Later Version Wycliffe Psalms

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 88
  • Dates of Creation
      2nd half 15th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. vii + 74 + iii folios, foliated (i-vii), 1-74. Dimensions: 170 x 113 mm. Collation: 1-88, 9 two (98 lacking 2-7?), 108. Medium: vellum; paper flyleaves. Binding: 18th-century black morocco, tooled in gilt on the spine with the armorial of David Garrick.

Scope and Content

Later Wycliffite version of the Psalms and Canticles, with a notable provenance.

Contents: (1) Psalms in the later Wycliffite version. 'Here biginniþ þe Sauter. Beatus uir. Blessid is þe man... (f. 74v, after Quicumque vult) Explicit psalterium.' f. 65v ends 'he schal speke' (Psalm 126: 5) and f. 66r begins 'speke þi power' (Psalm 144: 11).

(2) ff. 67v-74v, (a-f) six ferial canticles: (a) Confitebor. I schal knowledge to þee. for þou were wroþ to me...; (b) Ego dixi. I seide in þe myddil of my day...; (c) Exultauit cor meum. Myn herte fulli ioiede...; (d) Cantemus domino. Synge we to þe lord: for he is magnified gloriously...; (e) Domine audiui. Lord I herde þin heryng...; (f) Audite celi que loquar. ȝe heuenys here what þingis I schal speke...; (g) Benedicite. All werkis of þe lorde blesse ȝe to þe lord...; (h) Te deum laudamus. Thee god we preisen thee lord we knoweleche...; (i) Magnificat. My soule magnifieth þe lord...; (j) Nunc dimittis. Lord now þou leuest þi seruant...; (k) Quicumque vult. Who euere wole be saaf....

Script: Gothic textura. Written space: 128 x 80 mm. 2 columns, 32 lines. The hand changes at f. 41 (beginning of quire 6, Psalm 81).

Secundo folio: hooli man.

Decoration: Eight 6-line gilded initials on pink and blue grounds with white infill and with floriate extensions, ff. 1r, 12v, 19r, 25v, 32r, 40v, 48v and 57r. Numerous 2-line initials in blue ink with red penwork flourishes.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 412. 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:

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1908 from the London booksellers Bull & Auvache for £50; invoice dated 27 February 1908. Accession no. R14777.

Custodial History

(1) Robert Hay or Hey. Signature of 'Robert Hay' on f. i verso, struck through.

(2) David Garrick (1717-1779), actor and playwright. His armorial, comprising the monogram 'DG' surmounted by a falcon, stamped in gilt on the spine.

(3) John Hey (1734-1815), divine, Norrisian Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. Presumed to be in the Hey sale at Leigh & Sotheby, 29 May to 2 June 1815, but not listed in the sale catalogue. Annotated in pencil on f. i verso: 'at Leigh & Sothebys June 2d 1815. R.W.' [Roger Wilbraham].

(4) Roger Wilbraham (1744-1829), F.R.S., M.P. for Helston and Bodmin. Presumably purchased at the John Hey sale above. By descent to his great nephew George Fortescue Wilbraham (b.1815), sheriff of Cheshire. Armorial bookplate of George Wilbraham on front pastedown. Noted as a Wilbraham manuscript in HMC, Third Report (1872), Appendix, p. 293. See Ormerod, vol. 2, p. 138 on George F. Fortesque.

Related Material

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


The annual biography and obituary for 1829 (London: Longman, Hurst, Rees, Orme, and Brown, 1830), pp. 462-3 for an obituary of Roger Wilbraham.

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):

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

Leigh and Sotheby, A catalogue of the entire library of the late Dr. Hey... rector of Passenham and Calverton, near Stony Stratford... which will be sold by auction, by Leigh and Sotheby, on Monday, May 29, 1815 (London: Leigh and Sotheby, 1815).

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. 27-9.

George Ormerod, The history of the county Palatine and city of Chester, 2nd edition revised and enlarged by Thomas Helsby (London: George Routledge and Sons, 1882), vol. 2, p. 138 on George F. Wilbraham.

Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts, Third report of the Royal Commission on Historical Manuscripts presented to both Houses of Parliament (London: Eyre & Spottiswoode, 1872). Appendix, p. 293: Report on manuscripts of George F. Wilbraham esq. at Delamere House, Cheshire.

A.M.C. Waterman, 'Hey, John (1734-1815)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004):