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les Enluminures

The Ketyll Bible

In Latin, manuscript on parchment
England (Oxford?), c. 1220-1240

TM 1095
  • €140,500.00
  • £120,900.00
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ii (paper, i, marbled on recto) + ii (medieval parchment) + 376 + iii (medieval parchment, foliated 378-380) + iii (paper, foliated 381-383, f. iii marbled on verso) on parchment, (uneven in quality with original flaws including occasional holes and offcuts, foliated in pencil top outer corner recto incorrectly as follows: 1-23, 25-377 (numerous natural flaws), lacking one leaf in Genesis after f. 13v, Exodus 38:2-Leviticus 21:21 after f. 28v, part of the prologue to 1 Chronicles through 2 Chronicles 6:39 after f. 99v, one leaf before f. 215 with part of Lamentations, and quire(s) at the end, text ends imperfectly at Apocalypse 22:1, and now lacks the Interpretations of Hebrew Names (collation i12 ii12 [-2, one leaf after f. 13, with loss of text] iii5 [ff. 25-29, original structure uncertain] iv-vi10 vii12 viii3 [ff. 72-74] ix14 x10 xi2 [ff. 99-100, original structure uncertain] xii-xv12 xv6 [ff. 149-154] xvii-xxi12 xxii14 [-1 leaf before f. 215, with loss of text] xxiii12 xxiv10+1 [+ one leaf, f. 245, after 5] xxv16 [-15 and 16 after f. 265, cancelled blanks] xxvi10 xxvii12 xviii10 xix12 xxx10 xxxi12 xxxii6+1 [+ one leaf, f. 337, after 6] xxxiii-xxxiv12 xxxv16), many quires signed in ink with a Roman numeral at the end, a few catchwords remain, ruled in lead or crayon, variable patterns: some folios with top two and bottom two horizontal rules full across, full-length single vertical bounding lines inside and outside of each column, other folios with top two and bottom two horizontal rules full across, with extra double rules in lower and upper (for running titles) margins, and with double full-length vertical bounding lines inside and outside and triple rules between the columns (e.g. ff. 103-111), prickings top, bottom and outer margins, (justification c. 160 x 100 mm.), with variable layout depending on scribe, for example, f. 131 (justification 144 x 96 mm.), f. 84, (justification 160 x 100 mm.), written on the top line by numerous scribes in two columns of 45-61 lines, with numerous changes of hands (e.g. at  ff. 75, 149, 155, 203, 244, 265, 278, 316v, 338) often at the beginning of a quire, running titles in red or red and blue, some scribes mark verses in red, chapters numbered in margins in red and blue or red (both Arabic numerals and roman numerals are used), red and (very occasionally) blue initials, 2- to 7-lines, some of the initials likely added later, lower margins of ff. 6-7 repaired, part of lower margin f. 37 cut away, outer edges darkened, some thumbing and stains, but overall in very good condition.  Nineteenth-century binding of blind-tooled brown leather over substantial wooden boards, remains of earlier blind-tooled 18th-century spine laid on, two large metal clasps, in very good condition. Dimensions 220 x 150 mm.

A fascinating survival, this thirteenth-century Bible offers insight into how one community in England, very likely the Franciscans at Greyfriars in Oxford, created a working Bible for their own use, and then vigorously engaged with it, adding supplementary texts and copious marginalia (including indexing symbols). The text is full of interest, with two translations of the Psalms in parallel columns and both older and modern chapter divisions. This was pledged (that is used as security for a loan) by William Ketyll in Oxford in the fifteenth century.


1. Written in England in the second quarter of the thirteenth century, perhaps as early the 1220s; details of the text and the script are evidence of this date.  The numerous annotations and added texts in distinctively English scripts place this Bible in England in the thirteenth century, and there is no reason to doubt that this was copied there. The different scribes and annotating hands tell us that this was copied and owned corporately. Indexing symbols, added in red on f. 146v (Psalms), ff. 282v-283 (Ecclesiasticus), and 356v (Romans), 357v (1 Corinthians), suggest strongly that this was used by the Franciscans at Greyfriars, Oxford, and perhaps copied for and by them (discussed below).

2. Marginal annotations and texts added on the flyleaves by numerous hands provide fascinating evidence of use from the thirteenth through the fifteenth century (and later) in England.  There are also less formal additions in the margins, including pen trials (for example, ff. 40, 59).

3. Belonged to William Ketyll (d. 1485) rector of St. Mary at the Walls, Colchester, 1468-1476 (Emden, 1974, p. 1044), who pledged this manuscript in the Chichester Chest at Oxford between 1452 and 1458 as surety for a loan; details of this are recorded on f. 378v.

4. f. 264v, ‘Robertus Lynford’, s. xv ex; f. 254v, ‘William Norriche’, s. xvi; cf. f. 276v, later note in English.

5. John Buddle, by descent to his great-great nephew, Frank Buddle Atkinson (1866-1953), of Godalming, armorial bookplate, inside front cover, sold by him at Sotheby’s, November 29, 1949, lot 1.

6. Bought by Walford for £110 for the church of St. Mary at the Walls, Colchester (the same church where William Ketyll was rector in the fifteenth century).

7. The manuscript was still at the parish church of St. Mary, Colchester in 1977 when it was described by N. R. Ker (Ker, 1977); in 1978 the parish was combined with Christ Church, Colchester, and St Mary’s was made redundant.

8. Sold by the parish of Christ Church, Colchester, Sotheby’s, December 4, 2018, lot 14 (proceeds from the sale to be used for the purposes of mission and ministry in the parish and in particular for the encouragement of biblical literacy and knowledge).


Front parchment flyleaf, f. i, exegetical notes in an English hand (late thirteenth-fourteenth century); f. i verso, [list of books of the Bible, numbered, in the order of this manuscript, added, fourteenth century), beginning, titulat[io] librorum iuxta ordinem bibliothece, “i. Genesis, 2. Exodus … 74, Apocalypsis, Nomina interpretationes hebreorum” [the Interpretations of Hebrew Names are now lacking in this manuscript];

Front parchment flyleaf, f. ii recto-verso, [added, late fourteenth century], Nota breuissimum et utilem tractatum de biblia minus prouectis necessarium, incipit, “Nota quod moyses facit … in pathmos insula,” Explicit tractatus biblie breuis et utilis valde sacerdotibus Deo gracias”;

Short summary of the Bible; this same treatise appears to be found in an English manuscript of the Speculum salvationis, sold J. Halle Antiquariat, Munich, catalogue 50, no. 8, although the description of the text in this catalogue is too brief to be certain (Online Resources).

ff. 1-377v, Latin Bible, with prologues as follows:  f. 1, [General prologue] Frater ambrosius [Stegmüller 284]; f. 2v, [prologue to Genesis] Desiderii mei [Stegmüller 285]; f. 3, Genesis, lacking one folio after f. 13v, which ends in Genesis 38:27, “Instante autem partu appa//, f. 14 begins in Genesis 42:16, “Mittite ex vobis …”; f. 16v, Exodus, ending imperfectly at 38:2 on f. 28v; f. 29, Leviticus, beginning imperfectly at 21:21; f. 31, Numbers; f. 43v, Deuteronomy; f. 53, Joshua; f. 59, Judges; f. 65v, Ruth; f. 66, 1 Kings, ending mid col. b f. 74v; remainder blank; f. 75, 2 Kings; f. 81v, 3 Kings [beginning with a small 3-line initial, no rubric]; f. 91, 4 Kings; f. 99v, [prologue to Chronicles] Si septuaginta [Stegmüller 328, ending imperfectly]; f. 100, 2 Chronicles, beginning imperfectly at 6:39, and concluding with the Oratio Manasses; f. 109, 1 Ezra; f. 111v, Nehemiah [with 16 chapters]; f. 115v, [prologue to Macabees] Machabeorum librum duo [Stegmüller 551]; f. 115v, 1 Maccabees; f. 124v, 2 Maccabees; f. 131, [prologue to Esther] Librum hester; Rursum in libro [Stegmüller  341 and 343, copied as one prologue]; f. 131, Esther, ending with 10:3 on f. 133v; f. 133v, [Unidentified chapter list to Tobit, not in Stegmüller or De Bruyne], incipit, “Personam describens ostendit quod fide recta et operibus bonus … conuersacione permansit”; f. 133v, Tobit; f. 136v, [prologue to Judith] Apud hebreos [Stegmüller 335]; f. 136v, Judith; f. 140, [prologue Psalms], David filius iesse [Stegmüller 414]; f. 140v, [prologue Psalms], Psalterium Rome dudum positus [Stegmüller 430]; f. 140v, [prologue Psalms], Scio quosdam putare [Stegmüller  443, marked vacat]; f. 140v, [prologue Psalms], Psalterium quod secundum septuaginta [Stegmüller 429]; f. 140v, Prayers, added by a contemporary hand; f. 141, Psalms, with the Gallican and Hebrew Psalters copied in parallel in two columns on each page; Psalm 68 ends f. 154v, mid column, leaving remainder blank, text resumes on f. 155; f. 174v, Ferial Canticles (Confitebor tibi through Audite celi); f. 176v, Isaiah; f. 191v, Lamentations; f. 193, Baruch; f. 194v, Jeremiah; f. 214, Lamentations (repeated), missing one leaf following f. 214v, which ends in Lamentations 2:4 (“… effudit quasi//”), with f. 215 beginning at 3:66 ; f. 215v, Baruch (repeated); f. 217, Ezekiel; f. 236v, Daniel; f. 243, [prologue to Minor prophets] Non idem ordo est [Stegmüller 500]; f. 243v, [prologue to Hosea] Duodecim prophetae in unius voluminis [Stegmüller  503]; f. 243v, Hosea; f. 245v, [prologues to Joel] Sanctus ioel; Ioel filius phatuel [Stegmüller 511+510]; f. 245v, Iohel qui interpretatur … quando et micheas [de Bruyne, 144; cf. Stegmüller 5208]; f. 245v, Iohel de tribu Ruben [Stegmüller 509]; f. 245v, Joel; f. 246v, [prologue to Amos] Ozias rex [Stegmüller 515]; f. 246v, [prologue] Amos propheta [Stegmüller 512]; f. 246v, Amos; f. 248, [prologues to Obadiah] Iacob patriarcha; Hebrei hunc; Abdias qui interpretatur [Stegmüller 519 and 517 + 516 copied as one prologue]; f. 248v, Obadiah; f. 248v, [prologues to Jonah] Sanctum ionam; Ionas columba pulcherrima [Stegmüller 524 +522]; f. 248v, Jonah; f. 249, [prologues to Micah] Temporibus ioathe [Stegmüller 526]; f. 249v, Micheas de morasti [Stegmüller 525]; f. 249v, Micah; f.  250v, [prologues to Nahum] Naum prophetam [related to Stegmüller 528, long form]; f. 250v, Naum consolator [Stegmüller 527]; f. 250v, Nahum; f. 251, [prologue to Habakkuk] Quatuor prophete [Stegmüller 531]; f. 251v, Habacuc propheta amplexans [Stegmüller 530]; f. 251v, Habacuc luctator fortis [Stegmüller 529]; f. 251v, Habbakuk; f. 252, [prologues to Zephaniah] Tradunt hebrei [Stegmüller 534]; f. 252v, Sophonias speculator [Stegmüller 532]; f. 252v, Zephaniah; f. 253, [prologue to Zechariah, but here before Haggai] Secundo anno [Stegmüller 539]; f. 253, [prologue to Haggai], Aggeus festivus [Stegmüller 535]; f. 253, Haggai; f. 253v, [prologue to Zechariah], Secundo anno darii filii hytaspis … regis imperium [not in Stegmüller or de Bruyne]; f. 254, Zacharias memor domini [Stegmüller 540];  f. 254, Zechariah; f. 256, [prologues to Malachi] Deus per moysen [Stegmüller 543]; f. 256, Ultimum xii prophetarum … et in primo mensis quinti [not in Stegmüller or de Bruyne]; f. 256v, Malachias latine interpretatur; Malachias aperte [Stegmüller 545 + 544]; f. 256v, Malachi; f. 257, [prologues to Job] Cogor per singulos; In terra quidem; Iob exemplar patientie [Stegmüller 344; 349; 350]; f. 258, Job, ending mid col. b, f. 264, remainder and f. 264v, blank, but ruled (with later additions); f. 265, Proverbs; f. 273, Ecclesiastes; f. 276, Song of Songs; f. 278, Wisdom; f. 282, [biblical introduction to Ecclesiasticus, copied as a prologue] Multorum nobis; f. 282, Ecclesiasticus, without the Prayer of Solomon, ending top col. a]; f. 294v, Baruch 6 [added]; f. 295, [prologue to Isaiah], Nemo cum [Stegmüller 482]; f. 295 [prologue to Matthew], Matheus ex iudeis [Stegmüller 590]; f. 295, [prologue to Luke], Lucas Syrus natione [Stegmüller 620]; f. 295v, [prologue to John, variant incipit], Iohannes apostolus [Stegmüller 624]; ff. 295v-296v, Esther 10:4-16:24; f. 297, Matthew; f. , [prologue to Mark] Marcus evangelista [Stegmüller  607]; f. 308v, Mark; f. 316, Luke [Luke 1:1-4 is not copied as if it were a prologue]; f. 325, [prologue to Mark] Marcus evangelista [Stegmüller 607]; f. 325, Mark (repeated); f. 330v, [prologue to John] Hic est Iohannes [Stegmüller 624] ; f. 330v, John [ending mid col. b, f. 337v]; f. 338, James; f. 339, 1 Peter; f. 340v, 2 Peter; f. 341v, 1 John; f. 342v, 2 John; f. 342v, 3 John; f. 343, Jude; f. 343v, [prologue to Acts] Lucas anthiocenses natione syrus [Stegmüller 640]; f. 343v, Acts; f. 353v, [prologues to Romans] Primum queritur [Stegmüller 670]; f. Quoniam [sic, for Romani] sunt ex iudeis [Stegmüller 674]; f. 354, Romani sunt in partes [Stegmüller 676]; f. 354, Romans; f. 357, 1 Corinthians; f. 360, 2 Corinthians; f. 362v, [prologue to Galatians],  Galathe sunt greci [Stegmüller 707]; f. 362v, Galatians; f. 363v, [prologue to Ephesians] Ephesii sunt asyani [Stegmüller 715]; f. 363v, Ephesians; f. 364v, [prologue to Philippians] Philippenses sunt macedones [Stegmüller 728]; f. 364v, Philippians; f. 365v, [prologue to Colossians] Colosenses et hii [Stegmüller 736]; f. 365v, Colossians; f. 366v, [prologue to 1 Thessalonians] Thessalonicenses sunt macedones [Stegmüller 747]; f. 366v, 1 Thessalonians; f. 367, [prologue to 2 Thessalonians] Ad thessalonicenses [Stegmüller 752]; f. 367, 2 Thessalonians; f. 367v, [prologue to 1 Timothy] Tymotheum instruit [Stegmüller 765]; f. 367v, 1 Timothy; f. 368v, [prologue to 2 Timothy] Item Tymotheo scribit [Stegmüller 772]; f. 368v, 2 Timothy; f. 369, [prologue to Titus] Titum commonefacit [Stegmüller 780]; f. 369, Titus; f. 369v, [prologue to Philemon] Philemoni familiares [Stegmüller 783]; f. 369v, Philemon; f. 370, Hebrews; f. 372v, Apocalypse; ending imperfectly 22:1 on f. 377v.

f. 378, [added, thirteenth century], incipit, “Sciendum quod sensus sacre scripture aut manifestus aut occultus …”;

On the senses of Scripture, citing the “magister in istoriis,” almost certainly Peter Comestor.

ff. 378v, Notes recording William Ketyll’s pledge of the Bible, and his subsequent repayment of the loan (discussed below); additional exegetical notes in other hands, ff. 379v and 380v.

Small portable (or pocket) Bibles with the complete text of the Old and New Testaments in one volume were one of the great innovations of the thirteenth century and helped shape our modern Bible. They were produced in very large numbers, with perhaps 1,500 surviving today (Ruzzier, 2013). The Bible described here is an early example of a one-volume Bible from England, only slightly larger than most pocket Bibles. Numerous Bibles were copied in England in the thirteenth century, but they are much less common than Bibles copied in France.  There is plentiful evidence in surviving Bibles that they were used for preaching and for liturgical use.  This, however, is a rare example of a thirteenth-century Bible that includes evidence that it was used primarily for study and exegesis (Light, 2011).   

Centralized production in Paris resulted in numerous Bibles that share the same text (the text modern scholars call the Paris Bible).  As one would expect in an English Bible from this date, this belongs to a different textual tradition than the Paris Bible. The order of the biblical books, choice of prologues, and textual readings have nothing to do with the Paris text. The double Psalter, with the Gallican and Hebrew translations copied on each page in separate columns is a noteworthy feature, and one that was more common in England than elsewhere (Bennett, 1975, pp. 64-82, and appendix II, listing 44 examples of thirteenth-century Bibles with double Psalters). Only two features text show the influence of the Paris Bible: the text is divided into modern chapters, and the list of contents added at the beginning suggests this once included the Interpretation of Hebrew Names, now lacking. 

Even more interesting, we may note that several features of the text suggest this was copied from an older exemplar. In addition to the modern chapters, older chapter divisions are also often indicated, and the Eusebian divisions, which were used along with Canon Tables to compare passages in the different Gospels in earlier Bibles, are included here in the margins of the Gospels.  Baruch, chapter 6 (the Epistles of Jeremiah) and the additions to Esther appear to have originally been omitted, as can be seen in this summary of the order of the biblical books: Genesis-Ruth, Kings 1-4, Chronicles 2, Ezra 1, Nehemiah, Maccabees 1-2, Esther 1-10:3, Tobit, Judith, Psalms, Ferial Canticles, Isaiah, Lamentations, Baruch 1-5, Jeremiah, Lamentations (again), Baruch 1-5 (again), Ezekiel, Daniel, Minor Prophets, Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Wisdom, Ecclesiasticus, Baruch 6 (the Epistle of Jeremias, added in a contemporary hand on f. 294v), Esther 10:4-13, 11-16, Matthew, Mark, Luke, Mark (again), John, Catholic Epistles, Acts, Pauline Epistles, Apocalypse.  The presence of several books twice (Lamentations, Baruch 1-5, and Mark) is highly unusual and suggests that the process of copying this Bible was not straightforward.  We can tell from changes in layout and script, that this was copied by numerous scribes, yet another feature that sets this apart from most thirteenth-century Bibles, and it seems likely that more than one exemplar was consulted.

The margins of this Bible are full of evidence of how the text was studied.  There are varying systems of numbering, in roman and medieval Arabic numerals, keeping track of older chapter divisions, as well as notes, maniculae, and cross-references.  The cross-references, which use older chapters, are particularly abundant in the Psalms (for example ff. 141-142v), in the Minor Prophets, and in the Gospels.  There are also curious symbols in red on f. 146v (Psalms), ff. 282v-283 (Ecclesiasticus), f. 356v (Romans), and f. 357v (1 Corinthians).  These are in fact indexing symbols, which must be related in some fashion to those created by Robert Grosseteste (d. 1253), the famous bishop, scholar, philosopher, author and translator, and his circle to compile a subject index to the Bible, the Fathers, and other works. Grosseteste studied at Oxford, later becoming first rector of the Oxford Franciscans, chancellor of the University, and finally bishop of Lincoln (in which diocese Oxford lay) from 1235 until his death in 1253. Most of the manuscripts that contain these indexing symbols can be associated with the Oxford Franciscan house (Roseman, 1995).

The later history of this Bible is equally interesting.  It includes a pledge (caucio) note recording that William Ketyll deposited the Bible in exchange for a loan of 14s. in 1452; this is followed by six more similar notes recording repayments of the loan in installments of about 1s. 8d. each. Loan-chests at the universities of Oxford and Cambridge during the Middle Ages provided students and other members of the universities with interest-free loans (Aston and Faith, 1984; Clemens and Graham, 2007). They functioned somewhat similarly to a pawn shop. The chests were endowed with funds, which could be borrowed in exchange for collateral, most often a manuscript, which was locked in the chest until the loan was paid.  The very detailed information preserved in this Bible about this loan is very uncommon, since cautio notes were usually erased or thoroughly crossed out when a book was redeemed.  The Bible’s value of 20 shillings was recorded at the time of Ketyll’s loan by the university stationer, John Dolle (with his monogram; Ker, 1977, p. 410).


Aston, T. H. and Rosmond Faith. “The Endowments of the University and Colleges to c. 1348,” in The History of the University of Oxford, volume 1, The Early Oxford Schools, ed. J. I. Chatto, Oxford, 1984, pp. 275-287.

Bennett, Adelaide Louise. “The Place of Garrett 28 in Thirteenth-Century English Illumination,” Columbia University Ph. D. dissertation, 1975.

Clemens, Raymond and Timothy Graham. Introduction to Manuscript Studies, Ithaca and London, 2007, pp. 45-46.

Emden, A. B. A Biographical Register of the University of Oxford, A.D. 1501 to 1540, Clarendon Press, 1974.   

Ker, N. R. Medieval Manuscripts in British Libraries, vol. 2, Abbotsford-Keele, Oxford, 1977, pp. 409-410 (describing this manuscript when it was owned by the Parish Church of St. Mary, Colchester).

Light, Laura. “Non-biblical Texts in Thirteenth-Century Bibles,” in Medieval Manuscripts, Their Makers and Users: A Special Issue of Viator in Honor of Richard and Mary Rouse, Turnhout, 2011, pp. 169-183.

Light, Laura. “The Thirteenth-Century Bible: The Paris Bible and Beyond,” The New Cambridge History of the Bible. Volume two, c. 600-1450, eds. Richard Marsden and E. Ann Matter, Cambridge, 2012, pp. 380-391.

Rosemann, Philipp W. (ed.), Tabula, in Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis, 130, Turnhout, 1995.

Rosemann, Philipp W. “Robert Grosseteste’s Tabula,” in James McEvoy, ed., Robert Grosseteste: New Perspectives on his Thought and Scholarship, Patristica 27, Turnhout: Brepols, 1995, pp. 321-355.

Available online, https://www.academia.edu/19589407/Robert_Grossetestes_Tabula_.

Ruzzier, Chiara. ”The Miniaturisation of Bible Manuscripts in the Thirteenth Century: A Comparative Study,“ in Eyal Poleg and Laura Light, eds.,Form and Function in the Late Medieval Bible, Leiden and Boston, 2013, pp. 105-125.

Online Resources

Antiquariat J. Halle, Manuskripte vom XI. bis zum XIX. Jahrhundert (Katalog Nr. 50), Munich, 1918

Stegmüller, Repertorium Biblicum, Online


Dennis Duncan, “Robert Grosseteste’s Symbolic Search Engine,” [Blog:] Table of Discontents. A History of the English Book Index

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