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

MS. Hamilton 55

Summary Catalogue no.: 24485

Composite theological collection; A, B Germany, 15th century (partly 1420–1 at Erfurt)

Physical Description

Made up of at least two MSS., the second written c. 1420–21; with a list of contents on the back pastedown, whose first item ('tractatus wlgari') is now missing (the medieval foliation starts at ‘49’).
Extent: i + i (a wide stub) + 170 + i leaves, the first and last are modern paper, unfoliated.
Dimensions (leaf): 220 × 145 mm.
Foliation: i, 1–170 in modern pencil; superseding 49–206, 254–265 in medieval ink and a very sporadic foliation in 19th-century pencil (e.g. ‘123’ on fol. 137r, ‘147’ on fol. 163r).


1(12)-5(12) (fols. 1–60, medieval quires 5–9) | 6(12)-12(12), 13(14) (fols. 61–158, medieval quires 10–17) | 14(twelve, with stiching at fols. 165/6) (fols. 159–170, medieval quire 22). Catchwords and quire signatures on final versos, quires numbered with ‘sexternus’ in lower gutter corner of first rectos; leaves with medieval foliation 1–48 and 207–253 have been lost before fol. 1 after fol. 158 respectively.


Medieval chained binding. Sewn on three bands, with wood boards covered in brown leather, parchment pastedowns, the chain attached at the middle of the upper edge of the 'front' board, with the remains of two clasps at the fore-edge for strap-and-pin fastenings (lost) fastening to the 'back' board; the spine renewed, re-using the 19th-century leather title-piece lettered in gilt ‘55.’

Accompanying Material

The pastedowns are made from a 15th century document, turned sideways, mentioning various personal and place-names, including [...]esa, wife of John of Alde of Pforzheim(?) (pforczhei’), doctor, and John of Eikendorf(?), priest.


Provenance and Acquisition

Three early stages are evident: (i) parts A and B were presumably written separately, (ii) they were put together and given a continuous foliation, (iii) two groups of quires were lost before binding.

Erfurt (Francisans) (?): Erfurt is mentioned on fols. 147r and 165v. The volume was accepted as an Erfurt Carthusian book by Lehmann, Mittelalterliche Bibliothekskataloge, II, pp. 231, 239, but it lacks the usual ownership inscription, shelfmark, etc., and is not identifiable in the late 15th-century catalogue, and was rejected by Kraemer. The added Franciscan letters on fols. 54v-55r perhaps suggest that it belonged to the Erfurt Fransicans (dedicated to St John the Baptist: cf. fols. 153r-158v); there was also a Franciscan convent at Gelnhausen (fol. 158v).

Not identifiable in the catalogue of the 1836 sale of Friedrich Gottlieb Julius von Bülow, 1760-?1831.

Sir William Hamilton, 1788–1856

Presented to the Bodleian Library by his sons and received in 1857.

MS. Hamilton 55 – Part A (fols. 1–60)


Language(s): Latin

1. (fols. 1r–41v)
Treatise on penitence
Rubric: \Tractatus de penitencia per modum paradisi ubi septem orti sunt secundum 7 species florum/ [table of contents]
Incipit: ⟨P⟩lantauerat autem dominus […] (Genesis 2:8) Cum beatus Augustinus 8 super Genesim dicit Non ignoro de paradiso multos multa dixisse
Explicit: ut de paradiso spirituali perueniamus ad paradisum celestis regni Amen
Bloomfield (+ suppl.) 3923 (this ms. only)
2. (fols. 42r–54r)

Shortened sermons on the Lord’s Prayer as related to the Gospels in Lent

Rubric: \Item introductorium(?) pater noster per totam quadragesimam cum ewangeliorum/ [table of contents]
Incipit: ⟨C⟩um jeiunatis nolite […] (Matthew 6:16) Ad introductionem omnium ewangeliorum quadragesimalium intendo adoptare peticiones oracionis dominice
Explicit: vos omnes qui transitus per viam attendite etc.
Final rubric: Explicit xle breuissime.
3. (fols. 54v–55r)

Three forms of documents added by three different hands on pages originally left blank, all relating to the affairs of Franciscan convents, the third dated 1444 and referring to Theodoric [Schenk of Erbach], archbishop of Mainz [1434–1459]:

Incipit: In Christo venerabilibus dominis domino vicario ceterisque doctoribus […] Johannes gardianus fratrum minorum totusque conuentus domus Vlmensis
Rubric: Item alia forma
Incipit: Reverendissimo in Christo patri ac domino, domino Thome cooperatori in spiritualibus […] episcopi N., frater N. fratrum minorum conuentus Gardianus eiusque fratres
Rubric: Item alia(?) forma fratris Johannis guibi(?) custodis reni [i.e. the Franciscan custody of Rhine]
Incipit: Reverendo in Christo patri ac domino, domino Johanni episcopo Cirenensi […] et domini domini Theodrici archiepiscopi Moguntini

Several friars are named, including Conrad de Wetterspach of Mainz and H. Lapicide(?) of Frankfurt; given at Frankfurt, 17 September 1444

(fols. 55v–60v) blank

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: paper


Verticals (only) ruled in plummet, written in a single column of about 36 lines. Written space c. 165–70 × 105–10 mm.


Gothic cursive


No decoration or rubrication


Origin: 15th century ; German

MS. Hamilton 55 – Part B (fols. 61–170)


Language(s): Latin

4. (fols. 61r–88v)
Theological-astrological treatise ('Tractatus de 12 signis')
Rubric: \Tractatus de 12 Signis, de sex ascendentibus & sex in quibus sol descendit, secundum rationem(?), virtutes & figuras/ [table of contents]
Incipit: Uidit Iacob scalam […] (cf. Genesis 28:12) Fugienti Iacob iram fratris sui Esau ostensa est ei istam scalam quem[sic] vita virtuosa signat. Nam iacob interpretatur supplantor, signans quemlibet hominem in virtutibus proficere volentem cui necesse est toto conatu contra fratrem, id est carnem propriam, mundum et diabolum, colluctari et supplantare, si velit in scala uirtutum ascendere et descendere
Explicit: perducit ipsum ad eterna gaudia. Amen. Illos gradus ascensionis et descensionis operetur in nobis verus sol iusticie christus deus noster qui cum patre et spiritu sancto uiuit et regnat in secula seculorum.
Colophon: Finitus est liber iste per me Sifridum de Lorch Anno domini Mºccccº xx in die sanctorum apostolorum Simonis et Iude
(i.e. 28 October 1420). Lorsch was in the archbishopric of Mainz.
5. (fols. 89r–147r)
James of Lausanne, Compendium moralitatum
Incipit: Abicit mundus pauperes et honorat diuites. Nota Augustinus dicit quod coruus est talis nature
Explicit: Hoc non est nisi per carnem quia pennas virtutum non habent
Colophon: Hec scripsit frater Berchdolus(?) epi(n) Erfordie Anno domini M cccc 21º de Heinrico Junker suo constudente(?) in 2º Anno sua, feria sexta ante Dominica de Passione
(i.e. Friday, 7 March 1421) Not in Watson, Dated and Datable.

Followed by rubric: ‘Sequitur secundus philosophus’

6. (fols. 147v–152v)
Index to homilies in a breviary (?)
Rubric: \Tabula et dirrectorium(?) secundum alphabetum in omelias leg breviarii communis/ [table of contents]
Incipit: ⟨A⟩bnegari, qualiter debemus nos et nostra(?) abnegari plene docet Gregorius in omelia 2a unius martyris(?) a principio usque ad finem. Abstinencia, 2o sunt genera, Augustinus in sermone in die beati Johannis Baptiste post medium. Item melius est abstinencia a viciis quam a cibis, ibid. Item optimum genus ieiunii abstinere a peccatis, Augustinus omelia feria vj post dominicam quadragesime in fine
Explicit: [Ypocrita] omelia dominica xxa post pentecosten circa medium
Colophon: Expliceat scriptor ad lapides eat
7. (fols. 153r–165v)

Four short theological pieces, the second dated 1421

i. (fols. 153r–155v)
Sermon on John the Baptist
Incipit: Inter natos mulierum […] (Matthew 11:11) Dominus Alexander quintus circa 3m sententiarum in articulo de preseruacionis actualitate beate virginis a peccato originali
Explicit: quia Inter natos mulierum non surrexit maior. Ideo nos paruuli cum eo surgemus eternali gaudio amen.

Apparently not listed in the table of contents.

ii. (fols. 156r-158v)
Nicholas of Clairvaux, Sermo I on John the Baptist
Incipit: Hodie dilectissimi dies illuxit insignis tanto ceteris diebus sanctior
Explicit: de laude Johannis, ad gloriam redemptoris, qui est benedictus […]
Colophon: M cccc xxj feria 4 ante pentecosten in gelhusen(?) [i.e. Wednesday, 7 May 1421, at Gelnhausen?]
PL 144.627–37; apparently not listed in the table of contents.

Listed in the table of contents at this point, but now missing, are ‘Passio in wlgari Extendit manum suam’ and ‘Notabilia de passione Christi ...’

iii. (fols. 159r–161r)
Meditation on the Passion
Incipit: ||cum felle et mirram
Explicit: Dilecti ergo plangite mecum acerbissimam mortem filii mei ut de racione ipsius mecum gaudere possitis. Et nobis concedat qui uiuit et regnat dominus per omnia secula seculorum Amen

Starting imperfect (fols. 207–253 inclusive in the medieval foliation are missing). This seems to be the ‘Passio francisci O uos omnes qui transitis’ listed in the table of contents.

(fols. 161v–162v) blank
iv. (fols. 163r–165v)
Rubric: \Lamentacio virginis gloriose Cui comparabo te/ [table of contents]
Incipit: Cui comparabo te filia Ierusalem […] (Lamentations 2:13) Huic verbo proponitur in rubrica men, quod interpretatur viscera
(fols. 166r–170v) blank

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: paper. One watermark (fols. 56–7, 59) is grapes with 'Kugelkreuz' (WZIS)


Fols. 61r-136v, 163r-165v frame-ruled in ink, sometimes verticals only; fols. 137r-161r apparently not ruled. Written in a single column of about 42 lines. Written space variable, mostly c. 165–70 × 105 mm.


Gothic cursive.


Some plain red initials.

Spaces for many others left blank.


Origin: 15th century, partly 1420–1421 ; German, at least in part Erfurt and Gelnhausen

Additional Information

Record Sources

Summary description (Feb. 2021) by Peter Kidd, edited by Matthew Holford. Previously described in the Summary Catalogue.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)


Last Substantive Revision

2021-02-10: Revised description for Polonsky German digitization project.