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

MS. Digby 83

Summary Catalogue no.: 1684

Opusculum de ratione spere; England, 12th century, middle


Rubric: Incipit opusculum de ratione spere ex summorum disciplinis philosophorum cum labore (et) diligentia excerptum
Incipit: Quicumque mundane spere rationem (et) astrorum legem seu stellarum in ea existentium nosse desiderat
Astrological treatise ('Opusculum de ratione spere') eTK 1237G

Astrological compilation in four books.

(fol. 11)

Bk ii

Incipit: (prologue) Superiore in citato ipsius aplanes
Incipit: (text) (fol. 11v) Constat terram nonam (et) ultimam speram esse
(fol. 21)

Bk iii

Incipit: (prologue) Quoniam superi\ori/ volumine paulo altius
Incipit: (text) Inter philosophos ipsius archani conscios
(fol. 42v)

Bk iv

Incipit: (prologue) Rem utilissimam (et) liquido sensui corporeo
Incipit: (text) De involutione spere. Duo igitur sunt extremi vertices mundi

Extracts, chiefly from the prologue, pr. D. Juste, Les Alchandreana primitifs (Leiden, 2007), pp. 268–71, to illustrate this text's use of Alchandrean texts. Otherwise unprinted; contents summarized in L. Thorndike, History of Magic and Experimental Science, I, 707–9; D. Blume et al., Sternbilder des Mittelalters, I (2012), 396–400.

Three other manuscripts are known (for details see Blume et al., Sternbilder, I.397); in addition, MS. Bodl. 614, fols. 17r-34r derives from bk iv of this text.

The text incorporates:

(fol. 24r-26r9)
Adelbold of Utrecht, Sententia ad Gerbertum, De crassitudine spere
Rubric: Epistola Ethelwodi ad Girbertum papam
Incipit: Domino summo pontifici et philosopho Girberto pape Athelwoldus vite felicitatem et felicitatis perpertuitatem
Incipit: Macrobius super somnium Scipionis ubi loquitur de magnitudine celi
Explicit: in puteorum profunditatibus et altitudinibus edificiorum idem inuenitur
eTK 0841C

Pr. N. Bubnov, Gerberti opera mathematica (1889), 302–9, text here approximately corresponding to 302.9–10, 303.19–309.21 (profunditatibus); after 306.15 'crassitudine' follow eight lines (fol. 24v) apparently not in the printed text, 'Si quis uult inuenire quadraturam circuli ... et sic inueniet circuli quadraturam'.

Language(s): Latin

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: greci vero
Form: codex
Support: parchment


Fine miniatures (drawings, partly coloured), good diagrams, initials. (Pächt and Alexander iii. 196, pl. XIX)

7-line inhabited initial, fol. 1r.

Other initials of varying size (1–10 lines) in plain red and green (e.g. fols. 1–14v, 17r-29r); blue and red with penwork decoration (fols. 15v-16r); blue and red (e.g. fols. 29v-32r); some initials and rubrication unfinished; instructions to the rubricator in the outer margins, often cropped (e.g. fol. 32r-v)

Scientific, astrological, geographical diagrams, some unfinished, fols. 2v-4v, 9v, 10r, 11v-12r, 15r-v, 25r-v, 30v-31r, 36v, 39r. Space left for diagram on fol. 76r.

Astrological miniatures, fols. 44r-49r, 50v-56r, 57r-58v, 62r-66r, 67r (fully described in Blume et al., Sternbilder des Mittelalters, I.400–2)


Origin: 12th century, middle ; English

Provenance and Acquisition

Chronological note, fol. 37r, referring to the year 1417.

Note in French, 15th century, fol. 78r, perhaps referring to the year 1470 ('apres lascencion lan lxx')

'2o fo. greci vero - v s.' (fol. iii verso, 15th century, second half)

'A boke of astronomy' (fol. ii recto, c. 1500)

Notes and scribbles, partly illegible, 16th century, fol. 77r (upsidedown): 'To my very frinde Ind', 'Emkin Highe' (??)

'Roberte Colshill', 16th century, second half (fol. ii recto), with motto (?) 'qui ne ay ne peult' (not in M. P. Siddons, A dictionary of mottoes in England and Wales (2014)). Possibly to be identified with Robert Colshill of St Martin-in-the-Fields, d. c. 1580 (see History of Parliament Online). Pen-trials and notes in the same (?) hand, fol. 77r: 'thinke and thank god' (cf. Siddons, Mottoes 230), 'Elizabeth dei gratia Angl. Franc.', 'Euer lastinge mortall God', 'et habeat corpus eius coram'. In the same (?) hand, fol. 78r, 'Elizabeth dei gratia Angliae Franciae et Hiberniae regina fidei defensor vic. London' salutem precipimus vobis quod exigi fac.'

Thomas Allen, '15' (fol. 1), no. 15 in his catalogue of 1622.

Kenelm Digby; bequeathed to him by Allen in 1632.

Donated by Digby to the Bodleian in 1634.

Record Sources

Description adapted with corrections (2017) from 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 (44 images from 35mm slides)

Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.