Our shops are open and we are processing online, telephone and email orders as normal

BIBLE; Latin, Vulgate.

Bible, with prologues and the Interpretations of Hebrew Names, illuminated manuscript in Latin.

[England, doubtless Oxford: mid 13th century] Stock Code: 144627
Reserve Ask us a question

A 13th-century Oxford Bible illuminated in the style of William de Brailes

A fine English manuscript Bible, probably written and illuminated in Oxford between c.1240 and c.1260, as suggested by the illumination, text, and layout. The palette, particularly the somewhat pale milky blue found in some of the major initials (e.g. Psalms, fol. 248v), in addition to the deep blue used for the chapter and verse initials, is characteristic of mid-13th century English manuscripts, when Oxford was the

main centre of book-production in England - thanks in large part to the presence of the university, with its reliably constant demand for books.


(1) PROBABLY WRITTEN AND ILLUMINATED IN OXFORD, between c.1240 and c.1260, as suggested by the illumination, text, and layout.

(2) In use in England in the later 13th century when marginal notes, variant readings, etc. were added by more than one reader, one of whom noted below Nahum chapter 2 that the text differs greatly from other copies: "In hic 2o ca(pitul)o magna varietas ab aliis libris" (fol. 425v); still in England when a few later medieval marginal notes were added (e.g. fols. 304r, 307r, 319r).

(3) DAVID SWAN, the enigmatic and unidentified English collector of an interesting and varied library formed in the early 1790s (ten medieval manuscripts from the collection have acquisition(?)-dates from 1790 to 1794): inscribed in ink "Bibliotheca Swaniana" (fol. iir) and with Swan's characteristic list of contents (fol. iiir), and his marginal note "Chap. 3" (fol. 371r); the date of Swan's death, and details of the dispersal of his library, are unknown (S. de Ricci, Census of Medieval and Renaissance Manuscripts, II, 1937, p. 1465 no. 519, refers to a sale by King, London, 17 March 1799, but no such catalogue is recorded in any of the usual reference books or databases); the dispersal presumably took place in the late 1790s or first decade of the 19th century, because this manuscript was next owned by:

(4) JOHN TOWNELEY (17311813) (on whom see W.Y. Fletcher, English Book Collectors (London, 1902), pp. 22632), "The library formed by Mr. Towneley was a particularly good one it contained some exceedingly rare and valuable manuscripts", including the Towneley Homer in Greek, the Towneley Mystery Plays in Middle English, and the lavishly-illuminated 12th-century Life and Miracles of St Edmund from Bury St Edmunds; with his armorial bookplate on the front pastedown and his(?) shelfmark "A.III.19" in the lower outer corner of the penultimate flyleaf; his sale by Evans, London, part I, 815 June 1814, lot 865 (this number in pencil on his bookplate), bought for 3 5s. by:

(5) JOHN NORTH (c.17611818), of East Acton, near London (on whom see W. Clarke, Repertorium Bibliographicum; or, Some Account of the Most Celebrated British Libraries (London, 1819), pp. 32531): his sale by Evans, London, part III, 2528 May 1819, lot 503.

(6) GEORGE FOLLIOTT (18011851), of Vicars Cross, Chester: with his armorial bookplate; inscribed in pencil presumably by him "503 North's Sale Part 3rd" (fol. i verso); by descent to his daughter (d. 1931) and grandson; their sale, Sotheby's, Valuable Printed Books, Principally in English Literature, and Fine Illuminated Manuscripts, Forming Part of the Collections of the Late George Folliott, Esq., of Vicars Cross, Chester, Sold by the Joint Direction of His Daughter, Mrs. E. I. E. Folingsby Walker, the Present Tenant for Life, and of Her Son, James Folingsby Walker, Esq., the Absolute Owner in Reversion, 12 May 1930, lot 10, bought for 36 by Dixon.

(7) Unidentified owner, perhaps E. Van Dam, bookseller of Lewes, Sussex (as suggested by the flyleaf notes); sale at Sotheby's, Catalogue of Important Western and Oriental Illuminated Manuscripts and Miniatures, 15 June 1959, lot 149, presumably bought by:

(8) Louis W. Bondy (19101993), London bookseller: his Catalogue 58 (February 1962), no. 28; bought by:

(9) DR BENT JUEL-JENSEN (19222006), Oxford physician, bibliophile, and benefactor (on whom see the obituary in The Independent, 7 January 2007): with his book label, his pencil notes on provenance (fol. i verso), and his more detailed notes on provenance loosely inserted, noting that he showed the manuscript to Richard Hunt (19081979), Keeper of Western Manuscripts at the Bodleian Library, Oxford, on 5 March 1962, who gave his opinion, "Excellent quality hand, and very fine initials"; deaccessioned or traded for another manuscript in the early 1990s to:

(10) Sam Fogg, London dealer, with his stock number "1003" in pencil on the back flyleaves: his Catalogue 16: Text Manuscripts and Documents from 2200 BC to 1600 AD (London, 1995), no. 45 at 20,000.

(11) Michel Witmer, New York dealer; from whom acquired by:

(12) John M. (Jack) Templeton Jr. (19402015), of Philadelphia, physician and philanthropist:

(13) Acquired privately from the Templeton estate.


The biblical books are largely the usual selection in the usual medieval order, except that I Esdras (III Ezra) is absent; Lamentations follows instead of precedes Baruch; Laodiceans is present; and the Interpretations of Hebrew Names are the uncommon version from Aaron to Zorobabel (instead of Aaz to Zuzim); the prologues differ in several places from the standard series (the "S." numbers refer to F. Stegmüller, Repertorium biblicum medii aevi, 11 vols., Madrid, 194080); the non-standard ones are in bold below:

1 occupies quires 114

1. (fols. 1r274v) Genesis to Psalms: Genesis (fol. 1r); Exodus (fol. 24r); Leviticus (fol. 43r); Numbers (fol. 56r); Deuteronomy (fol. 74r); prologue S.311 (fol. 90v), Joshua (fol. 91r); Judges (fol. 102v); prologue S. 315 (fol. 114v), Ruth (fol. 114v); prologue S.323 (fol. 116v), 1 Samuel (1 Kings) (fol. 117r); 2 Samuel (2 Kings) (fol. 134r); 1 Kings (3 Kings) (fol. 147v); 2 Kings (4 Kings) (fol. 163r); prologues S.328 (fol. 178r) and S.327 (fol. 178v), 1 Chronicles (fol. 179r); 2 Chronicles (fol. 192v), ending with the Prayer of Manasseh (fol. 210r); prologue S.330 (fol. 210r), Ezra (fol. 210v); Nehemiah (fol. 215r); prologues S.332 (fol. 221v), S.5190 ("Tobias filius Ananihel "), Tobit (fol. 221v); prologue S.335 (fol. 225r), Judith (fol. 225v); prologue S.341+343 (fol. 230r), Esther (fol. 230v); prologues S.344 (fol. 236r), S.357, S.350 (fol. 236v), S.349 (fol. 237r), Job (fol. 237r); Psalms (fol. 248v), with spaces left blank for rubricated tituli, and with many verses heavily abbreviated after Psalm 109 so that each occupies no more than a single line.

2 occupies quires 1523

2. (fols. 275r459v) The remainder of the Old Testament: Prologues S.457, S.456 (fol. 275r), Proverbs (fol. 275v); prologue S.462 (fol. 285r), Ecclesiastes (fol. 285r); Song of Solomon (fol. 288v); prologues S.468, S.455 (fol. 290v), Wisdom (fol. 290v); "Multorum nobis " treated as a prologue (fol. 297v), Ecclesiasticus (fol. 298r), including the Prayer of Solomon at the end; prologue S.482 (fol. 316v), Isaiah (fol. 317r); prologue S.487 (fol. 339r), Jeremiah (fol. 339v); prologue S.491 (fol. 364v) Baruch (fol. 364v), with chapter 6, the letter of Jerome, given an illuminated initial (fol. 367r); Lamentations (fol. 368r); prologue S.492 (fol. 370r), Ezekiel (fol. 370v); prologues S.494 (fol. 403r), S.495 (fol. 403v), Daniel (fol. 404r), chapter 13 with an illuminated initial and a rubric "Hucusque in Danielem in Ebreo legminus, et cetera que secuntur sic usque ad finem libri, de Theodotionis editione translata sunt" (fol. 411v); prologues S.500 (fol. 413v), S.507, Hosea (fol. 413v); prologue S.5208 (fol. 417r), Joel (fol. 417r); prologues S.3361 (fol. 418r), S.515, S.512 (fol. 418v), Amos (fol. 418v); prologue S.519+517 (fol. 421r), Obadiah (fol. 421v); prologue S.524 (fol. 422r), Jonah (fol. 422r); prologue S.526 (fol. 423r), Micah (fol. 423r); prologue S.528r (fol. 425r), Nahum (fol. 425v); prologues S.531 (fol. 426r), S.530 (fol. 426v), Habakkuk (fol. 427r); prologue S.534 (fol. 428r), Zephaniah (fol. 428r); prologue, a version of S.538 (fol. 429r), Haggai (fol. 429v); prologues S.539, S.3369 (fol. 430r), Zechariah (fol. 430v); prologue S.3371 (fol. 434r), Malachi (fol. 434v); prologue S.551 (fol. 435v), I Maccabees (fol. 435v); II Maccabees (fol. 450r).

35 occupy quires 2430

3. (fols. 460r572r) New Testament: prologues S.595 (fol. 460r), S.596 (fol. 460v), S.591 (fol. 461r), Matthew (fol. 461v); prologue S.607 (fol. 475r), Mark (fol. 475v); Luke (fol. 484v), with "Quoniam quidem " treated as a prologue; prologue S.624 (fol. 499v), John (fol. 500r); prologue S.677 (fol. 511v), Romans (fol. 511v); prologue S.685 (fol. 517r), 1 Corinthians (fol. 517r); prologue S.699 (fol. 522r), 2 Corinthians (fol. 522r); prologue S.707 (fol. 525v), Galatians (fol. 526r); prologue S.715 (fol. 527v), Ephesians (fol. 527v); prologue S.728 (fol. 529v), Philippians (fol. 529v); prologue S.736 (fol. 531r), Colossians (fol. 531r); Laodiceans (fol. 532r); prologue S.747 (fol. 532v), 1 Thessalonians (fol. 532v); prologue S.752 (fol. 533v), 2 Thessalonians (fol. 533v); prologue S.765 (fol. 534v), 1 Timothy (fol. 534v); prologue S.772 (fol. 536r), 2 Timothy (fol. 536r); prologue S.780 (fol. 537r), Titus (fol. 537r); prologue S.783 (fol. 537v), Philemon (fol. 537v); prologue S.793 (fol. 538r), Hebrews (fol. 538r); prologues S.11831, from the Glossa ordinaria (fol. 542r), S.640, S.631 (fol. 542v), Acts (fol. 543r); prologue S.809 (fol. 558r), James (fol. 558v); 1 Peter (fol. 560r); 2 Peter (fol. 561v); 1 John (fol. 562v); 2 John (fol. 564r); 3 John (fol. 564r); Jude (fol. 564v); Revelation (fol. 565r).

4. (fols. 572v589r) The Interpretations of Hebrew Names: "Aaron mons fortis, vel mons fortitudinis Zorobabel aliena translatio, vel ortus in Babilone ".

5. (fol. 589r) A contemporary hand, possibly the main scribe, has added a list of the names of idols(?) not found in the preceding list (cf. British Library, Royal MSS 1.A.vii and 2.D.iv; Ipswich, Public Library, MS 9): "Haec nomina non inveni in interpretationibus. Bethachar ", including e.g. "Beelzebub god of Acharon".


Three initials contain human figures, drawn in ink and partially coloured, against a painted ground: (fol. 428r) Zephaniah, initial 'V': A finely-dressed prince holding a hawk on his gloved hand;

(fol. 560r) I Peter, initial 'P': With the heads of a King and of another male figure; the initial extends the full height of the page, around the base of which a dragon curls;

(fol. 572v) Interpretations of Hebrew Names, initial 'A': A male figure sitting holding one bar of the initial; the other bar is composed of a dragon.

It is curious that these three initials should have been singled out for the most elaborate treatment; nothing in the text of the Zephaniah obviously suggests the subject-matter of its initial. It seems possible that the artist was being paid to execute foliate initials, but decided to include some figurative ones as a way of showcasing his abilities and in the hope of future commissions.

The palette, particularly the somewhat pale milky blue found in some of the major initials (e.g. Psalms, fol. 248v), in addition to the deep blue used for the chapter and verse initials, is characteristic of mid 13th-century English manuscripts, when Oxford was the main centre of book-production thanks in large part to the presence of the university, with its reliably constant demand for books. Similarly, the use of angular blocks of ornament attached to initials or their extensions in the present manuscript is found in Oxford manuscripts, perhaps most famously in the de Brailes Hours in the British Library (on which see the BL website and C. Donovan, The de Brailes Hours: Shaping the Book of Hours in Thirteenth-Century Oxford (London, 1991). William de Brailes is well-documented in the middle decades of the 13th-century, living in Catte Street (still extant, adjacent to St Mary's church and about 100 yards from the Bodleian Library) where those involved in book-production were concentrated. It is likely that the present Bible was written and illuminated by his neighbours.

Several features of this manuscript exemplify the changes that took place, both in in book-making generally, and in the production of Bibles specifically, in the first half of the 13th century. The text of the Bible (its books, and its accessory texts such as prologues and the Interpretations of Hebrew Names) were standardised early in the century, and the books were divided into chapters (probably by Stephen Langton) according to the system that is still in use today. Not only its content, but its small one-volume format, using very fine parchment and very small script, were innovations. This new "edition" of the Bible was disseminated from Paris, becoming increasingly widespread and dominant from the 1230s. The layout of the page underwent a change at almost exactly the same time, with the first line of writing being placed below the top ruled line, whereas before it had sat on top of the top ruled line.

The present Bible has the newer page layout, but has not fully adopted the "Paris" text. Among the uncommon prologues, many are found in a contemporary Oxford Bible (see P. Kidd, 'A Franciscan Bible Illuminated in the Style of William de Brailes', British Library Journal online, 2007 article 8). Similarly, the chapter divisions are also not always the standard Langton series: the original scribe divided Esther into only nine chapters, for example, and a later 13th-century hand has marked the sixteen modern chapter divisions in the margins in red ink.

The 13th century also saw other developments in tools for using texts as reference books: 'paratextual' features such as the division of chapters into sections by the addition of marginal letters "a""g"; the use of Arabic instead of Roman numerals; and alphabetisation. This volume nicely exemplifies the gradual adoption of such features: in the Interpretations of Hebrew names the cross-references use the much more efficient Arabic numerals, but a 13th-century reader who added marginal chapter numbers in red ink uses Roman "x" and "xi" between Arabic 9 and 12 (fols. 227r229v).

The Interpretations of Hebrew Names does not have the rubrics found in some manuscripts, but it is apparent that the names have usually been alphabetised as far as their fourth letter, but not the fifth; the series begins with Aaron, Abba, Abbacuc, Abbana, Abbarim, but then comes Abbadon; full alphabetisation was considered unnecessary.

Confused? Read our glossary



Parchment, c.155×110mm, i (paper) + ii + 582 + ii (paper) leaves, the last blank, foliated in ink in the upper right corner of rectos prior to the current binding, and thus often cropped, jumping from "382" to "393" and thus omitting 383–392, and with "393" and "469" each repeated, most quires of twenty leaves each: 118-4 (lacking 1st–4th leaves), 2–1120, 1220-2 (lacking 6th & 12th leaves, a bifolium), 13–2220, 2316, 24–2820, 29–3016, original plummet leaf signatures in quires 19 and 22, the leaves missing from the first gathering presumably contained Jerome's general prologue and prologue to the Pentateuch, the bifolium missing in quire 12 with Tobit 1:3–3:25 and Judith 13:8–15:14, else complete, 18th(?)-century pencil quire numbers of the first recto of each quire, incorrect for quires "2" and "4", and ink leaf signatures, a–y, A–H, pages ruled in plummet for text in two columns of forty lines written below the top line in a fine legible English hand, the ruled space c.118×78mm, most books starting with a six- or seven-line initial painted in orange, beige, and white, on a blue field with white and orange ornament, more than twenty of them incorporating dragon or animal heads, a few with human heads or figures, many with extensions into the margin, most prologues and lesser texts, including the 8-part divisions of the Psalms, with similar four- or five-line initials, some initial 'T's extending more than half the height of the page, eleven 'puzzle' initials in red and blue, from four to fourteen lines high, each chapter with a two-line initial alternately red with blue penwork, or vice versa, Psalm verse initials alternately red or blue, chapter numbers and running titles in letters alternately red and blue, rubrics in red, capitals touched in red. Generally in very good condition but with minor imperfections, and some flaking of pigments; some marginal chapter numbers and many of the running titles cropped by the binder.



English (London?), c.1790: sewn in four bands and bound in red calf over pasteboards, each cover framed with a roll-tooled gold foliage design, the spine more densely gilt, with a black calf title-piece lettered in sloping gilt capitals "BIBLIA | MS IN | MEMBRANIS", marbled endpapers, the edges of the leaves gilt. The same roll tool is used around the edges of the covers of at least three other manuscripts owned by David Swan (New York, Morgan Library, MS M.519; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MSS Douce 89 and 125), and they have the same style of spine title-piece. With some minor wear, but generally in very good, attractive condition, opening easily and – unlike most small Bibles – a pleasure to handle.


With the exception of framed items*, Peter Harrington offers free delivery on all UK orders of rare books, maps and prints placed through this website. Delivery to USA and the rest of the world is similarly free for orders over £200.

View Full Delivery Details



Established in 1969, Peter Harrington is one of the leading rare book firms in the world. It is a proud member of the Antiquarian Booksellers Association – along with ILAB, the PBFA and Lapada – and from shops in Mayfair and Chelsea, London, sells rare books, prints and ephemera to customers across the world.

Email: mail@peterharrington.co.uk

Tel: +44 (0)20 7591 0220

ABA Antiquarian Bookseller Association ILAB International League of Antiquarian Booksellers LAPADA The Association of Art and Anatique Dealers PBFA Provincial Booksellers Fairs Association

Our Guarantee Page

Ask us a question


Contact us with details of the book you are interested in or selling and we will contact you

Sell Old Books Help me find a book