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

MS. Laud Misc. 740

Summary Catalogue no.: 1239


Language(s): Middle English

Fol. i was a pastedown in an earlier binding. Recto-verso blank except for two circles in pencil, pen trials.

Fol. 1r, faded notes in pen (illegible). Fol. 1v, 17th-century additions: list of archaic words and terms with a translation; (in another hand), couplet beg. 'Whoe euer after I am dead, do chaunce this Booke to vew' (not in Crum).

(fols. 2r-128v)
Pilgrimage of the Life of Manhood
Incipit: To tho of þis region þe wyche havys none hows but alle as seys seynt powle be þei ryche be þei pure be þei wyle or folys be þei kyngis or qwenys all þai er pilgryms I wyll schew yow a swewen þat be fell me þe thoþer day.
Explicit: Prayse for hym þat mad it þat has made it by mad it and gartte writt it and wrote itt \in the yeare 1331/

Prose English translation of Guillaume Deguilleville, Pèlerinage de la vie humaine. Based on the Deguilleville’s first recension of the text written 1330–1, and not to be confused with the English verse translation attributed to John Lydgate, based on Deguilleville’s second recension of 1355. The text incorporates:

(fols. 103v-106v)
Geoffrey Chaucer, ABC to the Virgin

Scribal dialect Dialect of fols, 1–44v, NW Lincolnshire or NE Nottinghamshire (Ogilvie-Thomson)

(fol. 129r)

17th-century additions: poem (beg. 'God made a Buylding rare on earth, without the help of any', Crum G0273) and note 'The sowle that takes delight in syning is gayn'd upon by custome'. Fol. 129v blank except for ex libris (see Provenance) and pen trial. Fol. 129 was a pastedown in an earlier binding.

Language(s): English

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: parchment
Extent: iv (modern) + 2 + 129 + iv (modern)
Dimensions (leaf): 261 × 185 mm.
Foliation: I-IV, i, 1–133


A(two leaves, fols. i, 1); 1(8)-16(8) (fols. 2–129). Catchwords; leaf signatures


1 col., 31 lines. Ruled in leadpoint and (fols. 114–129) crayon. Ruled space 165 × 114 mm.


Three scribes: fols. 2r-44v, 44v-109r, 109r-128v. Anglicana formata with secretary influence.


Twenty fine miniatures, resembling those in Deguileville’s Pèlerinage de l’âme, New York Public Library, Spencer MS. 19 which are perhaps from the same shop. (Henry, EETS, xlii, but cf. Scott, Gothic) In this manuscript, however, the illuminator used two-dimensional patterns instead of the ‘perspective’ floor-pattern apparent in the Spencer ms. (Henry, Scriptorium, 276).

  • 2r The Dreamer, on the left in his ‘pulpit’, addresses his audience, represented by four figures on the right.
  • 3v Natiuitas hominis. Hic gratia dei apparet primo homini nato (in red over black). The Dreamer, on the left, raises his hands as he meets the crowned Grace Dieu.
  • 5r Grace Dieu leads the Dreamer to the ‘house’, on the right.
  • 5v Baptismus. A priest in alb and stole stands on the left, holding a baby over the central font as if for immersion. Behind the font a deacon holds book and candle. On the right a woman and two men (the one near the font without a hat) look on.
  • 10v A bishop, in full vestments, gives sacerdotal sword and keys to three priests on the right.
  • 14v A bishop gives sealed keys to the Pilgrim on the right.
  • 19v Penitence and Charity stand between two pilgrims on the left and the bishop on the right; Charity presents her Charter of Peace to the bishop.
  • 25v The bishop gives the Host to the first of three pilgrims. Behind him, on the right, the Chalice stands on an altar.
  • 32r Grace places the Satchel of Faith round the Pilgrim’s neck. They stand between two trees, on rocks and grass.
  • 47v Memory, on the left, carries the Pilgrim’s armour. Grace (or Reason, for she is not crowned) addresses the Pilgrim.
  • 66r Sloth, on the left, lassoos the Pilgrim’s feet as he walks away from her, holding his staff in front of him. There is a tree on each side, and one in between the figures.
  • 69r Between two trees on rock and grass, Pride, horned like a unicorn, and carrying bellows, a horn and a rough staff rides Flattery, who holds up a mirror reflecting Pride. The Pilgrim stands on the right.
  • 77v Between two trees on rock and grass, Envy is on all fours, with Treason and Detraction riding her. Treason carries her box of ointment and dagger; Detraction’s tongue is a spear. On the right, the Pilgrim stands confronting them.
  • 83r The prostrate Pilgrim is attacked by Pride, Envy, Treason and Detraction. The vices’ faces have been overdrawn.
  • 85v The Pilgrim, on the left, meets Avarice with two arm-stumps on her shoulders, her six other arms holding (clockwise): an unidentified object (not in the text) held to her protruding tongue, nothing, a bowl and satchel, scales, an unidentified object (the hand must be Cut Purse, but possibly the object is the sun, ‘sold’ by Usury, which is holding the scales next to it), a hook. An idol is on her head. There is a tree on the right.
  • 97r On the left, Gluttony holds a goblet over the full-length sack held in front of her. The Pilgrim stands on the right.
  • 107r On the left is the Pilgrim, addressed by Grace Dieu. There is a tree between her and the tub on the right into which a stream descends.
  • 109r The Pilgrim stands on the right looking at the Sea of the World, in which two winged figures swim, and two wingless figures are submerged.
  • 113v Youth carries the Pilgrim over the Sea of the World, from rocks on the left towards a tree on the right.
  • 118v The Pilgrim stands on the left, looking at the Ship of Religion.

There are foliate borders with gold around the margins of each page that features a miniature.

There is also a marginal drawing of Rude Entendment on f.49r. His genitalia have been blotted out.

There are champ initials with gold on folios 2r, 14v, 25v, 66r, 69r, 77v, 83r, 97r, 107r, 109r, 113v, 118v. These are all folios with miniatures and borders, though not all folios with miniatures and borders have champ initials.

All new paragraphs begin with penwork initials, apart from the champ initials noted above. There is frequent penwork decoration, usually extending from the text box into the top or bottom margin, of animals and grotesques, occasionally coloured with red.


Modern stitching, binding, and flyleaves

The previous seventeenth-century pasteboard binding and suede chemise are kept with the manuscript.


Origin: 15th century, second quarter ; English, perhaps Lincolnshire

Provenance and Acquisition

Likely owned by and perhaps made c. 1430 for Sir Thomas Cumberworth of Somerby, Lincolnshire. This manuscript has many similarities to New York, Public Library, Spencer MS 19, Deguileville’s The Life of the Soul, which also was owned by and perhaps made for Cumberworth. Both manuscripts are mentioned in his will to be bequeathed to his chantry priests.

‘This is Amb[r]os Suttones Booke’, fol. 129v: probably Ambrose Sutton (1530–1592) of Burton, Butterwick, and London, for whom see History of Parliament.

Walls has suggested the following chain of ownership: Dame Agnes, wife of Sir Robert Constable, then to Marrick Priory, where Dame Agnes took orders when she became a widow, then to Christabella Cowper, the prioress of Marrick at the time of the dissolution, then to Christabella’s nephew John Cowper, also of Cumberworth in Lincolnshire, then likely to Ambrose Sutton.

The volume is next known to have been owned by William Baspoole, who is responsible for many of the italic and pseudo-gothic marginalia in this manuscript, who in turn gifted it to Archbishop Laud.

William Laud, by 1633.

Part of Laud's first donation to the Bodleian.

Record Sources

Description by Kathryn Peak, October 2020. Previously described in the Quarto Catalogue (H. O. Coxe, Laudian Manuscripts, Quarto Catalogues II, repr. with corrections, 1969, from the original ed. of 1858–1885).

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (full digital facsimile)
Digital Bodleian (25 images from 35mm slides)


    Avril Henry, ‘The Illuminations in the two illustrated Middle English manuscripts of the prose ‘Pilgrimage of þe Lyfe of þe Manhode’, Scriptorium 37 (2) (1983), 264–73
    Avril Henry, ed., The Pilgrimage of the Lyfe of the Manhode, EETS 288, Oxford (1985)
    S.J. Ogilvie-Thomson, The Index of Middle English Prose Handlist XVI: Manuscripts in the Laudian Collection, Bodleian Library, Oxford, Cambridge (2000)
    Otto Pächt and J.J.G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford (1966–73) iii. 925, pl. LXXXVIII
    Kathryn Walls, ‘Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Laud Misc. 740 and New York, Public Library, MS Spencer 19: A Common History?’ Journal of the Early Book Society, 18 (2015), 192–206.

    Online resources:

Last Substantive Revision

2020-10-22: New description by Kathryn Peak.