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College catalogues

The original editorial conventions of the college catalogues are reproduced below as they appeared in the print editions.

Christ Church

The Format of the Descriptions

Each of the descriptions follows a set outline. This consists of the following parts:

  1. A header, which gives (i) the shelfmark, (ii) the place of production and date, (iii) a short title. In dating the books, the customary conventions established by Neil Ker, as outlined at MMBL, 2:vii, are adopted. Years are given in Arabic numerals when the date or date range of a manuscript is known, with ‘–’ in a date range signifying that the construction occurred over that period, while ‘x’ signifies that the years given are the outer possible limits for production.

  2. A paragraph of physical description, including, in order, the material, number of folios, dimensions (page and writing area), format and number of lines to the page, page pricking and ruling, style of the hand, and type of punctuation. Material is distinguished between parchment (with disposition signified, using FSOS where flesh is at the outside of the quire and HSOS where hair is) and paper (with note on any watermarks visible). In recording the folios, flyleaves are numbered in Roman numerals, leaves of the main body in arabic numerals (with the numbering of the foliation in the manuscript given in parantheses when there is a divergence from what is actually present). Dimensions are measured to the millimetre, with the caveat that the dimensions of writing area and, a fortiori, page size are always liable to some variation; variation is noted only when it is substantial. With regard to format, all books before s. xiiimed are above top line, and all after that period below top line, unless explicitly stated. A further paragraph follows when the manuscript has previously received a detailed description or when scholarly attention has been given to the scribe(s). Last in this section is a record of the ‘2o fo’, the first word (or phrase) of the second leaf of the first item (where this is not fol. 2, a number in parantheses identifies the leaf cited).

In the case of composite books, this section includes only the overall dimensions. Each component manuscript (given an Arabic number) has an opening paragraph giving the details of folios, layout and script.

  1. A paragraph (or extended series of them) which indicates and identifies the CONTENTS. Each item is numbered (blank leaves are listed but unnumbered) and each entry opens with an inclusive foliation; an unqualified folio number is always to be understood as recto. In bicolumnar format, the columns are distinguished by superscript a and b. Immediately following the foliation is a brief transcription of the title (if present), the incipit and explicit. In the transcriptions, square brackets indicate editorial interventions; italics are used to signify rubricated text; [sic] is used sparingly, only for the most egregious mistakes. Abbreviations are silently expanded; the abbreviated nomen sacrum, xps, is expanded as ‘cristus’ (cf. P. Chaplais, ‘The spelling of Christ’s name in medieval Anglo-Latin: ‘christus’ or ‘cristus’?’, Journal of the Society of Archivists, viii (1987), pp. 261-80).

The textual material is followed, for each item, by an interpretative paragraph identifying author, text and any modern edition. At this point, elements specific to our copy are noted.

Texts which were not part of the original construction of the manuscript but have been inserted after the campaign of production are not at the end of the list of contents, as ‘added texts’, each being given in sequence a letter of the alphabet.

  1. A paragraph specifying the COLLATION. This is described using the standard ‘Bradshaw’ formula as refined by Neil Ker (Catalogue of Manuscripts containing Anglo-Saxon (Oxford, 1957), xxii, reprinted at MMBL, 3:vii), with the presentational difference that all irregularities to a quire are placed in brackets after the basic structure is specified. A single vertical line signifies the end of a production unit. This section also notes the presence of signatures and catchwords.

  2. A paragraph describing the TEXTUAL PRESENTATION AND DECORATION. The terminology used is, where appropriate, based on the glossary provided by Kathleen L. Scott, Dated and Datable English Manuscript Borders c. 1395-1499 (London, 2002), 121-25. In addition, the term ‘lombard’ is used to signify the style initial customary in manuscript from s. xiii in., usually blue, often alternating red and blue, customarily with flourishing in a contrasting colour.

  3. For manuscripts in the English vernacular, where appropriate, a paragraph describing the SCRIBAL DIALECT.

  4. A paragraph describing the BINDING, and all its furniture. Reference is made to the methods of chaining as described by Watson, All Souls, xxii, so that:

Watson position 1 = staple, back over

Watson position 2 = vertical strip of metal, foot front cover

Watson position 3 = horizontal staple, foot front cover

Watson position 4 = horizontal strip of metal, side of front cover near foot

Watson position 5 = horizontal strip of metal, side of back cover near foot

Watson position 6 = horizontal strip of metal, side of front cover near head

Watson position 7 = horizontal strip of metal, side of back over near head

A second paragraph follows when information can be discerned about any previous binding or when external evidence exists providing further details about the present binding.

  1. A paragraph (or series of them) indicating the evidence for PROVENANCE. In this section internal and external evidence of use and ownership is gathered in chronological order, ending with any signs of its place in the ChCh collection.

Abbreviations commonly used in the descriptions

FSOS The vellum in each quire has been folded with the flesh-side outside

HSOS The vellum in each quire has been folded with the hair-side outside

Conventions in transcriptions

( ) indicates letters supplied to correct an obvious scribal lapsus calami, most typically the result of a failure to supply a mark of abbreviation when one was appropriate

^ ^ indicates interlinear additions

\ / indicates marginal additions

< > indicates materials expunged or cancelled; if still legible, the letters placed within the brackets; if now illegible, a point for each letter space is noted.

[ ] signifies editorial interventions, including indicating capitals supplied for unfilled spaces at initia, whether or not a guide letter is present

¦¦ indicates a textual break through loss of leaves

| indicates a line break (used to demonstrate separation of titles from text, and in transcribing verse)

Exeter College


  1. Number.
  2. Abbreviated title; language if not Latin; dating; place of origin if known or deducible on grounds of script, decoration, or other evidence; secundo folio (‘2o fo’).
  3. Contents. The normal form is an immediate full description of the contents, but in manuscripts with fore- and endleaves which have a variety of contents the full description is sometimes preceded by a brief summary of these. The loss of medieval flyleaves through later rebinding has, however, greatly reduced the need for this. Descriptions of the main contents vary according to whether the volume is a unit or whether it comprises several sections, perhaps of different dates and origins. In the first case, as in MS 6, separate works are numbered in arabic figures; in the second case, the separate sections are assigned capital letters and subdivisions are numbered in roman figures in round brackets, as in MS 1. In both cases items are numbered or lettered in the order in which they occur in the manuscript, but added items are identified by an asterisk before the number or letter, as in MS 1, in which the first nine items of section C are original but the tenth to thirteenth are added and therefore numbered *x–*xiii, and the whole of section D, with two subsections, are added and therefore numbered *D and *(i) and *(ii).
  4. Structure. Normally this follows as a separate section after Contents, but in descriptions of volumes made up of several manuscripts each manuscript is treated separately and Structure, Script, and Decoration follow each individual description of Contents in one paragraph. An example is MS 35. The material used is said to be either membrane or paper, the former having been preferred as a noncommittal term to cover both parchment and vellum; ‘parchment’ is, however, used to identify the material used as book covers. The collation is given in the now well-established formula used by Ker and others.Ker, MMBL iii, p. vii. Note that flyleaves are not included in the collation formula unless they form part of a quire that contains text. Foliation has presented more of a problem and, with regret and full awareness of the complications that may result, many foliations have been changed. Over the years, as in other Oxford libraries, Exeter College manuscripts have been foliated in a variety of systems by many people, some of whom also altered their predecessors’ foliations in other manuscripts. Coxe naturally did this for his own purposes but unfortunately not always accurately, overlooking leaves and so causing contradictions between the numbers of leaves reached by foliation and the numbers calculated by collation (which he never attempted). The result has been overall confusion and it was therefore decided to refoliate the whole collection on one consistent pattern. In this, leaves of text, including totally blank leaves that form part of the collation, are numbered from 1 in arabic; flyleaves of all dates (medieval, modern, raised pastedowns, or whatever) are numbered in roman—from small roman i at the front and capital roman I at the back. For manuscripts such as MS 47, which have been frequently referred to in print, both new and old foliations have been given, the latter following the former in round brackets. The various materials for ruling are indicated by the terms ‘hardpoint’, ‘pencil’ (for a grey-coloured line), ‘crayon’ (for a brown-coloured line), and ‘ink’. Note that prickings are not usually mentioned unless they are likely to be significant, i.e. of a date up to around the end of the twelfth century. Quire numbers (figures on the last verso of quires) are distinguished from quire signatures (letters and/or figures on the rectos in the first part of quires).
  5. Script. The following terms are used. Caroline minuscule for the script of Western Europe up to c.1100; protogothic for the script of the period c.1100 to c.1200; gothic for the period after c.1200, divided into bookhand (quadrata, semiquadrata, prescisssa/ sine pedibus, or rotunda), or cursive or hybrida; Humanistic scripts are described as humanistic bookhand or humanistic cursive. Adjectives are sometimes used to define quality (‘accomplished’, ‘untidy’, etc.) or nationality, and documentary is sometimes used of cursive scripts of the twelfth to fifteenth centuries. For anglicana, secretary, bastard secretary, and other terms identifying English scripts see M. B. Parkes, English Cursive Book Hands 1250–1500, rev. edn. (London, 1979).
  6. Decoration. Note that ‘red-and-blue’ is distinguished from ‘red and blue’ in phrases such as ‘red-and-blue linefillers’, ‘red and blue linefillers’, the former meaning that linefillers are drawn in two colours of ink and the latter that they are either wholly red or wholly blue. A phrase such as ‘7/10-line lombards’ means that the lombards occupy a vertical space varying from seven to ten lines of script.
  7. Bindings. On Exeter bindings see pp. xxiv–xxv above.
  8. History. For Exeter pressmarks and other numbers and marks in the manuscripts see pp. xxv–xxvi above, and for bookplates, p. xxv above.


* An asterisk before an item number or letter indicates an added item. See Form of Entry, Contents, above.

In the Contents section, before the opening or after the closing words of the text, a double vertical stroke indicates that the text begins or ends abruptly. In the collation formula double vertical strokes indicate a structural division between parts of the volume.

| In the Contents section a single vertical stroke indicates a verse ending.

< > In quotations from manuscripts angle brackets indicate that the word(s) or letter(s) enclosed have been erased, obliterated, or otherwise rendered partly or entirely illegible. Angle brackets with a single dot, <.>, or two dots, <..>, indicate respectively that one or two letters are missing but <…> indicates only that an unspecified number of letters is lacking.

[] In quotations from manuscripts empty square brackets indicate the presence of word(s) or letter(s) that are intact but have not been deciphered. Square brackets enclosing a letter indicate that the letter, usually a coloured capital, has been omitted. They are also used for editorial insertions such as ‘[sic]’.

\ / In quotations from manuscripts oblique strokes enclose interlinear insertions by the original scribe or a close contemporary.

« » In quotations from manuscripts double angle brackets indicate that the word(s) or letter(s) enclosed have been added in a medieval or early modern hand.

X between dates (e.g. 1452 × 1457) indicates the outer limits possible.

Dots indicate omitted letters. See also < > above.

FSOS Flesh side Outside: in folding, this indicates that quires of membrane are arranged with the flesh side outwards.

HSOS Hair side Outside: in folding, this indicates that quires of membrane are arranged with the hair side outwards.

In a page or folio reference a or b indicates left or right columns respectively, and a second number, following an oblique stroke, is the line number, e.g. fol. 217rb/14. Line numbers are given only when their absence would make reference difficult.

In quoting from manuscripts, the original spelling has been retained. Original punctuation has been simplified by representing the punctus versus and punctus elevatus by a full stop and silently supplying missing stops. Italic type indicates rubrics or, occasionally, headings in a colour other than red.

Merton College

(a) Physical description:

Unless otherwise stated, leaves of manuscripts are of membrane (called 'parchment' where there is a need to mention it).

Measurements of leaf-size are normally followed by dimensions of written space in brackets, taken from the (innermost) bounding lines. Both sets of measurements are rounded to the nearest 0 or 5.

Leaves are described, where necessary, as having been 'trimmed' in the first instance, 'retrimmed' if further cut down at a later date.

A folio-number not otherwise qualified refers to the recto. After a folio-number, r and v denote recto and verso, a and b columns.

Terminology used to describe script is largely that of T. J. Brown, as presented in M. Brown, A Guide to Western Historical Scripts from Antiquity to 1600 (London, The British Library, 1990).

'Impf.' ('imperfect') means that text is missing due to damaged or missing leaves; 'unfinished' means that the scribe broke off the text; 'canc.' ('cancelled') refers to leaves excised, arguably at the time the book was manufactured, probably or certainly without loss of text; leaves lost or excised at a later date are described as 'lacking'; 'mutil.' ('mutilated) means that text is largely or completely illegible due to physical damage.

'Quire-signatures of the usual late medieval form' refers to the use of serial letter and number (a. i etc.), usually at the foot of the recto of leaves in the first half of each quire.

'Arabesque initials' denote the typical unhistoriated coloured initials common in English MSS of s. xii, as described by J. J. G. Alexander, 'Scribes as Artists', in Medieval Scribes, Manuscripts and Libraries, p. 90 seq.

‘Channel-style’ initials denote those Anglo-French initials common in MSS (especially glossed books) of s. xii-xiii, described by W. Cahn, ‘St Albans and the Channel Style in England’, in The Year 1200 (New York, Metropolitan Museum, 1970), pp. 186-211, and C. F. R. De Hamel, Glossed Books of the Bible and the Origins of the Paris Booktrade (Woodbridge, 1984), ch. 4.

'Champe' initials' describe the conventional small initials, in gold, on pink and blue backgrounds with white tracery, found in MSS of s. xiv-xv: J. J. G. Alexander, Medieval Illuminators and their Methods of Work (New Haven and London, 1992), p. 26 and pl. 39.

(c) Contents:

Works are first identified by name of author capitalized and title italicized, representing the standard modern attribution and form. Authors and titles in inverted commas are as found in the MS. These are always provided if present.

Normally incipits and explicits are provided, standard formulae such as 'f(ratres) d(ilectissimi)/k(arissimi)', 'd(omini) r(euerendissimi)', 'D(ominus) I(esus) C(hristus)' being abbreviated, pious formulae at the beginning and end of sermons &c. curtailed. In the case of the very numerous sermons, Schneyer numbers are cited, where available, in lieu of incipit and explicit. References to other manuscript copies, citing art. numbers, are taken from Schneyer.

[ ] = illegible

() = expanded or supplied

<> = omitted

(d) Special Merton features:


‘standard Merton s. xvii’: as described above, p. 000.


‘marks of the large iron chain-staple’. See above, p. 000: two pairs of holes in a straight line, associated with rust stains; usually situated near the foot of the rear board.

‘marks of the large brass chain-staple’. Of the same form and in the same position, but associated with verdigris.

‘marks of the iron chain-staple of usual form’. Two holes arranged vertically, and corresponding rectangular stain or impression, at the foot usually of the rear board.

‘chained from the usual position’ refers to the chaining found on the bindings of s. xvii, of brass, from near the head of the rear foredge.