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EPISTLE OF OTHEA

MRJ number: 
208
College classmark: 
H.5

Vellum, 11.25 x 8, ff. 61 + 4, 28 lines to a full page.  15th cent. (first half), well written.

Old binding, brown stamped leather over boards.  The only stamp is a sort of flower with four elongated petals.

Collation : 2 flyleaves (1 stuck to cover), 18 – 78 (wants 8) 88 (wants 1, 2), 2 flyleaves.

The book has been in the possession of the family of Bremschet (Bramshott) in the Isle of Wight.  Besides many other scribbles in which their name occurs, the following are interesting :

On flyleaf at the beginning a Latin prayer, very badly spelt, of Emelena Bremschet.

At the end (f. 60b) nearly two pages of English on the Five Sorrows of the Virgin :

I fynde and rede by holy mennes wrytyng that after owre ladyes assumpcyon seynt John the euangeleste desyred to see that blessyd lady

-and worssupe her wt her dere sone Ihesu att eche of these v sorowis wt a pater noster and hyr deuotely wt an aue marya.  Amen.  Bremschet scripcit.

 

Entries of births, in English, with names of godparents, viz.:

 Jone Bremshet, att Alcton castell, on sencion day, 2 Hen. VII.  (Godparents) My lady grey and mastres roo and the abbate of boxley.

Dorothe, att London, 11 Aug., 4 Hen. VII…sir rychard lakyn, Alis lakyn, mastres chamberlayne, Elenor Mustian.

Hary, at Chelsey, 16 June, 9 Hen. VII…my lady of northumbyrlond, sir charlis somerset, Jhon Bedyll, master browne chanon of paulis.

(In Latin.)  George, son of William and Emelena B., at Merston, 6 Aug. 1488

                    …Nic. Gowshell, Mag. Ric. Maket vicar of godishell

                    …soror mea Agnes Leey.

Edward, 23 Jan., 7 Hen. VII…Abbot of Waltham, Sir John Fescu, maistra Walsche, selerinus de waltam.

Elizabeth, 7 Mar., 8 Hen. VII…Regina Elyzabet, domina Jervese, domina Anna Percy, dominus vrmud (?) camerarinus Regine.

Lawrence, iv. Aug., 10 Hen. VII…dame Jane Bowyman (?)…the veker of carisbroke, master Hall and the veker of shorwell.

Grace…at Newcherche, St Rufeys day…the veker of Newcherche, Masterys genchard, Jone Yve.

Antony, att Merston, 8 Nov., 13 Hen. 7…the vekery of godyshyll, the vekery of arreton, Annys long.

John…att merston, 20 Dec., 15 Hen. 7, the godmodyr hawles and odyr.

 

Contents : 

The Epistle of Othea (from the French of Christine de Pisan1).

Prolouge of the pistell Othea             .               .               .               .         f.    1

                Praisyng be to god at this begynnyng

                in alle my wordes and soo folowyng.

                (The translator to Humphrey, Duke of Buckingham :  +1460)

                             

                Please you  ryght hi{gh} Prince to take of this thyng

                The poure effecte of my litell connyng.

Here beginneth the pistell of Othea the Goddes the whiche sent it

    to Hector whan he was xv. yere of age         .               .               .               2b

Othea of prudens named Goddes

                That settith good hertis in wurthynes

Each section of the text (in verse) is followed by Glose and Allegorie,

    in prose, and each Allegorie ends with a rubricated text from the

    Bible in Latin.

The poem (Texte) ends f. 60b :

                ffor a womman lerned Augustus

                To be worshipid and taught him {th}us.

The Allegorie end 61a :

    but how myche he can not.  To {th}is purpos {th}e wise man seith.

Auris bona audiet cum omni concupiscencia sapienciam ecclesiastici

vio cao.

 

The illustration of the book has been begun in very good style by an English artist, but soon ceases, and no spaces are left for pictures.  Those that are completed are as follow :

 

f. 1.   Dedication.  The translator (L.), a beardless man in blue tunic and red hose and cloak, kneels and presents his book to the Duke of Buckingham, beardless, in red gown and blue hat, seated on a chair covered with a yellow-red cloth : attendants on R. and on L. two others ; the scene is an enclosure with low pink parapet and pavement of green and black.

This page is bordered partially.

f. 2a.  Figures in grisaille.  Othea, half-length, in pink cloud on R. hands the sealed Epistle to Hector, a boy in long coat.  Three tall bearded men in hats on L.  On R. a tree with a shield on it sable, two lions rampant or face to face.

f. 5a.   Othea in cloud on R. as before touches the works of an elaborate clock in a pink framework on pink base, which stands in C.  It has bell and hammer at top and 3 weights: the emblems of the Evangelists in the spandrels of the face.  The works drawn with care.  On L. kneel a beardless man, two women, another beardless man.  Behind them a rock with trees.  Figures in grisaille.

f. 6a.  On L. Hercules in plate and mail, with lion-skin over it, holds chain attached to neck of Cerberus (single-headed) breathing fire, and smites him with club.  On R. two knights in plate and mail (Theseus and Pirithous) fight two devils in the mouth of a cave among flames.  Somewhat defaced : the warriors in grisaille.  See Pl. 108 in Catalogue of Burlington Fine Arts Club Exhibition, 1908.  The MS. is no. 157 in the Catalogue.

f. 8.   On L. a bearded king (Minos) with sword on canopied throne : a gowned councillor on either side.  Before him two men in linen drawers only, their hands bound with cords.  Two men behind them, one with club.  Figures in grisaille.

f. 9.   On L. Percivalle (Perseus) in plate armour on Pegasus, who has red wings : Perseus has plain gold shield and a short scythe raised in his hand.  Below him is the head of a great toothed fish emerging from the water.  On R. a rock in the sea, on which kneels Andromeda crowned.  Figures in grisaille.  See Pl. XV in Collegium D. Joh. Evang. 1911.

   

These are extremely fine pictures and unusual both in subject and treatment.

On a flyleaf at end is a scribe’s note : vi payentis (i.e. paintings) ii. c. champis. vi, iii. c. paragraffis v.

Supplementary information 

Negative microfilm in St John's College Library.
The version is by Stephen Scrope, and was edited in 1904 by Dr G.F. Warner for the Roxburghe Club. The preface and dedication here differ, but the text is the same.
There is one page of this MS. missing between pages 55 and 56.
See Bodleian MS. Landon Misc. 570 for an illustration of a similar clock to that of fol. 5r.
Three texts in the hand of the same scribe are in University College, Oxford, MS. 85. They are in: M.S. Blayney (ed.), Fifteenth Century English Translations of Alain Chartier's Le Traite de l'esperance and Le Quadrilogue invectif (London, 1974); J.P. Genet (ed.), Four English Political Tracts of the Later Middle Ages (London, 1977).

J. Alexander, 'William Abell "Lymnour" and 15th century English illumination', Kunsthistorische Forschungen.Otto Pächt zu seinem 70. Geburtstag. eds Artur Rosenauer and Gerold Weber (Salzburg, 1972)
C.F. Bühler (ed.), The Epistle of Othea (London, 1970).
A.I. Doyle & M.B. Parkes, 'The production of copies of the Canterbury Tales and the Confessio Amantis in the early fifteenth century'. In M.B. Parkes and A.G. Watson (eds.), Medieval scribes, manuscripts & libraries: essays presented to N.R. Ker (London, 1978) p.197 n.84 (re note of cost of decoration).
J.D. Gordon (ed.), The Epistle of Othea to Hector: a 'lytil bibell of knyghthod', edited from the Harleian manuscript 838 (Philadelphia, 1942) p. xxxi.
L. Jefferson, 'Two fifteenth-century manuscripts of the statutes of the Order of the Garter', English manuscript studies 1100-1700 5 (1995), 22.
Martine Meuwese, 'Crossing borders: text and image in Arthurian manuscripts'. In B. Besamusca and F. Brandsma (eds.) Arthurian Literature XXIV: the European Dimensions of Arthurian Literature (D.S. Brewer, 2007) pp.157-177. See pp. 165-6; f.9r reproduced as fig. 12.
S. Partridge, 'A newly identified manuscript by the scribe of the New College Canterbury Tales', English manuscript studies 1100-1700 6 (1997), 233.
P.R. Robinson, Catalogue of dated and datable manuscripts c.737-1600 in Cambridge libraries (Cambridge, 1988) vol. I, p. 88, no. 308; vol. II pl. 244 (fol. 17).
O.E. Saunders, English Illumination (Paris, 1928), p. 119, plate 128.
F. Saxl and H. Meier, Catalogue of astrological and mythological illuminated manuscripts of the Latin Middle Ages vol. 3 (London, 1953), 426, plate XVIII (fol. 9r).
F. Saxl and R. Wittkower, British art and the Mediterranean (London, 1948), plate 34, 5 (fol. 9).
K.L. Scott, Later Gothic manuscripts, 1390-1490 (London, 1996).

Exhibited at the Burlington Fine Arts Club, London, 1908, no. 157.
Exhibited at the Victoria and Albert Museum, English Medieval Art, catalogue no. 557 (London, 1930), plate 78.
Exhibited (f.9r) at the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge, from 26 July to 11 December 2005. See the exhibition catalogue: P. Binski and S. Panayotova (eds.), The Cambridge Illuminations: Ten Centuries of Book Production in the Medieval West (London: Harvey Miller, 2005) no. 126.

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