Pricke of Conscience; Guy of Warwick, Speculum

  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 50
  • Dates of Creation
      End 14th century
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. vi + 112 + v folios, paginated 1-224. Dimensions: 250 x 150 mm. Collation: 18 lacking 7 and 8 (pp.1-12), 2-48, 58 lacking 6 after p. 70 (a tiny scrap remains) and 8 after p. 72, 98, 108 lacking 2-7 after p. 90, 11-188, 19 two (pp. 221-4). Condition: the first leaf and the last two leaves are stained and worn. Medium: vellum; paper flyleaves. Binding: full chestnut morocco by the W.H. Smith Bindery (i.e. Douglas Cockerell): W.H.S. monogram on the turn-in of the lower cover.

Scope and Content

The manuscript contains two works: the first is the Pricke of Conscience; the second is the first 659 lines of a 14th-century romantic work called the Speculum Gy of Warewyke, in which Guy asks Alcuin for advice on how to escape the enticements of the world.

Contents: (1) pp. 1-204, Imperfect copy of the Pricke of Conscience, ed. Richard Morris, The pricke of conscience (see Bibliography below). Index of Middle English verse, no. 1193/3. A variant version, as in Bodleian Library, Douce 156 (Summary Catalogue 21730), beginning with a 20-line prologue (running title 'Entre'), 'Her beginneþ þe soþ to say ... God hit vs graunte say all Amen'. The text begins 'Befor þat e[ny] þ[ing] was wrouȝt' and ends 'That for oure heele on roode con hinge'. Probably thirty-four leaves are missing between these points in gaps after pp. 12, 70, 72 (probably 17 leaves), 90, and 140 (probably 8 leaves): the missing lines are between 394 and 528, 2551 and 2626, 2704 and 3957, 4594 and 5017, and 6824 and 7392. The removal of almost the whole of book 4, on purgatory, may have been on purpose, since the two lines on p. 11 referring to book 4 have been erased (lines 356-7); the gap in passing from the last line on p. 72 (2704) to the first line on p. 73 (3957) is not very obvious.

(2) pp. 205-224, Guy of Warwick, Speculum, ending imperfectly (lines 1-659 only), ed. Georgiana Lea Morrill, Speculum Gy de Warewyke: an English poem (see Bibliography below), p. xxxi. Index of Middle English verse, no. 1101/10. The text begins 'Herknes alle to my speche' and ends 'wolde þou shone'. It accompanies the Prick of Conscience also in Cambridge University Library, MS Dd.11.89, and British Library, Arundel 140 and Harley 1731.

Script: Gothic anglicana formata; according to Prof. Angus McIntosh, British Library, Harley 1205 is in the same hand. Written space: 190 x 87 mm. 33 long lines.

Secundo folio: In her manere.

Decoration: Several 4- or 5-line initials in blue ink with red penwork infill and flourishes; the two initials on p. 1 are water-damaged.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 401-2. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch Ltd in 1919 for £35; invoice dated 28 January 1919. Accession no. R45388.

Custodial History

(1) Peter le Neve (1661-1729), Norroy King of Arms: inscription 'P. le Neve, Norroy' on f. 1r.

(2) Thomas Held: seventeenth-century inscription on f. 223v.

(3) Thomas Martin (1697-1771), antiquary: inscription on f. v verso. Martin was executor of Peter le Neve. Cf. English MS 87 , also owned by Martin.

(4) Andrew Clerke: eighteenth-century inscription on f. 1r.

(5) Richard Farmer (1735-1797), Master of Emmanuel College, Cambridge; his sale on 7 May 1798, lot 8061.

(6) C.H. Harford (admitted at Emmanuel College in 1785) who wrote a note on f. v signed 'C.J.H.' and dated 1813 in which he says that the book had been in Benjamin Uphill's catalogue for 1800 and that he had bought it when Uphill 'lived in Bridge Street 1802'.

(7) H.C. Harford. His sale at Sotheby's, 6 May 1907, lot 229.

(8) Bernard Quaritch bookseller, catalogue 344, item 28 (£35).


N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 401-2.

Georgiana Lea Morrill, Speculum Gy de Warewyke: an English poem, Early English Text Society, Extra series, vol. 75 (1898).

Velma Bourgeois Richmond, The legend of Guy of Warwick (New York; London: Garland Publishing, 1996).

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

Alison Wiggins and Rosalind Field, Guy of Warwick: icon and ancestor (Woodbridge, Suffolk; Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer, 2007).

See also the collection bibliography above.