. 1484). The later history of part II (see below) may indicate a connection with Thomasia.

In part III (fol. 166r) the preceding arms impale quarterly argent and gules fretty argent (?) on a bend sable three mullets argent; in II (fol. 80r) the arms argent a chevron azure, a label of three points ermine impale the same. The arms quarterly arg. and gu. fretty arg. on a bend sa. three mullets arg. were associated with the Despencer family and afterward with the Wentworth family of Nettlestead (Ordinary II.51-2). Their presence here may relate to the marriage of Sir William Hopton (d. 1484) to Margaret, dau. of Sir Roger Wentworth of Nettlestead; this took place by 1451 (Richmond, pp. 103-4).

The other arms in the manuscript are as follows; the tinctures are not always certain:

  • Ermine a saltire gules (fol. 80r): Scargill (Ordinary IV.362); Thomas Hopton (d. 1486) married Margaret, dau. of William Scargill of Whitkirk, Yorkshire;
  • Ermine three bars gules, three crescents sable (fols. 80r, 157v): Ordinary I.72, attributed to Sir Robert Waterton of Yorkshire
  • Azure a saltire gules (fol. 157v): Neville (of Hornby?) or possibly Scargill, as above (Ordinary IV.358)
  • Gules fretty ermine (fol. 157v): Ordinary IV.102-3, Eynesford? or Valoignes?
  • Barry of 8 (?) sable and argent (fol. 157v): Hoghton of Yorkshire (Ordinary I.98)
  • Argent a fess sable in chief three mullets sable (fol. 157v): Dyneley or Towneley (Ordinary III.348-9)
  • Argent a fess dancetty sable (fol. 157v): Ordinary III.313, perhaps Vavasour
  • Argent on a pale sable a lucy's head argent (?) (fol. 157v): Ordinary IV.274, Gascoigne
For discussion of the possible significance of the arms see Meale, passim.

Nicolas Gilbourne’ (fol. 1r), with his (?) motto ‘Non uiuit cui nihil est in mente nisi ut uiuat’ (not 'iuvit', 'iuuat', as in M. Siddons, A dictionary of mottoes in England and Wales, 2014, s.n.), perhaps identifiable as Nicholas Gilbourne of Charing, active late sixteenth and early seventeenth century.

Kenelm Digby, 1603–1665: his signature fol. 1r and motto ‘Vindica ti tibi’

Donated to the Bodleian, 1634.

MS. Digby 185 - codicological unit I (fols. 1-79)

Contents

Language(s): English

Fol. i with 16th-century title 'Brute of Englond', otherwise blank; fols. i v - ii v blank.

1. (fols. 1r-79r)
Chronicle of England (Brut chronicle) to 1419, abbreviated version (IPMEP 374)
Incipit: Her begynnyth a booke in Englisch tong callid Brute of Englond
Rubric: The prolog
Incipit: The prolog of this boke tellith how this lond was furst called Albion
Explicit: till the town was sett in Revoll and governaunce
Final rubric: Explicit

One of three manuscripts classified by Matheson as AV-1419, group A, subgroup a (the others being Glasgow University, Hunter 83, and British Library MS. Harley 3730): L. Matheson, The Prose Brut (1998), 205-8.

Fol. 79v ruled, otherwise blank.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: with on assent
Form: codex
Support: parchment

Collation

1(8)-9(8) (fols. 1-72), 10(8-1)(probably last, blank, cancelled); leaf signatures in the usual form with quires lettered a-k; catchwords in decorative boxes or cartouches, fol. 32v with shield of arms (argent a cross gules).

Layout

Ruled in ink for 1 col., c. 44-6 lines, with double horizontal bounding lines; ruled space 205-15 × 130-5 mm.

Hand(s)

Anglicana formata by one scribe (same as parts II and III)

Decoration

Fol. 1r: 14-line initial H in blue with reserved patterning, and penwork in red extending into a partial border; within the initial a shield of arms (quarterly argent a chevron azure, a label of three points ermine, and gules a griffin segreant argent) with crest apparently a monk's head proper hooded argent.

Fols. 1r-79r: 2- to 3-line blue initials with red penwork flourishing sometimes incorporating figurative elements (e.g. head, fol. 27v; coat of arms, argent a chevron azure, a label of three points ermine, fol. 43v).

Capitals highlighted in red.

Additions: Sixteenth-century marginalia on fols. 1r-2r, 22v, 23v, etc.; frequently erased (e.g. 62v-63r); an addition c. 1500, fol. 23v.

History

Origin: 15th century, middle ; English

MS. Digby 185 - codicological unit II (fols. 80-165)

Contents

2. (fols. 80r-144v)
Thomas Hoccleve, Regiment of Princes
Incipit: Mvsyng vpon the resteles bysynesse
Explicit: That knoweth he that nothing is hidd fro
Final rubric: Explicit
DIMEV 3581, NIMEV 2229; ed. Charles R. Blyth, TEAMS Middle English Texts (1999).
Language(s): English, with marginal apparatus in Latin
3. (fols. 145r-157r)
Thomas Hoccleve, Tale of Jereslaus’ wife
Incipit: In the Romayn Iestys wretyn is thus
Explicit: (fol. 156r) And when gode wole also dye schall we
Incipit: (fol. 156r) The Emperour that I spake of before Is our lorde Ihesu criste. His wyfe is the savle.
Explicit: that slayn was for our Redempcion Amen.
DIMEV 2621, IMEV 1561; the prose moralization is IPMEP 736. ed. EETS e.s. 61, 140-78, here lacking the stanzas before the prose moralization.
Language(s): English
4. (fols. 157v-165r)
Thomas Hoccleve, Tale of Jonathas
Incipit: Sum tyme an Emperour prudent and wise
Explicit: To whiche gode bryng vs all Amen.
Final rubric: Explicit
DIMEV 6529, IMEV 4072; the prose moralization is IPMEP 663.3. ed. EETS e.s. 61, 219-40, here without the final envoy.

Fol. 165v blank.

Language(s): English

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: (fol. 81) What wyght
Form: codex
Support: parchment
Foliation: Fols. 80-112 with 16th-century ink foliation 1-33

Collation

11(8)-20(8) (fols. 80-159), 21(8-2) (last two leaves cancelled); leaf signatures in the usual form with quires lettered a-[l].

Layout

Ruled in ink for a main column of 42 lines and a small outer area (typically without further ruling) which on fols. 80r-144v is used for the Latin apparatus; ruled space of the main column c. 205-10 × 115 mm.

Hand(s)

Anglicana formata by one scribe (same as parts I and III)

Decoration

Fol. 80r: 21-line strapwork initial M with spray decoration, incorporating a large heraldic shield (argent a chevron azure, a label of three points ermine, impaling quarterly argent and gules fretty argent (?), a bend sable three mullets argent) and four smaller shields: (1) argent a chevron azure, a label of three points ermine (2) gules a griffin segreant argent (3) ermine (?) a saltire gules (4) barry of six, ermine (?) and gules, over all three crescents sable

Fol. 104r: 9-line initial H in blue with red penwork, containing a heraldic shield (quarterly (1,4) argent a chevron azure, a label of three points ermine, and (2,3) gules, a griffin segreant argent); 3-line blue initials with red penwork, fols. 105v, 113r, 115v; 119r, 123r, 126r, 127v, 133r, 136v, 137v, 139v, 144v.

Extended puzzle initial 'I' in blue and red with penwork in red and black, fol. 145r.

Fol. 157v: 12-line strapwork initial S on a ground of black penwork with four small shields in the corners and six small shields inside the initial, from top to bottom, left to right: (1) gules a griffin segreant argent (2) argent a chevron azure, a label of three points ermine (3) argent a fess dancetty sable (4) barry of six argent and ermine over all three crescents sable (5) argent on a pale sable a lucy's head argent (6) argent a saltire gules (7) Gules fretty ermine (8) quarterly argent and gules fretty argent (?) on a bend sable three mullets argent; (9) , argent a fess sable in chief three mullets sable (10) barry of eight (?) sable and argent; in the margin a crest (?) of a scourge.

Fol. 165r: elaborate strapwork E(xplicit).

Otherwise 1-line alternating plain red or blue initials at the beginning of stanzas; rhyme bracing in red.

Decorated catchwords, including head, fol. 135v; bird, fol. 151v, lion, fol. 159v.

History

Origin: 15th century, middle ; English

Provenance

Partially erased inscription, fol. 80r: ‘T ⟨ga⟩ve this⟩ | boke to Tom(?) Clopton | and of her bodye’; ‘W. Clopton’, erased (?), fol. 144v; ‘Thys boke longy. Wylly Clopton’, erased, fol. 157r. Very probably to be identified as Thomasia, the grandaughter of Thomasia Hopton (Richmond, p. 121 n. 72), who married Sir William Clopton of Kentwell and Long Melford (d. 1531). Section II of our manuscript may perhaps be identified with the 'book of Englissh callid Ocliff' mentioned in the testament of Thomasia the elder (d. 1498), although this was bequeathed in her testament to her son Nicholas Sidney (Richmond, p. 131).

Erased names (?), illegible, fol. 165r; faint or erased names on fol. 165v, including John ... of Bokkyng [Bocking, Essex]; Thomas ?Prynce.

MS. Digby 185 - codicological unit III (fols. 166-203)

Contents

5. (fols. 166r-203r)
King Ponthus and the Fair Sidone (IPMEP 476)
Incipit: Now I wolle you telle a noble storye
Explicit: nedes leve this worlde
ed. F. J. Mather, jr., 'King Ponthus and the Fair Sidone', PMLA 12, No. 1 (1897), pp. i-lxvii, 1-150

Lower part of fol. 203 excised. Fol. 203v ruled, otherwise blank.

Language(s): English

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: or elles
Form: codex
Support: parchment

Collation

22(8)-25(8) (fols. 166-197), 26(six, structure uncertain); leaf signatures in arabic and roman, quires a-e; decorated catchwords.

Layout

Ruled in ink for one column of usually 46 lines, with double horizontal bounding lines, ruled space 210 × 135-40 mm.

Hand(s)

Anglicana formata by one scribe (same as parts I and II)

Decoration

Fol. 166r: 12-line initial N in blue with white reserved ground, on a red ground, supporting arms: quarterly (1,4) argent a chevron azure a label of three points ermine (2,3) gules a griffin segreant argent, impaling quarterly argent and gules fretty argent (?) on a bend sable three mullets argent.

Elsewhere 3-line blue initials with red penwork.

Capitals highlighted in red.

Decorated catchwords (leaf, fol. 173v; armoured head, fol. 181v; fish, fol. 189v).

History

Origin: 15th century, middle ; English

Additional Information

Record Sources

Description by Matthew Holford (October 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). Decoration follows Pächt and Alexander (1973).

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (13 images from 35mm slides)

Bibliography

Last Substantive Revision

2021-10: Description fully revised for digitization.