The Pore Caitif

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 87
  • Dates of Creation
      End 14th/beginning 15th century
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. v + 119 + v folios, foliated ff. 1-120. ff 120-1 are vellum flyleaves. Dimensions: 150 x 105 mm. Collation: 18 lacking 2 after f. 1 and 7 after f. 5, 28, 38 lacking 8 after f. 21, 4-148, 158 lacking 2 after f. 110, 168 lacking 5-8 after f. 119. Quires are signed b-r in the usual late medieval way, except that the leaf numbers are written below the quire letters (cf. English MS 85). Medium: vellum; paper flyleaves. Binding: blind-tooled brown morocco, 19th century.

Scope and Content

The Pore Caitif (Poor Wretch) was a popular fourteenth-century compilation of fourteen treatises intended for the religious instruction of the laity, and has variously been attributed to John Wycliffe and Richard Rolle. It survives in more than fifty manuscripts.

Contents: (1) ff. 1-119v, Pore Caitif. Jolliffe, A check-list of Middle English prose writings of spiritual guidance, B. This and twenty-two other manuscripts containing all fourteen parts are listed by M.T. Brady in Traditio, vol. 10 (1954), pp. 529-48. Part 1, on the Creed, begins imperfectly at f. 1r, 'do but also of dedis left undo' (probably eight leaves are missing), lacks a leaf after f. 1, and ends imperfectly at f. 5v, 'Seynt symond seide. I bileeue forȝifnesse of' (one leaf missing); part 2, on the Commandments, begins imperfectly at f. 6r, 'þerfore ech man and womman', and lacks a leaf after f. 21; part 3, on the Lord's Prayer, f. 52r; part 4, f. 66v; part 5, f. 70r; part 6, f. 73r; part 7, f. 74r; part 8, f. 81v (running title 'þe hors'); part 9, f. 90v; part 10, f. 94v; part 11, f. 98v; part 12, f. 102r; part 13, f. 103v; part 14, f. 106v; it lacks a leaf after f. 110 and all after 'þis is my filosofie. þis is my victorie'.

(2) f. 120 (flyleaf), on recto, Directions for masses, etc., beginning imperfectly: 'of all the apostolus wt xii candelys xii almysdedys and offyr as tohu (sic) dydys before... proued of the Court of Rome'. Directions for (Wednesday), Thursday, Friday, and Saturday votive masses and for saying the eight verses of St Bernard to help deliver souls from purgatory. On verso, an early 15th-century prayer: 'Domine ihesu criste fili dei viui qui gloriosum corpus tuum... per eundem cristum dominum nostrum Amen'.

Script: Gothic textura. Written space: 93 x 65 mm. 22 long lines.

Secundo folio: den at her.

Decoration: 3-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), pp. 411-12. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by Mrs Enriqueta Rylands from Henry Yates Thompson in 1897, and later transferred to the John Rylands Library. Accession no. R5001.

Custodial History

(1) George Radcliffe/Ratcliffe. 16th-century inscription on f. 68: 'George Ratlyfe oweth Thys bocke god macke hym a good man'.

(2) Thomas Dodd. Inscription on ff. 76v-77: 'THOMAS DODE est verus huius possessor libri 1555 20 agusti'; inscription on ff. 80v-81r: 'Thomas Dode: Kateren Dode: Alice Dode: John Dode: Marie'. Other early inscriptions include Richard Dumbalrd (f. 29r), George Lowson (f. 40v), George Sapcote (ff. 52r and 103r, the former written in the same hand as 'Thomas Dode' on f. 51v), Myles Garard (ff. 100v, 101r, 102r), and Nycolas Hasson (f. 116r).

(3) Thomas Martin (1697-1771), antiquary. He wrote his name, the number '155', and the remark 'Note all old English Mss are very valuable' on f. iii verso. Cf. English MS 50 , also owned by Martin and previously possessed by Peter le Neve, of whom Martin was executor.

(4) Bertram, 4th Earl of Ashburnham. Appendix no. 27D.

(5) Henry Yates Thompson. He purchased the Ashburnham Appendix in May 1897 and almost immediately resold the manuscript to Mrs Rylands.

Related Material

For another manuscript of The Pore Caitif, see English MS 412.


M.T. (Mary Teresa) Brady, 'The Pore Caitif: an introductory study', Traditio: studies in ancient and medieval history, thought and religion, vol. 10 (1954), pp. 529-48.

P.S. (Peter Sydney) Jolliffe, A check-list of Middle English prose writings of spiritual guidance (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 1974).

N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 411-12.

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. 26-7.

David Stoker, 'Martin, Thomas (1697-1771)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004):

Kalpen Dinkarray Trivedi, 'Traditionality and difference: a study of the textual traditions of the "Pore Caitif"' (University of Manchester, Ph.D. thesis, 2002).