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MS 18: Historia Scholastica by Petrus Comestor , 13h century

Identifier: MS 18

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 epitome [i.e. abridgement]) that appears before the main text is attributed to Peter of Poitiers, a French theologian who succeeded Peter Comestor in the chair of scholastic theology. It is in the form of a genealogic tree, which begins with Adam and ends with the Passion of Christ; individuals are represented by a circle containing their name and accompanied by a short bibliographical note; relationship of succession between them are signalled by lines. The list of individuals also includes kings, governors and other authorities.
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 large arabic numbers in the margins probably indicate the foliation of an early printed edition.
Epitome of Bible History with genealogies:: starts on f. 1r with the words Considerans hystorie sacre prolixitatem necnon et difficultatem scolarium; the bibliographical captions begin with Adam in agro damasceno formatus. It ends on f. 5v with the words ferencium auribus mutilatus interiit, referred to Julius Caesar. It is incomplete, as it stops before the birth of Jesus.
Short genealogies of Anna (mother of the Virgin), the Virgin Mary, John Baptist, Saint Paul and the Twelve Apostles: starts on f. 6r with the words Primum Anna accepit Joachim and ends on f. 7v with the words ibique in pace sepultus est.
Capitula Scholastice hystorie: starts on f. 8r. It consists of a list of the headings of the chapters in which the text is divided. It is written on three columns.
Historia Scholastica: starts on f. 12r, but 8 folios are missing and the text begins with the words sunt stetisse immobiles ubi pro nimia aeris raritate. It ends on f. 115 with the words in cathacumbis. Second Kings, Second Maccabees and the beginning of the Gospels are missing (16 folios in total).
Genesis: starts on f. 12r.
Exodus: starts on f. 26r.
Leviticus: starts on f. 30v.
Numbers: starts on f. 35r.
Deuteronomy: starts on f. 42v.
Joshua: starts on f. 45r.
Judges: starts on f. 48r.
Ruth: starts on f. 52v.
First Kings: starts on f. 53r; the text is incomplete and ends with the words percussi sunt tres filii saul jonathas ammadab melchisna isboseth (in the modern Bible, this corresponds to First Samuel).
[Second Kings: missing (in the modern Bible, this corresponds to Second Samuel)].
Third Kings: starts on f. 58r. The beginning is missing; it starts with the words perper girum vero muri erat labium (in the modern Bible, this corresponds to First Kings).
Fourth Kings: starts on f. 65r (in the modern Bible, this corresponds to Second Kings).
Tobit: starts on f. 69r.
Ezekiel: starts on f. 71r.
Daniel: starts on f. 72v; it is incomplete and ends with the words regionem suam a longe videre desideraret huius.
Judith: starts on f. 74r. Part of the beginning is missing; it starts with the words armatam statuit extra civitatem.
Esther: starts on f. 74v.
First Maccabees: starts on f. 78r (the rubricator has erroneously copied the title for the last section of Esther instead of the title of the new book).
[Second Maccabees: missing].
Gospels: start on f. 82r. Part of the beginning is missing; it starts with the words dragmis. Tertiam quoque de eodem subdit parabolam de filio prodigo.
Act of the Apostles: start on f. 95v.
Writing Written by several hands, all fairly good. There are particularly visible changes of ink (for example, at the top of the second column on f. 26v). A very clear change of hand is between f. 81v and 82r; it corresponds to the gap in the text between Second Maccabees and Gospels. Another between f. 104v and 105r in the Acts of the Apostles.
Writing Ornamentation consists of red and blue filigree initials. Capitula are marked in the margin by a later hand.
Illumination The manuscript is not illuminated.


  • 13h century


Language of Materials


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

From its general style it would seem to be an English manuscript. There are no early marks of ownership. It was presented to the Library by the Earl of Forfar in 1670, as recorded by the incription Liber Bibliotheca Edimburgena ex dono Nobilissimi Comitis Forfarensis ('Book of the Library of Edinburgh from the gift of the Most Noble Earl of Forfar').

Previous reference

D. b. I. 5

Physical Facet

Material: Vellum.

Binding: 17th century, brown calf, rebacked. Damaged, but still intact. This volume has red edges to the text block.

Collation: Wants one gathering, a11 (wants 6, 11 and 12), b8-f8, g6, h8-k8, wants two gatherings of 8, l7 (wants 6), m8, n8, o11 (wants 12) = 115.


30.48 cm x 22.23 cm


Secundo folio: Isti Datan et Abiron.
Foliation and number of lines to a page: ff. 115, double columns, 44-6 lines to a page. Large Arabic numbers presumably indicating foliation of an early printed edition.

Repository Details

Part of the Edinburgh University Library Special Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
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