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

MS. Don. e. 201


Book of Hours, Use of Besançon
Language(s): Latin and Middle French
(fols. 1r-12v)

Calendar, in French; major feasts (in red) include 'La dedicasse s. Iehan bapt'', i.e. the cathedral of St. John the Baptist, Besançon (5 May), and Ferreolus and Ferrutio, principal patrons of Besançon (16 June); feasts in plain brown ink include the translation (30 May) and invention (5 Sept.) of Ferreolus and Ferrutio; Nicetius, bishop of Besançon (8 Feb.), Desiderius of Vienne (11 Feb.), Claudius, archbishop of Besançon (6 June), Antidius, bishop of Besançon (17 June), Desideratus, bishop of Besançon (27 July), Isidore of Besançon (4 Aug.).

Language(s): Middle French
(fols. 13r-17r)

Gospel pericopes, an unusual series: the usual pericope from John (John 1:1–14), one from Mark (Mark 15:47–16:7), the usual one from Mark (Mark 16:14–20), and another from John (John 14:23–31); followed by a version of the common prayer 'Protector noster in te sperantium ...'.

(fols. 17v-63r)

The Hours of the Virgin, Use of Besançon; with nine lessons at Matins; Lauds followed by the metrical Seven Joys of the Virgin ('Gaude uirgo mater christi que per aurem concepisti ...'); fol. 63v ruled, otherwise blank.

(fols. 64r-67v)

Hours of the Spirit.

(fols. 68r-78r)

The Seven Penitential Psalms.

(fols. 78r-85v)

Litany, including Agapitus, Ferreolus, Ferrutio, Germanus, Antidius (2–6), Gangulf, Mamas, Desiderius, the Holy Triplets of Langres ('Gemini'), Benignus (21–25), Hyrenius (30), Maimbod (34), among 35 martyrs; Nicetius, Desideratus, Donatus, Prothadius, Isidore (13–17), and Walbert, Deicolus, Ursicinus, Ermenfrid (22–25) among 32 confessors.

(fols. 86r-109v)

Office of the Dead: the responsories for lessons V and VI are 'Peccantem me ...' and 'Ne recorderis ...'; if these were reversed, the Use would be of Besançon, but as written the Use corresponds to Embrun and Tarentaise.

(fols. 110r-112r)

Hours of the Cross.

(fols. 112v-113r)

Suffrage to St. Barbara: 'Dulci uoce resonat die ad ecclesiam ... Ora pro nobis ... Ut digni ... Omnipotens sempiterne deus nobis misericordiam tuam ostende ...'

(fols. 113v-116v)

Prayer 'Obsecro te ... [masculine forms]'.

(fols. 116v-118v)

Prayer 'O intemerata ... orbis terrarum inclina aures tue pietatis ... [feminine forms]'.

(fols. 119r, rubric on 118v)

Prayer, preceded by a rubric in French:

Rubric: Tous ceulx qui deuotement loroison suyguant diront et confez et repentens seront .huit. cens ans de pardons gaingneront.
Incipit: Domine ihesu christe rogo te per amorem illum quam dilecta mater tua
(fols. 119r-123r)

Suffrages to Sts. Michael, Nicholas, Antony abbot, Sebastian, Leonard, Mary Magdalen, Margaret, Appolonia; fols. 123v-128v ruled, otherwise originally blank.

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Feburier(fol. 2r)
Secundo Folio: uenientem(fol. 14r)
Form: codex
Support: Parchment.
Extent: 129 leaves.
Dimensions (leaf): 190 × 130 mm.
Dimensions (ruled): 105 × 70 mm.
Foliation: Foliated in 20th-century pencil on every 10th leaf, in the lower gutter corner, and foliated thoughout in the upper fore-edge corner after accession by the Bodleian: i, 1–128.



Ruled in purple-red ink with 18 lines (17 lines on fols. 123–128) per page, the top and bottom line extending the full width of the page, with single vertical bounding-lines extending the full height of the page. Up to 17 lines of text per page


Written in gothic script by at least two scribes; one of the scribes wrote most of the text on fols. 62v-67v, 116v-118v, and 119r-123r (see also under Provenance)


Fourteen large miniatures, the first three ogee-topped, the others with a shallow arch:

  • (fol. 13r) St. John on Patmos.
  • (fol. 17v) Matins. Annunciation.
  • (fol. 35r) Lauds. Visitation.
  • (fol. 44v) Primce. Nativity; a fox and a hybrid creature in the border has been pricked as if for pouncing.
  • (fol. 48r) Terce. Annunciation to two shepherds.
  • (fol. 50v) Sext. The Three Magi following the star.
  • (fol. 53v) None. Presentation in the Temple.
  • (fol. 56r) Vespers. The Flight into Egypt.
  • (fol. 60r) Compline. Coronation of the Virgin.
  • (fol. 64r) Pentecost. By a different artist.
  • (fol. 68r) David in prayer in a landscape. In the border a monkey playing a portable organ (on wheels) has been pricked, as if for pouncing.
  • (fol. 86r) Burial of a shroud-wrapped corpse.
  • (fol. 110r) Crucifixion.
  • (fol. 112v) St. Barbara.

One historiated initial:

  • (fol. 113v) The Virgin and Child of the Apocalypse.


Sewn on four split bands and bound in 16th-century brown leather over pasteboards; each cover tooled in gilt with a central oval filled with foliate scrolls, and frame with a fleur-de-lis at each corner, and a plain outer fillet; the spine with a four-leaf flower design and horizontal fillets in each compartment; repaired; the pastedowns made from a 15th/16th-cent French document; the edges of the leaves gauffered and gilt; the joints weak, the upper bands broken.


Origin: French, Besançon ; 15th century, second half

Provenance and Acquisition

Made in Besançon, for a female owner who presumably had a special devotion to St. Barbara; the contemporay addition of the Hours of the Spirit, 'O intemerata', and suffrages, suggests that a ready-made volume was being adapted to the particular wishes of the owner.

Numerous inscription on fols. 123r-126v, and 127v have been erased; they were perhaps family records.

The pastedowns and flyleaves have various 18th- and 19th-century ink inscriptions, including '4.' and '13' (upper pastedown), '388' fol. i recto), 'a + a m + q' (lower pastedown, perhaps a price); and 19th- and 20th-century pencil inscriptions, including a dealer's price-code (upper pastedown), 'Cat' and a dealer's price-code (lower pastedown; perhaps Maggs?).

George Brackenridge, early 20th century: inscribed 'G. W. B.' and 'George Wence[??] Brackenridge' (fol. i recto).

Bequeathed to the Bodleian by Sheila Frances Birch, received 5 January 2000.

Record Sources

Draft description by Peter Kidd, late 1990s.

Last Substantive Revision

2017-07-01: First online publication.