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15th-century manuscript of 'Collationes' attributed to Robert Holcot.

Identifier: Adv.MS.18.4.4

Scope and Contents

15th-century manuscript produced in England. The work appears to have been completed by one scribe and is in a minuscule bastarda anglicana hand. The volume contains 115 'collationes', or sermons, which appear to be based on the Book of Wisdom, as well as short verses in Middle English.

The work has been attributed to Robert Holcot, but this attribution cannot be substantiated. According to an inscription in the top margin of folio 4r, as well as the colophon on folio 108v, this volume contains the 'Collaciones holcote'. However, neither Leland, Tanner, nor Kaeppeli includes Adv.MS.18.4.4 in their lists of Holcot’s writings. Barnicle also believes it is unlikely that Holcot was the author of the English verses.

Slotemaker suggests that this work is not a copy of Holcot's 'Moralitates', as originally stated by Palmer. Slotemaker proposes that the manuscript possibly contains sermons on Wisdom, loosely based on Holcot’s commentary on the book of Wisdom. It is therefore unclear if this is a work inspired by Holcot or written by Holcot.

Middle English verses are present on folio 103r, as well as folio 108v. Barnicle has identified the verses on folio 108 to be part of the 'Tale of the Penitent Usurer', which runs from line 33 on folio 108r to the end of 108v. Barnicle also states that Caesarius von Heisterbach’s 'De Contentione sanctorum angelorum cum daemonibus pro anima cuiusdam usurarii contriti' is the ultimate source for the version of the Tale in Adv.MS.18.4.4.

The contents of the manuscript are as follows:

Pastedown label which reads 'Collaciones Holcote Adv.Lib.MS.18.4.4'. Folio 1r.

Folio 1v is blank.

Notes, initials in the top margin, and old shelfmarks. Folio 2rv.

Folio 3rv is blank, except for initials in the top margin.

Robert Holcote?, 'Collaciones holcote'. Folios 4r-108v.

Scribal table of contents of the 'Collaciones'. Folio 109rv.

A further sermon which begins, 'Diabolus duxit iniquitatem in uxorem...'. Folio 110rv.

Notes and initials in the top margin, occasionally. Folios 111r-112v.

Folio 113rv is blank.

Each folio recto and verso has been ruled in dry point.

Prickings marking the top and bottom of the horizontal and vertical lines of the text columns are evident on many folios, but not all.

Contemporary repairs to the vellume are evident on some folios.

Sermons and chapters have been given in Arabic numerals. These numbers are present in the margins of the folios, as well as in the top right corner of the folio. The corner numbering for sermons is continuous throughout the manuscript. The marginal numbers stop after sermon 20, and new sermons are indicated thereafter by a vertical line. Marginal chapter numbering restarts on folio 44r, although corrections are often made to these and they do not always match the corner numbering.

Guide letters and spaces have been left for illuminated initials. The manuscript is not decorated except for penwork line fillers, most notably on folios 70v and 80r. Maniculae are also present throughout the work.

There are scribal marginal annotations explaining the text.

Quire signatures are occasionally visible in the lower margin in the form of lower case letters; however, most have been cropped.


  • Creation: 15th century.


Language of Materials

The majority of the content is in Latin, with some sections in Middle English.

Conditions Governing Access

Normal access conditions apply.

Conditions Governing Use

Normal reproduction conditions apply, subject to any copyright restrictions.


1 Volumes ; 24.5cm x 17.5cm x 4cm


113 folios.

Collation as recorded by Catherine Borland:

In gatherings of 8: a³ (wants 4), b-n⁸, o¹⁰, p¹ (single leaf guarded), q³ (wants 3).

Custodial History

The manuscript was bought by the Library of the Faculty of Advocates from Robert Freebairn, bookseller, on 29 Dec 1709 for £1-5-0 Scots.

The previous shelfmark assigned to the manuscript by the Library is on folio 2r, 'A.5.6', since superseded.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

Presented, 1925, by the Faculty of Advocates to the nation on the foundation of the National Library of Scotland.


Barnicle, M. E. 'The Exemplum of the Penitent Usurer' in 'Publications of the Modern Language Association of America', Volume 33, Number 3 (1981), pages 409-428.

Boffey, J., and A. S. G. Edwards. 'A New Index of Middle English Verse' (London, 2005), number 442, pages 31-32; number 591, page 41; number 3600, page 240.

Borland, C. R. 'Catalogue of Mediaeval Manuscripts in the Library of the Faculty of Advocates at Edinburgh', 4 Volumes. (Unpublished manuscript, Edinburgh, 1906-1908). Volume I, folio 243. NLS Reference: FR.198a/1.

Brown, C. 'A Register of Middle English Religious and Didactic Verse: Part I, List of Manusripts' (London, 1916), page 499.

Brown, C., and R. H. Robbins. 'The Index of Middle English Verse' (New York, 1943), number 442, page 73; number 591, page 95; number 3600, page 575.

'Folio Catalogue of Manuscripts: Miscellaneous Manuscripts' (Unpublished manuscript, Edinburgh [after 1837]), folio 10. NLS Reference: FR.195.

Gray, D. 'Two Middle English Quatrains and Robert Holcot' in 'Notes and Queries', Volume 15, Number 4 (April, 1968), page 125.

Hamer, R. 'A Manuscript Index to the Index of Middle English Verse' (London, 1995), page 19.

Palmer, N. F. 'Das ›Exempelwerk der englischen Bettelmönchec Ein Gegenstück zu den ›Gesta Romanorum‹?' in W. Haug and B. Wachinger (eds.), 'Exempel und Exempelsammlungen' (Tübingen, 1991), pages 137-172.

'Summary Catalogue of the Advocates' Manuscripts' (Edinburgh, 1971), number 1296, page 102.

Slotemaker, J T. 'Mediaevalia: Studies in Reformation and Reformation Theology'. Available online:

Physical Description


The binding is probably of the 15th century and is bevelled oak boards covered with leather, with red leather turn-ins. Channeling, split cords, and pegging is visible on the inners of both boards. There is a leather strap which is secured by a metal pin in the middle of the rear board. The volume has a new calf spineback with five raised cords.

National Library of Scotland Catalogue of Manuscripts
National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division
Description rules
International Standard for Archival Description - General
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Repository Details

Part of the National Library of Scotland Archives and Manuscripts Division Repository

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