Oxford, Bodleian Library, Eng. poet. a. 1

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Repository: Bodleian Library
Idno:Eng. poet. a. 1
AltName:SC 3928-42Vernon
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Date and Language
Date:s. xivex
Language: English
Dialect:Scribe 1: Scribal dialect: Worcestershire. Linguistic Atlas Grid Reference: 378 262, LP 7670 (McIntosh, Samuels and Benskin 1986, p. 250). Serjeantson places the scribe of the Index (Scribe 1) into 'South Shropshire-South Staffordshire' area (1937, p. 227) Scribe 2: Scribal dialect: Worcestershire. Linguistic Atlas Grid Reference: 389 270, LP 7630 (McIntosh, Samuels and Benskin 1986, p. 249).
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This manuscript, famously known as the Vernon manuscript, is an impressive book in every respect. Its imposing size equals the extent of its vernacular Middle English texts whilst its plentiful decoration and illumination serve to highlight its luxury status. An extensive collection of Middle English religious and didactic texts, the manuscript runs to over 350 items and has been termed a 'typical medieval one-volume library' by Göorlach (1974, p. 102). The manuscript is thought to date from c. 1390.

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Physical Description
Support: Parchment
Extent:544 x 393 mm
Collation:Normally eights.
Layout:Pricking where visible - rounded or slits. Inner and outer margins are pricked for horizontal ruling. Writing space of 412-20 mm x 284 x 94 mm. Double and triple columns with 80 lines. Double columns - 132-37 mm wide. Triple columns - 88-91 mm wide. Ruled in brownish plummet.
Writing: Scribe 1 (ff. i-viii and rubrics left blank by Scribe 2 in later quires) writing in an Anglicana hand. Characteristics: flat-topped t; Majuscules: several forms of A with a long approach stroke on the left, exaggerated in the margin; one or two forms of B, wide V with first stroke from low left or higher right; uncial M with closed first compartment; occasional composite S; Minuscules: convex top right segment of the loop of b; frequent 8-like s in initial and final position and 6-like deep-bowled cursive form; flat-topped t; w with first stroke rising from low left; unlooped l (Doyle, 1987, pp. 12-13, colour plate 1). Scribe 2: Completed all texts apart from Quire 1 and some of the rubrics left blank in the quires he copied. Characteristics: 'steady set round anglicana' without Secretary influence (Doyle, 1987, pp. 11-12).
Decoration: One-line coloured (normally blue or red) or gold initials, which normally have contrasted and alternating penwork. Quires 32-36, and 41 have one-line gold initials with brown penwork and blue or orange paraphs. Quires 44-47 have violet penwork. There are c. 3250 illuminated initials and c. 365 flourished initials. Two-line indented initials, in gold or deep crimson or blue grounds, with or without marginal extension of more than one sort begin secondary divisions of text or Latin quotations. Four or five-line initials start primary divisions (single legends, miracles, or chapters within work) with the larger marginal extensions called at the beginning of items and of parts of the volumes. One twenty-two-line historiated initial for the Prick of Conscience on f. 265rc. God the Father holding a Crucifix between angels with censers with a monk in white habit kneeling in front, holding a scroll, 'miserere mei deus secundum magnam misericordiam' (Doyle, 1987, pl. XIV). Possibly by the La Estorie del Euangelie artist. The initial shows a similar technique and colouring, green flowers with red centres and is accompanied by the work of Border Artist D; D also worked on the borders of the Euangelie. Doyle notes that the columbines which hang from the vine at the bottom of the page are also included in some other manuscripts of similar date. Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 316 c. 1394-7 (Pächt and Alexander, 3, no. 674, pl. LXX), Oxford, Bodleian Library, Canon misc. 110 (Pächt and Alexander, 3, no. 775, pl. LXXIV) produced for the Benedictines of Norwich Cathedral Priory, c. 1394-1400, and Durham Chapter Library, A 1.3 in 1386. One full border and c. 340 border extensions by c. nine Border Artists. Border Artist A: ff. iii-viii (Doyle, 1987, pl. I). Stylistically close to Border Artist F with its characteristic style being 'brief sprigs of coloured balls or buds and untinted squiggles in pale brown ink on initials (or no sprigs) and well defined white patterns on and in initials (Scott, 1996, p. 22). Border Artist B: ff. 1r-96v, 167r-222v (Doyle, 1987, pl. II; ill. 2). Scott notes that Border Artist B is the second most accomplished Border Artist but writes that he 'has a provincial air, noticeable in the initial sprays with either rather feebly executed coloured balls, pairs of daisy-buds sometimes placed oddly with other motifs on initials (e.g. ff. 19v, 21r, 24r), and in the occasional lack of balance in handling vine-and-leaf branches (e.g. ff. 14r-v, 173v, 180v). His partial borders are characterised by a vine that curls back on itself in a large loop by staggered leaf motifs on vines, by trefoil leaves with white circles on two lobes, rather like eyes or Romanesque beaker heads, and by pairs of barbed, rounded daisy buds. His main colour range is orange, a murky or pale rose, and blue in two tones. Border Artist B had the distinction of making the only full border in the volume (f. 1), on two sides a filigree band and on the others a bar frame. Initials within the work allotted to Border Artist B have mainly coloured balls on extended pen lines' (Scott, 1996, pp. 22-23). Some of the characteristics of Border Artist D also occur in the work of other hands, for example on ff. 350v and 365v (Doyle, 1987, Pl. VXI). Border Artist B was responsible for the whole of part I of Vernon apart from the final quire, as well as quires 23-29 in part III. Border Artist C: ff. 97r-104v. The work of Border Artist C is only found in one quire of the manuscript, ff. 97r-104v. The partial borders of his work are characterised by 'straight sprays of rose and blue trefoil leaves alternating with gold balls not attached to the vine; his initials are deeply serrated around the letter form and hedged with coloured balls (no sprays)' (Scott, 1996, p. 22). A difference in intensity of colour is discernible with his rose and blue hues being brighter than than those painted by Border Artist B. Scott notes that the technique of this artist is closely related to Border Artists: G, G1, and G2 (Scott, 1996, p. 22). Border Artist D: ff. 105r, 114r-120v, 223r-278r (Doyle, 1987, pls. III, IX, XIII, XIV; ill. 3). This artist is considered by both Doyle and Scott to be the most sophisticated of the illuminators. His style is seen as being more refined and probably the result of London influence and training. Scott writes that he drew 'lively sprays of three slim daisy-buds (and sometimes a larger flower bud), whose small size was appropriate to their frequent occurrence on the page (e.g. f. 117). On larger initials this illuminator also used the "tally" style of initial exetension (e.g. ff. 229v, 234r), and also ending in daisy-bud sprays. Border Artist D's borders were executed in bright colours with pairs of (rather than staggered) motifs on border sprays, with ball-and-squiggle motifs along bar-frames (a new idea; see e.g. ff. 236v, 237r), and with, in the later section, grotesques. Some uses of bright orange are quite bright for the period (e.g. ff. 113v-117r). The fine initials f. 117 with large "maple" leaves on stippled gold are indicative of the quality of his training, possibly in London' (Scott, 1996, p. 22; Doyle, 1987, p. 8, pls. III, IV, XIV). Similar work can be found in two copies of Higden's Polychronicon, Cambridge University Library, Ii.2.24, f. 13, and Oxford, Bodleian Library, Bodley 316, f. 8. It is also thought that this artist was responsible for the partial border on f. 7 of London, British Library, Harley 401, a copy of the Floretum dated 1396 (Scott, 1996, p. 22). Border Artist E: ff. 121r-126v, 412r (Doyle, 1987, pls. V-XII, ill. 5). Border Artist E can be found in only one quire working with the Miracles artist and on the last leaf (f. 412) of the manuscript. Scott sees the sprays on the initials done by this Border Artist as being 'less structured'. They are drawn in black ink and have 'roughly executed' trefoil leaves. There are also coloured balls against the initial ground (Scott, 1996, p. 22). Border Artist F: ff. 279r-286v, 305r, and one intial on verso, 319r-322v, 324r-326v, 351r-352v, 354r-355v, 357r-358v, 394r-395v, 396v, 398r. Border Artist F is stylistically close to Border Artist A although they are not the same artist. Border Artist F is more accomplished than A and his work is 'characterised by two-line initials either without sprays but hedged by rose or blue balls (usually without squiggles) or, more rarely, with stiff, tally-bar extensions (e.g. f. 281), also with balls, and by the use of brown or pale brown for pen squiggles, and on border spray-work sometimes by a leaf and ball paired opposite each other on a vine (e.g. f. 284), but more frequently by pairs of motifs' (Scott, 1996, p. 22). Border Artist G: ff. 287r-294v. Scott describes the work of this artist as being some of the 'uglier work' in the manuscript. His style is characterised by 'daisy-buds on some initials (e.g. ff. 287r, 288r), a group of three buds or leaves from one flower (e.g. f. 288), variant white designs on initial grounds, much use of three dot design, and gold balls attached to the vine'. Scott also notes that the hand uses green tint on some pen squiggles (Scott, 1996, p. 22). Early use of green tint on pen squiggles is also found in a provincial context in the work of Border Artist B in London, British Library, MS Additional 37787, a textually related north Worcestershire manuscript. Border Artist G1: ff. 295r-310v, 323r, 327r-350v, 353r, 356r, 359r-393v (Doyle, 1987, pl. XV), 396r, 397r. It is thought that this artist was trained by Border Artist G. However, Scott sees some differences in technique; she writes that he 'differs from his mentor in two respects: he does not use green, and his partial borders have, at first, mainly smaller rounded leaf shapes, rather than the trefoil shapes of G's work. G1 made the majority of the tally initials. G1 began his second stint in the middle of a quire and on a leaf (f. 323r) started by Border Artist F, and later G1 and F worked together on a quire between ff. 351r-358v' (Scott, 1996, pp. 22-23). Border Artist G2: ff. 311r-318; 399r-411v. Scott sees this as another amateurish artist and describes it as being one of the 'rough hands'. His work is characterised by 'sinuous vines on initials with a variety of coloured motifs' (Scott, 1996, p. 23). Historiations in borders or initials: historiations are present in a number of borders including a grotesque head and grotesque animals, columbines, animal heads and a lion mask (see Scott, 1996, p. 19 for a comprehensive list). Illustrator A - La estorie del Euangelie: 1. f. 105rb: 'The Annunciation to Mary', with lily pot (faces damaged); 2. f. 105rc, top: 'The Visitation of Elizabeth by Mary'; 3. f. 105rc: 'The angel appearing to Zacharias' (face damaged); 4. f. 105va: 'The birth of John the Baptist' (two faces damaged); 5. f. 105vb: 'The angel reassuring Joseph'; 6. f. 105vc, top: 'The birth of Jesus'; 7. f. 105 vc: 'The angel appearing to the shepherds' (faces damaged). Only seven miniatures survive for this text although it is thought that others would have decorated the texts contained in the seven leaves now missing from the end of the Euangelie. A similar sequence is found in the Clopton manuscript which has thirty-three miniatures accompanying the text (the Euangelie is found in the London, University Library, MS S. V.17 portion of this now tripartite manuscript). The Clopton Euangelie also has a north Worcestershire dialect and it could share a common exemplar with Vernon (Turville-Petre 1990, p. 31). Each miniature is eight to twelve lines deep and drawn across one column. Frames vary between having one, two, three, or four sides. Characteristics: The figures have flattened body forms, with little modelling of drapery, apart from outlining in black. Faces are modelled to some extent, with those features not damaged rendered in orange-brown (pink on f. 265r); female figures often have rusty coloured hair. Heads or haloes frequently protrude onto the upper frame. The colour range is rose, bright orange, and blue, with landscape features in green. Backgrounds are of stippled gold or coloured with a flower or chainlink design in white, and two scenes (f. 105vb and c bottom) show the narrow foreground with a hilly landscape and stylised trees. Illustrator B - The Miracles of Our Lady: 1. F. 124rb: 'How Chartres was Saved':The Saving of the city of Crotey (Chartres) from Rolle, led by Bishop Waltelin and the mayor, bearing the Virgin's shift; the besieging army of Rollo blinded by the relic (damaged). 2. F. 124va: 'Miracle of the Boy Singer'/'The child in Paris killed by Jews': a) A Jew beckons the boy into his house; b) The Jew cutting the boy's throat; c) The Jew dumping the body in a privy; d) The mother pleading before the mayor and bailiff; e) The bishop [in margin] holding the lily found in the boy's throat, with the boy's corpse beside in a burial cloth; inscribed scrolls. 3. F. 124vc: 'The Harlot's Prayer': 'The harlot of Rome saved by Prayer': a) The harlot, with a stick, attempting to seduce a hermit, with beads; b) the harlot praying before the Virgin and Child. 4. F. 125rb: 'The Jewish Boy of Bourges'/'The Jewish child thrown into an oven': a) The Jew with a whip leading his son from the Christian church; b) The Jew throwing his child in an oven; c) The child miraculously alive in a burning oven, with his mother and the mayor seated beside. 5. F. 125vb: 'Miracle of the Amputated Leg'/The restoration of an amputated foot: a) a man with an axe amputating the diseased leg of another man, a woman watches; b) Mary restoring the leg; an image of the Virgin, with sprig, and Child beside. 6. F. 126ra: 'The Merchant's Surety'/'The merchant of Constantinople who borrowed from a Jew': a) The merchant Theodorus and Jew Abraham making a money-pledge before an image of the Virgin and Child; b) Theodorus putting a chest with money into the sea; c) Abraham finding the chest in the sea; d) Abraham confesses his deceit to Theodorus. 7. F. 126rc: 'The Fornicating Priest'/'The priest who lay with a nun': a) A monk lying with a priest [error for a nun]; b)The Priest's friend praying before an image of the Virgin and Child; c) The Priest giving the Eucharist to the same priest, who is commended by the Virgin. 8. F. 126va: 'The Quinsied Monk'/'The dying monk healed by Our Lady's milk': A monk seated on a trestle, head in hands; Virgin offering her milk to a monk with quinsy; monk seated on floor beside bed. 9. F. 126vc: 'The Incontinent Monk'/'The incontinent monk drowned but revived': An image of the Virgin and Child in a chapel; a monk with covered head sneaking away from the cloister; Virgin standing on a bridge, separating angels from devils and regarding the drowning sacristan in the river, draped figure on the riverbank.Whilst only nine miniatures remain it is probable that the manuscript carried thirty-three illustrations before the loss of forty-one leaves. The miniatures, apart from the first, are sixteen lines deep and one column wide. Characteristics: Illustrations regularly break into and out of the frame into the margins, lending the illustrations vitality and animation. Presentation of a series of events within a story and not just one incident. Realistic, more plastic, form of human figure. Faces heavily modelled through the use of grey and white, a complexion tone, and tinting of the lips. Fabrics have curved outlines with folds that fall gently, and sometimes outline the figure beneath. Muted shades with various shades of green. The Jew is consistently dressed in a rose-rust gown. The work of Illustrator B is accompanied by the work of Border Artist E. Diagrammatic text entitled 'Pater Noster in a table ypeynted' in the list of contents. The Pater Noster is presented in the form of a grid with the seven petitions of the Pater Noster presented in relation to the seven gifts of the spirit, the seven virtues and their contrary virtues (f. 231v, Doyle, 1987, pl. XIII; Henry, 1990, opp. p. 90). F. 105r, lower border, blank shield for an owner's or donor's arms.
Binding: Not medieval; nineteenth century. Covered in crushed russet leather with rectangular gold frame around the edge tooled in blind. Border of the frame is formed of square compartments with alternate fleur-de-lys and lion passant guardant. The internal rectangle is decorated with a lattice design formed by double fillets. The remains of tanned calf are visible beneath the current binding. Bevelled oak boards, possibly medieval. Sewn with six double spine cords, probably in the position of the medieval thongs. Six bands across the spine. Depressions of two clasps are visible on the outer edge of the upper cover of the exterior.
Foliation:Originally viii + 413. However 69 leaves are thought to be lost and the foliation is now viii + 343 (incomplete). Medieval foliation in red Roman numerals on the verso of many ff. The foliation appears to be by one of the scribes. The first, later, quire has not been foliated but has been paginated as a-k.
Additions:On f. 239v, written in a hurried script, contemporary with the manuscript, is 'De scripcione trium quaternorum vel quatuor primum verbum ožur dignite & trium foliorum'. This inscription is written next to the same words in the text of Speculum Vitae as those which appear in an inscription in the related Simeon manuscript. In the Simeon, on f. 38ra (modern)/ f. 219 (old), the copyist has written 'Memorandum quod Johannes Scryveyn scribet domino Thome Heneley tres quaternos vel quatuor & tria folio Et incipit ad ista verba in isto columine Ožur dignite. or benefys' (Doyle, 1987, p. 13, pl. 7a). It would appear that both the Vernon and Simeon manuscripts were being used as exemplars (see Doyle, 1987, p. 13).
Condition:In good condition although the manuscript now has only 350 of the 422 or 426 leaves that it originally contained.
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Origin:Date: c. 1390-1400. Not before 1381. The translator of Aelred of Rievaulx's De Institutione inclusarum refers to Lollard proposals for church disendowment of after 1381 and a further text refers to the earthquake of 1382 (On the Earthquake of 1382 (f. 411rb, IMEV 4268 (Brown, 1924, no. 113, pp. 186-8)) whilst another mentions the treatment of a Carmelite Friar in 1384 (Who says sooth he shall be shent (f. 408vb, IMEV 3420 (Brown, 1924, no. 103, pp. 152-54).
Provenance:Sixteenth century: - f. 413v, late, record of the marriage of Walter, son of Thomas Vernon of Houndhill (Staffordshire, near Sudbury) and Mary Littleton on 8 September 1583. The births of their children are also recorded: their son Edward on 14 December 1584, and twins Walter and Elinore on 20 September 1585. The death of the twins on that same day is also recorded. Colonel Edward Vernon, who gave the manuscript to the Bodleian was the grandson of Mary to her second marriage to Walter's cousin, John Vernon of Sudbury, Staffordshire (Quinn, 1952, pp. 133-137). Various other names, now cut off with half of the leaf are also written. A list of the Christian names of five sons and four daughters is written in a different hand. F. 343va - ''. He was possibly a Shrewsbury man whose will was registered at Lichfield in 1557. Ff. 316v and 317v - indecipherable sixteenth/seventeenth-century inscriptions. Seventeenth century: f. 413v - ' the senior'; f. 53rb, bottom - ''.
Acquisition:Given to the Bodleian by Colonel Edward Vernon in c. 1677, probably on the occasion of the award of his honorary D. C. L. degree by the University of Oxford.
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Record History
Catalogued and encoded by Rebecca Farnham, University of Birmingham, July 2003. Manuscript not examined owing to viewing restrictions. Described with reference to Doyle 1987 and Scott 1996. A digital edition of this manuscript is forthcoming.
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Related Manuscripts and other documents Textual London, British Library, MS Additional 22283 (Simeon) (Doyle 1990, p. 11, Savajaara 1967). London, British Library, MS Additional 37787 (Worcestershire Miscellany) (Baugh 1956, p. 39; Thompson 1990, p. 217). London, University Library, MS V.17 and its two other parts - Washington, Folger Library, MS V.b.236; Princeton University Library, R. H. Taylor's MS (Clopton) (Turville-Petre 1990, p. 32). London, British Library, MS Additional 10036 and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 141 (Edden 1990, pp. 35-36). For the Prick of Conscience nearly identical to London, British Library, MS Additional 22283. Assigned to Group 4 by Lewis and McIntosh (1982, p. 104). Scribal Scribe 1 - Chronicle and Cartulary of Stoneleigh Abbey and two views of frankpledge for the manor of Radway, south Warwickshire (Doyle 1987, p. 5, 12; Hilton 1960, frontispiece, pl. V.). Two copies of the Prick of Conscience - Oxford, Trinity College, MS 16B and Holkham, Holkham Hall, MS 668 (Doyle 1987, p. 12, pl. 6; Lewis and McIntosh, 1982, pp. 54-5, 121-2). On f. 1r of the Holkham manuscript this scribe has written, 'Nomen scriptoris iohannes plenus amoris [...] benedicat rex orientis'. Scribe 2 - Scribe 2 of London, British Library, MS Additional 22283 (Simeon) (Doyle 1987, p. 13). Doyle believes the copyist to be a secular clerk or a layman rather than a monk, a 'paid professional, pursuing his career...in and around the diocese of Lichfield and Coventry' (Doyle 1987, p. 13) Decorative Comparable style: Cambridge, University Library, MS Kk.4.23, Bonaventura, De vita Christi; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodl. 62, Horae (e.g. f. 48); Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Fairfax 3, Gower, Confessio Amantis; Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Barlow 5, a Missal; London, British Library, MS Royal 6. E. V, Robert Grosseteste, with a miniature of the author similar to Illustrator A; New York, Pierpont Morgan, MS M. 690, Confessio Amantis; and Chicago, Newberry Library, MS 32.9, Prick of Conscience (Scott 1996, p. 21). Similarities with Illustrator B: St. John's College, MS B. 1, f. 41r and Oxford, Trinity College, MS 8 (Scott 1996, p. 21) Border Artist D: Perhaps responsible for the partial border on f. 7r of London, British Library, MS Harley 401. Similar work can be found in two copies of Higden's Polychronicon: Cambridge, University Library, MS Ii.2.24, f. 13 and Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Bodl. 316, f. 8 (Scott 1996, p. 22).
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