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MS 17: Historia Scholastica by Petrus Comestor , 13th century

Identifier: MS 17

Scope and Contents

The manuscript contains the Historia Scholastica, an abridged version of the Bible written around 1170 by Petrus Comestor for the students of the cathedral school of Paris. The text consists in the retelling of stories (hence the name historia) taken from the Bible and in their explanation. It became an essential part of the curriculum of the theological school and greatly influenced popular Bibles produced in the 13th and 14th century, especially in France and England.
The main text is preceded by a table of contents, a couple of extracts on the author of the text added by a librarian in the 17th century, and a short letter of dedication to William of the White Hands, Archbishop of Sens between 1169 and 1176.
Folios of the table of contents have been counted using Roman numbers. There are rubricated titles for each section of the text and occasional glosses (i.e. annotations) both in the margins and within the columns reserved to the main text: the former are by different hands, the latter by the same hand at work in the main text. The Gospels and Acts of the Apostles have been more heavily annotated. In the bottom margin of some folios there remain indications for the rubricator on which title to write.
Table of contents:: starts on f. IIr.
Letter of Petrus Comestor to William, Archbishop of Sens: on f. IIIv; begins with the words Reverendo patri et domnino sui Willelmo dei gratia senonensi archiepiscopo.
Prologue: starts on f. 1r with the rubricated words Incipit hystoria scolastica. The text itself begins with the words Imperatorie magestatis est tres in palacio habere mansiones and ends with the words princeps est et principium in the same column.
Historia Scholastica: starts on f. 1r with the words In principio erat verbum. It ends on f. 150r with the words et in loco magis honorabili scilicet in cathacumbis.
Genesis: starts on f. 1r.
Exodus: starts on f. 24r.
Leviticus: starts on f. 37r.
Numbers: starts on f. 42r.
Deuteronomy: starts on f. 48v.
Joshua: starts on f. 51v.
Judges: starts on f. 54r.
First Kings: starts on f. 60r (in the modern Bible, this corresponds to First Samuel).
Second Kings: starts on f. 67v (in the modern Bible, this corresponds to Second Samuel).
Third Kings: starts on f. 72r (in the modern Bible, this corresponds to First Kings).
Fourth Kings: starts on f. 79v (in the modern Bible, this corresponds to Second Kings).
Tobit: starts on f. 89v.
Ezekiel: starts on f. 91v.
Daniel: starts on f. 92v.
Judith: starts on f. 98r.
Esdras: starts on f. 99v.
Esther: starts on f. 101r.
Maccabees: starts on f. 102v; ff. 110 and 111 display the erroneous page intestation HYS. EVA.
Gospels: starts on f. 112r. A later hand has added references to the text of the evangelists in the margins.
Acts of the Apostles: starts on f. 136r.
Explicit: a final section on the fate of the Apostles on f. 150r; it starts with the words Petrus et Paulus rome sepulti sunt.
Writing The hand is very good and uniform. The ink has faded in the table of contents which precedes the main text.
Illumination There are a number of good decorative initials.


  • 13th century


Language of Materials


Physical Description

Folios are very regular in shape. The inferior half of f. 103 has been havily repaired.

Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to all. The manuscripts can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Main Library.


1 bound MS volume

Custodial History

This is an Anglo-Norman manuscript of a good type. There are no marks of ownership prior to the record of its gift to the Library on f. 3v: Liber Bibliothecae Edinburgenae ex dono generosi Juvenis Johannis Aikman (filii Magistri Gulielmi a Cairnie - Causarum Patroni), Ann. 1692, ('Book of the Library of Edinburgh from the generous gift of the young John Aikman (son of the advocate Mr. William from Cairnie), year 1692'). The 17th century marginal notes towards the end of the book may have been the work of a member of this family. The inscription is written by Robert Henderson, Librarian, who adds two extracts about Petrus Comestor from Gerardus Johannes Vossius (Gerrit Janszoon Vos, Dutch scholar and theologian, 1577-1649) and Robert Bellarmine (Roberto Bellarmino, Italian Jesuit, cardinal and theologian, 1542-1621).

Previous reference

D. b. I. 4

Physical Description

Folios are very regular in shape. The inferior half of f. 103 has been havily repaired.

Physical Facet

Material: Vellum. General conditions are good, but f. 103 has been repaired.

Binding: Modern. The front cover is detached.

Collation: a3, b8-t8, v6 = 153.


36.83 cm x 24.13 cm


Secundo folio: factum est firmamentum
Foliation and number of lines to a page: ff. 153, double columns (the tabula ins on 4 columns).

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
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Edinburgh EH8 9LJ Scotland
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