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

MS. Digby 36

Summary Catalogue no.: 1637


Language(s): Latin

Life and miracles of St Gilbert of Sempringham ('The Book of St Gilbert')

An abbreviated and re-organized version of the canonization dossier of St Gilbert of Sempringham, supplemented with Gilbertine liturgical material. In its original form, as represented by British Library, MSS. Cotton Cleopatra B. i (s. xiii in) and Harleian 468 (s. xiii med/ex), the dossier comprised: (a) Gilbert's Vita, including miracles performed in his lifetime; (b) letters relating to the rebellion of the lay brethren of the order, which broke out c. 1164–5; (c) the ordo canonizationis; (d) visions and revelations of St Gilbert; (e) letters relating to the canonization; (f) two collections of miracles. For a full edition of the dossier see The Book of St Gilbert, ed. R. Foreville and G. Ker (Oxford, 1987). The present manuscript is discussed at pp. lxvii-lxxi, with the suggestion that it was compiled for personal devotion.

(fols. 1r-3v)

Added table of contents, on paper, c. 1500 (?). The compiler of the index added roman numbering to the pages (i-xxj) and subsequently the chapters or sections of the MS.

(fols. 4r-51r)
Vita Sancti Gilberti Confessoris
Rubric: (fol. 4r) Hic incipit prologus de vita Sancti Gilleberti Confessoris
Incipit: Reuerentissimo domino et patri in Christo Huberto...Diuine gratie largitati tanto novit pater venerande
Rubric: (fol. 7r) Hic incipit vita sancti Gilleberti primi patris et institutoris ordinis de Sempyngham[sic]
Incipit: Oriens splendor iusticie

BHL 3529 (prologue), 3530 (vita)

Ed. Foreville and Ker, pp. 2–133, with variation in rubrics as set out ibid., pp. 350–2, and omitting two miracles.

(fols. 51v-52r)

Ruled, blank except for numbering 'lxxiiij' (fol. 51v), 'lxxv' (fol. 52r), not corresponding to any entries in the table of contents.

(fol. 52v)
Rubric: Hic incipit Canonizatio beati patris Gilleberti
Incipit: Quantum apud se magnificauerit beatum Gillbertum gratia superni conditoris

BHL 3532

Ed. Foreville and Ker, pp. 168–79, with variation in rubrics as set out ibid., p. 352.

(fol. 56v)
Rubric: Hic annotantur Reuelaciones de sancto Gilleberto
Incipit: Quod venerabilis pater Sanctus Gillebertus sanctorum consorcio sit aggregatus

BHL 3533

Ed. Foreville and Ker, pp. 179–97, with variation in rubrics and order of text as set out ibid. pp. 352–3.

(fol. 63v)
Rubric: Hic incipiunt miracula post mortem sancti G(illeberti) facta
Incipit: Ne cui veniret in dubium placita deo fuisse opera

BHL 3535

This section combines the collections distinguished as 'formal' and 'informal' by Foreville and Ker and printed op. cit., pp. 264–335; the miracles occur here in an abbreviated from, in a different order and with omissions, as set out ibid., pp. 353–4.

(fols. 77v-97r)
Rubric: Hic incipiunt epistole ad dominum papam pro canonizacione et translatione sancti G. faciendo
Incipit: Exemplaria epistolarum a diuersis personis ad diuersas editarum
Explicit: imperpetuum duratura

BHL 3534

Ed. Foreville and Ker, pp. 198–263, here in the following order: Prologue (pp. 198–9), [2], [3], [5], [6], [4], [8], [9], [11], [13], [14], [15], [18], [7], [23], [24], [25], [26], [27], [28], [29], [30], [32], [33], [34].

(fol. 97v)
Rubric: Hic incipiunt littere contra laicos fratres ad papam
Incipit: Sanctissimo domino et patri Alexandro...W. sue sanctitatis seruus

BHL 3531

Ed. Foreville and Ker, pp. 134–67, here in the following order: [1], [7], [5], Appendix 6[3], [2], [4], [8], Appendix 6[4], [3], [9], [10], [11], [12].

(fols. 110v-116v)
Mass and Office of St Gilbert
Rubric: Seruicium in sollemnitatibus sancti Gilleberti confessoris primi patris et institutoris ordinis de S.

Pr. from this MS. in The Gilbertine Rite, ed. R. M. Woolley, 2 vols., Henry Bradshaw Society 59–60 (1921–2), I.115–26.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Foliation: Partial pagination in roman numerals, pp. i-xxj, by the compiler of the table of contents, who numbered the folios to this point, and thereafter numbered by chapter or section.


Catchwords, some decorated with scrolls; signatures occasionally visible (fols. 46r, 77r, etc.); quires also given a later arabic numbering.


Fine borders, initials. (Pächt and Alexander iii. 1043, pl. XCVII)

Two to four-line champ initials (generally gold with rose infill on blue ground, or vice versa) extending into spraywork, forming full or partial borders, mostly in rose, red and blue, at major text divisions (fols. 4r, 7r, 38r, 52v, 57r, 59v, 63v, 77v, 97v, 110v, 115r). The initial on fol. 7r contains a coat of arms (see provenance) and that on fol. 63v contains a lion mask.

Generally two-line initials in blue with red flourishing at minor text divisions.

Space left for a 3-line initial, fol. 63r.

Other initials touched in red.

Decorated descenders in some lower margins (fols. 7r-v, etc.)

Rubrics in red.

Additions: Some marginalia, c. 1500, in places supplying omitted text (fol. 10r, fol. 16v (cf. Foreville and Ker, pp. 37–8), fol. 21v (p. 50), fol. 49r (p. 126)), elsewhere nota signs (fols. 10r, 23r, 27r, 33v, etc.)


Origin: England 15th century, middle ;

Provenance and Acquisition

Fol. 7r, shield of arms in the initial: barry of eight, sable (or argent?) and gules. Unidentified; possibly intended for the arms of the Gilbertine order (barry of six argent and gules differenced by a prior's staff in gold: Herald and Genealogist 2 (1865) pp. 192, 345).

Probably no. 36 in the list of manuscripts seen by Thomas Talbot, perhaps in or around York, in the late sixteenth century: A. Watson, The Manuscripts of Henry Savile of Banke (London, 1969), pp. 78–82.

Fol. 4, shorthand: 'John Netlton. Hnry Savil', i.e. John Nettleton of Hutton Cranswick, d. c. 1597 (Watson, op. cit., pp. 7–9), and from him to Henry Savile of Banke, no. 106 in his catalogue (Watson, op. cit.)

Possibly owned by John Dee: a Jupiter symbol resembling his, fols. 1, 4; cf. R. J. Roberts and A. G. Watson, John Dee's Library Catalogue (London, 1990), DM110.

Kenelm Digby, 1603–1665.

Donated by him to the Bodleian, 1634.

Record Sources

Description adapted (2017) with corrections from 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)


Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.