Later Version Wycliffe Bible

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 91
  • Dates of Creation
      1st half 15th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. 272 folios, foliated 1-272 (modern foliation). Dimensions: 380 x 270 mm. Collation: 18 plus one leaf after 8, 2-198, 20-216 (ff. 154-65), 22-348, 354 lacking 4, blank. Condition: some damage caused by dampness, mainly in the middle of the volume. Medium: vellum. Binding: wooden boards, bevelled on the inside, 'earlier probably than the crimson velvet which covers them' (Ker); a hole in the middle of each piece of velvet reveals a blurred coloured armorial on the board, framed by a gilt leather centrepiece surround; bosses on each corner; 2 clasps.
  • Location
      Collection available at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.

Scope and Content

The second volume of a two-volume Bible in the later Wycliffite version, beginning at Proverbs, preceded by a table of lessons, epistles and Gospels for the year according to the use of Salisbury.

Contents: (1) ff. 1-9, 'Heere bigynneþ a reule þt telleþ in whate chapiters of þe bible ȝe may fynde all þo pistles and þe gospels in al þe ȝer after Salisbery vs markid wt letteris of þe a.b.c at þe begynning and endiþ wt strikys.' Forshall and Madden, iv. 683-98, but the text here and in Eng. MSS 76, 77, 78 and 80 differs substantially from theirs, which goes with the earlier Wycliffite version. A table for the common of saints is not provided here or in Eng. MSS 76, 77, 78 and 80: cf. Forshall and Madden, p. 696, footnote. Commemorations precede the sanctoral, as in MS. Eng. 77. They differ from other Rylands copies by making no mention of Salus populi as part of the commemoration of brothers and sisters.

(2) ff. 10-272, The second volume of a Bible in the later Wycliffite version, beginning at Proverbs. There are the usual prologues throughout the New Testament, but in the Old Testament only at Isaiah and Baruch. From quire 11 (ff. 82-9) onwards the outside leaves of every quire show offsetting from other outside leaves; for example, part of f. 238 (start of quire 31) has offset onto f. 89v (end of quire 11), except for the red ornament of the blue initial T.

Script: ** Written space: 272 x 180 mm. 2 columns, 52 lines.

Secundo folio: þin iȝe.

Decoration: There are continuous foliate bar borders on ff. 10r (Proverbs), 46v (Isaiah), 126v (Minor Prophets) and 166r (Matthew), and [-shaped or I-shaped borders on other pages where principal books begin, sprouting acanthus leaves and knotwork, with extensions terminating in acanthus leaves, ivy leaves and bezants. There is a 9-line initial on f. 10r, blue and pink with white penwork and floral infill, on a burnished gold ground (water damaged). There are 5- or 6-line initials of a similar design at the beginning of other books: ff. 18v, 21v, 23r, 29r, 66v, 90v, 92v, 96v, 118r, 129v, 130v, 133r, 133v, 134r, 136r, 137v (two), 138v, 139r, 142v, 143v, 156v, 180v, 189v, 204v, 215v, 221r, 226r, 231v, 233v, 234v, 236r, 237r and v, 239r, 240r and v, 241r, 245r, 259r, 260v, 261v, 262v, 264r and v, and 265v. There are numerous 3-line initials in blue ink with red penwork flourishes.

Other features:: Catchwords are sometimes abbreviated, for example (f. 229v) 'he acur', while f. 230 begins 'he acursid'. There are manicules on ff. 58v, 89v, 222v, 224v, 234v, 235v, 236v, 238v, 254v, 255v and 257v.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 414. 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:

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Unknown. The manuscript was accessioned by the John Rylands Library in December 1922 (R55397).

Custodial History

(1) Early inscriptions: 'Gilbert Humblye' (f. 35r); 'M hylls Gyllbard Humblye' (f. 90v); 'Jhon Lane' (f. 272v).

(2) Rev. John Symonds Breedon (c.1754-1826) of Bere Court, Berkshire. Belonged to Breedon in 1789.

(3) Charles Lilburn. Armorial bookplate.

Related Material

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

  • Wycliffe Later Version Gospels (Eng MS 3)
  • Ashburnham Wycliffe Collection (Eng MSS 75-87, 92);
  • Wycliffe Later Version Psalms (Eng MS 88);
  • Pricke of Conscience III with Wycliffe commentary on the Lord's Prayer (Eng MS 90);
  • Wycliffe Earlier Version New Testament (Eng MS 902).


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).

Joseph Foster, Alumni Oxonienses: the members of the university of Oxford, 1500-1886 (Oxford : Parker and Co., 1891), part 2, vol. 1, p. 155, for information on John Symonds Breedon.

Anne Hudson and Anthony Kenny, 'Wyclif , John (d. 1384)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004):

N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 414.

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), p. 31.