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

MS. Hatton 48

Summary Catalogue no.: 4118

Rule of St Benedict


The oldest surviving copy of the Rule of St Benedict, and the only manuscript of this text written in uncial script.

Language(s): Latin

(fol. i recto)

Added notes by Bulkeley Bandinel, on an observation of this manuscript by Jean Mabillon; and by W.D. Macray.

(fols. 1r–76v)
Rule of St Benedict
Incipit: Ausculta o fili praecepta magistri
Explicit: quarum obserua||

Marginal scribbles added in the ninth or tenth century.

Language(s): Old English
(fol. 18v)
(fol. 42v)
"cniht ic drink"

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: i (modern paper flyleaf) + 76 + 1 (medieval binding fragment) leaves
Dimensions (leaf): 300–305 × 215 mm.
Foliation: Modern foliation.


1-98, 104–2. Gatherings signed on the last page with ‘q’ under the first column and a number under the below the second, placed between three horizontal lines. A number of leaves replaced during production: fols. 1, 2, 3, 4, 11, 12, 14, 15, 49, 50, 54, 55, 66, 67, 69, 70.


Ruled in dry point, two at a time (cf. fols. 41r, 65r). 2 columns of 22 lines, ruled space 210 × 155–160 mm.


Main text written in uncial script, probably by a single scribe. Uses scriptio continua , with word divisions added later.

Headings written in a smaller, less formal hand.

Corrected extensively in a smaller uncial hand. Lowe suggests that the main scribe, the corrector, and the rubricator are all the same person, in spite of differences in script.

At least four later correctors modified the manuscript through the 13th century.

Two lines of Insular minuscule, fol. 40v.

Musical Notation: Melismata added over textual phrases and in the margin on fols. 20v, 23v, 29v, 44v, 62r.


Fine initials in red and black, surrounded by red dots; sometimes with horizontal lines (fols. 47r, 50r). (Pächt and Alexander iii. 1, pl. I)

Chapter headings rubricated.


White leather on boards, English 12th-century work. Rebacked and repaired. A fragment of the old back, bearing traces of the title, is laid down on the inside of the front cover.


Origin: 690s×700s ; English, south

Lowe suggests Canterbury as the manuscript’s place of origin, but later scholars have not accepted this. Farmer (pp. 22–26) speculates on an origin in Mercia such as Worcester, putting Wilfrid (died 709/10) forward as a possible patron.

Provenance and Acquisition

Worcester, Worcestershire, Benedictine cathedral priory of St Mary the Virgin. A catalogue of Worcester Cathedral manuscripts from 1622/3 by Patrick Young describes the manuscript, no. 216, as ‘Regula Benedicti Ausculta o fili præcepta Magistri liber scriptus maiusculis characteribus, vetus fol. bon.’ See Neil R. Ker, ‘The Provenance of the Oldest Manuscript of the Rule of St. Benedict’, Bodleian Library Record 2, no. 7 (1941): 28–29.

Inscribed, ‘ægelmær’, ?10th century (fol. 44v).

Inscribed, ‘Thomas bryne’, early 16th century (fol. 9r). (MLGB3)

Christopher Hatton (1605–70): one of at least five manuscripts from Worcester in his collection.

Bought in 1671 from the London bookseller Robert Scot.

MS. Hatton 48 – fol. 77


Summary of Contents: Fragment, bound in reverse, of which other leaves survive as MS. Lat. th. d. 33; and as a pastedown in Oxford, St John’s College, Ss. 7. 2.

Language(s): Latin

(fol. 77v–r)
Augustine, Enchiridion chapters 18–19
Incipit: ||demo⟨n⟩straui eam fidem saluos facere quam satis euidenter expressit
Explicit: deliberanti consilium⹎ et quod cuique necessarium||

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: 1 leaf
Dimensions (leaf): 305 × 215 mm.


Ruled in dry point; 30 long lines, ruled space 200 × 130 mm.


Caroline minuscule.

Musical Notation: Blessing in verse, ‘Alme deus trine conserua nos sine fine’, notated in adiastematic French neumes. Some text and notation erased.


Origin: 1040s×60s ; English, Worcester, Worcestershire, Benedictine cathedral priory of St Mary the Virgin

Comparable to other examples of writing from Worcester. See Neil R. Ker, ‘The Provenance of the Oldest Manuscript of the Rule of St. Benedict’, Bodleian Library Record 2, no. 7 (1941): 28–29.


Pen trials, later sixteenth century.

Additional Information

Record Sources

Description by Andrew Dunning (March 2023). Previously described in the Summary Catalogue (1937): More detailed descriptions found in:
David Hugh Farmer, ed., The Rule of St. Benedict: Oxford, Bodleian Library, Hatton 48, Early English Manuscripts in Facsimile 15 (Copenhagen: Rosenkilde and Bagger, 1968).
E. A. Lowe, Regula S. Benedicti: Specimina selecta e codice antiquissimo Oxoniensi (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1929).


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Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (83 images from 35mm slides)


Last Substantive Revision

2023-03-07: Andrew Dunning Revised with consultation of original.