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

MS. Rawl. D. 403

Summary Catalogue no.: 13172


Language(s): Latin

1. (fols. 4r-103v)
Liber mortis et uitae
Incipit: Quomodo infirmi se occupent. vel se occupare debent. aut qualiter se exerceant. docemur vtique per exempla sanctorum patrum
Rubric: (fol. 4) Prima pars, de rectificatione atque caucione infirmorum habenda
Rubric: (fol. 22) Secunda pars, de temptacionibus et earum remediis ac consolacionibus
Rubric: (fol. 56v) Tercia pars, de excercicio infirmorum per exempla et documenta Jhū Christi et sanctorum
Rubric: (fol. 75) Quarta pars, de visitacione infirmorum et de visitantibus eos
Colophon: Finit feliciter liber mortis et vite per Iohannem cuius habitacio est in Syon

The only known copy. Corrections and additions suggest the manuscript may be an autograph. That the text was composed for the use of Birgittines is suggested by the fact that St Birgitta is placed first in the list of saints after Mary (fol. 66r).

2. (fols 104r-108v)
Rubric: Effusio languentis spiritus in pium Jesum
Incipit: Ueni mi iustissime iudex. veni mi dilectissime rex . o ihesu christe . Veni redemptor omnium
Explicit: ut pro nobis inter eorum gaudia lucis memores ad te exorent. Amen. Deo gracias.
Final rubric: Effusio languentis spiritus in pium ihesum. explicit.
3. (fols 109r-123r)
Rubric: Meditationes passionis domini nostri Jhesu Cristi ad omnes horas cum orationibus
Incipit: Hora matutina meditare ac considera magestatem excelsam domini nostri ihesu christi. atque eius humilitatem profundam
Explicit: et omnes fideles defunctos ab omnibus penis libera . ac redime . et ad celestis regni gloriam sempiternam nos omnes fac misericorditer peruenire . Qui cum deo patre […]

All pages with 'Ihesu mercy' at the head; many with 'corrigitur' or 'legitur et corrigitur' at the foot.

Physical Description

Form: codex
Support: paper
Dimensions (leaf): 225 × 160 mm.


Rubrication incomplete.

No other decoration.


Late nineteenth-century or early twentieth-century inboard hollow-back binding made for the Bodleian Library. 235 × 168 × 23 mm. Half-bound in maroon morocco, sided with black cloth, over millboard. The edges of the textblock are untrimmed and retain their deckles to the tail and fore-edges.

The manuscript was originally bound in a limp parchment wrapper inscribed on the upper cover ‘Mariale’ and ‘Liber mortis et vite’. The wrapper is now folded and sewn into the binding after fol. 123. The wrapper has four sets of irregular holes across the spine indicating a long-stitch structure. The upper cover extended some 45 mm beyond the fore-edge to provide a fore-edge flap.


Origin: 15th century, late or 16th century, early ; England, Syon Abbey

Provenance and Acquisition

Syon, Middlesex, Bridgettine abbey of St Saviour, St Mary the Virgin, and St Bridget: 'Finit feliciter liber mortis et vite per Iohannem cuius habitacio est in Syon' (fol. 103v). (fol. 1r) Collectio begins: 'Deus qui ecclesiam tuam per beatam brigittam sacris illuminare dignatus es consiliis et exemplis.' Woodcut with the 'Arma Beate Brigitte de Syon' at foot (fol. 3v). (MLGB3: evidence from locally specific contents, including obits, scribbles, etc.).

Thomas Rawlinson, MS. 900 in his catalogue.

Richard Rawlinson, 1690–1755

Bequeathed to the Bodleian in 1755

MS. Rawl. D. 403 - fols. 1r-3v


(fols. 1r-3v)

Three independently produced woodcuts added at the beginning of the manuscript (three leaves with stubs at the end of the first quire, between fols. 16 and 17). The rectos of the printed leaves are inscribed in the same hand as the rest of the manuscript with Latin prayers, relating thematically to the facing woodcuts, as well as to the content of the work that follows, suggesting that they are not later additions, but rather part of the volume as originally conceived. The woodcuts are described in more detail in Bod-Inc.

(fol. 1r)

On the recto is a devotion to St Brigitta

Incipit: ⟨G⟩aude sponsa ihesu cristi. o quam felix que fuisti digna tali nomine. Gaude christo tibi teste. sancte prodis et honeste claro regum germine
Incipit: ⟨D⟩eus qui ecclesiam tuam per beatam birgittam sacris illuminare dignatus es

The concluding prayer can be found in the The Bridgettine Breviary of Syon Abbey. From the MS. with English Rubrics F.4.11 at Magdalene College, Cambridge, ed. A. J. Collins, Henry Bradshaw Society, 96 (London, 1969), 32 and 139. These texts are likely to have been related to a preceding page now lost and possibly containing a further woodcut

Language(s): Latin
(fols. 1v-2r)
(fol. 1v)
Woodcut (Bod-Inc XYL-30), The Pieta with the Instruments of the Passion; unique copy, with indulgence in Middle English
Language(s): Middle English
(fol. 2r)

Hymn to the Virgin

Incipit: ⟨A⟩ue mundi spes maria aue mitis aue pia aue plena gratia. Aue virgo singularis

Closely related to Chevalier, Rep. hymn. 1974; AH 32,38 no. 24.

Language(s): Latin
(fols. 2v-3r)
(fol. 2v)
Woodcut (Bod-Inc XYL-13), Christ as the Man of Sorrows, with English inscription for an indulgence of 32755 years.

Unique copy.

Language(s): Middle English
(fol. 3r)

Seven Prayers of St Gregory

Incipit: Domine ihesu criste adoro te in cruce pendentem
Language(s): Latin
(fol. 3v)
(fol. 3v)
Woodcut (Bod-Inc XYL-19), Death and the Last Judgement

Faces the opening page of the Liber mortis et vitae.

The picture is surrounded by a double-lined frame. A majuscule ‘S’ (= ‘Syon’?), to the right of the devil, was printed as part of the woodcut. At the top, outside the frame, there is a typographic inscription: ‘Surgite Mortui. + Uenite ad Judicium.’, and below: ‘Arma Beate Birgitte: De Syon. +’, accompanied by a coat of arms bearing the rampant lion of Sweden (of which the lower part has been cut away). Unique copy. The typographic text, which need not be a later addition (as has sometimes been suggested), indicates that the woodcut may have been produced at, or at least printed for, the convent of Syon Abbey.

Language(s): Latin


Origin: 1499 (watermark of fol. 1v) ; England (Syon Abbey?)

MS. Rawl. D. 403, fol. 1v (XYL-30)

Physical Description

Form: sheet
Support: Paper, Chancery half-sheet; chain-lines vertical. Watermark, cuffed hand surmounted by a large quatrefoil.
Dimensions (leaf): 225 × c. 180 mm.


The Pieta with the Instruments of the Passion

MS. Rawl. D. 403, fol. 2v (XYL-13)

Physical Description

Form: sheet
Support: Paper, Chancery half-sheet; chain-lines vertical. Watermark, unicorn, from the stock of paper used in Wynkyn de Worde's third edition of Quattuor sermones [1499].
Dimensions (leaf): 225 × c. 180 mm.


Christ as the Man of Sorrows

MS. Rawl. D. 403, fol. 3v (XYL-19)

Physical Description

Form: sheet
Support: Paper, Chancery half-sheet; chain-lines vertical. No watermark.
Dimensions (leaf): 225 × 180 mm.


Death and the Last Judgement

Additional Information

Record Sources

Description adapted (May 2022) from the following sources, with additional reference to published literature as cited:
Nigel F. Palmer and Andrew Honey, Blockbooks, Woodcut and Metalcut Single Sheets, in A catalogue of books printed in the fifteenth century now in the Bodleian Library, Oxford [Bod-Inc] (2005) (q.v., for more detailed descriptions of the woodcuts)
W. D. Macray, Catalogi codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecæ Bodleianæ...viri munificentissimi Ricardi Rawlinson, J.C.D., codicum...complectens, Quarto Catalogues V, 5 fascicles, 1862–1900), IV (1893)

Digital Images

Digital Bodleian (6 images from 35mm slides)
Digital Bodleian (4 images from 35mm slides)


Last Substantive Revision

2022-05: Description revised to incorporate further information from Bod-Inc and the Quarto catalogue.