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Durham University

Special Collections

DUL MS Cosin V.II.16 J. Lydgate, Life of B.V.M. s. xv med.

These incomplete draft descriptions of medieval manuscripts in Durham University Library are copyright, and may not be quoted without the permission of the University of Durham Library.

Owing to inconsistencies with the source software, accented characters appear in varying compound forms. This has not yet been rationalized.

24/2/94 AJP after AID check of AJP revision of AID

[1] + 2 (medieval flyleaves) + 91 + [1]; foliated, 1-24, 26-94, s. xviii. Membrane (0.14 mm.; smooth; quires with fleshside outermost), 285 x 190 mm., outer and lower edges cropped (see quire-numbers and signatures).

Collation: 1-108, 118 wants 8 (blank ?) after f. 90; 124. Quires 1-11 signed + a-k. Quires 3 and 8 have numbers, iij and viij, at foot of outer margin of first recto, also perhaps quire 4, largely cropped away; these may record checking, for the first is preceded by 'exur', perhaps for 'examinatur'.

No evidence of pricking.

Item 1: Written space 210 x 105 mm.; framed in soft brown or, quires 2-11, faint grey; 35 unruled long lines.

Written in current secretary, neatly, by one hand, with whip-like top-line ascenders and a little strap-work.

Item 2: Written space 225 x 140 mm.; ruled in brown; 27 long lines.

Written in brown ink, in a calligraphic textura of somewhat foreign appearance (cf. spellings 'may' and 'gay' for 'maij' and 'gaij'), expertly, with slightly elaborated major initials.

Decoration: in item 1 only. Text-capitals in item 1 table of chapters touched with red. Chapter numbers, marginal headings and other sidenotes in red, by the main hand. Initials: (i) to item 1 chapters, 2- or 3-line, in blue, with red infilling and flourishing; (ii) to first chapters of books II and III (but not IV) of division added to item 1, 4-line, as (i); (iii) to item 1 prologue (f. 5), 5-line, in blue and red, with red infilling and red and blue flourishing, and with a feston down the left edge, and across the top, of the text-block, composed of an inner plain blue line and jagged alternately red or blue sections 20-45 mm. long.

Running title to each full page, in red.


1. ff. 3-90v This booke was compilede by John Lidgate Monke of Bury. At the excitation and stirryng of our worshipfull prince. kyng Harry the fifthe. In the honour/ glory and worship of the byrthe of the moste glorious maide. wife and modir of oure lorde Jesu criste/ Chapitrede and markyde aftir this table. Firste a proloog. The Nativite of our lady ... (f. 4v) Howe Candilmasse day firste toke his name - Capitulo <lx>xxvij. (f. 5) The prologe O thoughtfull herte plongede in high distresse | ... ... To kepe and save from all aduersyte. Amen.

John Lydgate, Life of the Virgin Mary. IMEV, no. 2574; ed. J. A. Lauritis, R. A. Klinefelter & V. F. Gallagher, A Critical Edition of John Lydgate's Life of Our Lady, (Duquesne Studies, Philological Series 2, Pittsburgh; 1961), discussing this copy pp.13, 18-20, 22-4, which is taken as the base text, being judged early (c. 1450), fairly complete (omitting only two lines: III.1426, V.532; also two stanzas (IV 162-8, 169-75) transposed), and with several superior readings; the reported 'slight northern coloring' in the spelling, 'undoubtedly that of the scribe', presumably refers to such forms as 'awne', 'thay' and 'thayre'.

The numeration in the table of chapters, ff. 3-4v, the running titles and the marginal numbers were altered, s. xvi in., in a humanistic hand, to give a four-book division of the text (cf. type (ii) initials), as against the six-book division found in other manuscripts and the printing by Caxton [1483]; the variation of copies between a continuous or divided structure is not discussed in the edition, but see G. R. Keiser, 'Ordinatio in the manuscripts of John Lydgate's Lyf of Our Lady', in Medieval Literature: Texts and Interpretation, ed. T. W. Machan, (Binghamton, 1991), pp. 139-57, esp. at 148-9.

2. ff. 90v-92 (added, s. xv ex., in space after item 1 and on added leaves) Vndecima kalendas may luna vicesima tertia. Apud persidem: natalis beati symeonis episcopi et martiris. Qui iubente sapore persarum rege comprehensus ... ... Quinta kalendas may luna vicesima nona. Roma depositio beati anastasij pape ... Tarso sicilie: sancti castoris. Et aliorum plurimorum sanctorum.

Usuardus, Martyrologium, extract; ed. J. Dubois, (Brussels, 1965), pp. 216-19, but here with English additions, e.g 'depositio sancti patris nostri domini anselmi archiepiscopi' and 'In britannia: sancti melliti episcopi et confessoris' (21 and 24 April). The former points to Canterbury, the second perhaps to the diocese of London.

ff. 92v-94v blank, save for pen-trials and as below.

3. f. 93v (added, s. xvi/xvii) Mors tua mors christi fraus mundi gloria caeli | Et dolor Inferni sunt meditanda tibi.

Walther, Sprichwörter, no. 15210; and cf. Idem, Versanfänge, no. 11275.


Written in England.

Secundo folio: How the (f. 4), The whiche (f. 6).

The addition of item 2, a portion only of a martyrology, suitable for conventual reading, suggests a monastic house with access to an exemplar of Canterbury ancestry, and the Benedictine nunnery of Barking Abbey, Essex, in the London diocese, is a possibility; its 15th-century Ordinal and Hymnal is derived from the Canterbury Hymnal of the 11/12th century, see H. Gneuss, Hymnar und Hymnen in englischen Mittelalter, (Tübingen, 1968), pp. 71, 74, 81, and there are a number of surviving books in English which belonged to its nuns, see MLGB.

'Iesu Marcy | thys boke ys Jane Fyz loy wys', also an escutcheon, authentic, of a chevron between three threfoils, with 'mary' above it and 'mary revares (?)' below it, s. xv/xvi, f. 1v (former pastedown); by the same hand 'orly (?) Cullement | Jane Fytzlowys', f. 94 lower left-hand corner. In B.L., MS Royal 18 D.vii a different and superior script is used for 'Marie Rivieres', identified by Warner and Gilson, Catalogue ii,313, as the second wife of Anthony Wydevill, 2nd Earl Rivers, whom he married before October 1480; she was the daughter and heir of Sir Henry Fitzlewis of Horndon, Essex (Complete Peerage, XI,24). Jane Fitzlewis occurs amongst a number of other names of noble and gentle families on B.L. MS Royal 17.D.VI (Hoccleve, Regement of Princes), see Warner & Gilson, Catalogue ii,252; a will of 1493 bequeathed 'to my cousin Joane Fitzlowes my litill englissh booke like a prymer' (H. Littlehales, EETS 109 (1897), p. xlii, and the will of Dame Jane Fitzlewis, formerly Norton, of Westhorndon, Essex, was proved in 1535 (PCC 26 Hogen). Two daughters of Sir Richard Fitzlewis were nuns of Barking in 1521, so it is possible the book came thence.

'oon I obey| Anne Crowmer', s. xv/xvi, f. 1v (former pastedown). 'For my lady' and upside-down 'for Joan (?)', s. xv/xvi, f. 47 middle of the right margin.

An erased and irrecoverable inscription, s. xv/xvi (?), f. 94 top.

'Dum spiro spero', s. xvii italic, f. 94 centre, a motto used by Henry (?) St George, Clarencieux King of Arms (1581-1644) but also by others.

'.v./.a.', f. 2v, a bookseller's cypher.

'WBrowne', f. 3, is similar to the inscription 'Willelmus Browne 1612', V.II.15 f. 2.

'Geo. Davenport. | 1664', f. 1v; and his note from Pitsaeus on Lydgate,f. 2v.

standard, s.xix med.

Facsimile of f. 75v: frontispiece in the edition of item 1 by J. A. Lauritis et al.