Old French Bible (Bible française du XIIIe siècle)

II Rg 19-20 and III Rg 11-12


Oxford, Bodleian Library, 4o I 1 Th. Seld.

Remarks by the Editor

Description by Ruth Mullett and Nigel F. Palmer (April 2018).


Bod-Inc. A-116; F-095. Two imperfect leaves from the Old French Bible (Bible française du XIIIe siècle), containing passages from the second book of Samuel (II Rg) chapters 19-20 and the first book of Kings (III Rg) chapters 11-12.

General Information

Title Old French Bible (Bible française du XIIIe siècle)
Shelfmarks 4o I 1 Th. Seld., front endleaves
Material Parchment
Place of Origin Northern France
Date of Origin 14th century, middle or second half
Script, Hands

Northern Textualis, the letters upright and compressed horizontally, exhibiting the full range of fusions typical of the later gothic period, very short ascenders and descenders. A middle register, Libraria rather than Formata. No rubrication. Datable most likely to the middle or second half of the fourteenth century and more likely Northern French than from the Anglo-Norman world.

Original Condition

Page Height at least 280 mm
Page Width at least 207 mm
Height of Written Area at least 227 mm
Width of Written Area at least 159 mm
Number of Columns 2
Width of Columns 72 – 78 mm
Number of Lines 44
More about the Condition

The leaves are in poor condition. Fragm. I/1 recto is defaced and partly illegible because of glue and worm holes. Fragm. II has a large tear down the centre of the two columns (105 x 25 mm), with resultant loss of text. Fragm. IIr-v is extremely faded, and text on the verso has been erased to make way for the table of contents.


A large-format manuscript in two columns, with generous margins, designed to accommodate an extensive text, probably a collection of several books of the Old Testament. Chapter headings may have been planned, but they were not executed.


In ink, for two columns of 44 lines, the first line of text below the top ruled line. The vertical ruling and the first and last horizontal ruled lines extend the full height and width of the page. No pricking is evident.

Current Condition

Dimensions c. 280 x 207 mm
More about the Current Condition


c. 280 x 207 mm (inner margin cropped), half leaf c. 140 x 207 mm. Written area: c. 227 x 159, half leaf c. 90 x 159. Width of columns: 72 mm (inner) and 78 mm (outer). Intercolumnar space: 10 mm. Lower margin: 50 mm.

Book Decoration and Musical Notation


Space left for minor initials, but none present in the portions of the text preserved.


  • Content Item
    • Text Language French (and Latin additions)
    • Title Old French Bible (Bible française du XIIIe siècle) II Rg 19-20 and III Rg 11-12
    • Content Description

      The two fragments (with text in two columns) are twice the size of the leaves of the host volume. They have been folded and made up to serve as an endleaf-quire at the front of the book. This must initially have been a binio (of four leaves), but at some stage the third leaf was taken out and discarded, leaving the three leaves preserved today as fols 1-3 and stub. The loss of the half page results in the absence of the upper half of the text block once conjugate with fol. 2 and just a stub remains.  

      The outer bifolium (fols 1 and 3 of the host volume) constitutes Fragm. I (the upper half here designated Fragm. I/1 and the lower half Fragm. I/2). The original recto of this leaf is now positioned as fol. 1v + 3r, the verso as fol. 1r + 3v. Fol. 2r-v, the lower half of a once complete leaf, constitutes Fragm. II recto – verso. In addition to the three intact leaves, four very small fragments of text lie as stubs in the gutter between fols 1 and 2, here designated fols *1r col. a/b (stub) and *1v col. a/b (stub). These tiny scraps are conjugate with fol. 2. They thus belong to Fragm. II. The text of all the fragments reads sideways in relation to the host volume.  

      The designation 'fol.' relates to the sequence of leaves in the Sammelband, as part of an endleaf-quire. The designation 'Fragm.' relates to the two leaves preserved from the codex discussus. The disposition of the text in situ in the Sammelband compared with the codex discissus is as follows:

      Fol. 1ra + rb = Fragm. I/1va + vb

      Fol. 1va + vb = Fragm I/1ra + rb

      Fol. *1ra + rb (stub) = Fragm. IIva + vb (upper half)

      Fol. *1va + vb (stub) = Fragm. IIra + rb (upper half)

      Fol. 2ra + rb = Fragm. IIra + rb (lower half)

      Fol. 2va + vb = Fragm. IIva + vb (lower half)

      Fol. 3ra + rb = Fragm. I/2ra + rb

      Fol. 3va + vb = Fragm. I/2va + vb  

      The content order (relating to the sequence of text in the codex discissus) is Fragm. I/1ra, I/2ra, I/1rb, I/2rb, I/1va, I/2va, I/1vb, I/2vb; Fragm. II stub *1v col. a (most of the text lost), IIra, II stub *1v col. b (most of the text lost), IIrb, II stub *1r col. a (most of the text lost), IIva, II stub *1r (stub) col. b (most of the text lost), IIvb. In view of the disturbed order of the text, the following account follows the content order in the codex discissus for each fragment. Word division is normalized.  

      Fragm. I/1-2 Fol. 1va ‘|| dame deu. En a [3 lines illegible] se cor[::]ca [d]onc a salemon por ce quil auoit cor | ... touz les uallez dydu|mee adad senfoui et enmena les serianz son | [pere dydumee et entra en egypte. Il estoit en co]||’. III Rg 11:7-17.

      Fol. 3ra ‘|| an il uindrent em pharam. et [::]na entrerent | en egypte a phara[::::]i rois degypte qui leur | donna ... <L>a suer danes li enf[::]ta un fil qui ot a | non genebith ... qui auoit a non rason le filz helyadan.||’. III Rg 11:18-23.

      Fol. 1vb ‘|| qui [3 lines illegible] iluec et enfirent roi en damas. et il fu aduersaires aus | filz israel ... <I>eroboam estoit forz hom et puissanz ... et chamos. le deu aus filz moa|b et maloch le deu aus filz amon et nala pase en | mes [:::] ||’. III Rg 11:24-33.

      Fol. 3rb ‘|| ment si come dauid ses peres Ne te ne host[e]ra pas | de s[::::n [t]out le regne auiz le ferai duc toz | les iorz de sa vie por dauid mon seriant ... et tormenterai. en ce la semen[::] dau[i]d [::]s ne ||’. III Rg 11:33-39.

      Fol. 1ra ‘|| porquant ce ne sera pas [a to]uz iorz Salemons | uolt donques ocirre ... quel consail me donnez vos que [ie] respoigne au | peuple [::] distrent se tu obeis [::] puep[::] et tu os[::] ||’. III Rg 11:39-12:7.

      Fol. 3va ‘|| [:::]nes homes qui aiant este ... [:::] ||’. Illegible. [III Rg 12:8-15].

      Fol. 1rb ‘|| uit donques que li rois ne le uolt oir. ... <D>ame deu parla a semey ... iuda et a beniamyn. et au pueple si leur di. C||’. III Rg 12:16-24.

      Fol. 3vb ‘|| [2 lines illegible] [::] dist [en ::]n cuer li regnes retor[nera a la] me|son [dau]id. fecise [?] pueples uelz [?] faire sacrefi|ces ... pueples al[oit][::::] a[.]rer les [::] | [:::] dan. [::] il fist temples es mon|taig[nes] [::] [pro::re::::tes][:::] ||’. Mostly illegible. III Rg 12:[25]-[32].

      Fragm. II

      Fol. *1v (stub) col. a ‘||sen est fouiz de te[:::] | que nos feismes r[e][:::]|taille Que atend[ons]||’. II Rg 19:19,9-10.

      Fol. 2ra ‘|| mesages a sadoch. et aabyathar les [tear]|res si leur dist parlez ainsint a la lig[tear] | por quoi uenez uos le roi deresnier demen[tear]| sa meson ... et tuit li fil iuda uindrent ||’. II Rg 19:11-15.

      Fol. *1v (stub) col. b ‘|| este | lau[:::] | [:::] iusques ata[:::] | [:::]t il fu reuenuz en i||’. II Rg 19:24-25.

      Fol. 2rb ‘|| [:::] miphyboseph li respondi. Sire mes sers | mot en despit et ie li comandai queil menselast | mon asne por aler o toi. ... <B>erzelai de galaad estoit molt uielz si descendi de | rogelin et passa o le roi outre le flun iordain ||’. II Rg 19:26-31.

      Fol. *1r (stub) col. a ‘||[d]el pueple [:::] | [:::]ontre le roi si li [:::] | [:::]a lignee iuda et co||’. II Rg 19:40-41.

      Fol. 2va ‘|| qui estoient o toi li fil iuda respondiren[t] [:] lis fi[l] [tear]|rael. li rois est plus pres que nous. ne nos corrousa[tear] | pas de ceste chose. ja nauons nous riens mengie de | cel au roi ... le fil bochyr. et | li fil iuda furent o leur roi del flun iordain tres||’. II Rg 19:41-20:2.

      Fol. *1r (stub) col. b ‘||[i] pri[st] [:::] | [:::]t come sil leno fist | [:::] [s]e gardoit pas par del gla|[:::] sa mein si le feri el||’. II Rg 20:9-10.

      Fol. 2vb ‘|| [:::] onques que une plaie et ioab et ab | [ses] freres suurent syba. le filz bochyr. et | [:::]nt aucun des compaignons uirent le | [:::]s amasam ... qui [::]ronnerent la cite de garnisons. et lasistrent en ||’. II Rg 20:10-15.

      The Old French Bible (Bible française du XIIIe siècle) is the first French prose translation of the whole Bible, most likely made in Paris some time in the period 1220-60. The text of the Oxford fragments corresponds closely to that of a thirteenth-century manuscript of this translation in Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 899, fols 157rb-158vb and 176va-178ra, although our codex discissus was perhaps written a century later. The Old French Bible was usually copied in two volumes, and as a copy of the Books of Kings copied in the format of our fragments would only occupy some 45 folios, it seems most likely that these leaves derive from a larger body of text from this translation, perhaps a copy of volume one (Genesis to Psalms). For literature on the Old French Bible, the different versions, and their complex manuscript tradition, see Berger, La Bible française, pp. 109-56; Sneddon, ‘Pour l’édition critique’; Sneddon, ‘On the creation of the Old French Bible’; Sneddon, ‘The Old French Bible’.

      Fragm. I/2 (additions) In its present state, Fragm. I/2 verso (fol. 3v) is a palimpsest, the under-text (the French Bible translation) having been partly erased and written over with an early sixteenth-century Latin table of contents. The table of contents is written in the same orientation as the host volume. An emblematic woodcut depicting the sacred heart, the crown of thorns, a rosary with flowers for the five wounds, and two manicules emerging from the clouds in the upper corners, cut out from sig. a1 of item one of the host volume (this leaf now missing), is pasted onto the lower part of this page. The table of contents relates to the incunable Sammelband:  ‘Contenta in hoc libro | jo folio [in the margin] | Inprimis. Quodlibet de veritate fraternitatis rosarij beate marie | conuentus coloniensis ordinis predicatorum per fratrem michaelem de insulis | Item compendium psalterii beate trinitatis per magistrum alanum de rupe ordinis predicatorum doctoris sacre pagine eximij ... Item liber sermonum de quattuor nouissimis.’  

      Function in host volume:

      Endleaves at the front of the host volume, fol. 1 originally serving as a pastedown, but now lifted. They derive from an earlier binding. The present binding has its own endleaves, provided at a later date, but the extensive damage to fol. 1 of Fragm. I , mostly from bookworm (extending as far as fol. 3), is not matched by wormholes on either the present, seventeenth-century paper flyleaf to the upper board or the fifteenth-century paper flyleaf added between Fragm. I/2 and item one (preceding sig. a2). This is evidence that Fragm. I-II once served as endleaves to an earlier binding which suffered from woodworm and in which Fragm. I/1 (fol. 1) was glued down to the upper board as a pastedown. This is confirmed by the worm holes and traces of glue on fol. 1r.

    • Glosses and Additions A mark in the margin of fol. 2va draws attention to the first verse of II Rg 20, where Shiba, a ‘man of Belial’ and an enemy of David, is introduced.
    • Remarks

      We are grateful to Clive Sneddon for identifying this version of the French Bible and offering further advice, and to Tony Hunt for comments on our transcriptions.

Host Volume

Title A devotional collection associated with the rosary (ISTC if00297500), and a pseudo-Albertine treatise on the medicinal properties of plants, stones, and animal material (ISTC ia00254500).
Date of Origin/Publication 1483-84, c.1485
Place of Origin/Publication Gouda, London
Shelfmark Oxford, Bodleian Library, 4o I 1 Th. Seld.

Two incunables in chancery quarto, the first a devotional collection associated with the rosary, the second a popular pseudo-Albertine treatise on the medicinal properties of plants, stones and animal material. Added handwritten text, here designated additions A and B, is copied onto the blank verso at the end of item one and continued on the blank recto at the beginning of item two. Marginal glossing throughout in English hands, some Middle English glossing in item two. In item two early marginal annotations in Latin and English, e.g. a short prayer and a recipe on sig. c3v.

1. Michael Francisci de Insulis, Quodlibet de veritate fraternitatis Rosarii; Alanus de Rupe, Compendium psalterii beatissimae trinitatis; Nota practica devote perorandi psalterium; Decem privilegia psalterii; De rosario BMV carmen; De psalterio BMV exempla. Gouda: Gerard Leeu, between 1483 and 11 June 1484. 39 + 28 fols. Manuscript heading on an added flyleaf before sig. a2 ‘Rosarium Beatissime Marie Virginis’ (late fifteenth century). (Bod-Inc. F‑095; ISTC if00297500; GW 10261).  

Add. A. (sig. d6v) Middle English prayer to the Holy Name and indulgence.  

Add. B. (sig. a1r) Middle English indulgences of Popes Julius (Julius II 1503-13) and Leo (Leo X 1513-21).  

2. Albertus Magnus, Liber aggregationis seu liber secretorum de virtutibus herbarum lapidum et animalium quorumdam; De mirabilibus mundi; De ortu lune secundum epactum. London: William de Machlinia, c. 1485. 42 fols. (Bod-Inc. A-116; ISTC ia00254500; GW 653).  

[3]. The table of contents on Fragm. I/2 verso includes, in addition to items one and two, a third incunable entitled the ‘liber sermonum de quatuor nouissimis’, which must have been either a copy of Gerardus van Vliederhoven, Cordiale de quattuor novissimis, or more likely the Sermones quattuor novissimorum (inc.: ‘Animarum salutem pio zelans’), which was frequently printed from c. 1482/83 onwards in Paris and the Netherlands. (cf. ISTC ib00944100; GW 4804).  

Date: Printed c. 1483-85. Bound early on as a Sammelband, on the evidence of late fifteenth- or early sixteenth-century marginal glossing in English hands across the two incunables), perhaps as late as 1539, cf. the text inscribed on the last leaf of item one and first leaf of item three). The current binding dates to the seventeenth century.

Place of origin: Printed in the Netherlands (item one) and England (item two).

Binding: Bound in the seventeenth century, probably for John Selden, in blind-tooled calf on wooden boards.


1. Unidentified English institutional ownership. The table of contents (in an English hand) on Fragm. I/2 verso (fol. 3v) and added title on the flyleaf preceding item one, given the fact that item three was printed in London, provide good evidence of English institutional ownership in the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century. Given the content of item one, the devotional thrust of the glossing, the woodcut with the five wounds pasted to fol. 3v, and the content of the Middle English additions, a Carthusian or Carthusian influenced context is not implausible.

2. John Selden (lawyer and scholar, 1584-1654). Cf. Bod-Inc., vol. 6, pp. 2915-16 (with references).

3. Bodleian Library, presented as part of Selden’s library in 1659.  

Additional Items:

Add. A, copied on the blank verso at the end of item one (sig. d6v), is a popular prayer to the Holy Name (DIMEV 2840, ‘Jesu for Thy holy name/ And for Thy bitter Passion’, full transcription provided in Bod-Inc. A-116, vol. 1, p. 97). The Digital Index of Middle English Verse identifies twenty-two manuscript witnesses to these lines, one inscription, and three print witnesses, but does not record this copy (see DIMEV no. 2840). All DIMEV versions contain between four and six short lines. The version in Bodleian Library, 4o I 1 Th. Seld., contains the six-line prayer in verse followed by an indulgence-prayer (in prose) as follows: ‘In this forsayd prayer be conteyned .xxxiij. wordes | iustly representing the xxxiij. yers of the age of | our lord ihesu crist. The pardon therof in the me- | moryal of al his woundes grete and smalle is | v.m.cccc.lxxv yers. And here is to be noted | that the first whyt bede stone betokenyth that | name of ihesu / and the red bede stone the passion | of ihesu / the first blak the synne of man / the. | secunde black the paynes of helle / and the last whyt | bede synyfyeth euerlastynge ioye and | blysse. Amen. | The wondes that our lord suffered for vs. | ben v.m.cccclxxv. and so many eres | of pardon be graunted to al them that . say | deuoutly this forsayd prayer.'  

Add. B, copied on the blank recto of item two (sig. a1r), consists of indulgences for Syon Abbey, Middlesex, and the Charterhouse of Sheen, Richmond, granted by Popes Julius (Julius II 1503-13) and Leo (Leo X 1513-21); see Bod-Inc., vol. 1, p. 97 for full transcription. See also the edition in Hoskins, Horae, p. 116, which is based on an incunable printed in Westminster by Wynkyn de Worde of the Horae ad usum Sarum, ca. 1493/94 (cf. ISTC ih00420450). The text refers to a devotion associated with the ‘bedes of Syon’ (the Bridgettine double house on the Thames in Isleworth) and the ‘pardon of the bedes of Shene the charterhows’ (i.e. Sheen, across the river from Syon). As these two monasteries are mentioned in another copy of this text in Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 54, fols 35r-36r, their mention here does not prove a direct association of this copy with either of these institutions. For the libraries of Syon and Sheen, see Gillespie and Doyle, Syon Abbey - The Libraries of the Carthusians; Gillespie, ‘The book and the brotherhood’. Also, on a1r of item two, a handwritten title.


  • Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS. Douce 54.

  • Paris, Bibliothèque nationale de France, ms. fr. 899 (online from Gallica: gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/btv1b90068265, last consulted 8 October 2018).

  • Samuel Berger, La Bible française au moyen âge: Étude sur les plus anciennes versions de la Bible écrites en prose an langue d'oïl (Paris, 1884, repr. Geneva, 1967).

  • Alan Coates et al., A Catalogue of Books printed in the Fifteenth Century now in the Bodleian Library, 6 vols (Oxford, 2005), vol. 1, p. 96-97 (Bod-Inc. A-116). Cited as ‘Bod-Inc.’.

  • Vincent Gillespie, ‘The book and the brotherhood: Reflections on the lost library of Syon Abbey’, in: The English Medieval Book: Studies in Memory of Jeremy Griffiths, ed. A. S. G. Edwards et al. (London 2000), pp. 185-208.

  • Vincent Gillespie (ed.), Syon Abbey. With A. I. Doyle (ed.), The Libraries of the Carthusians, Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues 91 (London, 2001).

  • Edgar Hoskins, Horae beatae Mariae Virginis or Sarum and York Primers (London, 1901, repr. Westmead, 1969).

  • Clive R. Sneddon, ‘Pour l’édition critique de la Bible française du XIIIe siècle’, in: La Bibbia in italiano tra Medioevo e Renascimento - La Bible italienne au Moyen Âge et à la Renaissance. Atti del Convegno internazionale, Firenze, Certosa del Galluzzo, 8-9 novembre 1996, ed. Lino Leonardi, Millenio Medievale 1; Agiografia e Bibbia in lingua italiana 1 (Florence, 1998), pp. 229-46.

  • Clive R. Sneddon, ‘On the creation of the Old French Bible’, Nottingham Medieval Studies 46 (2002), pp. 25-44.

  • Clive R. Sneddon, ‘The Old French Bible: The first complete vernacular Bible in Western Europe’, in: The Practice of the Bible in the Middle Ages: Production, Reception, & Performance in Western Christianity, ed. Susan Boynton and Diane J. Reilly (New York/Chichester, West Suffolk, 2011), pp. 296-314.

  • DIMEV - Digital Index of Middle English Verse: http//dimev.net, last consulted 8 October 2018.

  • EEBO - Early English Books Online: https://quod.lib.umich.edu/e/eebogroup/, last consulted 8 October 2018.