Wycliffe Old Testament

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 89
  • Dates of Creation
      Beginning 15th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. i + 90 + i folios, foliated 1-90 (modern foliation). Dimensions: 140 x 100 mm. Collation: 18, 22 (ff. 9-10), 3-128. Medium: vellum. Binding: bound by Douglas Cockerell in blind-tooled chestnut morocco over oak boards, single clasp, dated 1901.
  • Location
      Collection available at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

Parts of the Old Testament in both the earlier and later Wycliffite versions, together with a gloss of Daniel.

Contents: (1) Parts of the Old Testament: (a) ff. 1-10v, Ezekiel, abbreviated, earlier Wycliffite version; (b) ff. 11-50v, Daniel, later Wycliffite version; (c) ff. 50v-76r, Minor Prophets, abbreviated, earlier Wycliffite version; (d) ff. 76r-90v, 1 Maccabees, abbreviated, ending imperfectly at 9: 39 'greet appairel and', earlier Wycliffite version. In (a, c, d) the scribe writes 'et cetera' at the point at which he omits words, for example 'and y siȝe visions of god. et cetera and of þe middil of it' where 'etc.' takes the place of Ezekiel 1: 2-4. There is no prologue to (b).

(2) f. 50r-v, 'Glose of Daniel'. 'Here endiþ þe book of daniel and bigynne þe glose of daniel. The first visioun is of a stoon... is figurid in þis. Lyre on þe bigynninge on þe iie c' of daniel.'

Script: Gothic textura. Written space: 105 x 68 mm. 2 columns, 25 lines.

Secundo folio: þe secunde.

Decoration: None: spaces for 2-line initials are not filled in.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 412-13. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Administrative / Biographical History

John Wycliffe, or Wyclif (1328-1384), was an Oxford-educated theologian and early proponent of reform in the Catholic Church during the 14th century. His teachings were characterised by a belief in the supremacy of Scripture over Church law and tradition and in this he is often seen as a precursor of the Protestant Reformation. He argued for the strict division of the secular and ecclesiastical, with secular government having jurisdiction over all temporal matters including Church property and churchmen who committed secular crimes. As a result of this the Papacy and the monastic orders were subject to particular censure; Wycliffe demanded the restriction of the former's interference in English ecclesiastical affairs and the straightforward abolition of the latter. His methods of publication went beyond the usual academic circles and he deliberately set out to win over the masses through polemical tracts and sermons written in English, including a complete translation of the Bible. Although never condemned as a heretic during his lifetime, supported as he was by many of the English aristocracy, most notably John of Gaunt, Wycliffe was declared a heretic posthumously at the Council of Constance in 1415. His teachings became the core doctrine of both the Lollards in England and the Hussites in Bohemia.

One of the most important beliefs held by Wycliffe and his followers was that the Bible ought to be the common possession of all Christians and should be made available for common use in the language of the people. Wycliffe set himself to the task and under his supervision a complete English translation of the Bible was undertaken. In spite of the zeal with which the hierarchy sought to destroy it, citing mistranslations and erroneous commentary, there remain in existence about 150 manuscripts, complete or partial, containing the translation in its revised form.

Source: Anne Hudson and Anthony Kenny, 'Wyclif , John (d. 1384)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004). By permission of Oxford University Press: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/30122.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1908 from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch for £50, catalogue no. 269; invoice dated 23 October 1908.

Custodial History

(1) Laurence W. Hodson of Compton Hall near Wolverhampton. His bookplate. His sale at Sotheby's on 3 December 1906, lot 666 according to Ker.

Related Material

The JRUL holds several other manuscripts of the works of John Wycliffe:


Josiah Forshall and Sir Frederic Madden, The Holy Bible, containing the Old and New Testaments, with the Apocryphal books, in the earliest English versions made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe and his followers (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1850).

Anne Hudson and Anthony Kenny, 'Wyclif , John (d. 1384)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004): http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/30122.

N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 412-13.

G.A. (Godfrey Allen) Lester, The index of Middle English prose. Handlist 2, a handlist of manuscripts containing Middle English prose in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester and Chetham's Library, Manchester (Cambridge: Brewer, 1985), pp. 29-30.