Bound manuscript on vellum: 140 leaves, 24 cm tall
HLS MS 32
The charming oboe-playing monster who begins this French copy of Magna Carta (fol. 9r/seq. 24) has smaller companions at the beginnings of the next two statutes; however, the manuscript’s decoration is incomplete. Many statutes in this volume have space left for decorated initials, often with a small note in the margins to signal the correct letter to the illustrator. It appears that an illustrator was in the process of filling in the P’s when work was interrupted (ff. 81v/seq. 169, 103v/seq. 213, 77v/seq. 161, 102v/seq. 211). Blank ruled pages at the back anticipated additions to the manuscript, and later owners added marginal notes and tables.
We can trace ownership of this manuscript through notes, inscriptions and bookplates. Thomas de Rostee noted his ownership twice on the back flyleaf around 1400 (fol. 140v/seq. 287). About 100 years later, John Soper of Taunton carefully crossed out Rostee’s name and added his own. Eventually this volume, like many others in this collection, was acquired by George Dunn (d. 1912) in the late nineteenth century. Dunn studied law but never practiced. Instead, he devoted his time to studying and collecting manuscripts and early printed books. The Harvard Law School acquired Dunn’s collection in 1913, and it forms the core of our collection of early English law.
In 2015, the Library began by digitizing its bound manuscript collection of some thirty Magna Carta and English statute compilations, and registers of writs (early legal formbooks), making them available to the world to commemorate the 800th anniversary of Magna Carta. The entire group of early bound manuscripts will be online by the end of 2018. See every image of this and other digitized volumes at http://bit.ly/HLSLmanuscripts.