BEINECKE RARE BOOK AND MANUSCRIPT LIBRARY
GENERAL COLLECTION OF RARE BOOKS AND
Beinecke MS 661
England (London?), s. XV2/4
John Lydgate, Siege of Thebes
ff. 1r-61v Prologus. Phebus in Ariete. Whan Phebus passed was the Ram / Myd [this word
partly erased] of Apprill and into the bole cam. / Saturnus in Virgine. And Satorn olde with his
frosty face / in Virgyn taken had his place ... Thi witte sharper shal be and the bet, / Yf we avon
were to soper sette // [f. 3r, text:] // The significacyon of the harp of Mercurie. I mene the harpe
moost melodyous, / Yoven to this kyng by Mercurius, / And his song this auctor can you teche /
Was nothing but his crafty speche ... To sende us pes here in this lyf present / And of our synnes
parfyt amendement, / And joye eternal, whan we hens wende. / Of my tale thus I make an ende.
Deo gracias. Now is here ended the fynal destruccyon / Of myghty Thebes, that strong and roial
John Lydgate (1375?-1449?), Siege of Thebes. A. Erdman, ed., Early English Text Society, Extra
Series, 108 (London, 1911). Due to the loss of a leaf between ff. 2 and 3, verses 147-222, with
the beginning of Pars prima, are missing. Pars secunda begins f. 13v (Explicit pars prima istius
codicilli), Pars tercia f. 33v (Explicit secunda pars. Immediate sequitur pars tercia).
Parchment, ff. I (paper) + 61 + I (paper), 270 x 175 mm. The top corner of f. 1 has been cut off,
causing damage to the border decoration on f. 1r; likewise there is an excision at the top edge of
f. 2, with loss of a few letters on r and v, and at the top of f. 5; a large excision in the outer
margin of f. 20 has caused the partial loss of 5 lines of text and an initial on the verso; the lower
sections of the outer margins of the final leaves are stained.
I8 (-3, ff. 1-7), II-VII8 (ff. 8-55), VIII6 (ff. 56-61). The outer side of the quires is flesh side.
Horizontal catchwords at right; they are missing on ff. 31 (quire IV) and 47 (quire VI) and the
catchword on f. 39 (quire V) seems to be a later addition.
Ruled in black ink for one column of 39 lines below top line, 192 x 103 mm. Ruling type 16.
Pricking is visible in the lower and sometimes in the outer margins (in the latter the bottom prick
Copied by one hand in Gothica Cursiva Antiquior Libraria/Formata (Anglicana). The scribe has
been identified as being Stephen Doddesham, a Carthusian monk, first in Witham Priory,
afterwards in the Charterhouse at Sheen, near London, d. 1481/1482.
Red headings and running titles. The latter are preceded by alternately blue paragraph-marks with
red penwork and golden paragraph-marks with blue penwork. 6-line foliate initials in pale blue
and pink with left-margin floral borders extending into the upper and lower margins, at the
beginning of Parts II and III (ff. 13v and 33v); the same type of initial with similar but four-
margins border at the opening of the Prologue (f. 1r). There were only two 3-line dentelle initials
with short marginal extensions, namely on f. 20v (now cut out, v. 1569, speech of Adrastus) and
25r (v. 1901, speech of Tideus).
Binding s. XIX by Edward Parry: white parchment over pasteboard. On the gold-tooled spine
two bordeaux leather labels with gold-tooled inscriptions: "DESTRUCTION / OF / THEBES /
BY/ LYDGATE" and "MANUSCRIPT".
At the top right corner of f. 2 "No. 35" (s. XIX). On the front fly-leaf recto a note in English s.
XIX mentioning i.a. that "the strong probability (...) is that this manuscript copy is unique and
therefore very valuable". On the verso a cutting is pasted from the Sotheby sale catalogue of
1920??, containing a description of the manuscript. Many margins have been used by a
contemporary reader for making writing exercises, especially series of majuscules or minuscules,
sometimes short words, often copied from the writing on the same page. In the outer margin of
f. 47r a contemporary hand has written "Thomas Stylle" and "Thomas Myller"; in the upper
margin of f. 60r another hand of the same period has written "John Synt**".
Mostyn family: the bookplate of "Gloddaeth Library" and the handwritten note "Ms NÝ 258"
are on the front pastedown ("258" is also written on the spine). On these owners, see de Ricci,
English Collectors of Books and Manuscripts, pp. 180-181 and on the manuscript, see Historical
Manuscripts Commission, 4th Report (1974), p. 361, no. 258. Sotheby sale, 13 July 1920, lot 77
(not sold). Sotheby sale, 24 Oct. 1974, lot 1481. Collection of John Wolfson, New York.
Catalogue Bernard Quaritch, no. 1054, lot 114. H.P. Kraus, New York. Purchased on the Edwin
J. Beinecke Fund.
A.I. Doyle, "Book Production by the Monastic Orders in England (c. 1375-1530): Assessing the
Evidence", in Medieval Book Production: Assessing the Evidence, ed. by L. L. Brownrigg.
Proceedings of the Second Conference of The Seminar in the History of the Book to 1500,
Oxford, July 1988 (Los Altos Hills, 1990), pp. 1-19.
A.S.G. Edwards, "Beinecke MS 661 and Early Fifteenth-Century English Manuscript
Production", in Beinecke Studies in Early Manuscripts = Gazette, 66 (1991), Supplement, pp.