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

MS. Holkham misc. 48

Summary Catalogue no.: Not in SC (late accession)


(pp. 1–148)
Dante, Divine comedy
Language(s): Italian
(pp. 1–54; Quires I-III)


Rubric: Qui comincia la prima Cantica de la comedia di dante Chiamata Inferno laquale se diuide per Canti. En el primo canto fa prohemio sopra tutta lopra
Incipit: Nel meço del camin di nostra uita mi ritrouai per una selua scura chella diritta uia era smarrita

pp. 55–56 are pricked and ruled, but left blank.

(pp. 57–112; Quires IV-VIII)


Rubric: Qui comincia il primo capitolo de la seconda Canticha dela comedia. Doue tracta del suo prohemio. E doue introduce Cato. E tracta dela prima spetie de negligentia
(pp. 113–148; Quires IX-XII)


Rubric: Qui comincia il primo Capitolo dela terça Canticha dela comedia. Nelquale sitracta lo suo prohemio Come omni cosa naturalmente tende a buonfine. Loquale fine sic forma delordine mondano
Explicit: lamor che moue il sole & laltre stelle.
Final rubric: Explicit liber dantis deparadiso.
Colophon: Qui scripsit scribat semper cum domino uiuat

Physical Description

Secundo Folio: Maio per che
Form: codex
Support: Parchment of variable quality, the hair-and flesh sides often very different; the lower edges at the start of the book very ragged, and patched with other pieces of parchment before being decorated; the parchment of the Inferno section is generally inferior to that which follows.
Extent: iii (paper) + 74 + iii (paper) leaves.
Dimensions (leaf): 355–60 × 235 mm.
Dimensions (ruled): 210–50 × 180–200 mm.
Foliation: The main text paginated in 19th-century pencil 1–147, the last page of the text and the flyleaves paginated in late 20th-century pencil i-vi, 178–154.


I8 (pp. 1–16), II-III10 (pp. 17–56) | IV-VI8 (pp. 57–104), VII-VIII2 (pp. 105–112) | IX8 (pp. 113–128), X2 (pp. 129–132), XI6 (pp. 133-144), XII2 (pp. 145-148); quires arranged with a flesh-side outermost; leaf signatures at the head spine corner of the first rectos, 'a1'-'n1'. Marks for the binder in the form ‘+’ at the head spine corner on the recto of the first leaf after the centre of most quires (I-VI, IX, Xi-XII).


Ruled in leadpoint for 36–45 written lines per page, in 2 columns; prickings (sometimes double) often survive in the outer margin.


Written in a rounded Italian gothic script by more than one scribe, below top line, apparently with a change of hand at the start of Purgatorio.


Rubrics in red introduce each canto; initial letters of verses stroked in red.

One historiated initial depicting Dante sitting asleep on a hillside at the start of the Inferno (p. 1).

A large 'puzzle' initial in red and blue with red and purple penwork at the start of Purgatorio and Paradiso (pp. 57, 113); three-line initials in red with purple penwork to each canto, one of them in red with fine penwork in brown ink (p. 141).

The lower border of every page with coloured drawings, occasionally using gold, illustrating the text; figures and scenes usually identified by inscriptions in red ink; the final page with an almost uncoloured ink drawing, possibly of Dante presenting his work to a dignitary with a retinue.The miniatures of the three main textual sections appear to have been decorated by different artists.


Typical Holkham binding of green straight-grained tanned sheepskin over millboards, with the Coke crest as a gold-tooled centrepiece at the centre of the left board (British Armorial Bindings: Coke, Thomas William, 1st Earl of Leicester (1754-1842), stamp 03); the spine gold-tooled 'COMMEDIA | DI | DANTE || MS. | DEL.SEC. | XIV.', and, at the bottom, '51[4]'.

Conserved 2021; spine-folds of quire I repaired, quires I-III and XI-XI resewn, left board reattached.


Origin: Italian, North (?), Genoa (?); 14th century, third quarter

Provenance and Acquisition

One or more inscriptions are erased at the end of the text, perhaps partly in red ink.

Occasional annotations and corrections to the text in early Italian hands, including whole omitted verses (e.g. at the end of Canto 18: 'Di quella soza ...'; p. 28).

Bookplate of 'THOMAS WILLIAM COKE' (1754–1842) (upper pastedown), and signed 'Thos. Willm. Coke.' (p. ii); inscribed by his friend William Roscoe (1753–1831) 'The designs in this curious M.S. have great merit, when considered with reference to the very early period at which they were produced. [signed] W.R.' (p. iii); inscribed 'Cat. 2.' (p. 153) and '2' (p. 1, top gutter corner) in 19th-century pencil; formerly Norfolk, Holkham Hall, MS. 514, inscribed with this number in pencil (p. iii).

Record Sources

Draft description by Peter Kidd, late 1990s; collation statement and binding description revised by Andrew Honey, September 2021.


To ensure its preservation, access to this item is restricted, and readers are asked to work from reproductions and published descriptions as far as possible. If you wish to apply to see the original, please click the request button above. When your request is received, you will be asked to contact the relevant curator outlining the subject of your research, the importance of this item to that research, and the resources you have already consulted.

Please note in addition that this item is on display in the exhibition "Chaucer Here and Now", Bodleian Libraries, Weston Library, 8 December 2023 – 28 April 2024. It will not be orderable between those dates or for a short period before or afterwards.

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (147 images from 35mm slides)


    Il manoscritto Holkham Misc. 48 : Dante Alighieri commedia. (Treccani, 2021) [facsimile with accompanying commentary volume]

Last Substantive Revision

2021-09-09: Collation statement and binding description revised by Andrew Honey after conservation work.