Skip to main content

Full text of "The Lollard Bible and other medieval Biblical versions"

See other formats






Edited by G. G. Coulton, M.A, 

Fellow of St John's College, Cambridge 

and University Lecturer in English 


C. F. CLAY, Manager 














THERE is only too much truth in the frequent complaint 
that history, as compared with the physical sciences, is 
neglected by the modern public. But historians have the 
remedy in their own hands; choosing problems of equal 
importance to those of the scientist, and treating them with 
equal accuracy, they will command equal attention, Thost 
who insist that the proportion of accurately ascertainable 
facts is smaller in history, and therefore the room for specu- 
lation wider, do not thereby establish any essential dis- 
tinction between truth-seeking in history and truth-seeking 
in chemistry. The historian, whatever be his subject, is as 
definitely bound as the chemist "to proclaim certainties as 
certain, falsehoods as false, and uncertainties as dubious." 
Those are the words, not of a modern scientist, but of the 
seventeenth century monk, Jean Mabillon; they sum up his 
literary profession of faith. Men will follow us in history as 
implicitly as they follow the chemist, if only we will form 
the chemist's habit of marking clearly where our facts end 
and our inferences begin. Then the public, so far from dis- 
couraging our speculations, will most heartily encourage 
them ; for the most positive man of science is always grateful 
to anyone who, by putting forward a working theory, stimu- 
lates further discussion. 

The present series, therefore, appeals directly to that 
craving for clearer facts which has been bred in these times 
of storm and stress. No care can save us altogether from 
error; but, for our own sake and the public's, we have elected 
to adopt a safeguard dictated by ordinary business common- 
sense. Whatever errors of fact are pointed out by reviewers 
or correspondents shall be publicly corrected with the least 
possible delay. After a year of publication, all copies shall 
be provided with such an erratum-slip without waiting for 
the chance of a second edition ; and each fresh volume in this 
series shall contain a full list of the errata noted in its 


predecessors. Thus, with the help of our critics, we may 
reasonably hope to put forward these monographs as roughly 
representing the most accurate information obtainable under 
present conditions. Our facts being thus secured, the reader 
will judge our inferences on their own merits; and something 
will have been done to dissipate that cloud of suspicion 
which hangs over too many important chapters in the social 
and religious history of the Middle Ages. 

Cx. G. C. 

4 March 1920 


THE history of mediaeval translations of the Vulgate, 
their place in the social history of the time, and the 
attitude of authority towards them, was suggested to me by 
Mr G. G. Coulton as a subject needing investigation. I 
should like here to express my gratitude to him for continuous 
help and criticism during the years in which I have been 
engaged on the work, for much kindness, and for many 

I wish especially to thank Miss A. C. Panes for kind and 
valuable help, as also Miss Hope Allen, Mr E. J. Thomas, 
Mr- P. S. Allen and the officers of the University Press. I 
should like finally to thank the councils of Merton College, 
Oxford, and Trinity College, Cambridge, for permission to 
print certain manuscripts. 

With regard to the method of this study, though I have 
often cited encyclopedias and certain reference manuals in 
order to save space in suggesting bibliography, yet I have 
always tried to cite original authorities in dealing with any 
disputed or disputable point. Mediaeval surnames are 
usually printed according to the modern form of the place 
name, save in cases where a particular form of spelling has 
already become widely accepted. 

4 March 1920 



The problem of the Middle-English Bible, and 
the aim of this study 


§ I. Sir Thomas More's evidence : the questions raised . . i 

§ 2. Passages from More's Dialogue bearing on the subject of 

English Bibles ........ i 

§ 3. Criticism of passages. Value of More's evidence as a 

liberal catholic scholar, as a lawyer, and as a historian . 3 

§ 4. Aim of this study: to put the history of English 
biblical translations into its European background, and 
to consider English mediaeval translations historically 
from new material . . . . . . . 16 


The prohibitions of vernacular Bible reading in 
France, Italy and Spain 

§ I. Distinction between literary translations and those 
meant to popularise Bible reading. The refusal of 
Gregory VII to allow the translation of parts of scripture, 
1079 ......... 18 

§ 2. Waldensianism in France: Lyons, c. 11 80; Metz, 1199; 
Paris, 1 2 10; the south of France, Toulouse, 1229, Beziers, 
1246 ......... 25 

§ 3. Waldensianism in Italy . . . . . . 41 

§ 4. Waldensianism in Spain: Tarragona, 1233; Tarragona, 

1317 48 

§ 5. The attitude of the mediaeval Church towards the popu- 
lar use of biblical translations, and the preference for 
other means of popular enlightenment • • • 55 




The prohibitions of vernacular Bible reading in the Holy 
Roman Empire and the Netherlands, before 1400 


§ I. The forwardness of the attitude of German orthodox 
thought towards toleration of popular Bible reading, com- 
pared to that of the rest of Europe . . . , 58 

§ 2. Localisation of the toleration of German biblical books in 
the Rhine country and the Netherlands : the demand here 
not, as with the English Lollards, for vernacular Bibles, 
but for vernacular spiritual books in general, including in 
some cases the more plain and open books of the Bible. 
Waldensianism in Germany: Trier: the inquisitor of 
Passau ......... 60 

§ 3. The controverted origin of the fourteenth century manu- 
scripts of the New Testament ; their probable Latin source 
a biblical text disused after the early thirteenth century; 
the antiquity of a German tract accompanying one such 
translation; the probable antiquity of the original Ger- 
man translation a sign rather of Waldensian than ortho- 
dox origin ........ 64 

§ 4. Biblical translations in the Netherlands; the Beghards 

and Maerlant ........ 68 

§ 5. The Gottesfreunde and the later Beghards • • • 75 

§ 6. The imperial prohibition of all vernacular scriptures in 

1369; its modification by Gregory XI in 1375 . . 81 


Bible reading in the Empire and the Netherlands 
c. 1400-1521 

§ I. The Brethren of the Common Life; the determination of 
the jurists of Cologne in 1398, given in their support, 
in favour of translations; Henricson's Epistles of 1407; 
Vomken; Scutken; Busch; the Dominican of Zutphen . 89 

§ 2. The adversaries of biblical translations; Gerson; Jean le 

Riche ; Geiler of Kay sersberg ; Sebastian Brandt . . 103 

§ 3. Biblical translations in nunneries; the nunnery cata- 
logues of Nuremberg and Delft; Bible owners, convents 
and lay people ....... log 

§ 4. German printed Bibles before 1521; the Gottesfreund 
translator and Rellach; Mentel's printed Bible of 1466; 
the Cologne Bible of 1480; the arguments that the 
earliest German Bibles were never printed with the 
approval of authority . . . . . .117 

§ 5. Some approval for translations after 1508 . . .126 



Translations of parts of the Vulgate in England 
before Wycliffe 


§ I. Precedents alleged in the Wycliflfite and post-Wyclififite 

controversy over the lawfulness of biblical translations . 131 

§ 2. Anglo-Saxon translations: as alleged, and as known to 

us ......... . 132 

§ 3. Translations 1066-1380, as alleged, and as known to us 

(English and French, prose and verse) . . .140 


Pre-Wydiffite biblical study by clerks : {a) the higher clergy, 

friars, monks 

§ I . Connexion of the subject with the problem of the Middle- 
English Bible ........ 156 

§ 2. The clerks who became parish priests were not, normally, 
university graduates, and frequently could not read Latin 
freely .......... 158 

§ 3. The biblical training and knowledge of those who could 
read Latin freely : gradttate ordinands, destined usually to 
become the higher clergy, canonists, university lecturers, 
civil servants . . , . . . . .162 

§ 4. Friars and the Bible . . . . . .164 

§ 5. Monks and the Bible ...... 168 

§ 6. The hooks available for biblical study by these three 
classes, who formed the majority of those who could read 
Latin freely . . . . . . . .174 

§ 7. Individuals and biblical study . . . . .181 


PreWycliffite biblical study by clerks : (b) parish priests 




Their education; the biblical study in it; abc, grammar 

and theology schools . . . . . .188 

The episcopal examination on institution to a benefice; 

the standard required . . . . . .193 

Their sermons: not universal on Sundays before Wy- 
cliffe's day, and not necessarily dealing with the Bible . 197 
Manuals for priests did not suggest the need of the study 
of the text of the Vulgate for priests or their parishioners 202 

Parish priests of the period owned no books except service 
books: no literary work by them .... 203 



Pre-Wycliffite Bible reading by lay people 


§ I . The upper social classes spoke French till Wycliffe's day . 205 
§ 2. The education of lay people; schools; plays . . 206 

§ 3. Manuals for lay people do not mention Bible reading as a 
duty or devotional practice; official manuals; Hilton's 
Epistle on Mixed Life . . . . . .211 

§ 4. The ownership of Vulgates, French and English Bibles, 

and devotional books, by lay people .... 220 

§ 5. Individuals and biblical study ..... 222 


Wycliffe as the instigator of a vernacular Bible 

§ I. The connexion of Wycliffe's theory of "dominion by 

grace" with the need of an English Bible . . . 225 

§ 2. The novelty and justification of Wycliffe's attitude to- 
wards Bible study by all men, including the simple . 228 

§ 3. The Wycliffite circle at Oxford: Hereford, Repingdon, 
Purvey, etc. ; contrast between the first generation of 
Lollards, as typified by Wycliffe and Purvey, and the 
second generation, as typified by Oldcastle . . .231 

§ 4. Contemporary evidence of Wycliffe as the "instigator" 

of a translation of the Bible ..... 238 

§ 5. Passages in Wycliffe's Latin works referring to the need 
of universal knowledge of the Bible, of translations of the 
Bible, and to English translations as made . . . 240 

§ 6. Evidence that Wycliffe's contemporaries knew of no 

biblical translation besides his ..... 249 


The two versions of the Wycliffite Bible, and the evidence 

of the General Prologue as to the authorship of the 

second version 

§ I. The early version of Nicholas Hereford, finished c. 1384 252 
§ 2. The General Prologue contains an account of the making 
of the second version; it was written between Feb. 1395 
and Feb. 1397 255 

§ 3. Proof that the General Prologue describes the second ver- 
sion as printed by Forshall and Madden, and refers to the 
first one : and that it is the work of a single author, and not 
a glossed or conflate tract . . . . .260 



§ 4. The General Prologue was written by a man of great 
learning, a Lollard undergoing persecution in 1395: 
John Purvey was the only Lollard doctor, or learned 
Lollard, holding out at the date, and must therefore have 
been its author . . . . . . .266 


The controversy about the English Bible 1384-1408, 
and the constittitions of 1408 

§ I. An early Lollard tract (The holy prophet David saith...), 
probably Wycliffe's, defending popular Bible reading, 
c. 1378-82; Purvey's series of tracts also defending 
English Bibles, c. 1382-90 ..... 268 

§ 2. Purvey's glosses on the gospels, c. 1384-90: possessed by 

queen Anne and approved by Arundel, before 1394 . 275 

§ 3. Purvey's (later) version of the Bible, with the General 
Prologue, finished 1395: the Lollard parliamentary effort 
of 1395, and the bill against the English Bible, probably 

1395 '.281 

§ 4. Purvey's recantation, 1401 . . . . . 283 

§ 5. Contemporary references to English Bibles, 1382-1401 286 

§ 6. Oxford determinations: Butler's, 1401; Purvey and the 
debate between Peter Payne (?) and Thomas Palmer, 
c. 1405 ......... 289 

§ 7. The constitutions of Oxford, Nov. 1407; confirmed 1408 294 


Biblical translations contemporary with 
the Lollard versions 

§ I. "Turners" and Trevisa. Caxton's guess at the author- 
ship of the Wycliffite Bible ..... 298 

§ 2. The Lollard editions of the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse, 
Clement of Llanthony's Ununi ex Quattuor, and Rolle's 
psalter ......... 302 

§ 3. The southern epistles and prologue, probably inspired by 

Wycliffe's influence ....... 304 

§ 4. The north midland group of glosses and translations, the 

earliest glosses " instigated " by WycUffe . . . 310 

§5. Prose Sunday gospels with homilies. .... 315 




Bible reading by the orthodox, 1408-1526 


§ I. The possibility of a future general license of an English 
biblical translation, hinted at in the synod of 1408, not 
fulfilled 319 

§ 2. Arundel's license and commendation, 1410, of a transla- 
tion of the pseudo-Bonaventura's Life of Christ for 
general reading by the faithful, a counter measure to the 
translation of the gospels . . . . . .321 

§ 3. Evidence that English Bible reading, though allowed to 
nuns and the highest classes by individual license, was 
regarded as forbidden in general to the laity . . . 326 

§ 4. Fifteenth century schools, monks, and their attitude to 

translations ........ 329 

§ 5. English Bible reading by the orthodox; general statistics 

of ownership by (a) lay people, [b) nunneries . . 333 

§ 6. English devotional books as substitutes for Bible reading 342 

§ 7. Manuals: absence of advice to use Bibles or translated 

Bibles 343 

§ 8. Episcopal injunctions, 1538. . . . . • 34^ 


The Lollards and English Bible reading 

§ I. The Lollards from 1408-1526 .... 

§ 2. The Lollards and English Bibles, from 1408 till the 

prominence of Pecock ..... 

§ 3. Pecock and the mid fifteenth-century Lollards 
§ 4. The Lollards from Pecock's trial, 1457, till the introduc 

tion of Tindale's New Testament in 1526 

§ 5. Conclusion ....... 





1. The Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards, 1395, and the 
dating of the General Prologue to the Old Testament . . 374 

2. The identity of John Purvey with the author of the 
General Prologue to the Old Testament, and the second 
Wyclif&te version ....... 37^ 

3. MS. evidence of the date of the later Wycliffite version 381 

4. Reformation and post-Reformation writers on the history 

of vernacular Bibles ....... 3^2 

5. Quotations from Reformation and post-Reformation 
writers on vernacular Bibles ..... 385 

6. Analysis of book ownership from wiJls . . . 39^ 




1. William Butler's determination 

2. Thomas Palmer's determination 

3. John Purvey's determination 

4. Wycliffe's [?] tract: The holi prophete Daiiid seith 

5. Purvey's Epilogue to S. Matthew's Gospel 

6. Purvey's Sixteen Points .... 





























Allgemeine Deutsche Biographie. Leipzig. 1875. 

Acts and Monuments, Foxe, J. 1843; life by G. Townsend. 

Catholic Encyclopedia. New York. 1907. 

Cambridge History of English Literature. 

Calendar of Papal Letters. Public Record Office. 

Calendar of Papal Registers. Public Record Office. 

Catalogi Veteres Lihrorum Ecclesiae Cathedralis Dunel- 

mensis. Surtees Society. 1839. 
Canterbury and York Society Publications. 
Diocesan Histories. S.P.C.K. 
Encyclopedia Britannica. Cambridge. 1910. 
Ely Diocesan Remembrancer . (Extracts from episcopal 

Early English Text Society, Extra Series; EETS, OS, 

Original Series. 

English Historical Review. 
Early version of Wycliffite Bible. 

The Holy Bible : made from the Latin Vulgate by John 

Wycliffe and his followers. Oxford. 1850. 
Fasciculi Zizaniorum Magistri Johannis Wyclif cum 

tritico. Shirley, W. W. 1858. 
Herzog-Hauck. Realencyclopddie. Leipzig. 1903. 
Historisches Jahrbuch. 
Historische Zeitschrift. 
Later version of Wycliffite Bible. 
Magna Bibliotheca Vetenim Patrum. De la Bigne, 

Cologne. 1618. 
Modern Language Notes. 
Modern Language Review. 
New English Dictionary, ed. Murrav, J- A. H. Oxford. 

Patrologia Latina. Migne. 1844. 
Royal Historical Society Transactions. 
Rolls Series, Chronicles and Memorials. 
Schaff-Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge. New 

York. 1908. 
Surtees Society Publications. 
Testamenta Eboracensia. Surtees Society. 
Testamenta Vetusta. Nicolas, N. H. London. 1826. 
Vigouroux, F. Dictionnaire de la Bible. Paris. 1912, 
Victoria County History. 


Anec. Hist. Anecdotes Historiques, tirees du recueil inedit d'Etienne de 

Bourbon. Lecoy de la Marche, A. Paris. 1877. 
A rchaeol. A rchaeologia. 

Ann. Trevir. Annates Trevirenses. Brower, C. Liege. 1670. 
Barclay. The Ship of Fools, trans. Barclay, A. Edinburgh. 1874. 
Berger. La Bible f ran false aumoyen age. Berger, S. Paris. 1884. 
Bernard, Cat. Catalogi Librorum Manuscriptorum Angliae et Hiber- 

niae. Bernard. 1697. 
Bibliom. Bibliomania in the Middle Ages. Merryweather, F. S. 

London. 1849. 
Boekzaal. Boekzaal der Nederduytsche Bybels. Le Long, I. Amsterdam. 

Book of Faith. Reginald Pecock's Book of Faith. Morison, J. Cam- 
bridge. 1909. 
Busch. Des Augustinerpropstes Johannis Busch Chronicon Windes- 

hemense und Liber de Reformatione Monasteriorum. Grube, K. 

Halle. 1886. 
Bury. The Abbey of S. Edmund at Bury. James, M. R. 1905. 
Canterbury. Ancient libraries of Canterbury and Dover. James, M. R. 
Capes. English Church in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, Capes, 

W. W. London. 1903. 
Cat. of Rom. Catalogue of Romances in the Department of Manuscripts 

in the British Museum. Vols, i and 11, Ward, H. L. D.; vol. in, 

Herbert, J. A. 1910. 
Carleton Brown. A Register of Middle English Religious and Didactic 

Verse. Carleton Brown. Oxford. 1916, pt i. 
C.C.C. Descrip. Cat. A Descriptive Catalogue of the manuscripts of 

Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. James, M. R. Also the cata- 
logues of other Cambridge colleges. 
Chaire Fran. La Chair e Frangaise ati Moyen Age. Lecoy de la 

Marche, A. Paris. 1886. 
Chester Plays. Chester Plays. Deimling, H. EETS, ES, 62. 
Codex Apoc. Codex Apocryphus Novi Testamenti. Fabricius, J. A 

Hamburg. 1703. 
Cone. Germ. ConciliaeGermaniae. Hartzheim, J. Cologne. 1763. 
Cook. Biblical quotations in Old English prose writers. Cook, A. S. 

1898. Second Series, 1903. 
Crise Scol. La Crise Scolaire an debut du xiii^ siecle et la fondation 

de I'ordre des Freres Precheurs. Mandonnet, P. in Revue d'his- 

toire ecclesiastique . Jan. 1914, 34-50. 
Cutts. Parish priests and their people in the middle ages in England. 

Cutts, E. L. S.P.C.K. 1898. 
Dacheux. f can Geiler de Kay sersberg, 1^78-1510. Dacheux, L. Paris. 

Denis. Codd. Theol. Lat. Bib. Vienn. Denis, M. 1793. 
De Verit. De Veritate Sacrae Scripturae. Wyclif Soc, ed. Buddensieg, 

R. 1905. 
Die Deut. Bibeliiber. Die Deutsche Bibeliibersetzung der mittelalterlichen 
Waldenser in dem codex Teplensis und der ersten gedriickten deut- 

schen Bibel nachgewiesen. Haupt, H. Wiirzburg. 1885. 


Doct. Thomae Waldensis Doctrinale Antiquitatiim Fidei catholicae 

ecclesiae. Venice, ed. Blanciotti, F. B. 1757. 
Early Line. Wills. Early Lincoln Wills, 1280-1547. Gibbons, A. 

Lincoln. 1888. 

Ec. Reg. Synopsis of Romish Corruptions in the Church (i.e. Ecclesiae 
Regimen); ed. Forshall, J. 1851. 

Educ. Char. Educational Charters and Documents. Leach, A. F, 
Cambridge. 191 1. 

Eng. Franc. Hist. Studies in English Franciscan History. Little, A. G. 
Manchester. 19 17. 

Fabricius. Bibliotheca Mediae et Infimae Latinitatis. Fabricius, J. 

Fasc. Rer. Exp. Fasciculus Rerum Expetendarum et Fugiendarum. 
Brown, E. 1690. 

Fasti. Fasti Ecclesiae A nglicanae. LeNeve, J. 1854. 

Frere, Visit. Visitation Articles and Injunctions. Frere, W. H. 
Alcuin Club Collections. 1910. 

Fried] ung. Kaiser Karl IV und sein Antheil am geistigen Leben seiner 
Zeit. Friedjung, H. Vienna. 1876. 

Gairdner. Lollardy and the Reformation in England. Gairdner, J. 
London. 1908. 4 vols. 

Gem. Ec. Selections from Giraldus Cambrensis. Skeel, C. A. J., 

S.P.C.K. 1918. 
Gieseler. Compendium of Ecclesiastical History, trans. Hull, J. W. 

Edinburgh. 1886. 5 vols. 

Gir. Cambren. Giraldi Cambrensis Opera. RS. 8 vols. 

Gottlieb. Ueber Mittelalterliche Bibliotheken. Gottlieb, T. Leipzig. 

Harney. De sancta scriptura Unguis vulgaribus legenda : rationabile 
ohsequium Belgii Catholici, per Martinum Harney, adversus quae- 
dam scripta D. Antonii Arnaldi. Louvain. 1693. 

Hellwald. Geschichte der Niederldndischen Litteratur. Hellwald, F. 

and Schneider, L. Leipzig. 1887. 
Henry IV. History of England under Henry IV. Wylie, J. H. 1884. 

Hentsch. De la litterature didactique du moyen age s'adressant spdciale- 
ment aux femnies. Hentsch, A. A. Cahors. 1903. 

Hermits. Hermits and Anchorites of England. Clay, R. M. (Anti- 
quary's Series.) 

Horstmann. Richard Rolle of Hampole and his followers. Horstmann, 
C. 1896. 

Incendium . Incendium A moris of Richard Rolle of Hampole. Deanesly, 

M. 1915- 
Inq. History of the Inquisition in the Middle Ages. Lea, H. C. 3 vols. 

London. 1906. 

Inq. Neer. Corpus Dociimentorum Inquisitionis N eerlandicae . Fre- 
dericq, P. Ghent. 1896. 

Janssen. History of the German People at the close of the Middle Ages. 

Janssen, J. London. 1905; or other ed. where stated. 
Jonckbloet. Geschichte der Niederldndischen Litteratur. Jonckbloet. 

W. J. A., trans. Berg, W. Leipzig. 1879. 


Jostes, Die Waldenser. Die Waldenser und die vorlutheiische deutsche 

BibelUberseizung. Miinster. 1885. 
Jourdain. L'£ducation des Femmes au moyen age. Jourdain, C. 

Memoires de I'lnstitut nat. de France, acad. des inscriptions, 

xxviii. 79-134. 
Kehrein. Zur Geschichte der deuischen BibelUberseizung vor Luther. 

Kehrein, J. Stuttgart. 1851. 
Keller. Die Waldenser und die Deuischen Bibelilbersetzungen. Keller, L. 

Leipzig. 1886. 
Kern. Album H. Kern. Ley den. 1903. 

Kingsford. Chronicles of London. Kingsford, C. L. Oxford. 1905. 
Knighton. Chronicon Henrici Knighton. Lumby, J. R. RS, 9, 1889. 
Lambeth. Manuscripts in the Library of Lambeth Palace. James, M. R. 

Lanterne. The LanterneofLiyi. Swinburn, L. M. 1917. EETS, OS, 151. 
La Tour-Landry. The Book of the Knight of La Tour-Landry. Wright, 

T. EETS, OS, 33- 
Lay Folks MB. Lay Folks Mass Book. Simmons, T. F. EETS, OS, 71. 

Lib. Sent. Thol. Liber Sententiarum Inquisitionis Tholosanae. Lim- 

borch, P. Amsterdam. 

Line. Dioc. Docs. Lincoln Diocesan Documents. Clark, A. EETS, 
OS, 149. 

London Wills. Calendar of Wills proved and enrolled in the Court of 
Husting, London, 1258-1688. Sharpe, R. R. London. 1889. 

Lounsbury. Studies in Chaucer. Lounsbury, T. R. London. 1892. 
3 vols. 

Love's Mirrour. The Mirrour of the Blessed Lyf of lesu Crist. 
Powell, L. F. Oxford. 1908. 

Madan, Sum. Cat. Summary Catalogue of Western MSS. Madan, F. 

Mansi. Sacrorum Concilioruin Collectio. Ed. Mansi. 

Martene, Thes. Thesaurus novus Anecdotorum. Martene, E. Paris. 
1717. 4 vols. 

Martene, Vet. Mon. Veterum Scriptorum et Monumentorum amplis- 
sima collectio. Martene, E. and Durand, A. 1733. 9 vols. 

Monast. Monasticon Anglicanum. Dugdale, W. Ed. Cayley, J. 1846. 

More, Dialogue. Workes of Sir Thomas More. London. 1557. A 
Dialogue concerning heresies, pp. 105 ff. 

Mosheim. De Beghardis et Beguinabus commentarius . Mosheim, T. L., 

ed. Martini, G. H. Leipzig. 1790. 
Myroure. Myroure of our Ladye. Blunt, J. H. EETS, ES, 19. 
North Country Wills. Ed. Clay, J. SS, 116. 
Op. Evang. Opus Evangelicum. Wyclif Soc. Loserth, J. 1895. 

Parker Coll. Sources of Archbishop Parker's Collection of MSS. 
James, M. R. 1899. 

Paues, 1902. A Fourteenth Century English Biblical Version. Panes, 
A. C. Cambridge. 1902. 

Paues, 1904. Id. Cambridge. 1904. 


Paul.Ep. Pauline Epistles. PoweU, M. J. EETS, ES, ii6. 
Polem. Works. Polemical Works. Wyclif Soc. Buddensieg, R. 1883. 
Pollard. Fifteenth Century Prose and Verse. Pollard, A. W. 1903. 
Preger. Beitrdge zur Geschichte der Waldesier im Mittelalter. Preger, W. 

Munich. 1875. 
Putnam. Censorship of the Church of Rome. Putnam, G. H. 1906. 

Rel. Antiq. Reliquiae Antiquae. Halliwell and Wright. London. 

Repressor. The Repressor of Over Much Blaming of the Clergy. Ed. 

Babington, C. 2 vols. RS, i860. 

Research Ed. Some Results of Research in the History of Education in 

England. Leach, A. F. 1914. Brit. Acad. Proc. vol. vi. 
Reusch. Index der Verbotenen Bilcher. Reusch, H. Bonn. 1883. 
Revius. Daventria Illustrata. Revius, J. Leyden. 1651. 
Rom. Romania. 

Sel. Eng. Works. Select English Works of John Wyclif. Arnold, T. 

Som. Med. Lib. Somerset Mediaeval Libraries. Williams, T. W. Som. 
Archaeol. Soc. 1897. 

Stevens, Monast. Two additional volumes to the Monasticon Angli- 
cawMW by Stevens, J. London. 1723. 

Summers. Our Lollard Ancestors. Summers, W. H. London. 1904. 
Syon. Catalogue of the Library of Syon Monastery. Bateson, M. Cam- 
bridge. 1908. 

Tepler Bibel. Die Tepler Bibeliibersetzung. Jostes, F. Miinster. 1886. 

Test. Scots. New Test, in Scots. Law, T. G. 

Trevelyan. England in the age of Wy cliff e. TreveWan, G. M. 1899. 

Univs. Universities of Europe in the Middle Ages. Rashdall, H. 1895. 

Ussher. The Whole Works of the Most Reverend James Ussher. Elring- 
ton, C. R. Dublin. 1847. 16 vols.: vol. xii. pp. 154 ff.: Historia 
Dogmatica de Scripturis et Sacris Vernaculis. 

Walden. Ursprung. Der Waldensische Ursprung des Codex Teplensis: 
gegen die Angriffe von Dr F. Jostes verteidigt von Dr Hermann 
Haupt. Wiirzburg. 1886. 

Walther. Die Deutsche Bibeliibersetzung des Mittelalters. Walther, W. 
Brunswick. 1889. 

Wells. A Manual of the Writings in Middle English, 1050-1400. 

Wells, J. E. Yale Univ. Press. 1916. 
Westminster. Manuscripts of Westminster Abbey. Robinson, A. and 

James, M. R. 1908. 

Wiegand. De Ecclesiae Notione quid Wiclif docuerit. Wiegand, F. 
Leipzig. 1 89 1. 

Wilkins. Concilia. Wilkins, D. 1738. 

Witzel. De Fr. Rogero Bacon eiusque sententia de rebus Biblicis. 
Witzel, P. T., O.F.M. Quaracchi. 1910. 


The problem of the Middle-English Bible, and the 
aim of this monograph. 

§ I. When sir Thomas More wrote in his Dialogue'^ that he 
himself had seen Enghsh Bibles, fair and old, in the houses of 
his friends, and that such Bibles had been licensed for their use 
by the bishops, he was unwittingly preparing the ground for a 
later controversy: that of the origin and history of the trans- 
lations long and justly known as the Wycliffite Bible. Several 
points have been raised by his words: Were these translations 
the work of Wycliffe and his immediate followers? Or were 
they, as has been suggested, the authorised versions of orthodox 
catholics, made before Wycliffe's time^? Was the reading of all 
English Bibles viewed with suspicion and disapproval by the 
Church, or did her disapproval extend only to translations 
savouring of heresy? What, in short, is the history of Bible 
reading by the laity in England, and what place do these trans- 
lations known as the Wycliffite Bible take in it? The questions 
are of more than antiquarian interest: they are part of the 
history of vernacular translations of the Bible in Europe. 

§ 2. This larger subject was most closely linked in the middle 
ages with those of the liberty of private judgment, and the unity 
of Christendom. The liberty of the individual to interpret Chris- 
tianity afresh for himself, from the study of her original records, 
and to interpret it, if he liked, in a manner different from that of 
the united body of instructed opinion, had not yet been con- 
ceded. This liberty to reinterpret Christianity, to form fresh 
Christian bodies or sects, depended altogether on the right to 
study the original records, and to make them accessible in trans- 
lations to the unlettered masses whose conversion was wished. 

^ Workes of Sir Thomas More, London, 1557, A Dialogue concernifig hme- 
sies, a. 105-288. The Dialogue is a controversial work directed against 

* The view put forward by cardinal Gasquet in The Old English Bible and 
other Essays, London, 1897 ^^^ 1908; see appendix i, p. 3S2. 

D. w. B. I 


It is scarcely doubtful that the unity of Christendom was pre- 
served till the sixteenth century only by force. Had lay people 
in the thirteenth century been allowed the right to read the 
gospels for themselves, or exposed to the temptation to do so, 
and had they generally been able to read, reinterpretation 
would inevitably have followed, and Christendom would have 
been divided in that century instead of the sixteenth^. It has 
been maintained that it was the scarcity of books before the 
invention of printing, and not the discouragement of the Church, 
which actually prevented lay Bible reading, and its result, re- 
interpretation ; but the history of such bodies as the Waldensians 
makes this doubtful. The)' obviated the lack of books by 
memorising the gospels; and, but for their suppression by the 
inquisition, and their exclusion from all orthodox universities 
and schools, they would have formed permanent bodies outside 
the Church. The question of the unity of Christendom depended 
on the possibility of the reinterpretation of Christianity, and 
this depended on the accessibihty of the original Christian re- 
cords to the masses. It was only to these books that a sectarian 
teacher could appeal against the traditional teaching of the 
Church. He might be able to read the Vulgate himself: his 
hearers could not : therefore he prepared, and appealed to, trans- 
lations in their mother tongue. It is thus true to say that the 
history' of vernacular translations, and the attitude of the 
Church towards them, is not a matter of merely antiquarian 
interest, but the central strand in the history of the unity of 

§ 3. The old fashioned tradition on the subject of the Wycliffite 
Bible was that it was the work of Wychffe himself, and that the 
ecclesiastical authorities forbade the use of all English trans- 
lations before the Reformation. Modern study has modified this 
view: but that which has most confused the issue has been the 
opinion of sir Thomas More. More's Dialogue, the work in which 
he discussed the subject of English Bibles, is still accessible only 
in a sixteenth century edition ; but certain passages from it have 
been largely quoted, though never the whole chapter dealing 
with the subject. The first English edition of the New Testa- 
ment, Tindale's, was printed at Cologne and Worms in 1525, 

1 Cf. Univs. I. 71 n. 



and introduced into England in 1526: Tindale's controversial 
works were being introduced at the same time. More, as the 
councillor and chancellor of Henry VIII, wrote his Dialogue in 
1528 to refute the new teaching on the subject of images, 
prayer to the saints, "and many other things, by the t'one 
begun in Saxony, and by the t'other laboured to be brought into 
England^." The "many other things" included the subject of 
biblical translations, and the withholding of the scriptures from 
the laity, to which he devoted the sixteenth chapter of the third 
book. He referred here to the provincial council of Oxford, 
1408, wherein archbishop Arundel had forbidden the making of 
a translation of the text of holy scripture, or the reading of any 
such translation, made in the time of John Wycliffe, or since^. 
In connexion with this, More touched upon the subject of 

1 Sub-title of Dialogue, p, 105, Workes of Sir Thomas More, 1557. 

2 Willdns, III. 317. " Ne quis texta S. Scripturae transferal in linguam 
Anglicanam. Statuimus igitur atque ordinamus, ut nemo deinceps aliquem 
textum sacrae scripturae auctoritate sua in linguam Anglicanam vel aliam 
transferat, per viam libri, libelli aut tractatus, nee legatur aliquis huiusmodi 
liber, libellus aut tractatus jam noviter tempore dicti Johannis Wycliffe, 
sive citra compositus, sive in posterum componendus, in parte vel in toto, 
publice vel occulta." Cardinal Gasquet's assertion that "aliquem textum" 
"can only mean 'any passage' " (1897 ed. p. 169), is contrary to historical 
evidence. The word textus is used very commonly 

(i) for a liturgical gospel book, cf. the "textus of S. Dunstan," Som. Med. 
Lib. 89; Britwold's textus, id. 49; one of 1122, id. 39; and those referred to 
page 185, n. 3; 

(2) less frequently for a particular biblical verse. Dialogue, in. " to lay and 
confer one text with another"; Myroure, 71 ; 

(3) frequently, as here, for the substance or version of a particular book: 
the " texts " of the Vulgate at the date offered great variety, and a translator 
might well be in doubt which to use as the basis of his version. The word 
is used in this sense of the Lollard versions in Trevenant, Reg. 148, in a letter 
of 1397 : " neque libros Anglicos secundum nudum textum de sacra scriptura 
sinistre extractos"; by Lyndwood in his gloss on the passage: "Although it 
be the plain text of sacred scripture that is so translated." Gundulph, bishop 
of Rochester, wrote out " the text of the Vulgate," Bibliom. 60; Gerson com- 
plained, c. 1415, of who thought "holy scripture should be believed in 
its bare text without any interpretation " ; "appeal to the bare text of scrip- 
ture," see pp. 104-6; Matthias of Janov, c. 1390, spoke of "the study of the 
text of the most holy Bible," see p. 91 ; a Dutch gospel-harmonist, 1350-1400, 
' ' I made one fair history out of the texts of the four gospels, " see p. 11 5 n. ; the 
Oxford synod of 1408 forbade grammar masters to go beyond "explaining 
the text grammatically," see p. 295. The prohibition of " aliquem textum s. 
scripturae" simply made it clear to contemporaries that no one was to 
translate the Bible, or its books, from any Latin or French version; the 
translation of Bible stories in the narrator's own words was not, on the other 
hand, covered by Arundel's prohibition. 


Wycliffe's Bible, and the attitude of the Church towards transla- 
tions in his day : but we cannot properly estimate More's evidence 
unless we realise that the matter with which he was vitally 
concerned, and about which he was really well informed, was 
Tindale's translation, and not Wycliffe's. 

The character of the Messenger, More's interlocutor in the 
Dialogue, is that of a promising young student, inclined towards 
the ideas of the New Learning, and ready to agree with the 
plausible arguments of the man in the street. He professes to 
set forth the murmurings of reasonable men of small under- 
standing, who are attracted by some of the new teaching, or, at 
least, consider heretics are in some points hardly dealt with. 
The value of the Messenger's arguments is that More himself 
states them, as representing the attitude of many of the 
orthodox and ignorant at the time of the burning of Tindale's 
New Testament in 1526: and, as such, they agree with the 
teaching and knowledge of such an orthodox teacher as Roger 
Edgeworth^ in Mary's reign. The man in the street thinks the 
Bible ought to be accessible in English: so do the Messenger, 
Edgeworth, and, to some extent, More. The man in the 
street knows of no existent manuscript English Bible except 
W^^cliffe's : neither do the Messenger nor yet Edgeworth: but 
the scholar and nobleman, More, has seen English Bibles in 
the houses of the great, which, since they are orthodox, 
cannot, he thinks, be Wycliffe's. The man in the street 
believes that the clergy keep the scriptures from the laity: so 
do Edgeworth and the Messenger: but sir Thomas More is 
scholar enough to be able to quote the provincial council of 
Oxford, and Lyndwood, in support of his contention that 
they do not do so altogether. 

The description of the Messenger's personal attitude to the 
scriptures is interesting. Some men believe, he says, that 
Tindale's New Testament was burnt at Paul's Cross, not be- 

^ a. Eve of Reformation, GsLsquet, F. A., London, 1890, 245. Roger Edge- 
worth knew of no existent orthodox English translation : "I have ever borne 
in mind, that I thought it no harm, but rather good and profitable, that holy 
scripture should be had in the mother tongue, and withheld from no man 
that was apt and meet to take it in hand, specially if we could get it well 
and truly translated, which will be very hard to be had." Sermons, London, 
Caly, 1557, f. 31, 



cause of the faults declared to be found in it, but to disguise the 

fact that none such were found^ : , 

And that, for none other intent but for to keep out of the people's Jt/*-*^' 
hands all knowledge of Christ's gospel, and of God's law, except so , -.*1/*''*^ 
much only as the clergy themselves list now and then to tell us. And 
that, little as it is, and seldom shewed, yet as it is feared, not well 
and truly told, but watered with false glosses, and altered from the 
truth of the very words and sentence of scripture, only for the main- 
tenance of their authority. And for the fear lest this thing should 
evidently appear to the people, if they were suffered to read the 
scripture themselves in their own tongue, was, (as it is thought) , the 
very cause, not only for which the New Testament translated by 
Tindale was burned, but also that the clerg^^ of this realm hath 
before this time by a constitution provincial prohibited any book 
of scripture to be translated into the English tongue, fearing men 
with fire as heretics who should so presume to keep them, as though 
it were heresy for a Christian man to read Christ's gospel. And 
surely sir, quoth he, some folk that think this dealing of the clergy 
to be thus, and good men to be mishandled for declaring the truth, 
and the scripture' self to be pulled out of the people's hands^.lest they 
should perceive the truth, be led in their minds to doubt whether 
Luther himself, (of whose opinions, or at the least of whose works, 
all this business began), wrote indeed so evil as he is borne in hand. 

After this prologue, More devotes three chapters to the in- 
struction of the Messenger on the subject of biblical translations, 
the first to explaining the enactment of the council of Oxford in 
1408, the others to shewing that the laitj^ might use such trans- 
lations under certain restrictions^. There was no constitution, 
said More, which positively forbade the people to have any 
scripture translated into our tongue: 

For ye shall understand that the great arch heretic, Wycliffe, 
whereas the whole Bible was long before his days by virtuous and 
well learned men translated into the Enghsh tongue, and by good 
and godly people with devotion and soberness well and reverently 
read, took upon of a malicious purpose to translate it of new*. In 

1 More, Dialogue, 109. 

2 Erasmus supported this view of the Messenger, see pp. 384-7, and it is 
justified also by the wording of the episcopal injunctions of 1538, see 
pp. 348-9. 

» Dialogue. Ub. iii. cc. 11, 14, 15, 16; pp. 224-6, 233-47. 

* This sentence, with the words " long before his day," is quite consistent 
with a reference to the Anglo-Saxon gospels, etc., which had become so out- 
worn in language, that Wycliffe, " translated it of new." The next sentence 
is typical of More's description of Wycliffe's text, as he imagined it, from the 
analogy of Tindale's. 


which translation he purposely corrupted the holy text, maliciously 
planting therein such words, as might in the readers' ears serve to the 
proof of such heresies as he went about to sow : which he not only set 
forth with his own translation of the Bible, but also with certain pro- 
logues and glosses which he made thereon.... After that it was per- 
ceived what harm the people took by the translation, prologues and 
glosses of Wycliffe's, and also of some other, that after him holp to set 
forth his sect: then for that cause, and forasmuch as it is dangerous 
to translate the text of scripture out of one tongue into another i, as 
holy S. Jerome testifieth, forasmuch as in translation it is hard alway 
to keep the same sentence whole: it was, I say, for these causes at a 
council holden at Oxford, provided upon great pain, that no man 
should from thenceforth translate into the English tongue, or any 
other language, of his own authority, by way of book, libel, or treatise : 
nor no man openly or secretly any such book, libel or treatise read, 
newly made in the time of the said John Wycliffe: or that should be 
made any time after, till the said translation were by the diocesan, 
or if need should require, by a provincial council approved.... For I 
trow that in this law ye see nothing unreasonable. For it neither 
forbiddeth the translations to be read that were already well done of 
old before Wycliffe's days, nor damneth his because it was new, but 
because it was naught : nor prohibiteth new to be made, but provideth 
that they shall not be read if they be mismade, till they be by good 
examination amended, except they be such translations as Wycliffe 
made and Tindale, that the malicious mind of the translator had in 
such wise handled, it were as it were labour lost to go about to mend 

To this the Messenger replies : 

" I long by my troth," quoth he, " and even sit on thorns, till I see 
that constitution. For not myself only, but every man else hath ever 
taken it for otherwise.... I suppose," quoth he, "that this opinion is 
rather grown another way, that is to wit, that the clergy, though the 
law serve them not therefore, do yet in deed take all translations out 
of every lay man's hand. And sometime, with those that be burned 
or convicted of heresy, they burn the English Bible without respect, 
be the translation old or new, bad or good." 

" Forsooth," quoth I, " if this were so, then were it, in my mind, not 
well done. But I believe ye mistake it. Howbeit, what ye have seen 
I cannot say; but myself have seen, and can shew you, Bibles fair 
and old written in English, which have been known and seen by 
the bishop of the diocese 2, and left in laymen's hands, and 

^ From this point. More is quoting from the constitutions of Oxford, 1408. 

" More had no doubt seen English biblical translations in noblemen's 
libraries, or perhaps those of nunneries. He was closely in touch with the 
London Carthusians, for between 1499 and 1503 he had attended their daily 
of&ces and shared their ascetic practices, while undecided as to his vocation: 


women's^, tofsuch as he knew for good and catholic folk. But of 
truth, all such as are found in the hands of heretics, they use to take 
away 2." 

In the next chapter, More explains that translations were 
allowed from the earliest days of the Church, and that he for 
his part would favour their being allowed now, under proper 

he had probably seen the English Bible of the Sheen Charterhouse (a later 
version, without heretical prologues or glosses, see FM i. xlvii). He was also 
the special friend of at least one Brigittine monk of Sion, Richard Whitford, 
and Sion was presented in 1517 with an early version of the Wycliffite Bible, 
also perfectly orthodox. Whether More inferred from the constitutions of 
1408 that the Bibles he had seen had been licensed by the bishop for indivi- 
dual use, or whether he actually knew this to have been the case, is doubtful : 
episcopal licenses may have been verbal : and no English written ones have 
survived. (For remains of a note that an English Bible had been "overseen 
and read" for a woman by two doctors, see p. 336.) The earliest surviving 
written license to use a vernacular Bible of which I am aware (apart from 
that in the Myroure, see p. 339), is that of the Spanish archbishop and in- 
quisitor general Tavera to the duchess of Soma, c. 1539, allowing her to use 
an Italian Bible for a year only; printed Span. Inq. in. 575. 

^ Dial. 233-4. Eor More's next account of the burning of Richard Hun's 
Bible, not because it was in English, but because it contained a prologue 
of great and manifest heresy, see p. 14, n. 3. Cardinal Gasquet's assertion 
(1897 ed. p. 129) that "in the edition of Wycliffite scriptures published by 
Forshall and Madden we shall look in vain for any trace of these errors," 
has been shewn to be unfounded by the reviewer in the Church Quarterly 
Revieiv, Jan. 1901, pp. 265-298, and a very slight examination of the General 
Prologue to the O. Test, confirms this. Cardinal Gasquet notices {id. 117) 
that " there is no room for doubting " that this prologue and the translation 
are the work of the same hand. 

^ That the licensed reading of English Bibles could not have been general, 
even among the upper classes, is indicated by Cranmer, in his preface to 
the second (1540, Richard Grafton) edition of the Great Bible. Though 
anxious to commend the book, and to shew that the reading of English 
Bibles was not unlawful, he does not mention any custom of English Bible 
reading for the last hundred years, but divides English thinkers on the 
question into: those who opposed it and those who misused it. It would have 
been natural for him to mention that some few pious folk had used the 
English Bible profitably within the last hundred years, had they been 
numerous, for he was in want of precedents. He wrote that the English 
Bible "may be both the better accepted of them which hitherto could not 
well bear it, and also the better used of them which heretofore have misused 
it. . . . In the former sort be all they that refuse to read, or to hear read, the 
scripture in the vulgar tongues: much worse, they also let or discourage the 
other from the reading or hearing thereof. Such is the nature of custom . . . 
and therefore I can well think them worthy pardon, which at the coming 
abroad of scripture doubted and drew back. . . .And yet if the matter should 
be tried by custom, we might also allege custom for the reading of scripture 
in the vulgar tongue, and prescribe the more ancient custom. For it is not 
much above one hundred years ago," etc. (See continuation, p. 12, n.) 


Methinketh that the constitution provincial of which we spake 
right now, hath determined this question already. For when the 
clergy therein agreed that the English Bibles should remain, which 
were translated afore Wycliffe's days, they consequently did agree 
that to have the Bible in English was no hurt. 

These passages have been quoted to shew More's view on the 
subject of pre-Wycliffite versions, and the existence of English 
Bibles in his own day by the license of the bishop. But he does 
not deny that men commonly took the constitution of 1408 as 
prohibiting the use of translations in general, and that, though 
he himself has seen English Bibles, they are nevertheless not 

" Sir," quoth the Messenger, " yet for all this I can see no cause why 
the clergy should keep the Bible out of laymen's hands, that can no 
more but their mother tongue." 

" I had weened," quoth I, " that I had shewed you plainly, that they 
keep it not from them.,.." 

" Ye say well," quoth he, " but yet, as women say, somewhat it was 
alway that the cat winked when her eye was out. Surely it is not for 
nought that the English Bible is in so few^ men's hands, when so many 
would so fain have it^." 

More agrees that this is true; but the authorities fear that it 
is chiefly the heretics who wish to have it. Yet it strikes him as 
curious that, though the constitutions of 1408 did not forbid 
the making of translations, no catholic scholar had ever ventured 
to make one. 

"And surely how it hath happed, that in all this while God hath 
either not suffered, or not provided, that any good virtuous man hath 
had the mind in faithful wise to translate it, and thereupon either the 
clergy, or at the least wise, some one bishop to approve it : this can I 
nothing tell." 

" I am sure," quoth the Messenger, " ye doubt not but that I am full 

^ Dial. 2^1. Cf. Erasmus' assertion, p. 387, that many theologians even in 
Germany, where opinion was far more liberal towards vernacular Bibles 
than in England, denied the right of the laity to read the Bible. Erasmus 
recommends that lay people should be warned to use it with reverence and 
humility: "but as to those people who simply banish the divine books from 
the hands of lay people, I know not by what spirit they are led. Their 
decision is contrary to the example of Christ and the Apostles. The greatest 
doctors of the Church advise that course from which they would deter us : 
and reckon that most praiseworthy which they execrate as impious." 
Opera, 1706, v. 729. 

I] more's evidence criticised 9 

and whole of your mind in this matter, that the Bible should be in our 
English tongue. But yet that the clergy is of the contrary, and would 
not have it so, that appeareth well, in that they suffer it not to be so^. " 

Enough has perhaps been quoted to shew that sir Thomas 
More gives, in his Dialogue, evidence of two kinds, both equally 
valuable. In the first place, he states the belief of his unen- 
lightened contemporaries : in the second, he gives his own expert 
opinion. In the first place, the Messenger's views are his own 
picture of the belief of a young and intelligent lay scholar of his 
day, — certainly not those of a man who counted himself a 
Lutheran; he represents the "man in the street" in that he has 
not, like More, inquired into the authority of his belief about the 
prohibition of translations, but simply shares it with the mass of 
his contemporaries. More states then that, rightly or wrongly, 
it was about 1528 generally believed that the council of Oxford 
had forbidden the making or using of translations of the Bible, 
and that the clergy would not suffer such translations to be in 
lay people's hands. 

Secondly, More gives his own views on the desirability and 
history of English translations, — those of a devout and in- 
structed catholic, an eminent lawyer defending his case, and a 
fervent admirer of the New Learning. They are the views of the 
friend of Erasmus^, of one of the most liberal and brilHant 
scholars of the day: and it would be rash to assume that they 
coincided at all points with those of the representative politician 
or bishop of the time, let alone the representative parish priest. 
More's personal evidence can, now, be analysed from these three 
points of view, for which it has very differing values. It is that 
of a lawyer who has looked up his authorities: of a most liberal 
but strictly orthodox scholar: and of a historian. The three 
questions, what is the value of More's statements as a lawyer, 
as a Uberal cathoHc, and as a historian, must be answered 
separately, or much confusion will arise. 

As to law, More was undoubtedly right. The only authorities 
he studied were the constitutions of Oxford, and Lyndwood's 
comments thereon: but his conclusion was sound. He did not 
quote the Decretals of Gregory IX on the subject of biblical 

^ Id. 241. - See p. II. 


translations^, as he might perhaps have been expected to do: but 
thought it sufficient to quote rightly the Enghsh constitution which 
was the subject of such general misunderstanding and comment. 
His views as a devout catholic and humanist scholar are also 
valuable: but they are, in all probability, more liberal than those 
of the average churchman of his day; and they were much less 
liberal than they are sometimes represented. To a scholar like 
More, imbued with the Renaissance reverence for original 
authorities and first principles, it was impossible to overlook the 
practice of the Church of the first nine centuries with regard to 
biblical translations. The gospels were written in the vulgar 
tongue: S. Jerome had translated them into the vulgar tongue 
of his da}': therefore to More it was just as desirable now that 

^ For the letter of Innocent III to the archbishop of Metz, partly em- 
bodied therein, see pp. 31-2. The original letter was distinctly hostile to trans- 
lations, and interpreted in that sense by the pope's legates: but the portion 
in the Decretal, Cum ex injuncto, dealt mainly with conventicles and lay 
preaching, and as such received the attention of commentators. The Cum 
ex injuncto and the commentators' glosses were well known to inquisitors, 
but they interpreted "lay preaching" as including the recitation of verna- 
cular translations of the Bible, and the possession of such translations as 
giving rise to lay preaching. (For the commentators, and Eymeric's 
Directorium Inquisitorum see p. 34.) The Dutch lawyers of Cologne, 1398, 
were the first to argue that the Cum ex injuncto was in reality favourable 
to translations of the simpler parts of the Bible. I have not found any 
manual for inquisitors mentioning the whole letter to Metz, as distinguished 
from the Cum ex injuncto (Pegna, the 1607 editor of the Direct. Inq. mentions 
it, p. 100), but the inquisitors had no need to do so, for they were usually 
granted all the powers granted to the inquisition at Toulouse, 1229, which 
included that of suppressing translations. More may have considered the 
Cum ex injuncto not to the point, and either been unaware of the hostile 
decisions of provincial councils, or disregarded them. Erasmus who sup- 
ported the popularisation of the scriptures much more ardently than More, 
had evidently had some "canonical" prohibition objected to him by his 
opponents, probably this letter of Innocent III. He replied to the monk 
who denied the lawfulness of biblical translations: "Moreover, if any con- 
stitution of our forefathers that the common people ought not to have 
the sacred books, was issued, that ought to be adjudged a remedy given for 
reasons of time and place. For my part, this is not clear to me: and yet 
nevertheless, it may have occurred that such a constitution was issued, 
directed against the arrogance of certain unlettered people. It is certainly 
clear that it has not been confirmed by public custom. For of late the com- 
mon people have the sacred books translated into the vulgar tongue, and 
read them openly" [Erasmi Opera, Leyden, 1706, ix. 785). Erasmus wrote 
ten years after the publication of Luther's N. Test., and even before that 
time vernacular gospel books, etc. had been more plentiful in Germany than 
elsewhere in Europe. More was most closely in touch with Erasmus before 
the subject of vernacular Bibles had become a burning question. 


the devout should be able to read in their mother tongue such 
portions of the Bible as their simplicity could comprehend. The 
scheme by which he proposed to accomplish this end can be 
examined later in his Dialogue ; though it was that of one of 
the most Hberal churchmen of his day, its limits were very 
narrow. More did not propose that, in practice, more than the 
devout of the upper classes should have English Bibles. Could 
not the bishop, he said, give an EngHsh Bible, or such part of it 
as he might see lit, to those of the faithful in his diocese whom he 
personally knew to be fit to profit by it? The books should be 
returned at death to the bishop, who would thus have a personal 
knowledge of those who used them. In practice, this scheme 
could hardly have been democratic. 

More had been the friend of Erasmus since 1498, and cannot 
fail to have been influenced by his views as to the desirabiUty 
of popularising knowledge of the scriptures: and yet their 
attitude to the question is widely different. More wished for a 
regularisation of the old scheme of a diocesan license for each 
reader of an English Bible, though he wished the bishop to 
present the Bible at his own expense^ to the reader during his 
Hfe-time. The desire of Erasmus was for the accessibility of the 
scriptures to all, and in the references to the subject among his 
different works, there is no question of an episcopal license, or 
even that of the confessor, though " they do well who warn the 
common people that they should make use of the sacred volumes 
with religious fear, and not trust rashly to their own judgment 2." 
More wrote his Dialogue in 1528: and in 1529 a translation of a 
work of Erasmus called the Exhortation to the diligent study of 
scripture was brought into England, where the wishes expressed 
for the general knowledge of the Bible were different from More's. 

I would to God that the ploughman would sing a text of the scripture 
at his plough-beam ; and that the weaver at his loom with this would 
drive away the tediousness of time. I would the wayfaring man with 
this pastime would expel the weariness of his journey. And to be short, 
I would that all the communication of the Christian should be of the 
scripture ; for in a manner, such are we ourselves, asour daily tales are^. 

1 Dial. 245. " Erasmi Opera, 1706, Leyden, v. 729. 

3 For the continuation of this and other extracts from Erasmus' works in 
defence of translations, and for the 1527 condemnation of them at Paris, see 
appendix, pp. 384-7. 


The very year before More published his Dialogue, the 
theological faculty at Paris had condemned a catena of the 
propositions of Erasmus, where he defended the general use of 
biblical translations, and the views of More in the Dialogue are 
much more in accordance with the censure, than with Erasmus' 
propositions. More wished to perpetuate the mediaeval system 
of infrequent and licensed Bible reading by the upper classes: 
Erasmus wished, like the Waldensians and the Lollards, that 
men of all classes, husbandmen, smiths, weavers, plough boys, 
and even women, should be free to find in vernacular Bibles " the 
quick and living image of His most holy mind, yea, and Christ 
Himself, healing, dying, rising again." 

More's authority as a historian is less than his authority as a 
lawyer, and much less than his authority as a saint, with which 
it is sometimes confused. He had only the linguistic and his- 
torical equipment of his contemporaries: much too little lin- 
guistic or historical knowledge to be able to assign an old English 
manuscript to a particular century. His only authority for his 
statements about the Wycliffite Bible is, quite clearly, the con- 
stitutions of 1408: he adds to that his own inferences therefrom, 
and a perfectly natural, but inaccurate guess, that the text of 
the actual Wycliffite Bible rnust have been heretical. It is quite 
easy to reconstruct the process by which More arrived at his 
conclusions about old English Bibles. It was patent to him, to 
start with, that there was nothing wrong in biblical translations 
themselves^, since, for instance, that of S. Jerome was in uni- 
versal use. He found next that the constitutions of Oxford did 
not forbid translations as such, but mentioned the existence of 
pre-Wycliffite ones^. More had no historical knowledge to tell 

^ This was far from being patent to many mediaeval minds: as for 
instance to the two very learned Dominican and Franciscan friars who con- 
tended for the opposite view in Henry IV's reign; see pp. 401-37; 297 n. 

2 The following criticism of More's belief applies also to Cranmer's, who 
said in the preface to the 1540 edition of the EngUsh Bible (see p. 7, n. 2), 
" It is not much above one hundred years ago since Scripture hath not been 
accustomed to be read in the vulgar tongue within this realm, and many 
hundred years before that it was translated and read in the Saxon tongue, 
which at that time was our mother's tongue: whereof there remaineth yet 
divers copies found lately in old abbeys, of such antique manners of writing 
and speaking that few men now been able to read and understand them. 
And when this language waxed old and out of common use, because folk 


him that those responsible for the constitutions had in mind, in 
all probability, Bede's translation of S. John's gospel, with 
which they were acquainted through Higden; or principally, 
existence of unreadable manuscripts of Anglo-Saxon gospels ; or 
finally, that already fairly widely known book, Richard Rolle's 
English psalter^. There were actually in existence in 1408 a few 
solitary manuscripts of partial translations of the New Testa- 
ment made in Wycliffe's day, and quite possibly by orthodox 
catholics: but it would be very rash, and contrary to probability, 
to assume that those who drew up the constitutions of 1408 had 
a modern specialist's knowledge of these sparse manuscripts^: 
or that they knew even vaguely that contemporary translations 
existed which were not due to the Wyclifhte school. Had they 
known of them, they would most certainly have required their 
submission for episcopal approbation, as they did of any future 
translations. But it was perfectly natural for More (who had no 
means of knowing what early fourteenth century translations 
actually existed), to think that English translations did exist in 

should not lack the fruit of reading, it was again translated in the newer 
language. Whereof yet many copies remain and be daily found." Cranmer's 
authority here was almost certainly, like More's, the constitution of 1408. 
Gairdner, Loll. i. 104, emphasises the point that " Cranmer does not even hint 
that the newer translations were due to Wycliffe." Cranmer was no more 
likely than sir Thomas More to know to whom the translations were due: 
had he suspected them to be due to any particular orthodox translator, 
he would certainly have said so, for his preface aimed at proving the law- 
fulness of the use of vernacular scriptures. If he had any suspicion that the 
Enghsh fifteenth century versions were connected with Wycliffe, he would 
certainly not have mentioned the suspicion in such a preface: but there is no 
need to suppose that he had. It is noticeable, however, in this connexion, 
that sixteenth century apologists who were anxious to give all the examples 
of earlier translations by orthodox writers, or those used by the orthodox, 
never quote anything later than Hampole's psalter (written before i349. 
popular by c. 1370). J. Foxe wished to give a historical example of an early 
translation : but what he chose to print was The Gospels of the fower Evange- 
listes, translated in the oldc Saxons' time out of Latin into the vulgar toung of the 
Saxons, London, 1571. 

1 Ed. Bramley, H. R., Oxford, 1884. 

2 For partial bibhcal translations contemporary with the Wyclif&te 
versions, see chapter xii, p. 299. There are two main points to notice about 
such translations : first, they are not clearly earlier than the Wychffite, but 
broadly speaking, contemporary. Secondly, they were unknown, com- 
pared to the Wycliffite versions: one or two MSS. only survive of each, as 
against the 170 MSS. of the Wychffite versions mentioned by Forshall and 
Madden {The Holy Bible : made from the Latin Vulgate by John Wycliffe and 
his Followers, Oxford, 1850), in addition to which others are now known. 


the age preceding Wycliffe : and perfectly natural for him to draw 
the inference that the English Bibles he had himself seen were 
the descendants of such orthodox versions. These Bibles were 
in the hands of the orthodox, and were therefore, he argued, 
free from heresy. Since Wycliffe's Bible had been condemned, 
doubtless it was because its text, like Tindale's, was heretical: 
it could not therefore have been the parent of the Bibles he had 
seen: the originals of these must have been the pre-Wycliffite 
translations implied in the constitutions of 1408. This seemed 
certain to him, because, curious as the fact might be, no trans- 
lations had been approved by the bishops since^; and he could 
not conceive the possibility of an episcopal license to read a 
Wycliffite version. 

The preoccupation of his mind with Tindale's New Testament 
explains this unquestioning assumption. He had, earlier in the 
Dialogue, commented on Tindale's controversial translations of 
parts of the scriptures^. More certainly stated that the heresy in 
the only Wycliffite Bible he had himself examined, Richard 
Hun's Bible, was in the prologue ^ : and that the Wychfhtes wrote 
heretical prologues and glosses* to their text: but it did not 
strike him that there might have been perhaps nothing to quarrel 

^ See p. 319. 

2 "For first he would make the people believe that we should believe no- 
thing but plain scripture, in which point he teacheth a plain pestilent heresy. 
And then would he with his false translation make the people ween further 
that such articles of our faith as he laboureth to destroy, and which be well 
proved by holy scripture, were in holy scripture nothing spoken of, but that 
the preachers have all this fifteen hundred year misreported the gospel, 
and Englished the scripture wrong, to lead the people purposely out of the 
right way." Dialogue, 223. 

* More was present at the examination of Richard Hun in the Tower in 
1514. He says in the Dialogue, 240, "For surely at such time as he was 
denounced for an heretic, there lay his English Bible open, and some other 
English books of his, that every man might see the places noted with his 
own hand, such words and in such wise, that there would no wise man, 
that good were, have any doubt after the sight thereof, what naughty minds 
the men had, both he that so noted them, and he that so made them. I 
remember not now the specialities of the matter, nor the formal words as they 
were written. But this I remember well, that besides other things framed 
for the favour of divers other heresies, there were in the prologue of that 
Bible, such words touching the blessed sacrament as good Christian men 
did much abhor to hear, and which gave the readers undoubted occasion 
to think that the book was written after Wycliffe's copy, and by him trans- 
lated into our tongue." For Richard Hun, see pp. 369-70. 

* See pp. 259-66. 


with in the Wydiffite translation of the text itself^. His assump- 
tion that the text itself was heretical was a quite unconscious 
assumption, based on the analogy of Tindale's New Testament. 
He would have been surprised to learn that the English Bibles 
he had seen in his friends' houses were merely the Wycliffite 
text, with the prologue omitted: but could he have known that 
orthodox catholic historians have now identified the translations 
used in some Italian nunneries in his own day as descendants of 
Waldensian originals-, and that many philological speciahsts 
beheve the same phenomenon to have occurred in Germany 3, 
he need not have been surprised. To expect from Sir Thomas 
More, however, accurate historical or linguistic knowledge of the 
relation of the manuscripts he had seen to the Wycliffite Bible 
would be to expect an anachronism. His view as to the legal 
aspect of the matter was right : his scheme for the distribution 
of Bibles is most interesting evidence as to what the best mind 
of that day wished in the matter: his evidence as to contem- 
porary belief in the absolute prohibition of all translations is 
valuable: but his theory as to the origin of such English Bibles 
as he had seen, though natural, was wrong. There is almost 
historical certainty that, though found in the houses of the 
faithful, they were the Wycliffite texts, and that there was no 
important biblical translation, whole or partial, made in the 
fourteenth century before the days of Wychffe's influence. 

1 No contemporary of Wycliffe accused the Lollards of mistranslating the 
text of the Bible: Walden's reference to Wycliffe, Doct. jii. 12, as a "falsifier 
of scripture," is, as the context shews, only an attack on certain Wycliffite 
theories based on an interpretation of certain biblical verses. In 1397 the 
Lollards were blamed in a royal letter for translating the "bare text" of 
holy scripture, not for mistranslating it, see p. 288, In a contemporary 
anti-Lollard poem quoted Lanterne, EETS, OS, 151, 143, the Lollards are 
vaguely accused of misinterpretation: 

Ther the Bibelle is al myswent. 

To jangle of Job or Jeremie, 

That constreuen hit after her entent 

For lewde lust of Lollardie. 
But the editor can find only Lollard glosses, not inserted as part of the 
translated text, in support of the accusation, see id. 143. For the absence of 
accusation of partizan translation by opponents of earlier Waldensian 
French or German translations, see pp. 30-1 ; for modern acknowledgment 
of their literal accuracy, S. Minocchi in V, Italiennes [Versions], p. 1022. 

2 See Italiennes [Versions] de la Bible, V, iii. 1020; and cf. chapter 11, 
p. 44. 

3 See pp. 64-8. 


§ 4. More's evidence has been here criticised at length, be- 
cause without it some modern theories as to the nature and 
number of old English translations, and the attitude of the 
Church towards them, could scarcely have been put forward. 
The present explanation of his evidence is here suggested as a 
theory, which it is hoped to prove in the following chapters. 
No effort seems to have been made as yet to put the study of 
Enghsh bibhcal translations into its proper European back- 
ground, although the comparison of the efforts of English 
Lollards to spread vernacular scriptures with those of the 
continental Lollards, and the Brethren of the Common Life, at 
the same date, is most illuminating. A vivid light is thrown on 
the history of translations in England by continental prohibitions 
of translations, the efforts of thirteenth and fourteenth century 
inquisitors to suppress them, and their defence by more liberal 
minded catholics. England was under the same canon law as the 
continent : and the precedent of earlier provincial constitutions 
apphed to us as much as to other European countries. The 
thirteenth century inquisition was never introduced into 
England to suppress Lollardy : but the old inquisition of heretical 
pravity had existed long before that century, under episcopal 
and papal direction, and it existed alongside with it. The 
episcopal inquisition used in England against the Lollards 
differed little in authority and method from that inquisition, 
which was carrying on so vigorous a campaign against the 
Lollards or Beghards of the low countries at the time of Wycliffe's 
death: Foxe's Acts and Monuments is a record very similar to 
that of the inquisitor of Toulouse. Again, the attitude of the 
orthodox in Germany towards bibhcal translations in the 
fifteenth century throws much light on the attitude of the 
orthodox in England. 

The Enghsh sources for the history of Enghsh biblical trans- 
lations, and the attitude of the Church towards them include six 
groups.yrhere is the evidence of contemporaries as to the making 
of any translation, or their lack of knowledge of particular 
translations, shewn by their omission in any list of such which 
they give. There are the existent manuscripts of Enghsh Bibles, 
which afford evidence as to different translations, and indications 
as to their possession by clerks or laymen, men or women, 


heterodox or orthodox. /There are contemporary wills, large 
numbers of which already exist in printed collections : numbers 
sufficiently large to give a fairly secure index of the relatively 
frequent ownership of Latin, French, and EngHsh Bibles and 
devotional books (for these last are interesting for comparison's 
sake). /There are very many contemporary catalogues of the 
libraries of individuals, colleges, monasteries, etc., in which one 
would expect to find mention of English Bibles if they had 
existed in any considerable number. /Episcopal registers also 
afford evidence on the subject, in the shape of occasional wills, 
and the records of heresy trials, which throw Hght on the con- 
nexion between possession of an English Bible and heresy. 
/Finally, the enactments of diocesan and provincial synods afford 
light on the educational level reached by the clergy, and help to 
decide the question whether the Sunday gospel was ever directly 
translated at mass. 

D W B. 


The prohibition of vernacular Bible reading in 
France, Italy and Spain 

§ I. The attitude of the mediaeval Church towards trans- 
lations of the Bible is not easy to define : both because it under- 
went considerable modification between the tenth and the 
sixteenth centuries, and because it was always connected in 
practice with the right of the lait\^ to inquire into high and 
divine matters^, and to preach without episcopal license 2. As 
a result of this connexion, the attitude of the Church to biblical 
translations was determined by the status of the translator and 
the purpose of the translation : if this translation were made for 
some king or exalted personage, or by some solitary student, 
and remained a hallowed but practically unused volume in a 
royal or monastic library, no objection was taken to the trans- 
lation as such: but if the translation was used to popularise a 
knowledge of the biblical text among lay people, prohibition 
immediately followed. This was certainly the case till the end 
of the fourteenth century t?iroughout Europe, and it was a course 
that found a majority of advocates in most European countries 
down to the Reformation, and many orthodox champions later. 
•From the end of the fourteenth century lay people of the upper 
iclasses could usually obtain license from their confessors to use 
translations of parts of the Bible, as they could obtain other 

1 It was for this reason that Maerlant states that he incurred the enmity 
of the clergy for his translation of the Historia Scholastica into Dutch verse. 
See p. 72. For the explicit statement of this point of view, see the letters of 
Gregory VII and Innocent III, pp. 24, 31. 

" In the case of the Wafdensians, see for instance the indictment of their 
unauthorised preaching in Alanus de Insula's De Fide Catholica contra 
hereticos, lib. 11. c. 377, in PL 210, c. 305-400. The Waldensians presume 
to preach, he says, though they are laymen and illiterate, while even learned 
Cistercian monks do not preach, because they are not licensed and sent 
thereto by the bishop. At the disputation at Xarbonne, again, held in 1190 
between the orthodox and the Waldensians, the discussion turned on the 
right of the Waldensians to expound, not to read, translations of the scrip- 
tures. Inq. I. 78. See also pp. 31—3; and for the repression of preaching 
without episcopal hcense in England, pp. 283, 295.. 


' minor dispensations; but, broadly speaking, those who desired 
to obtain such dispensations were few, since Bible reading was 
not recommended as an ordinary pious practice for the laity, till 
quite the close of the middle ages. Till that period, the broad 
distinction remains, that the Church took no notice of the 
making of biblical translations as such, but forbade all attempts 
at their popularisation, and this from quite worthy motives and 
deliberate judgment as to the inexpediency of such a course. 

In nearly all European countries, parts of the Bible were 
translated into verse or prose, almost from the time of the 
barbarian invasions : indeed, in the case of Ulphilas's translation 
of the gospels, from a time prior to the migration of the Goths. 
In most cases the psalter, the foundation of the divine office, was 
translated early, and the translation of parts of the New Testa- 
ment almost alwa37s preceded parts of the Old. After Peter 
Comestor, canon of Troyes, had about 1150 compiled his Historia 
Scholastica^, translations of this work were more frequent, and 
more copied, than translations of portions of the Bible itself^. 
This was largely through the very great popularity of the Historia 
Scholastica in its Latin form, and no doubt also because such a 
work was considered safer than the literal translation of the 
sacred text. But these cases of translations, loose or literal, 
glossed or unglossed, of single biblical books or of the Historia 
Scholastica, remained merely hterary curiosities ^i they were not, 

^ See p. 177. A summary in Latin of the historical books of the Old 
and New Testaments, together with historical information from secular 


2 Manuscripts of the French Bible historianlx are more frequent than 
translations of the Bible itself : this was a free translation made by Guyart 
Desmoulins, canon of Aire in Artois, c. 1 291-4. Maerlant translated it into 
Dutch, c. 1 271. 

* For accounts of the different vernacular versions, see the articles on 
Frangaises [Versions\, Vaudoises, Allemandes, Italiennes, Danoises, Suidoi- 
ses et Scandinaves, Espagnoles, in V with the bibliographies; also the corre- 
sponding articles in HH, CE, and SC. See also in Dominicains : [travaux 
des) sur les saintes ecriiiires, and the corresponding articles on Franciscains, 
Chartreux, etc. In the learned article, Dominicains : {travaux des) etc., P. 
Mandonnet brings out clearly that the friars, as missionaries, were sometimes 
torn between the needs of the souls they shepherded, and the official con- 
- demnation of vernacular Bibles. "Torn between the very real need of 
coming to the aid of the faithful, and the prohibition of the hierarchy, 
the Dominicans hesitated a little, but gave way here and there to the first 
consideration... .This kind of uncertainty must explain, we beheve, to a 
large extent, why so few translators' names remain attached to their works, 

2 — 2 


for instance, among the books normally studied in monastic 
libraries, — a class which can be defined with very great certainty 
from the numerous monastic catalogues which have come down 
to us^. Translations for royal personages were made at some 
period in nearly all European countries ; in France, the Domini- 
cans prepared a translation of the greater part of the Old Testa- 
ment for king John the Good, about 1355^, and Raoul de Presles 
revised for Charles V the old thirteenth century French Bible 
prepared by the stationers, or booksellers, of the university of 
Paris. This was just at the time when the Wyclifftte versions 
were appearing in England. The same text was used in preparing 
a translation of the Sunday epistles and gospels for queen 
Jeanne of Burgundy, wife of Philip VL In Norway Hakon V 
ordered the translation of the historical books of the Bible early 
in the fourteenth century; in Bohemia, a beautifully illustrated 
German Bible was prepared for the emperor Wenzel, between 
1389 and 1400, while his daughter Anne possessed the gospels in 
Latin, German and Slavonic, and the princess Marguerite, 
daughter of Charles IV, who married Louis, king of Hungary 
and Poland, had a psalter in Latin, Polish and German. 

Copies of these or similar translations were sometimes 
possessed by princes, nobles, and the owners of large collections 
of manuscripts, but the translations had no influence on the 
instruction of the secular clergy, the great body of regulars, or 
of the laity. The lower and middle classes could not, of course, 

especially in the realm of translations of scripture, the authors being liable 
to trouble on account of their hterary paternity. . . . Nevertheless, there is 
no religious order which has not to its account, in the middle ages, a fairly 
large number of bibhcal translations." In the detailed account of the works 
of the Dominicans in the different countries, P. Mandonnet, however, some- 
times overrates the Dominicans' share in issuing or encouraging transla- 
tions : his chief claim, that the Dominicans prepared the thirteenth century 
Paris Bible is explicitly traversed by Mangenot in the article on Frangaises 
[ Versions] in V ; for his inference from the prohibition of the chapter general 
in 1242 see p. 37; and note also that his citations of Dominican translators 
come in most cases from the late middle ages, after the invention of printing. 
For his estimate of the work of Dominicans in Germany, and the prevalence 
of translations in German convents, he has been misled by too much reliance 
on the work of F. Jostes: V, ii. 1470, for which cf. p. 117 n. 

^ For a summary of the manuscript and printed sources of continental 
monastic and other libraries, see Gottlieb; it is hoped to print shortly the 
list of c. 75 mediaeval English catalogues consulted for this work. 

- CE, Versions of the Bible, French. The Dominicans were Jean de Sy, 
Jean Nicolas, William Vivien, and Jean de Chambly. 


have read them for themselves: but there is no evidence that 
they were used in instructions by the parish priests till the 
middle of the fifteenth century at earliest^. It is characteristic, 
indeed, of mediaeval sermons and books of instruction, that the 
translations of single biblical texts are always in the author's 
own words, not in the words of such translations as existed. 
Against the existence of vernacular translations as such, while 
they remained comparatively unused, the Church made no 

Much light is thrown upon the comparative rarity of biblical 
study, even among the upper classes, by a comparison of the 
advice given in didactic treatises to laj^ people, throughout the 
middle ages. A recent collection has been made of 114 such 
treatises addressed to women^, from the time of S. Jerome to the 
Reformation ; but most of them come from the eleventh to the 
fifteenth centuries; they are written in Latin, French, Italian, 
English, Spanish, Catalan, etc., and give a good idea of the 
duties and ideals held up to women of each rank and social 
class, both secular and religious. Women of all classes are 
exhorted again and again to the practices of pietj^ — prayer, 
early rising, attendance at mass, saying of the hours, submission 
to husbands, care for the poor, nursing of the sick; women of 
high rank are, in addition, urged to learn to read, and study 
good and virtuous books, lives of the saints, etc. : but only in a 
single treatise, written in 1394, is a woman advised to read the 
Bible itself. In this tract ^, written by a member of the higher 
bourgeoisie of Paris, the husband writes an instruction for his 
wife on her secular and sacred duties, and advises her to read 
"the Bible and the Lives of the Fathers, which he possesses in 
French." The date of the tract is very interesting, for it is that 

^ For certain exceptions in the case of the Gottesfreunde and the Brethren 
of the Common Life, see pp. 76, 89. 

2 De la litteraiure didactique du moyen age s'adressant spicialement aux 
femmes. Hentsch, A. A., Cahors, 1903. 

3 Id. 141, Le Menagier de Paris. The greater merchants of Paris were 
people of considerable importance, and their daughters had exceptional 
chances of education: they might not only have private teaching, as else- 
where, but they could attend grammar schools kept by women, a pheno- 
menon apparently unique in Europe, and certainly without parallel in 
England. There were, apparently, 21 such schools in Paris about 1380, 
see Jourdain, 127. 


of the twenty years before the council of Constance, when the 
use of the vernacular languages for literature had been making 
great strides all over Europe, and had been applied even to the 
sacred books: while the consequent outburst of reinterpretation 
or heresy had not yet turned the attention of the orthodox to 
the need of severely limiting vernacular scriptures. It is re- 
markable that this should be the solitary instance^: especially 
as these didactic tracts must, from the nature of things, have 
been written for women who could read or write ; — in nearly all 
cases, they are dedicated to some one of exalted birth. The 
tracts help us also to estimate how low in the social scale' 
the abihty to read descended: one interesting manual, written 
between 1307 and 1315 in rhymed Provencal, actually discusses 
this question'^. The advice given in it is carefully graded accord- 
ing to the rank of the hearer; the daughters of kings and emperors 
are advised to learn to read and write well, because they will have 
later to govern many lands. The second class is formed of the 
daughters of marquises, dukes, counts and barons, — these also 
should be taught to read : while the third class, composed of the 
daughters of squires, judges, "solemn doctors" and gentlemen 
of similar rank, causes the writer great perplexity. Opinions 
differ, he says, as to whether they should be taught to read or 
write: but he himself decides in the negative. With the daugh- 
ters of merchants and craftsmen he has no difficulty at all: no 
one suggests that reading or writing would be good for them, or 
for the classes beneath them. Thus, while there are undoubted 
records of the making of bibhcal translations for orthodox 
princes and princesses in the middle ages, orthodox didactic 
manuals shew plainly that the reading of them was not a normal 
practice even among the educated laity, — a very small minority 
of the population. 

1 Apart from a tract of S. Jerome's, Miss Hentsch (38, S. Aldhelm's De 
laude virginitatis) gives no direct evidence that the nuns addressed read the 
Bible, as she imphes, p. 38, but merely shews that S. Aldhelm himself was 
very familiar with it. Instances of exhortation to the reading of devotional 
books, saints' Hves, etc., are on pp. 52, 133, 135, 150, 154, 181, 191, 199, 216, 
225. Neither S. Louis, writing c. 1271, nor Anne de France, the daughter of 
Louis XL writing c. 1504 advised their daughters to read the biblical text, 
though Anne specifies in some detail the books she advises: see id. 80, 199. 

- That of the much-travelled Italian, Francesco da Barberino, 1 264-1 348, 
id. 106. 


On the broad question of the popularisation of biblical trans- 
lations, their possession by unlettered or little lettered people, 
and their use for the instruction of unlettered people, the mind 
of the mediaeval Latin Church was never quite unanimous. The 
first time the question of the lawfulness of vernacular versions 
of the scriptures was raised was in connexion with the debatable 
land between the Eastern and Western Churches, and the real 
importance of the question was political: Greek or Slavonic 
offices or scriptures would draw the population towards the 
East, Latin towards the West. Bulgaria was Christianised from 
Byzantium and accepted Eastern Christianity in 869^; Moravia 
was also converted by missionaries of the Eastern Church, Cyril 
and Methodius, but Methodius went to Rome about 879, and 
obtained from John VIII permission to use Slavonic as the 
language of the Church; after which Moravia accepted Latin 
Christianity. Methodius had already translated parts of the 
Bible into Slavonic^, and papal permission was given both to 
use this version, and to sing mass and the divine office in 
Slavonic^. The Eastern Church continued to use vernacular 
scriptures and offices, — though the retention of Old Slavonic 
rendered them in time as little understandable to the un- 
educated* as Latin ones, — but the Latin Church withdrew the 
permission to use Slavonic as soon as her position in this district 
was firmly established. This withdrawal was the occasion of the 
first distinctively mediaeval pronouncement on the undesirability 
of biblical translations: but the main pronouncement was 
directed against vernacular offices. 

This occurs in a letter of Gregory VII to Vratislaus, king of 
Bohemia, written in 1079: it shews in germ the subsequent 
divided opinion of the Church at large, with the mass of ortho- 

1 Russian Church Hist., Frere, W. H., 1918, 4. 

2 Id. 10, 32; Eastern Church, Stanley, A. P., 1869, 310. 

» Acta Concil., Hardouin, J., Paris, 1714, vi. pt i. p. 86. " Nor is there any 
objection, against either singing mass in the Slavonic tongue, or reading 
the holy gospel, or the sacred lessons of the Old and New Testament, well 
translated and interpreted,. . .We command therefore, that in all the 
churches in your land, the gospel shall be read in Latin, for the greater 
honour: and afterwards read translated into the Slavonic tongue in the 
hearing of the people, who understand no Latin." In 879, id. 61, 
Methodius had been forbidden to celebrate mass in Slavonic. 

* See Frere, 89-94, for the struggle over the revision of the service books. 


doxy hostile to such a course. Vratislaus wrote to the pope to 
ask for permission for his monks to recite the divine office in 
Slavonic, and Gregory answered prohibiting such a measure. 
He gave as his reason for this, that such a course would necessi- 
tate the translation of portions of the divine scripture: 

Since your excellency has asked that we would allow the divine 
office to be said among you in Slavonic, know that we can by no 
means favourably answer this your petition. For it is clear to those 
who reflect often upon it, that not without reason has it pleased 
Almight\' God that holy scripture should be a secret in certain places, 
lest, if it were plainly apparent to all men, perchance it would be 
little esteemed and be subject to disrespect; or it might be falsely 
understood by those of mediocre learning, and lead to error. Nor does 
it avail as an excuse that certain religious men have patiently 
suffered the simple folk who asked for it, or have sent them away 
uncorrected : since the primitive Church allowed many things to pass 
unheeded, which, after Christianity had grown stronger, and when 
religion was increasing, were corrected by subtle examination. Where- 
fore we forbid what you have so imprudently demanded of the autho- 
rity of S. Peter, and we cominand you to resist this vain rashness with 
all your might, to the honour of Almighty God^. 

This refusal shews that there were already advocates of biblical 
translations, in so far as these were involved in the translation 
of the divine office^, in the persons of the religious whom Vratis- 
laus had quoted as favouring his request, which they did, no 
doubt, from missionary motives; but the hostile pronouncement 
of Gregory himself remained the opinion of the Church at large. 
The question of reciting the divine office in the vernacular was 
not of sufficient practical importance for this letter to be in- 
cluded in the Decretum of Gratian, so that it retained only the 
authority of an apostolic rescript : it had not, that is, universally 
binding canonical authority, but could be quoted as a prece- 

Gregory wrote this letter in 1079. Just a hundred j^ears later 
John Beleth, rector of the theological schools at Paris, composed 
his Rationale Divinorum Officiorum, which became the chief 
liturgical authority of the next century. He gave as the reason 

» PL 148, c. 555. 

- This consisted entirely of the psalms and biblical passages, apart from 
the hymns for the hours, and the patristic homilies at mattins. 
^ CE, article on Decretals, 


for his work, the general lack of understanding of the services, 
due to ignorance of Latin on the part of both priests and people. 
He begins: 

In the primitive Church it was prohibited that any should speak, 
unless there were some one to interpret. For what, I ask, does speech 
profit, if it is not understood ? Assuredly, nothing. Hence there grew 
in certain parts of the Church the laudable custom, that when the 
gospel had been read according to the letter [in Latin], forthwith it 
was explained to the people in the vulgar tongue. But what shall we 
say of our own times, if scarcely or not at all there may be found any 
man who understands what he reads or hears read, or who truly 
perceives what he sees done or does himself? We must lament with 
the prophet, etc.^ 

It is not clear whether Beleth here had in mind the old 
Galilean custom of translating the gospel at mass^, or whether 
he was referring to Eastern custom: but his long and detailed 
description of the reading of the gospel at mass shews that no 
such custom of translation obtained in his own day, in the 
Western Church. 

§ 2. The question of popular Bible reading for the laity did 
not arise till a hundred years after Gregory VII, though from 
that time onwards it was continuously demanded by heretical 
sects down to the Reformation. From the last quarter of the 
fourteenth century also it was advocated by a certain stream 
of orthodox opinion in central Europe. The original demand was 
connected with the rise of the Waldensians in southern France, 
about 1180. The century had already seen the rise of many 
heresies in southern Europe, some of the wilder ones due partly 
to Eastern influences, travelling with the returning crusaders; 
but the Waldensian movement was original, and, like the Lollard 
movement later, was based upon the desire to approximate the 
Christian polity to the more obvious features of apostolic Chris- 
tianity. It was inspired by the lay reading of the New Testa- 
ment. The Dominican inquisitor, Etienne de Bourbon, whose 
convent was at Lyons, describes how he knows of the origin of 
the Waldensians from a certain priest, rich and honoured in 

^ PL 202, c. 13 : for an O.F. translation, see Bull, de la soc. des anc. textes 
frang. 1884, p. 84, where "translated" in the prologue is rendered "en- 

* See p. 213 n. 


Lyons, called Bernardus Ydros, who wrote for money certain 
translations for Peter Waldo : 

A certain rich man of the city (Lyons), called Waldo, was curious 
when he heard the gospel read, since he was not much lettered, 
to know what was said. Wherefore he made a pact with certain priests, 
the one, that he should translate to him the Bible : the other, that he 
should write as the first dictated. Which they did ; and in like manner 
many books of the Bible, and many authorities of the saints, which 
they called Sentences. Which when the said citizen had often read 
and learned by heart, he proposed to observe evangelical perfection 
as the apostles observed it; and he sold all his goods, and despising 
the world, he gave all his money to the poor, and usurped the apos- 
tolic office by preaching the gospel, and those things which he had 
learned by heart, in the villages and open places, and by calling to him 
many men and women to do the same thing, and teaching them the 

gospel by heart Who indeed, being simple and illiterate men and 

women, wandered through villages and entered houses and preached 
in open places, and even in churches, and provoked others to the same 

When through their boldness, Etienne says, many errors arose, 
the archbishop of Lyons summoned them and forbade them to 
meddle with the scriptures, either by exposition or preaching. 
They were declared heretics and schismatics by the papal edict 
of Verona in 1184, and later at the fourth Lateran council of 
1215, but defied the excommunication of the Church, and con- 
tinued to travel about disguised in Provence and Lombardy, 
joining themselves to other heretics, — notably in Italy, with the 
Cathari or the Patarini. 

The account of another contemporary is interesting, since it 
is that of an Englishman who actually saw the earliest Walden- 
sian translations. Walter Map wrote his book, Dc Nugis 
Curialium, between the years 1181-1192^. He travelled to the 
third Lateran council in 1179, and tells us that: 

We saw the Waldensians at the council celebrated at Rome under 
pope Alexander III. They were simple and illiterate men, named 
after their leader, Waldo, who was a citizen of Lyons on the Rhone : 
and they presented to the lord pope a book written in the French 
tongue, in which were contained a text and gloss on the psalter, and 
on very many other books of both testaments. These besought with 

^ A nee. Hist. 291. 

"■ Walter Map, De Nugis Curialium, James, M. R., Oxford, 191 4, p. xxvi. 


great urgency that authority to preach should be confirmed to them, 
for they thought themselves expert, when they were scarcely learned 
at all. . . .For in every small point of the sacred page, so many meanings 
fly on the wings of virtue, such stores of wealth are accumulated, that 
only he can fully exhaust them whom God has inspired. Shall not 
therefore the Word given to the unlearned be as pearls before sivine, 
when we know them to be fitted neither to receive it, nor to give out 
what they have received ? Away with this idea, and let it be rooted 
out. The ointment ran down frotn the head, even to the skirts of his 
clothing: waters flow from the spring, not from the mud of public 

Map goes on to relate how he himself was set to examine two 
Waldensians, and soon exposed their lack of theological learning, 
b}'^ entrapping them into giving an answer to one of his questions, 
which though they did not know it, was heretical and Nestorian. 
His condemnation of the Waldensian desire to preach ^ certainly 
imphes that of the study of the divine "Word" by the un- 
learned^. The accounts of both Etienne de Bourbon and Map 
shew that there was no complete Waldensian translation of the 
Bible at this date^, but only those of particular books, probably, 
in most cases, with a gloss or comment ; the glossed psalter they 
presented was almost certainly the old Anglo-Norman psalter, 

^ De Nugis, 60. 

^ Waldensian "preaching" consisted largely of the recitation of passages 
of the gospels, etc., in the vernacular: see p. 39 for the evidence on this point 
of the record of the Inquisitor of Toulouse. 

' The manuscript from which the De Nugis Curialimn is edited belonged 
to John Wells, monk of Ramsey, who was for 13 years the prior of Glouces- 
ter Hall, the Benedictine college at Oxford, and died in 1388. He "deter- 
mined," or gave academic judgments, against both Wycliffe and Nicholas 
Hereford on certain theological points : and it is interesting to find that he 
was aware of the earlier papal refusal to countenance the Waldensian 
biblical translations. De Nugis, p. viii. 

* Berger, 35. Keller, 72. "Waldensian" as applied to a MS. may refer 
either to doctrinal or linguistic characteristics: in the first sense, the MS. 
may be either Provencal, Italian, Catalan, etc. No MS. of Waldo's original 
translations in the dialect of the Lyonnais remains to us; the earliest Pro- 
ven9al fragment is c. 1200 (Harl. 2928, which has 5 chapters of S. John, 
and the rest of the MS. liturgical). The Waldensians had however a 
Proven9al version in the thirteenth century, which remains to us, and which 
influenced the " Vaudois " or Piedmontese version of the fourteenth century, 
parts of which remain to us. V, Vaudoises [Versions']. The other early 
"Waldensian" translations which remain to us are a " Plenarium," or glossed 
Sunday epistles and gospels, from Metz, in the Lorraine dialect, see p. 30, 
and a thirteenth century old Italian, or Catharan, translation, see p. 43. 
There is also a thirteenth century Provencal gospel harmony, or life of 
Christ, La Nobla Leyczon, see Cat. of Ashburnham MSS. 1853, ^S- ^^°- 


and not a fresh translation in the Provencal dialect of the 
Lyonnais^; and, as the later Waldensians were never agreed as 
to the number of the canonical books^, and attached nothing 
like the same importance to a knowledge of the Old Testament 
as they did to the New, there never was a complete Waldensian 
translation. But there is no doubt that the right of the laity 
to draw inferences from a knowledge of the New Testament 
gained through translations was the foundation of the Walden- 
sian position. The Waldensian lower classes, like the orthodox 
lower classes, could not read : but extraordinary stress was laid 
on memorising parts of the New Testament, and Waldensian 
"sermons" often consisted of the recitation of such memorised 
passages: Waldensian "schools" or conventicles were gatherings 
where the slightly lettered, or the alread}^ taught, could teach 
such passages to others. As is often the case with those who have 
not been taught to read, their power of memory was very great, 
and all the Sunday gospels would often be learned by heart. 

As with the Lollards later, the extent to which individual 
Waldensians, or small groups of Waldensians, departed from 
orthodox teaching, differed very widely. They accepted the 
usual articles of the faith, or the creed, and the seven sacra- 
ments^, but some doubted of the validit}' of a sacrament ad- 
ministered by an unworthy minister. Some however, like the 
later Lollards, rejected the doctrine of transubstantiation, and 
the discipline of the Church as regards fasting and the necessity 
of confession. They ordained their own ministers or "magistri," 
and, according to Etienne de Bourbon, despised offerings to 
saints, plain song, and the divine office, saying that "they had 
seen God laugh at those who sang to Him what they wished to 
say*." By all Waldensians, the taking of an oath was regarded 
as forbidden by the New Testament, — a point through which 
they were often detected by the inquisitors, who administered 
the oath on the gospels before hearing their evidence. Many 
also were pacifists, holding it unlawful to take life in battle, or 
even in process of justice. They were not a completely unlettered 

1 Berger, 37. 2 Keller, 72. 

^ Cf . the statement on these points demanded from Waldensian ordinands : 
Walden. Ursprung, 9. 
* Anec. Hist. 297. 


party^, for there is evidence that some orthodox priests^ and 
many Franciscan tertiaries^ joined them; certainly some lay 
nobles were "hereticated" or admitted as Waldensian magistri, 
and others protected them"*; the archbishop of Metz denounced 
two Waldensian masters of arts and a certain "scholasticus" from 
the pulpit^. There was communication also between the heads 
of the movement in France, Italy and Spain^, and it seems likely 
that the heretical " schools " at Milan gave some more intellectual 
teaching than the instruction in the text of the gospels afforded 
by every little midnight meeting of Waldensians; one convert 
from Waldensianism who became a Dominican and an inquisitor 
had attended them for eighteen years'. But nevertheless, 
Waldensianism never gained a hold at any university, as the 
Lollard movement did in its earlier stages at Oxford. The in- 
struction of the laity was carried on by the "magistri" or by the 
laity themselves, and chiefly by means of vernacular gospels, 
epistles, and other bibhcal books: by means of which the 
. Waldensian teachers, "arguing falsely from the letter," as their 
opponents said, supported the main points of their doctrine. It 
was for this reason that vernacular Bibles and vernacular 
"scriptures," in the wider mediaeval sense, were burned by in- 

1 For the dispute as to the learning of Waldensians somewhat later, see 
Die Waldenser und die vorliitherische deutsche Bibeliibersetzung. Jostes, F., 
Miinster, 1885, 7-, and Walden. Ur sprung, 1-7. 

2 Lib. Sent. Thol. 253; IValden. Ursprung, 16. 

3 The tertiaries on the Rhine were infected with Waldensianism, see p. 70 , 
and in Spain were forbidden to read vernacular scriptures, see p. 49. For 
heretical tertiaries, probablj' rather "spiritual Franciscans" than Walden- 
sians, see Lib. Sent. Thol. 298, 299, 301, 381. 

* Anon, of Passau in MBPV, xiii. 299, of the Waldensians: "there was 
none who dared to hinder them, on account of the power and number of 
those who supported them." David of Augsburg says that in 1250 a power- 
ful prince joined them, Walden. Ursprung, 7. Cf. also Robert, dauphin of 
Auvergne, 1^234, who wrote Provengal verse, and diligently collected and 
read all the books of the heretics, — only, as he affirmed to the Dominican 
inquisitor who visited him, to render himself the firmer in the catholic faith; 
he submitted finally to making a bonfire of his library, since the Dominicans 
were not satisfied with his explanation. Anec. Hist. 276. In the A nn. Trevir. 
II. 106, the success of the Waldensians in Metz about 1207 is ascribed to civil 

6 Id. 106. 

8 The "magistri" at Metz in 1208 came from the Pyrenees, Ann. Trevir. 
II. 106, while the connexion between the heretics of Provence and Lombardy 
was close. 

• He had learnt by heart the N.T. and much of the O.T. Anec. Hist. 280. 


quisitors, and prohibited by archbishops and provincial synods 
wherever Waldensianism spread: not because the translations 
were themselves regarded as false or heretical^, as was the case 
with the Reformation versions. 

The original cradle of Waldensianism in France was the 
Lyonnais: from hence it spread into two chief areas, Lorraine 
and the border district between France and the Empire, where 
the division of secular power was favourable to its existence: 
and south-westward into the Mediterranean provinces of France, 
particularly the bishoprics of Toulouse and Narbonne. After the 
original suppression of the Waldensians at Lyons c. 1180-90, 
the next great repressive effort was made against the towns of 
Lorraine, from about 1192-1208; and the next, and never per- 
fectly successful effort, in the south of France, from about 1229 

The most important papal decision in the middle ages con- 
cerning biblical translations was connected with the repressive 
measures in Lorraine. In 1192 these began in Toul, where the 
archbishop ordered all the heretics called "Vaudois" to be 
brought in chains before his episcopal seat^. B3' 1199 they had 
become dangerous also in Metz, for a chronicler says that : 

There was also breeding and swarming in the city of Metz a sect 
called Waldensians, and certain abbots were sent there to preach, 
who burnt certain books translated from Latin into Romance, and 
extirpated the aforesaid sect^. 

In July 1199 the archbishop wrote to Innocent III, to obtain 
confirmation of the repressive measures he wished to take. 
Innocent answered with two letters, one to the faithful at Metz, 
one personally to the archbishop. In the first he deplored that 

^ Writers against the Waldensians like Etienne de Bourbon and Alain de 
Lisle make no accusation of the falsity of their translations; the Anon, of 
Passau is the only writer who accuses the translators of inaccuracy through 
insufi&cient learning, MBVP, xiii. 299, and he does not suggest that their 
mistranslations had any doctrinal significance. 

2 Martene, Thes. iv. 1180; cf. Berger, 39. 

' Chronica Albrici, Mon. Germ., Script, xxiii. 878. Chaire Fran. 238, on 
the strength of Innocent Ill's letter to the archbishop of Metz in 1 199 about 
Waldensian translations, has the sentence: "Before 1 199 translations of the 
gospels and epistles, accompanied by commentaries, circulated in certain 
dioceses [of France]," which is misleading, as implying an orthodox origin 
of the practice, and omitting to mention the subsequent burning of the 
translations by the papal inquisitors. See also p. 39 n. 


certain heretics had resisted their parish priests, alleging reasons 
from the scriptures^: 

The bishop of Metz has signified to us that both in his city and in 
his diocese a multitude of laj^men and women, led to a large extent by 
a desire of understanding the scriptures, have had translated for 
themselves the gospels, epistles of S. Paul, the psalter, the moralisa- 
tion on Job'-, and many other books in the French tongue. They 
intend that with this translation, made thus at their own discretion 
(would that it had been made with prudence as well), laymen and 
women shall presume to hold forth on such matters, and to preach to 
each other. . . . Now although the desire of understanding holy scrip- 
tures, and zeal for exhorting in accordance with them, is not to be 
reprehended but rather commended, yet in this matter certain 
laymen appear to be justly accused: because they hold secret con- 
venticles, usurp to themselves the office of preaching, elude the sim- 
plicity of priests, and scorn the company of those who cling not to 
these things. . . .The secret mysteries of the faith ought not therefore 
to be explained to all men in all places, since they cannot be every- 
where understood by all men: but only to those who can conceive 
them with a faithful mind ; for what says the apostle to simple people? 
Even as babes in Christ I have fed you ivith milk and not with meat. . . . 
For such is the depth of divine scripture, that not only the simple 
and illiterate, but even the prudent and learned, are not fully suffi- 
cient to try to understand it. For many seek and fail in their search^, 
whence it was of old rightly written in the divine law, that the beast 
which touched the mount should be stoned: lest, apparently, any simple 
and unlearned person should presume to attain to the sublimity of holy 
scripture. . . . Seek not out the things that are above thee. For what says 
the apostle? Not to think ^nore highly than one ought to think, but to 
think soberly. . . . Although learning is most necessary for priests for the 
sake of teaching,. . .nevertheless simple priests ought not to be des- 
pised, even by scholastics, since the priestly ministry ought to be 
honoured in them. 

In any case, Innocent concluded, the office of reproving un- 
suitable priests did not belong to the laity, and he exhorted the 
faithful to withdraw themselves from such errors, lest severer 
measures should be taken. At the same time, he wrote to the 
archbishop, warning him against either tolerating heretical 
pravity, or trying to gather in the tares before the harvest, and 

^ PL 214, CO. 695-9. Dated 12 July, 1199; fipistolarum Innocentii III, 
Baluzius, S., 1682, torn. i. p. 432. 

^ The work of Gregory the Great. 

' An often quoted version of psalm 64, 6 (Vulgate, 63, 7), Quia multi 
dsfecerunt scrutantes scrittinio. 


especially lest impatience should turn the misguided zeal of un- 
lettered men into heresy. He asked for further information 
about the way of life of these heretics who held secret conven- 
ticles, and especially about the origin of the biblical translation, 
before taking further steps: 

We are completely ignorant of the opinions and way of life of those 
who have thus translated the holy scriptures, or of those who teach 
them this translation (neither of which could be done without a 
knowledge of letters). . . . Warn them to desist from those things which 
appear blameworthy, and not to clairti for themselves the office of 
others. Enquire diligentl}^ who was the author of this translation ; 
what was his intention: the faith of those who use it: the reason of 
their teaching : whether they venerate the apostolic see and the catho- 
lic Church : so that ... we may the better understand what ought to 
be decreed. 

We do not possess the archbishop's answer, giving Innocent 
the required information, but it must have been sent between 
July and December 1199, for on December 9th Innocent issued 
a commission to the abbot of Citeaux and two other Cistercian 
abbots, to assist the archbishop of Metz in suppressing heresy^. 
This commission throws much light on the interpretation his 
earlier letter to Metz had been given by contemporaries, as con- 
demning the lay use of vernacular scriptures: the three abbots 
were so certain he had condemned them that they burnt all 
biblical translations found in the hands of the Vaudois^. The long 
string of quotations, "Cast not pearls before swine,... Seek not out 
the things ivhich are above thee," had been taken as discountenan- 
cing the use of the Waldensian translations, as they were probably ■ 
intended to do. This was in accordance with the whole tenor of 
the letter: and indeed, Innocent, in his commission to the three 
abbots, spoke as if he had already condenmed the translation, 
though he had actually only condemned its users. He told the 
abbots that at Metz: 

No small multitude of laymen and women presume to hold forth 
among themselves at secret conventicles, in order to learn a certain 
translation of holy scripture, . . . even when prohibited : they despise 
those who differ from them, and study the said translation as much as 

^ PL 214, c. 699. 

2 Alberic de Trois Fontaines, in Mon. Germ., Scriptores, xxiii. 878. 


heretofore. They are to be condemned for holding secret conventicles 
. . . and refusing the fellowship of those who do not receive the said 

The abbots were to go to Metz, and, with the archbishop, 
summon before them "those who favour these things and 
adhere to the aforesaid translation^" — with the result that 
they burnt all that they could find of such books. 

The measures taken, however, were not completely successful; 
in I20I the pope sent the cardinal bishop, Guido of Praeneste, 
to Cologne as his legate, to aid in suppressing heresy^, and in 
1207-8 archbishop Bertram of Metz again had trouble with the 
Waldensians, particularly with two "magistri" and a "scholas- 
ticus" who had travelled to Metz from the Pyrenees*. From 
Metz and Lorraine the heretics spread into the Empire, where 
they were found in considerable numbers in Strassburg in 1211, 
in Bavaria and Austria in 1218, and at Trier and Mainz in 1231. 

The part played by Innocent in dealing with the Waldensians 
at Metz is of great interest. He displayed a broader mindedness 
than the local archbishop^, but ended by confirming what the 
latter desired: the suppression of the translation. His letters dealt 
with "vernacular scriptures" in the wider sense, but included 
the translation of biblical books, since it explicitly mentioned 
their names; there was no written prohibition, but the whole 
tenor of the letter, with its string of citations, "Cast not pearls 
before swine," etc., was hostile. There seems no doubt that at 
the tim.e Innocent's letters were regarded as giving papal sanc- 
tion to the condemnation of biblical translation ; contemporaries 
interpreted the first letter by the action of the three abbots who 

^ This was not wonderful, since all the faithful were bidden to report 
cases of heresy among their numbers to their parish priests. The recantation 
of a heretic before the inquisition had to be accompanied by whatever 
information he possessed about his fellow heretics, or those whom he had, 
at the time, "beheved to be good and honest men." 

2 All three letters of Innocent deal with the subject of lay preaching, as 
much as lay study of the scriptures: but this sentence, and the whole letter, 
shew that the primary mark of the Waldensians was that they used a 
certain translation of the scriptures, and taught it to each other verbally in 
secret conventicles. See pp. 38-41. 

^ Ann. Trevir. 11. 98. ■* Id. 11. 106. 

* P. Mandonnet believes that the Curia was always more favourable than 
the local bishops to popular religious rhovements among laymen, as in this 
case: see V, 11. 1467. 

D.w.B. 3 


were Innocent's commissioners. These had been told to summon 
before them — first in the Hst of heretical symptoms — "those 
who favour these things and adhere to the aforesaid translation " ; 
as the Metz chronicler says, "they burnt certain books trans- 
lated from Latin into Romance^, and extirpated the aforesaid 

Part of Innocent's letter of 1199 was embodied in the Decretal 
of Gregory IX and became of universal canonical application: 
but the string of citations, "Cast not pearls before swine," etc., 
was omitted, and the letter, known as Cum ex injuncto^ became 
chiefly a prohibition of conventicles and lay preaching. As such 
it was interpreted by the official commentators^, without direct 
reference to the subject of biblical translations. In this form it 
was known to the inquisition and all canonists: and yet in- 
quisitors acted on the theory that biblical translations were 
forbidden, and other theologians stated as a fact of common know- 
ledge that it was canonically forbidden to the laity to have the 
sacred books in the vernacular*. Thirteenth century inquisitors 
certainl}^ burnt or confiscated biblical translations wherever they 
found them, not only in those provinces where their possession 
was expressl)' forbidden b}^ the local synod. It is therefore very 

1 French, not German ; the dialect of Lorraine. Berger beheves, with great 
probability, that the translations of the "epistles and gospels " was that of 
the Sunday epistles and gospels. He believes that an existent early thirteenth 
plenary (for plenary, see infra p. 39, n. 4) in the Lorraine dialect, 
of Messine provenance, was one of these Waldensian books. Berger, 40. 
We possess also an early thirteenth century manuscript of the Moralities 
on Job of S. Gregory, in a dialect very near to that of the Lorraine dialect 
of the plenary; id. 42. " Romance" in Godefroi, Dictionnaire de I'Ancienne 
Langue frangaise, is defined as having two meanings, (1) French as opposed 
to Latin, (2) a work in the vulgar tongue of any Latin nation. Thus 
the earl of Warwick bequeathed in 1359 his library of "romances," including 
French gospels and a psalter, etc. [Bibliom. 193) ; and the synod of Tarragona, 
1 233, absolutely forbade the possession of the Bible in " Romance," probably 
referring either to Catalan, or Proven9al, or the vulgar tongue; cf. p. 48, n. i. 
In nearly all cases, however, "Romance" means vernacular French. 

^ Corpus luris Canonici, Friedberg, A., Leipzig, 1881, pars ii. c. 785; 
= Decretal. Gregor. IX, lib. v. tit. vii. cap. xii. 

' For convenience, see them as cited (the Glossa ordinaria, Hostiensis, and 
Johannes Andreae) by the inquisitor general of the kingdom of Aragon, 
the Franciscan E3'^meric. He completed his famous manual, the Directoriuni 
I iiquisitorum, in 1376; for the Cum ex injuncto and glosses, see F. Pegna's 
1607, Venice, ed. of Eymeric's Direct. Inq., index of glossators; also pp. loo 
and 565, where Pegna gives the full form of Innocent's letter, though Eymeric 
comments only on the Cum ex injuncto. * See p. 84. 


difficult not to believe that Innocent Ill's letter of 1199 was one 
of the foundations of the action of the inquisitors and the behef 
of the theologians. It was available as a precedent in its original 
hostile form till the pontificate of Gregory IX, and, although 
incorporated in its less hostile form in this pope's Decretal, it was 
rendered unnecessary by the prohibition of Toulouse during this 
pontificate. This prohibition was of wider than provincial 
application, and specially confirmed by the presence of Gregory 
IX's legate. The powers there granted to the inquisition were 
generally mentioned in the commissions of later inquisitors as 
granted to them also, in addition to particular ones given at the 
time : so that, after 1229, inquisitors who found the use of bibhcal 
translations giving rise to heresy could have suppressed them in 
reliance on this and later pro\dncial constitutions, even if they 
were not aware of the full form of Innocent Ill's letter to Metz. 
It was not till 1398 that certain Dutch lawyers, writing out of 
opposition to the inquisition, boldly claimed that the Cum ex 
injuncto itself implied a commendation of German books of 
edification, in the words "the desire of understanding holy 
scriptures and... exhorting in accordance with them is not to 
be reprehended but rather commended^" 

Waldensianism spread from Metz not only into the Empire, 

1 During the struggle over the lawfulness of vernacular Bibles, and their 
promiscuous reading by the laity, at the Reformation, this letter of Inno- 
cent III was expUcitly'quoted as a "Decree" forbidding such translations 
and use. Luther printed his German New Testament in 152 1 : Erasmus wrote 
in defence of popular Bible reading: and the theological faculty in Paris 
condemned his propositions in 1527. They said that his refusal to prohibit 
the laity from reading any book of the O.T. was rash and impudent, since 
by a decree of the apostolic see the reading of many such books was "long 
ago" prohibited to the laity: the same causes for prohibiting their reading 
still existed, as when Innocent III drew up a "decree" about these matters 
(a fragment of which is incorporated in his own words in the De haereticis. 
as the Cum ex injuncto). Erasmus answered that if the decree of that pope, 
or any other, had at any time been issued against the rashness of men, he 
did not consider that it was now binding on the whole Church. See also 
p. ion. Harney, 214, says of this letter of Innocent III: "Neither then nor 
since has there been any constitution which apphes to the whole Church, 
directly and clearly, in this matter; but Spaniards took measures for Spain, 

Frenchmen for France, Belgians for the Netherlands To speak strictly 

Tof the Cum ex injuncto], it does not touch the matter in hand, for the pope 
did not (there at least) censure the reading of scripture by the laity in the 
vulgar tongue, or forbid women to read it in any medium: but he con- 
demned their reading it, if it led to the despising of priests, or the usurpation 
of the office of preaching." 



but westward into the He de France. In 1210 the archbishop of 
Sens, Pierre de Corbeil, the bishop of Paris, and certain other 
bishops, issued an edict for the burning of certain heretics, and 
the confiscation of all books of a theological nature written in 
French : 

We command concerning books of theological nature written in 
Romance, that they shall be handed over to the diocesan bishops, 
including Credos and Paternosters in Romance (except lives of the 
saints), and this before the feast of the Purification ; and that all their 
possessors shall be regarded as hereticaP. 

There is no record that the edict was promulgated at a pro- 
vincial synod: Paris, Sens and Metz were not far distant from 
each other, and the edict seems to have been issued in accordance 
with the measures taken bj- papal authority to suppress heresy 
at Metz. 

The alarming development of heresy in the south of France 
had given rise to the labours of the Dominican order, and the 
efforts of these friars were, throughout the thirteenth and 
fourteenth centuries, chiefly responsible for its repression, 
partly by personal preaching, partly by raising the standard of 
theological education through their "studia," partly by a 
vigorous use of the powers of the inquisition. In 1229 a synod 
was held at Toulouse : the see was not yet an archbishopric, but 
the synod was of far wider than provincial authority 2, for its 
decrees were confirmed by the archbishops of Narbonne, Bor- 
deaux and Auch, many bishops and other prelates, and — more 
important still — by the legate of the apostolic see, Bonaventura, 
cardinal deacon of S. Angelo; also by the count of Toulouse and 
many secular barons. It was decreed that": 

Lay feople shall not have books of scripture, except the psalter and 
the divine office : and they shall not have these hooks in the vulgar tongue. 
Moreover we prohibit that lay people should be permitted to have 

1 Chartularium Universitatis Parisiensis, Denifle, H., Paris, 1889, 1. 70. 

2 H. Reusch, in his l72dex der Verbotenen Biicher, Bonn, 1883, has a good 
and clear section on mediaeval prohibitions of biblical translations in synods, 
but underrates the authority of the synod of Toulouse, and ignores the de- 
crees at Beziers: cf. i. 43. He was also unaware of the prohibition at Trier, 
1 23 1, and the imperial edict of 1369. For emphasis on the papal confirma- 
tion of the edicts of Toulouse, see Harney, 183, who says the synod was of 
"greater than provincial authority," and Hegelmaier, 135. 

* Mansi, xxiii. 197. 


books of the Old or New Testament, except perchance any should 
wish from devotion to have a psalter, or a breviary for the divine 
office, or the hours of the blessed Virgin: but we most strictly pro- 
hibit their having even the aforesaid books translated into the vulgar 

There is evidence that the severe decrees of Toulouse and 
Paris were not merely regarded as exceptional local measures 
to deal with heresy. The Dominican order itself was not limited 
to any locality, and its rules would bind men of all nationalities, 
but a learned Dominican of the seventeenth century himself 
points out "that he could not doubt that it was according to 
the spirit of S. Dominic, and of this council, that it was decreed 
in the Dom.inican constitutions, distinction 2, cap. 15, text. 3, 
that the lay brothers should not have a psalter," since the order 
of friars preacher was instituted in the same region at the same 
time^. That individual preachers made some effort to translate 
books of edification, probably not the biblical text itself, is 
shewn however by the general prohibition of such action issued 
by the Dominican chapter-general in 1242, at Bologna, in the 
words 2; 

Neither shall any brother for the future translate sermons, or colla- 
tions, or other holy scriptures. 

The words do not imply that the prohibition was inspired by 
a previous translation of the canonical books themselves, but 
it doubtless covered them; the context shews also that such 
translations of holy books as had been made, were for the use 
of houses of nuns or tertiaries. The Dominicans at the time were 

' Harney, 1S4. 

- For the decree, see Martene, Thes. iv. c. 1684, Reichert's Mon. 
Ord. Fratrum Predica. iii. 24. For German Dominicans and nunneries, 
see p. 77. There is no evidence that in this case the Dominican translations 
had been inspired by general missionary zeal for the instruction of the faith- 
ful laity. Though missionaries such as the friars had doubtless more occasion 
than other classes to consider the expedient of biblical translations, such 
an expedient was not encouraged by orthodoxy in the thirteenth and four- 
teenth centuries. In 131 1 it was enacted, for the furtherance of the con- 
version of Jews and heathen, that two professors should be appointed at the 
Roman Curia, Oxford, Bologna and Salamanca, skilled in Hebrew, Arabic 
and Chaldean, to translate books in these tongues into Latin, for the sake 
of those who should eventually be missionaries to such peoples: but no 
provision or mention was made for providing translations of the Vulgate 
into any foreign tongue. Gieseler, iv. 195. For the keeping of the decree see 
Eng. Franc. Hist. 217. 


anxious that the brothers should not waste their energies by the 
direction of convents of sisters: some provinces continued this 
pohcy, though in Germany there was a marked change later in 
the century. 

A long hst of anti-heretical measures was again issued by the 
provincial council for Narbonne, held at Beziers in 1246. 
Chapter xxxvi enacted that certain officials 

Shall see that it is rigorously carried out that theological books 
shall not be kept, either by the laity in Latin, or by them or by clerks 
in the vulgar tongue. The penalties for the aforesaid matters shall 
be, etc.... and they shall extirpate all other things which tend to 

In view of the evidence given before inquisitors, "theological 
books " in this clause was certainly held to cover bibhcal trans- 
lations. This is clearly shewn by the account which Etienne de 
Bourbon, himself an inquisitor, gives of the heretics of south 
France, about the period of the synods of Toulouse and Beziers^. 
The signs by which heretics may be known, he says, are first, 
their presumptuous and unwarrantable usurpation of the office 
of preaching, and teaching of holy doctrine. 

And especially of the gospels and other books of the New Testament, 
which they learn firmly by heart in the vernacular, and mumble the 

one to the other For when they approach the house of simple 

men (for they shun the able and the learned), they say they know 
some good prayers, and they have fair forms of prayer, which they first 
say and teach, and then the gospel in the vulgar tongue, which they 
tell and go over according to the literal text, not merely expounding 
the honest meaning of the words, whenever they find those who are 
curious and willing to learn. For I myself have seen a young cowherd, 
who for the space of only a year stayed in the house of a certain 
Waldensian heretic, who learned by heart and retained with such 
diUgent attention and careful repetition in his mind what he heard, 
that within that year he had learnt and remembered forty of the 
Sunday gospels (without counting the feast days), and he had learnt 
all these in his own tongue word for word, apart from other words of 
sermons and prayers. For I have seen some lay people who were so 
imbued with their teaching, that they could repeat by heart much of 
the evangeUsts, as for instance Matthew or Luke, and especially those 
things which are said there of the instruction and words of the Lord, 
so that they would hardly miss a word there, but repeat them in order : 

1 Mansi, xxni. 724. ^ 1229 and 1246; Etienne died in 1261. 


which matter I relate because of their diligence in evil, and the negli- 
gence of catholics in good, for very many are so unmindful of their 
soul and their salvation, that they scarcely know their Paternoster 
or Credo, or teach them to their families^. 

That the decisions of Toulouse and Beziers continued in force 
is also shewn in the register of Bernard Gui, who was vicar of the 
Dominican province of Toulouse, and "inquisitor general of 
heretical pravity in the kingdom of France, and specially in the 
parts about Toulouse"^" from i6 Jan. 1307 to 1323, — a man who 
between 1308 and 1323 pronounced 930 sentences as inquisitor, 
and sent 114 heretics to the flames 3. In the confessions of the 
Waldensians, — not the only heretical sect dealt with, — there are 
several explicit references to the reading of translations, gener- 
ally of the epistles and gospels: several references which shew 
that the reading of such books was the sign by which the de- 
ponent recognised the reader as a heretic: and very numerous 
references to the reading of Waldensian books whose nature is 
not specified, though analysis of the confessions shews that they 
were the same described by other members of the conventicle as 
"epistles and gospels." A certain Bernard of Toulouse confessed 
that he had seen two heretics, father and son, in his house, and 
heard the son " read in a certain book of the gospels and epistles, 
as he said"; another woman heard the same two heretics read 
the gospels and epistles from a certain book * ; others heard them 

^ Anec. Hist. 307-9. ^ Lib. Sent. Thol. 273, 279. 

' Les freres prtcheurs en Gascogne, Paris, 1885, 386. 

* Lib. Sent. Thol. 10. It is noteworthy that in this inquisitor's record, as 
in AM and elsewhere, reference is so often made to the use of "gospel and 
epistle books," or what were later loosely called " plenaries," by the heretics: 
Etienne de Bourbon expressly states that they learned "the Sunday gospels 
and epistles" by heart. This shews that the argument sometimes put for- 
ward that particular manuscript plenaries could not have been made for 
use by French or German Waldensians, or Lollards, because they set no 
store on liturgical books, is false: the evidence shews again and again that 
books of liturgical gospels and epistles were the form in which Bible reading 
heretics used the sacred text more often than not. Foxe, in AM, iv. 201, is 
naivel}^ surprised that the heretic Hun, who possessed a Lollard Bible 
with the heretical prologue, and was formally condemned after death, went 
to daily mass. No doubt many early Waldensians and Lollard heretics did 
the same, or, at least, went on Sundays and festivals. The Lollard Purvey 
would scarcely have agitated for the reading of a translation of the liturgical 
gospels and epistles at mass (see p. 272), if he had not contemplated the 
attendance of his followers. The word "plenary" is derived from liber 
plenaries, missale plenarium, which in the ninth century denoted the com- 


also "read in a certain book." Another man first suspected an- 
other of heresy from "seeing him reading in a certain book. . . 
and he heard him speak excellently about God, and from the 
epistles and gospels^," and a woman heard another heretic "read 
many words from the epistles and gospels^." A certain William 

went to a house with others and sat round the fire, and there was 
there a certain man whom he did not know, and then that man pulled 
out a certain book and read many words from the book, and it seemed 
to him that the words were from the gospels, and immediately when 
he, William, heard this, he thought and believed that that man was 
one of the heretics^. 

Two others confessed that the Waldensians "preach from the 
gospels and epistles and other sacred scriptures, which they cor- 
rupt by their explanation like masters of error who know not 
how to be disciples of truth, since preaching and exposition of 
holy scripture is completely forbidden to laymen *." A priest who 
had joined the Waldensians, and was afterwards burnt as a 
relapsed heretic, confessed that he had associated with Walden- 
sians, and that "he knew and saw and heard that the Walden- 
sians preach sometimes after supper at night from the gospels 
and epistles in the vulgar tongue^." Another man "had seen in 
the house of his father and mother a certain old man, whom he 
did not know, and in the presence of himself and others of the 
household the old man drew out a certain book and began read- 
ing to them many words ^." A woman saw two men sitting in a 
certain house by firelight, and one of them said holy words, and 
then the other opened a book, and read many words from it; 
and one of them told her that they were friends of God, and then 
she suspected their actions, because of their words, and because 
they read from the book '. The heretics often confessed merely 

plete Latin missal, with the sacramentarium, graduate and lectionarium. 
By the thirteenth century, however, the name had come to mean collections 
of Sunday or feast day epistles and gospels, without the mass prayers, and 
very often with glosses, or comments (postillae). Such plenaries were some- 
times in the vernacular, and were for private use only: there was never an 
official issue of a Latin or vernacular plenary. See Plenarien in HH. 

» Lib. Sent. Thol. 23. 2 /^. 113. 3 /^ i_^8. 

* Id. 264. 5 Id. 254. 6 7^_ 106. 

' Id. 108. The use of the term "friend of God " of a Waldensian at Tou- 
louse before 1261 is interesting: they probablj' had some influence on the 
" Friends of God " in the Empire in the next century. See p. 75. " Friend of 
God" is also the meaning of "Bogomil," — a Bulgarian heretic. 


that they had heard Waldensian preaching, or, in the usual 
formula, "heard their words, admonitions and preaching": but 
the entries shew that this preaching consisted very largely of 
Bible reading. One man went to the house of a certain old man, 
a heretic, " and heard there his preaching, which he used to read 
in a certain book^"; "the younger heretic used to read in a 
certain book those words which he said and taught^." Another 
man has been in the cellar of a certain house by moonlight, and 
heard one of the heretics who was reading in a certain book some 
words about God^. Many other entries state that he or she "had 
seen the heretic reading in a book," or had themselves "read in 
the books of the heretics*" : in any case, the register shews that 
the reading of biblical translations was regarded as very serious 
evidence of heresy. 

§ 3. Three points stand out in connexion with the history of 
popular Bible reading in Italy. First, the Waldensians and a 
kindred sect were strong in Lombardy, and it is generally 
admitted that existent manuscripts of Italian biblical trans- 
lations go back to versions made and popularised by them early 
in the thirteenth century 5; this is not disputed, as it is for 
instance in the case of the earhest German versions. Secondly, 
we have no evidence of the express prohibition of such versions 
by any Italian synod. Thirdly, since the inquisition was used 
against the Bible reading heretics in Italy as well as France and 
Germany in the thirteenth century, it is not likely that Romance 
versions were considered suitable for the laity earlier than in any 
other European country. 

The Waldensians spread from the south of France into Italy 
at an early date, dnd very soon coalesced with the existent 
Lombard heretics, known as the Cathari^ or Patarini. The 
Patarini had originally, about 1085, been an orthodox party in 
Milan, the followers of the deacon Arialdus, an extreme opponent 
of clerical marriage. Manichaean heresy had, however, existed 

1 Lib. Sent. Thol. 112. - Id. 140. » /^ 107. 

* Cf. id. pp. 10, 12, 54, 61, 66, loi, no, 137, 138, 170, 180, 186, 197; for 
•a man who made a burse to carry a heretic's book, p. 50; for those who took 
charge of heretics' books, pp. 50, 170, 186, 197. 

5 Cf. S. Berger, La Bible italienne au moyen age, Rom. xxill. (1894), 
358-431; and V, Italieiines [Versions], in. 1018, 1020. 

« Cathari =the original of the German " ketzer" or heretic. 


both in eastern and western Europe from S, Augustine's day, 
and about 1150 Italian heretics of this type, the Cathari, 
appropriated the name Patarini, and became partly confounded 
with them; similar Manichaean or dualistic sects existed in the 
Balkans as the Bogomils, or "friends of God," and in France 
as the Albigensians. The Cathari or Patarini had already been 
condemned as heretical by the decree of the third Lateran 
council of 1179^, when Peter Waldo had presented his trans- 
lations, and asked in vain for confirmation of his way of life. 
He and his followers were not condemned as heretics in the 
decrees of this council: but in 11 84^ Lucius III did condemn 
both the "poor men of Lyons," and the Itahan Cathari, and 
ordered the setting up of an inquisition for heresy in each parish 
of the infected districts, both in France and Italy. From this 
time there was very close connexion between the Waldensians 
and the Cathari, and they were for a time united in one organisa- 
tion. The Cathari, however, owing to original Manichaean 
influence, always tended to deviate more widely from orthodoxy 
than the Waldensians : but they borrowed from them a devotion 
to the study of vernacular versions of the Bible. The Walden- 
sians seem, in return, to have borrowed from them the sacrament 
of the "consolamentum," by which a postulant was "haereti- 
cated" or "made perfect": at this ceremony S. John's gospel 
was laid on the postulant's head, with certain prayers, and he 
became a Waldensian elder, bound to a life of poverty and 
preaching. The Cathari in Lombardy, hke the Waldensians, 
held "schools" or conventicles for the memorising of the gospel 
text, etc., and their headquarters at Milan, — the original home 
of the Patarini, — formed the most famous of all the so-called 
Waldensian schools. The emperor Otto IV, on his way to Rome 
in 1209 to receive the imperial crown, issued at the prayer of the 
bishop of Turin an imperial edict against the "heretical Walden- 
sians, and all who sow the tares of falsehood in the diocese of 
Turin ^," — tares that were sown by the same methods as in 
Provence and Lorraine. 

1 Mansi, xxii. 231. ^ Id. xxii. 476. 

' Monumenta Historiae Patriae, edita iussu Regis Caroli Alberti, Turin, 
1840, IV. 487; " zizaniam seminant falsitatis": ecclesiastical comparisons of 
heretics to "tares" go back much earher than papal or episcopal compari- 
sons of Lollard and lolium, cf. pp. 31, 83. 


The group of translations which was the result of heretical 
propaganda was made about the middle of the thirteenth cen- 
tury, and is based, as can be seen from the arrangement of their 
chapters, on a family of Latin manuscripts which were not used 
in the fourteenth or fifteenth centuries^. They are not due to 
any one translator, but are of a popular character; we possess 
mid-fourteenth century manuscripts, the marginal notes of 
which indicate lay ownership or even authorship. The earliest 
existent translations are an early thirteenth century copy of the 
gospels in old Italian, with portions of a Catharan ritual 2. The, 
earliest Italian psalters are fourteenth century, and are based 
on the old Norman psalter, which was one of the biblical books 
presented to the pope at the third Lateran,in 1179^. The Tuscan 
or Lombardic gospels are clearly founded on the Waldensian 
Provengal texts, even following the Provengal when that departs 
from the Vulgate rendering'*; the same is the case with the 
Tuscan texts of the Acts, Pauline and Catholic epistles, and the 
Apocalypse. There is no evidence for the possession of these 
translations by orthodox lay people in the thirteenth century, 
but we have a copy of the gospels copied by a political prisoner 
in 1369 at the request of a Venetian nobleman^, and other 
slightly later manuscripts copied by laymen. The earliest case 
of work by a friar upon a translation is that of Domenico 
Cavalca, who died in 1342, and who added a gloss to an already 
existent translation of the Acts of the Apostles^: there is no 
evidence, however, that he intended it for lay use. There is 
other e\ddence that in the fifteenth century the friars possessed 
copies or wrote modernised versions of the old Italian texts. 
The evidence, however, is much too scanty for such a statement 
as that the friars were the chief agents in popularising biblical 
translations in Italy in the middle ages: we actually know only 

i-V, III. 1015. * Id. V. 774. 

' Id. III. 1020; Berger, 77. * V, in. 1020. 

6 Rom. XXIII. 387; V, III. 1018. 

* V, III. 1017. This article on lialiennes [Versions] contradicts itself on 
pp. 1016 and I022 as to the work of Dominicans on the Bible in the thir- 
teenth and fourteenth centuries. There is no mention in the earlier list 
of translators to justify the statement "that towards the end of the thir- 
teenth century the translation of the O.T., apart from the psalms and the 
sapiential books, was exclusively the work of certain Franciscans or Domini- 
cans," p. 1022. 


that Cavalca paraphrased the Acts before 1342, that Nicholas 
de Neridono, a Dominican, copied an Italian Bible in 1466^, 
that another fifteenth century friar wrote a Venetian psalter, 
that two manuscripts belonged to Dominican convents, one 
1363-1414, the other in 1472, and that there are a few traces of 
the possession of translations by individual Dominicans or 
Franciscans in the fifteenth century^. 

With the exception of Cavalca, the earliest Italian friars to 
undertake the work of translation were those of the late middle 
ages, after the invention of printing. In 1477 Marino of Venice 
helped issue a fresh edition of the Bible, with Nicholas de Lyra's 
expositions; at about that date Bartholomew of Modena, an 
inquisitor, translated or re-edited the psalter, and in 1474 
Frederick of Venice prepared for publication the Apocalypse 
with a comment. It is however notable, and in contrast to the 
early printed editions in Germany, that the first Italian printed 
Bible was the work of a religious, the Camaldolese Benedictine 
Nicolo di Malherbi^. The latter says in his preface that many 
ancient partial translations existed, all anonymous: he made a 
very free use of such translations, following, however, in the 
main the usual Italian text, and printed his edition interspersed 
with many glosses; this, printed at Venice, was very often 

Historical references to mediaeval Italian translations are few. 
Dante wrote his De Vulgari Eloquentia about 1320, but without 
reference to biblical translations, such as might have been hoped 
for in the chapter devoted to the subjects for which the vulgar 
tongue is fitting**. There is however a ver}^ interesting passage 
in Passavanti's Trattato della Scienza, which shews that this 
Dominican, who died in 1357, was not in favour of the study of 
holy scripture by lay people, or of the increase of such transla- 
tions into the vernacular: and this though he contends eagerly 

^ i?ow. XXIII. 363; V, III. 1015-19: cf. Mandonnet's description of the work 
of Dominicans in Italy, id. ii. 1466. Cavalca did not translate the text of the 
Acts, as Mandonnet says, but used an earlier translation, cf. in. 1017; the 
other friars he quotes are all of late fifteenth century date. 

^ V, III. 1022-. 

' Rom. XXIII. 364. Parallel cases are the issue of the Dutch Cologne Bible 
in 1480, especially for religious, and a possible edition at Valencia, 1477, by 
the Dominican Borrell. 

* De Vulgari Eloquentia, trans. Ferrers Howell, A. G., London, 1890. 


for the knowledge of holy scripture by all people "according to 
their degree," and himself published his manual on Penance in 
Italian for the instruction of the simple. He says that: 

Each Christian is bound to have some knowledge of holy scripture, 
and each according to the state and condition and rank that he holds : 
for in one manner should the priest and guide of souls know it, and 
in another manner the master and doctor and preacher: those who 
ought to step down into the deep sea of scripture, and know and under- 
stand the hidden mysteries, so as to be^eady for the instruction of 
others, and to be prepared to render a reason, as the apostle says, 
for the things of the faith and of scripture, to whoever shall ask it. 
And in yet another manner the laity and unlettered parish priests 
are bound to have it ; to whom it is sufficient to know in general the 
ten commandments, the articles of the faith, the sacraments of the 
Church, the sins, and ecclesiastical ordinances: the doctrine of the 
holy gospel, as far as is necessary to their salvation, and as much as 
they hear from their rectors and the preachers of the scriptures and 
the faith : not searching them subtly, nor putting the foot down too 
deeply into the sea of scriptvire, which not all people can do, nor ought 
they to wish to scan it: because very often one slips and drow^ns 
oneself in incautious and curious and vain researches. But each one 
ought to know, and study to know, as much as befits his office, and 
the status which he holds^. 

Throughout this tract on Knowledge, Passavanti uses the term 
"holy scriptures" or "the scriptures" very loosely, generally 
to include both the canonical and patristic books, though once, 

^ Lo Specchio della vera penitenza, Passavanti, J., ed. Polidori, Florence, 
1863. The Trattato della Scienza is one of Passavanti's separate tracts, found 
in the MSS. and in the early editions at the end of Lo Specchio, and treated 
as part of it. The passage quoted is pp. 278-9. The whole tract on Knou- 
ledge is very interesting, but quite normally mediaeval in tone: there is no- 
thing to shew that the clergy in Italy were more progressive or liberal 
in their attitude to vernacular scriptures, or other subjects, than in other 
European countries c. 1350. The attitude is almost precisely similar to friar 
Butler's tract, of c. 1399: see p. 290. Great emphasis is laid on the need of an 
instructed priesthood for the instruction of the laity, the examples of S. 
Dominic, S. Jerome, etc. being quoted. Not only masters and doctors ought 
to study holy scriptures, but other priests according to their condition: 
for in them we read what we ought to believe, to hope for, to love, and to do 
(p. 284). " First, we should seek for divine knowledge in the scriptures of 
the holy prophets and the holy gospels, and the apostleg;. . .we ought to 
read books of holy doctors, approved bj' the Church, which expound the 
scriptures wisely: and not to seek it in books of philosophy and worldly 
poets ; ... as the eyes are bound to care for and supervise the other m.embers, 
so are doctors and preachers bound to supervise the people : and as blindness 
of the eyes is a scandal to all the body, so the ignorance of priests and doc- 
tors is a scandal and a danger to all the body of holy Church " (p. 291). 


clearly to mean only the canonical. He discusses the existent 
translations of "the scriptures," probably as including both 
canonical and patristic books, in his day, and decides that they 
should be read only with very great caution, since they were 
often false, and especially since they could translate only the 
literal, and not the moral, allegorical and mystical meanings. 

In certain books of scriptures and of the doctors which are trans- 
lated into the vulgar tongue, one may read, but with great caution: 
because many of them are found false and corrupt, either through 
the fault of the scribes, who do not generally fully understand them, 
or through the fault of the translators, who do not understand the 
deep passages of the scriptures, or the subtle and obscure sayings of 
the saints, and do not explain them according to the interior and 
spiritual understanding, but only the rind of the letter, according to 
grammar, when they turn them into the vulgar tongue. And because 
they have not the spiritual understanding, and because our vulgar 
tongue is lacking in the right words, they expound it often coarsely 
and rudely, and often not truly. In short, it is too perilous: for they 
may fall so easily into error i. 

Apart from that, he observes, they debase the scriptures; some 
envelope them in rhetorical and trivial glosses ; some abbreviate 
4hem, like the French and Provencal scribes, some obscure them 
ih dark language, hke the Germans, Hungarians and English; 
some make them trifling and crude like the Lombards ; some use 
ambiguous words Hke the Neapolitans; some make them rugged 

^ Trat. d. Scienza, 289. With Passavanti's dicta on translations should be 
compared the preface of an anonymous, but probably noble and lay, trans- 
lator of the gospels into Tuscan, or reviser of the current translation into 
contemporary Tuscan: the work dates from the early fifteenth, or possibly 
even the late fourteenth century, and the author, with his insistence on the 
scholastic difficulties in the work of translation, offers a strong resemblance 
to his contemporary, Purvey. "I beg each man who wishes to transcribe 
this book of the gospels in the vulgar tongue, that he take care to preserve 
the words literally as he finds them written down, and not to change them : 
because little syllables and articles like Jo, la, lo propheta, la scriptura, and 
such like words and syllables, — when they are put down or taken away, 
do more to change the meaning than other people would believe. And 
grammar alone is not sufficient for translation, but theology and exposition 
of holy doctors are required, and therefore I tell you all this, that what has 
been done may n9t be wasted. And because scripture speaks in many places 
like the centre of a wheel ; and it is clear that there are words which should 
be supplied to help the unlettered: so that others may not misunderstand, 
and believe that the meaning of the text is changed when I supply or explain 
any word which shall be necessary, and where it is understood, I underline 
such words and sentences, so that it may be known which words are in the 
text and which are not." Rom. xxiii. 408. 


with harsh accents, hke the Romans ; all others like the maritime 
people, rustics, and dwellers in the Alps, coarsen them; the 
Tuscans and Florentines perhaps least badly. Those who wish 
to translate must not merely know grammar, but be experts in 
theology and have knowledge of holy scriptures: they must 
be rhetoricians and exercised in the vulgar tongue, and have 
the spirit of holy devotion: 

Otherwise they commit many faults, and many are already com- 
mitted. And it is very necessary that they should be prohibited 
from making any more translations into the vulgar tongue : and those 
which are made should be corrected by those who have the wisdom 
to do it welU. 

As in other European countries, and in accordance with the 
sentiments expressed by Passavanti, such biblical translations 
as were in use in the fifteenth century were those incorporated 
into devotional books, rather than used as separate works. 
Versions of the penitential psalms are found, and a comparatively 
large number of manuscripts of gospel harmonies — or lives of our 
Lord^, — which in England, Spain and Germany were thought the 
orthodox mediaeval form of the knowledge of the New Testa- 
ment suitable for lay people; we have also four fifteenth century 
plenaries, and a few single gospels or biblical books, laden with 
glosses and paraphrases^. It is noticeable however that Savorfa- 
rola, the Dominican reformer who set such great stress on 
biblical study for the friars who followed him, who was such an 
ardent biblical student himself, and who did all he could to en- 
courage the study of the learned languages as an aid to biblical 
interpretation, never advocated the use of biblical translations. 
This, in a popular reformer who laid such great stress on the 
popular adoptance of an apostolic life, and who died as late as 
1498, would seem to shew that, like Gerson, Geiler von Kaysers- 
berg, and Ximenes, he was unfavourable to them. 

There is thus very little evidence, in spite of the absence of 
prohibition by synod, that orthodox opinion even tolerated 
biblical translations before the end of the fourteenth centurj^ 
or that it regarded them with favour from that time till the 
invention of printing : though it is quite possible that vernacular 

^ Trat. d. Scienza, 289. - Cf. pp, 1 48-54. 

' Rom. XXIII. 412. 


versions were occasionally found in convents of Dominican nuns 
and friars in the fifteenth century. 

§ 4. The Waldensian movement spread also from Toulouse 
into the north of Spain : in which country first the Waldensians 
were condemned to death by burning, where the first edict of the 
civil power was passed against them, and where the prohibition 
of lay Bible reading was maintained till the Reformation. The 
Waldensians were banished from Aragon in 1194, and condemned 
to death by burning in 1197. In 1233 James I of Aragon pre- 
sided at the provincial synod of Tarragona^, assisted by the 
archbishop and five bishops, and enacted twenty-six ordinances 
for the support of the inquisition and the extirpation of heresy. 
The first of the twenty-six was that : 

No man shall possess books of the Old or New Testament in 
Romance. And if any possess such, let him hand them over to the 
episcopal seat to be burnt within eight days of the publication of this 
constitution; and whosoever shall not do this, be he clerk or layman, 
shall be held suspect of heresy, until he shall have purged himself. 

The edict applied to the kingdom of Aragon: but it doubtless 
guided the action of the inquisition throughout the peninsula. 
It has been contended that this prohibition of vernacular Bible 
reading was allowed to lapse "in about forty years^": but this 
is exceedingly doubtful, from the later prohibitiofl"s and the 
nature of the remaining Spanish translations. It is difficult to 
believe that it did lapse, for in 13 17 the provincial synod of 
Tarragona^ enacted that: 

^ Martene, Vet. Mon. vii. 123, gives the date as 1233; Reusch misdates as 
1276; cf. V, II. 1952. Probably both the synod of Trier, 1231, and this synod 
of 1233 were local efforts to carry out the policy of the synod of Toulouse, 
1229, under its impressive papal and local sanctions. For Romance, see 
p. 34, n. I. 

* Suggested in V, 11. 1952, 1956, but contradicted in Reusch, i. 43. 
C. H. Lea, in Span. Inq. 1907, in. 528 (followed by Putnam, 11. 23), 
thinks that ' ' from the thirteenth to the sixteenth century there was no 
proscription of vernacular Bibles in Spain," but he appears to take this 
from Villanueva's De la leccion de la sagrada 'J£,scritura, Valencia, 1791 
(as he does the statement about Borrell's Bible, in. 52). This work was 
written by a catholic anxious for a more liberal attitude to vernacular 
scriptures in Spain at his own date, and anxious to shew that the pre- 
Reformation Spanish Church was not hostile to them : but he quoted only 
post-Reformation authorities, and was not specially well-informed about the 
earlier period. 

^ Mansi, xxv. 627-; cc. 11. and in. 


No Beguinus or Beguina shall hold, possess, or read theological 
books in the vulgar tongue, except books which contain only prayers, 
and we enjoin that those who have such books shall be compelled 
by ecclesiastical censure to hand them over to the diocesan bishop. 

These Begiiines, or lay people living under a rule, were at the 
time suspected of heresy: but it was also enacted that those who 
were actually Franciscan tertiaries "shall not have theological 
books in the vulgar tongue." In the Empire and the Netherlands 
at a later date, it was just this class of devout lay people, unable 
to read the Latin scriptures, who were first allowed to use 
vernacular plenaries^, or books of scripture: so that it is most 
unlikely that ordinary lay people were at the date allowed to 
use books prohibited to the privileged tertiaries. 

Between the years 1317, however, and about 1470, there is no 
direct reference to the use of vernacular Bibles by lay people in 
Spain, and no prohibition. Although heresy of the Waldensian 
type may have persisted to some extent in Aragon, the great 
enemy of orthodoxy in Spain was always Judaism and Judaising 
Christians: and there is no evidence that these used vernacular 
versions of the Old Testament as a means of propaganda. The 
Spanish Jews had such translations, and to a noticeably far 
greater extent than the orthodox of Castile, as is explained later : 
but they were apparently the property of the scholarly and the 
wealthy, as was the case with biblical translations used by 
Christian nobles of other countries at the time. Bibhcal trans- 
lations were not therefore a source of anxiety to orthodox 
Christians, anxious chiefly to combat Judaism: but there is no 
evidence that orthodox lay people possessed biblical translations, 
at this time, any more than in the other European countries. 
The evidence from remaining manuscripts is quite the other 
way: and there is no reference to the value of reading translations 
of the scriptures in any Spanish manual of piety or instruction. 
There is no evidence of prohibition for this period: but the 
burden of proof for their use (by any except a very few princes 
and nobles) lies on those who assert that they were thus used"-. 

1 For meaning of plenary, see p. 39, n. 4. 

2 Spanish monastic and other library catalogues are plentiful, but have 
not been specially examined for mention of biblical translations: those 
adduced in Gottheb, however, contain no such examples. 

D.w. B. 4 


There is a reference, however, to a prohibition of biblical 

translations in Spain, with the special confirmation of pope 

Paul II, by cardinal Pacheco, the most learned Spanish doctor 

to attend the council of Trent. The historian of that council 

^ says: 

: Cardinal Pacheco noticed that among dangers to the sacred books 

should be considered the custom of turning them into the common 
•^, "^ national tongues, and communicating them thus translated to the 

, " * ignorant people. To whom Cardinal Madrucci answered, urbanely 
indeed but ardently, saying the Germans would be offended, where it 
was accepted that the Fathers wished to deprive the people of the 
sacred oracles, which, according to the apostle's warning, should never 
depart from the lips of the faithful. And when Pacheco objected that 
this had been interdicted in Spain with the special confirmation of 
Paul II, Madrucci answered: "Paul II and any other Pope might be 
deceived in judging what was profitable or not, but not so Paul the 
apostle, in the passage alleged.. . ." But certainly the argument of 
Madrucci is not fully satisfactory^. 

Pacheco tried, we are told, at the council of Trent, to have 
extended to the whole Church this statute of Ferdinand and 
Isabella, which they had imposed on Spain on account of the 
wicked Jews; but Madrucci opposed this successfully^. 

Pacheco's assertion about the old statute is possibly correct, 

for Paul II, who died in 1471, was much concerned to suppress 

heresy in Spain, particularly of course that of the Judaisers. 

' The earlier inquisition into heresy in Aragon had been carried 

out by the royal power and the local bishops: but in 1451 the 

1 Cone. Tridentini Hist., Pallavicino, S., 1717, lib. vi. p. 211, Pacheco, 
11560, and Madrucci, t^S^i, are called by Pallavicino the most respected 
doctors from Germany and Spain respectively, to attend the council of 
Trent. The passage concludes : ' ' For certainly, while heretics were publishing 
their false doctrines in the speech of the fatherland, it was needful to afford 
some antidote to those streams by which the poison waS" spread : but it was 
not therefore permissible that in that tempest all the parts of the Bible 
should flow forth in the vulgar tongues to the people : for in them may be 
found certain passages open in appearance, but profound in fact, which could 
at first sight appear to favour heretics;. . .but this would not be likely to 
happen with other rehgious books of a different kind." Passages from 
Alphonso a Castro (see p. 51), who wrote c. 1539, and Pallavicino, who 
wrote c. 1656, are quoted at length, not only for their evidence about the 
edict of c. 1471, but to shew that Reformation and post-Reformation 
cathohc historians did not regard the repugnance of the pre-Reformation 
church to promiscuous Bible reading as a matter for apology or minimisa- 
tion. See Staphylus, appendix, and p. 104 n. i. 

* Harney's discussion of Pallavicino, 223. 


king of Castile applied to Nicholas V for a delegation of the 
papal inquisitorial power to punish heretics^. Nicholas V readily 
appointed two inquisitors, with full powers to do all acts 
necessary for the suppression of heresy, and since this included 
the powers granted to the inquisitors at Toulouse, 1229, and 
other synods, they had the power to enforce the prohibition of 
vernacular scriptures, though there is no evidence that they were 
specially concerned with them. This inquisition, dependent as 
it was on a weak king, nev,er achieved much: but between 1451 
and 1474 Fray Alonzo de Espina and others left no stone un- 
turned to procure a fresh and more powerful establishment of 
the inquisition. Paul II was pope between 1464 and 1471, and 
was anxious for the establishment of an effective inquisition, 
such as was actually accomplished by his successor: and though 
we do not possess the prohibition of biblical translations con- 
firmed by him, whose existence was asserted by Pacheco, it is 
not impossible that the king of Castile did appl}^ for and receive 
such confirmation, in connexion with the inquisition. 

There is further evidence for a fresh royal prohibition of 
vernacular scriptures in Castile, Leon and Aragon between 1479 
and 1504, — the years between the marriage and death of 
Isabella of Castile. It is noticeable that, just when orthodox 
opinion in other countries was beginning to change, Ferdinand 
and Isabella issued an edict, prohibiting under heavy penalties 
the translation or possession of the sacred text. Alphonso a 
Castro, the friar Minor who was confessor to Charles V, addressed 
the council of Trent on the subject of vernacular scriptures, and 
he pubhshed a work against heresy in 1539. In the latter he 
states that^: 

The third parent and origin of heresy is the translation of the sacred 
books into the vernacular, when it often happens that they are read 
by mankind without distinction of persons. .. .If therefore heresy 
arises from a perverse understanding of the scriptures, what could 
more incite to heresy than the reading by the common people of that 
which they cannot in the least understand? For it is difficult to 
believe that untaught people should understand what the most 
learned of men can scarcely grasp by long study and daily examina- 

1 Span. Inq. i. 147. 

- Opeva A Iphonsi a Castro Zamorensi : A dversus omnes haereses, Paris, 1 5 7 1 , 
lib. I. c. 13, col. 80 



tion.. . .Nolite sanctum dare canibus, etc. Wherefore most right and 
praiseworthy was it, that there came the edict of the most illustrious 
and catholic king of Spain, namely Ferdinand, and his wife Isabella, 
which prohibited under the heaviest penalties anyone from translating 
the sacred books into the vernacular, or on any pretext to keep such 
a translation.. . .From this cause came the Waldensians. . .and from 
the sanie reason sprang the Beghards, etc., all men untaught, and 
quite ignorant of letters. 

Ferdinand and Isabella were married in 1479, and were most 
anxious to clear their kingdoms from all heretics, especially 
Judaisers. They applied to Sixtus IV for permission to establish 
an inquisition against heresy, with the fullest powers and the 
special guarantee and protection of the crown. This royal in- 
quisition was introduced into Castile in 1480, Catalonia i486, 
and Aragon 1487, with papal license and approval: and the royal 
edict mentioned by Alphonso a Castro was probably issued in 
connexion with this establishment of the inquisition. It was 
probably thought necessary to the completion of their powers, 
as in the imperial edict of 1369^. 

Whether or no there were any express confirmation of the 
prohibition of vernacular Bible reading between the royal and 
synodal edict of 1234, and the royal and papal edicts of c. 147 1- 
1480, there is not a scrap of evidence that popular Bible reading 
was ever practised by the faithful between those dates. The 
edict of 1317 about tertiaries renders it improbable, as does the 
special severity of the Spanish attitude towards such scriptures 
at the Reformation and later; and the evidence from existent 
manuscripts confirms this view 2. 

The earliest evidence of the existence of vernacular Bibles in 
Spain, the prohibition of 1233, probably refers to Catalan ver- 
sions. The history of the earliest Spanish versions is obscure, 
but the earliest existent manuscripts are founded on an ancient 
Visigothic Latin text of the New Testament ^, which suggests a 
connexion of origin with the early Waldensian-Provengal trans- 
lations. The tradition that the earliest Spanish translations go 

1 See p. 83 

" For a short but valuable article on Spanish Bibles, see S. Berger in SH ; 
also V, Catalanes [Versions'\, Espagnoles [Versions]: for the absolute pro- 
hibition of the printing of vernacular Bibles by the Spanish Inquisition after 
the council of Trent, V, 11. 1956, and Span. Inq. in. 528. 

^ Les Bibles Castillanes, Berger, S. in Rom. xxviii. 398. 


back to a complete Bible translated at the command of Alphonso 
the Wise of Castile (125 2-1 286), is now shewn to be due to the 
fact that Alphonso actually had the Historia Scholastica trans- 
lated into CastiHan. This translation, "simply a historical work, 
and in no sense a history of the Bible^," kept less closely to the 
bibhcal text than the Bible Historiale in France: it was known 
as the Historia General, was probably inspired by the making of 
the French translation, and had a parallel history. Just as in 
France the Anglo-Norman psalter and Apocalypse, and then 
other partial biblical translations, were interpolated into the 
manuscripts of the Bible Historiale, so in Spain partial trans- 
lations were also interpolated: but they were no part of the 
original work. The interpolations from the Old Testament seem 
to have been of Jewish origin, for they are founded on the 
Hebrew text: the oldest Spanish translation, in the Aragonese 
dialect, has the Pentateuch and the psalter, translated by master 
"Hermannus Allemannus," who actually lived 'in the reign of 
Alphonso the Wise at Toledo, and made also Latin translations 
of Aristotle from the Arabic 2. The interpolations from the New 
Testament, founded on the Visigothic Latin text, date in existent 
manuscripts from about 1300-1350: but may also go back to the 
reign of Alphonso the Wise, and have been made under Walden- 
sian influence. In any case, such translations as existed were in 
the libraries of princes and nobles only, and were never used for 
the popular instruction of the faithful. Thus there was in Spain, 
from about 1284, a Spanish Historia General, several partial 
translations of the Old Testament made by Jews from the 
Hebrew =^, and a translation of the New Testament made from 
the Visigothic Latin text. It says little for the encouragement of 
translations by orthodoxy in Spain, that no translations were 
made from the Vulgate at all. The earhest Spanish translation 
of the Bible founded on the Vulgate was that provided by 
cardinal Ouiroga for Philip II*. 

1 Rom. 366. 2 III XXVIII. 390. 

* See id. 360-408, and V, 11. 1954, where five anonymous translations of 
the Jewish Old Testament are mentioned : another however was the O. Test, 
prepared by the Rabbi Moses Arragel for the nobleman Luis de Guzman in 
1422, the catholic glosses being added by a Franciscan. 

* Mandonnet, in V, 11. 1469, states that the Dominican Jean I.opez trans- 
lated the Sunday gospels into Castilian, c. 1490: butcomparett^. 11. 1956- 


The Catalan versions were more plentiful, and probably go 
back to the prohibited "Romance" versions of 1233, for the 
earliest existent ones (fourteenth century) were connected in 
origin with the Waldensian-Proven^al scriptures^. The Domini- 
can Romeu de Sabruguera, who was provincial of Aragon 13 12- 
1313, translated the psalter into Catalan, and has been supposed 
to have translated the v/hole Bible: but this was probably a 
mistake due to his production of a "rhymed Bible," extending 
to the psalms and parts of the gospels of SS. Matthew and John^. 
There is also an interesting reference to a translation of fthe Bible 
by the Carthusian Boniface Ferrer, who was prior general of the 
whole order from 1402 till his death in 1417. There is no im- 
probability in a learned Carthusian's having translated some 
part of the Bible ^ at the date, for use by religious and specially 
nuns: but there is very great improbability in his having in- 
tended it for general use by lay people. In an\' case, there are 
no remaining manuscripts of such a translation, as might have 
been expected. This version is further said to have been edited 
and printed by the Dominican Jayme Borrell in 1477 at Valencia : 
but of this edition also " no exemplar or bibliographical datum ^ " 
remains. Apart from the insufficient evidence as to the existence 
of this printed edition, the papal and royal prohibition of ver- 
nacular Bibles c. 1471 is difficult to reconcile with such a fact^. 

It is interesting to compare the attitude of authority in 

* See Berger in SC, and for bibliography^ V, 11. 346. 

* See C. Douais in V, 11. 346. This ascription of the psalter to Sabruguera 
is interesting to compare with the edict of Bologna, 1242, forbidding Domi- 
nicans to translate the holy scriptures, in the wider sense: and with the 
prohibition of vernacular scriptures for tertiaries in 1317. 

' Or, more probably, re-edited old translations, as was done in Italy in the 
fifteenth century. 

* Berger in SH. Cf. alsoV, 11. 1957, 196 1, where it is stated that the Fran- 
ciscan Ambrose de Montesino edited in 151 2 the gospels and epistles for the 
year: " but the prohibition existed already in fact at this epoch, as Francis 
de Enzinas affirmed in 1543 in a preface to a Spanish version of the N. Test." 
For this preface, see Appendix, infra : Enzinas states that for twenty years 
past there has been sharp debate and quarrels about vernacular scriptures, 
and men of much zeal have striven to prevent the printing of such books : in 
Spain is prohibited what is with reason conceded to all other nations. 

^ Though not impossible. The version may have been printed for the use 
of rehgious, and children training to be religious, like the Cologne Bible of 
1480 (see p. 121): and its issue may have occasioned the prohibition. But 
the whole evidence for its existence is insufficient; copies of the Cologne 
Bible remain : those of the Valencia Bible do not. 


England and in Spain with regard to the instruction of the laity 
'in the scriptures, at the beginning of the fifteenth century. 
England was troubled with Bible reading heretics, while in 
Spain Waldensianism had nearly died out, and the enemies of 
the faith were the Jews. Thus in England Arundel issued his 
prohibition in 1408, and in 1409 confirmed the Carthusian Love's 
Life of Christ for the reading of the faithful ; in Spain there was 
reassertion of the old prohibitions, and the Carthusian Ferrer 
perhaps did something in the way of biblical translation: but 
the popular reading-book of the laity became, not this trans- 
lation, but the Life of Christ, written in 1409 by the Franciscan 
bishop of Perpignan, Francis Ximenes^. It was a parallel effort 
of authority to supply the laity with a safe vernacular substitute 
for the holy scriptures. Thus there is no evidence from existent 
manuscripts to shew that the prohibition of vernacular Bibles 
lapsed between 1233 and the reign of Ferdinand and Isabella. 
There are no cases of Spanish manuals recommending Bible 
reading to the laity, and no cases of Spanish epistle and gospel 
books being found in lay ownership, as occurs in Germany be- 
tween 1500 and the Reformation. No doubt noblemen in some 
cases had Spanish versions of the Historia Scholastica : but there 
is no evidence that orthodox opinion in Spain was as far ad- 
vanced even as in Germany in favour of the use of biblical 

§ 5. The history of biblical translations and their prohibitions 
presents pecuHar features in the Holy Roman Empire : but some 
characteristics of the attitude of the mediaeval Church towards 
them in France, Italy and Spain, where the movement for 
popular Bible reading first spread, may now be noticed. 

In regions unaffected by heresy, there was no formal opposition 
to biblical translations as such; but their use, or rather their 

^ See V, II. 2392. The subject of gospel harmonies, written from the time 
of Tatian in Greek and Latin for the study of the learned, and from the time 
of the Heliand in vernacular verse or prose, is very large, and has as yet 
received little attention from modern critics. For Latin gospel harmonies 
see V, II. 21 13. The Heliand was a hfe of Christ in the language of the 
Germanic conquerors of Gaul in the ninth century (see Bibliom. 166): no 
modern work has as yet been written on vernacular harmonies from this 
date, but such a work would probably shew that they were relatively 
popular for the instruction of lay people. For an early Waldensian example, 
see p. 27, n. 4; for early Italian, Dutch, French and English ones. Index. 


possession was in fact confined to a few kings and princes, or 
doctors of the university. 

But manuals of instruction, whether for the laity or for the 
clergy, never refer to any religious duty of acquiring acquaint- 
ance with the contents of the biblical books, either by personal 
study or by listening to translations, until the last quarter of 
the fifteenth century, — that is, until the spread of humanistic 
ideas, and the multiplication of unlicensed printed vernacular 
Bibles, had made such a course inevitable. When the masses of 
the people were illiterate, and the libraries of even great princes 
usually so small, it may seem obvious that manuals would not 
recommend Bible study: but we sometimes meet with asser- 
tions that the " mediaeval Church " encouraged a personal study 
of the scriptures, even by means of vernacular versions, supported 
perhapsby a solitary reference of very late fifteenth century date^. 

On the other hand, the instruction of the laity was at least as 
pressing a problem to the Roman Curia as to the Waldensian 
heretics, and it would be false to imagine that it received no 
attention at their hands. The expedient of using biblical trans- 
lations was a very obvious one, and would have seemed par- 
ticularly safe, for instance, in the instruction of the secular 
clergy in the diocesan theology and grammar schools: and it is 
impossible to imagine that it was never even considered. There 
would have been no difficulty in issuing an approved translation 
in the language of any country, if the general reading of the literal 
text of the Bible by the laity had been regarded as desirable: 
but there is not the slightest evidence that such a step was ever 

It is nevertheless quite clear what steps were taken to meet the 

: difficulty : they consisted of measures to obtain a better educated 

clergy, who should be able to instruct their parishioners^: this is 

obvious in the decrees of the fourth Lateran council of 1215^', 

^ Cf. the generalisations by some of the authors of articles on vernacular 
versions in Vigouroux; by cardinal Gasquet; by Janssen, in Hist, of the 
German People at the Close of the Middle Ages, London, 1905, i. 23; by 
F. Jostes, etc. Such writers seem not to realise all the documentary 
evidence that exists for the mediaeval suspicion of lay Bible reading. 

2 Innocent III had commented on the duty of the faithful not to despise 
unlettered priests, in his letter to the faithful at Metz. See p. 31. 

* Mansi, xxii. 979-. 


and the policy can be traced later. The decisions of that council 
are very largelj^ concerned with heresy, — Waldensian, Catharan 
and others, — and the means of dealing with it ; the action of the 
inquisition was strengthened, and 3'early confession to the parish 
priest was made obligatory, in order that he might be personally 
responsible for the orthodoxy of his flock. But the chief curative 
measures were those to secure better preaching and a better 
educated clergy: 

Among those things which pertain to the salvation of Christendom, 
the food of the word of God is known to be chiefly necessary to it. 
Wherefore, since it often happens that bishops, on account of their 
manifold occupations. . .not to speak of lack of learning (which in 
them is altogether shameful, nor for the future, to be tolerated), are 
not sufficient by themselves to minister to the people the word of 
God, . . . we ordain a general constitution that bishops are to maintain 
and send out competent preachers, etc.^ 

Mention was also made of the clause of the third Lateran council 
by which a competent benefice was to be set aside by each 
cathedral chapter to maintain a schoolmaster, who should in- 
struct gratuitously the clerks of that church, and also other poor 
scholars: this clause however had not been observed (owing to 
the difficulty of enforcing the setting aside of the benefice), and 
the decrees now confirmed it, and added that it should apply to 
other collegiate churches of sufficient means as well as cathedrals ; 
and that both masters of grammar (Latin) and of theology 
were to be maintained^. The enactment was not more successful 
than its forerunner, and it was left to the Dominican order to 
improve the level of clerical learning, by the teaching given in 
their "studia generalia" and "studia particularia^": but the 
decree indicates the end which was always aimed at by the 
mediaeval Church in dealing with heresy, — the better education 
of the clergy, and not the self-education of the laity through the 
spread of vernacular versions of the Bible. 

* Mansi, xxii. 998: cap. x. 

2 Id. 999 : cap. xi. 

^ See Crise Scol. 35-49. 



The prohibition of vernacular Bible reading in the Holy 
Roman Empire and the Netherlands, before 1400 

§ I. More material exists for the study of the attitude of the 
mediaeval Church to bibhcal translations^ within the mediaeval 
Empire than in France, Italy or Spain, because contemporary 
thought was there more exercised with the subject. It seems 
likely that this was partly due to the weakness of the Emperor 
as compared with other secular rulers, which led both to pro- 
gressive thought within orthodox circles, and to the survival of 
heresy without. One chronicler asserts that the heretics of the 
Rhine district took advantage of the civil war between rival 
claimants to the Empire; and possibly the relative prosperity 
and independence of the German free towns fostered religious 
societies of lay people, with their frequent mediaeval develop- 
ment into heresy. In any case, the orthodox section of the 
community which advocated the use of bibhcal translations took 
its rise in Germany, gained toleration for its attitude earlier 
there than elsewhere, and after 1500 was fairly strong. At that 
date the use of such translations was practised within only very 
limited circles in France, Spain, England and Italy. The for- 
wardness of the Empire in this matter was due also to its com- 
paratively early reception of the ideas of the Renaissance, and, 
of course, the development of printing. In Italy the Renaissance 
had been earlier still : but it had produced no religious movement 
as it did in Germany, and particularly^ no religious movement 
among laymen, such as might have led to a demand for biblical 
translations. In Germany, on the other hand, the work done 
by early Beguines and Franciscans had produced religious move- 
ments among laj^men long before 1400. But, whatever the cause, 
orthodox champions of vernacular scriptures arose earlier in 
Germany than elsewhere. 

^ Cf. T. M. Lindsay, Hist, of Ref. 1915, 11. 147-152 for some account of 
pre-Reformation vernacular scriptures in Germany, and HH 11. 700-13. 


A continuous demand for popular Bible reading was made by 
different sects and religious movements in the same geographical 
region, — the western border of the Empire, or upper and lower 
Rhine country. The Waldensians about 1200 were strong in 
Toul, Metz, Strassburg and Cologne, whence they spread into 
the eastern portions of the Empire. The early orthodox Beguine 
communities of the upper and lower Rhine became infected by 
Waldensian and other heretical teaching, and were constantly 
accused of heresy in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. 
The German mystics and Friends of God, — both orthodox and 
comparatively favourable to vernacular Bibles, had their centres 
in the towns of the upper Rhine, or the Oberland. The Brethren 
of the Common Life, the outstanding mediaeval orthodox 
champions of German devotional books, influenced both 
Netherlands and Oberland: and finally, the earliest printed 
vernacular Bibles came from the presses of the same towns. 

In the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, much more 
evidence is found for a demand for vernacular Bibles in this 
region, than for one by particular classes or orders throughout 
Europe. In Italy, Spain and Germany, there is some evidence 
that Franciscan and Dominican convents possessed copies of 
biblical translations between 1450 and 152 1, and that Fran- 
ciscans, Dominicans or Carthusians took some little part in the 
revision or publication of vernacular Bibles^: but the only early 
champions of popular Bible reading shared in one or other of the 
movements of this region, — that of the Friends of God or the 
Brethren of the Common Life especially. Not the Empire as a 
whole, whose rulers were probably no more friendly to trans- 
lations than other kings, but the upper and lower Rhine country, 
was the first district of Europe to obtain toleration for popular 
Bible reading. 

The struggle itself differed from that carried on in England by 
the Lollards. On the continent, the demand was always for 
"German scriptures" in the wider mediaeval sense, and not for 
German Bibles: so that, while it was more successful than in 
England, it had to contend partly for what in England was not 

^ Cf. the Dominican Rellach, who intended to "publish" a German 
translation before the invention of printing, c. 1459-61, seep. 117: but his 
training and sphere of work were in the Oberland. 


denied, — the use of vernacufar books of devotion. It never 
asked, as the Lollards did, for a complete translation of 
the Bible, but only for that of its more "plain and open 
parts." Again, it never asked for the encouragement of Bible 
reading apart from the license of the confessor; and, down to 
1450, there is very little evidence that it advocated a general 
use of biblical translations at all, but only for convents of 
wopen, or those lay people kijown as the Friends of God who 
were under very close religious direction. The strength of the 
movement in Germany, at the end of the fourteenth and early 
fifteenth centuries, was this : that it contended for the encourage- 
ment of the laity proper to use German books of edification and 
sermons, the use of which was generally* not questioned in 
England or France^. 

§ 2. The Waldensians at Metz were subjected to other 
attacks in 1207-8 2, and, probably in consequence, dispersed 
eastward into the Empire, particularly into Cologne and Strass- 
burg. They had been found at Liege, the centre of the preaching 
of the founder of the Beguines, in 1203 : they were at Strassburg 
in 121 1, and eighty of them were burned in that year. Nothing 
is said of the translations used in the brief notices of their 
existence at Cologne and Strassburg, while we know that the 
Romance versions confiscated at Metz were in the French dialect 
of Lorraine. 

The earliest record of the use of German translations by the 
Waldensians comes from a chronicler of Trier in the year 1231. 
Franciscan and Dominican friars had been working in Germany 
against the heretics since 1225^, but in 1231 Gregory IX* again 
sent legates to carry on the work of Guido of Praeneste and 
the three Cistercian abbots. The chief of these legates was 
the Dominican, Conrad of Marburg, the celebrated confessor of 
S. Elizabeth of Hungary, and through his energy three years of 
persecution followed, as a chronicle of Trier relates^. The arch- 
bishop of Trier held a synod for the suppression of the Walden- 
sian heretics in 1231; three heretics were presented at it, and 

^ For the controversy over the translation of S. Bernard's sermons at an 
earher date, see Chaive Fran. 237. 

2 Awn. Trevir. 11. 106. * Id. 11. 121. * Id. 11. 127. 

' Prodromus Historiae Trevirensis, Hontheim, Augsburg, 1757, n. 796; 
= Gesta Trevir. c 103; cf. Mansi, Supp. 2, 977. 


one was burnt. The acts of the synod have perished: but it was 
a reflex of the synod of Toulouse in 1229, assembled similarly 
for the suppression of Bible reading heretics and the strengthen- 
ing of the inquisition, so that the passage of some prohibition of 
German scriptures at it is very probable. In Spain the synod o^ 
Tarragona, 1233, was a similar reflex of that of Toulouse, and 
its prohibition of vernacular scriptures was stringent^. At any 
rate, the confiscation of German Bibles by inquisitors followed 
immediately. "In the year 1231," said another chronicler, 
"three schools of heretics were taken in the city of Trier. And 
there were many who belonged to these sects, and many of 
them were instructed in holy scripture which they used trans- 
lated into German 2." The evidence of contemporary and later 
inquisitors shews that these German scriptures were as much 
prohibited in Germany as in France and Spain, and the prob- 
ability is that the prohibition dated from the synod of Trier, 
1231 ; though it may have rested only on the general conferment 
on the inquisitors of the powers granted them at Toulouse, 1229^. 
An anonymous inquisitor of Passau* wrote a tract on heresy^ 
about 1260, and spoke from intimate knowledge of the heretics: 
he had been frequently present at their examination, and he 
reckoned that in the diocese of Passau alone there were forty-one 
"schools " or conventicles of heretics; some towns had more than 
one, but he mentions thirty-four towns or villages which 
possessed at least one. He gives most details about his own 
diocese of Passau, but mentions the number and power of the 
\\' aldensians elsewhere : 

In all the towns of Lombardy and Provence, and in other kingdoms 
and countries, there were more schools of heretics than of theolo- 
gians, and many hearers. And they used to hold public disputations 
and summon the people to hear them in courts ; and they preached in 
the fields and in houses, and there was none who dared to hinder 
them, on account of the power and number of those who supported 

He explains the six causes of heresy ; the third is that they have 
translated the New and Old Testament into the vulgar tongue, 
and this they teach and learn : 

^ See p. 48. 2 Mansi, xxiii. 241. ^ gee p. 37 

^ Formerly known as Reiner the Dominican, cf. Preger, 7, on his identity 

6 MBVP, XIII. 298. 


For I have heard and seen a certain unlettered countryman who 
used to recite Job word for word, and many others who knew the 
whole New Testament perfectly i. 

The second is the heretic's diligence in teaching and learning 
these biblical translations : 

All, men and women, cease not to teach and learn, night and day. 
The workman, who toils by day, learns or teaches at night. . . .They 
teach and learn without books,. . .and even in leper-houses.. . .To 
those who excuse themselves, saying that thej^ cannot learn, they say: 
" Learn only one word a day, and in a year's time you will learn three 
hundred, and thus you will grow proficient." What I say is true. 

The fifth cause is their insufficient doctrine; for they hold as 
fables whatever a doctor of the Church teaches which cannot be 
proved by the text of the New Testament, contrary to the 
teaching of the Church. After the discourse on these causes of 
heresy, he gives a list of questions for the help of his fellow in- 
quisitors in the examination of heretics, and it is significant that 
the first and primary question is whether the suspected heretic 
has ever heard or learned the words of the German gospels, etc. : 

First, if he has learned any holy words, and when he began to learn, 
and from whom? Has he ever taught them to lay people-? 

This inquisitor's experience and recommendations shew that un- 
doubtedly these translations existed, though condemned, in 
south Germany, in the period between 1231 and 1260. 

1 MBVP, XIII. 299; of. 300. "They say also that Latin prayers do lay 
people no good. . . . Also that what is not proved by the text of the Bible is 
fabulous. They say too that holy scripture has the same effect in the vulgar 
tongue as in Latin, wherefore they consecrate in the vulgar tongue, and ad- 
minister the sacraments. Also, they know the text of the New Testament and 
a great part of the Old, by heart, in the vulgar tongue : and they despise the 
Decretals and the Decrees and the sayings and expositions of the saints, and 
adhere only to the bibhcal text. And they refuse to acknowledge the 
mystical sense of holy scripture," etc. 

^ Id. 308. This inquisitor is the only writer, as far as I am aware, who 
questions the accuracy of the Waldensian translations. He does not accuse 
them of perversion, but only of textual blunders arising through ignorance. 
His tract is in Latin, but he particularises the German words of the transla- 
tion which are blunders: and says that the heretics even confuse sui and 
sues (i.e. porci), in the text In propria venit et sui euni non receperunt 
(John, i. 11), a confusion actually found also in another French translation. 
The modern assertion that the prohibitions of Waldensian scriptures were 
due only to their wilful mistranslations is not justified: it is not mentioned 
by contemporaries. The dependence of particular doctrines on particular 
texts and their translation only became a matter of controversy in the 
sixteenth century. Cf. supra p. 30, n. i. 


The writings 'of the Minorite, David of Augsburg, are also 
evidence for the work of the inquisition in Germany against the 
Waldensians, or the "pauperes de Lugduno." He belonged to 
the south German Minorite province, was the pupil of Berthold 
of Regensburg, and acted as inquisitor for some years: he died 
in 1272^. The burning of German heretics had begun again in 
1265, and the inquisition was active in Austria and Bavaria 
between 1250 and 1270. Da\ad says that the early followers of 
Peter Waldo began, though laj'men, to preach the gospel; 

And because thev presumed to interpret the words of the gospel 
in a sense of their own, not perceiving that there were any others, 
they said that the gospel ought to be obeyed altogether according 
to the letter : and they boasted that they wished to do this, and that 
they only were the true imitators of Christ. . . . This was their first 
heresy, ccmtempt of the power of the Church^. . . .They give all their 
zeal to lead many others astray with them : they teach even little girls 
the words of the gospels and epistles, so that they may be trained in 
error from their childhood^. . . . They do not receive the Old Testament 
as of faith, but they learn only certain passages from it, in order to 
attack us and defend themselves, saying that, when the gospel came, 
all the old things passed away. And similarly they pick out the words 
of SS. Augustine, Jerome, Gregory, Ambrose, John Chrysostom, 
Isidore, and short passages from their books, in order to prove their 
illusions and to resist us. And they very easily lead simple people 
astray, b}^ dressing up their sacrilegious doctrine with fair passages 
from the saints; but they pass over in silence those passages of the 
saints which seem to contradict them, and by which their error is 
refuted. They teach their docile and fluent disciples to repeat the 
words of the gospels and the savings of the apostles and other saints 
by heart, in the vulgar tongue, so that they may know how to teach 
others and lead the faithful astray. . . . All their boasting is about their 
singularity; for they seem to be more learned than other men, be- 
cause they have learnt to say by heart certain words of the gospels 
and epistles in the vulgar tongue. For this reason they esteem them- 
selves superior to our people, and not only to lay people, but even to 
literate people; for they are fools, and do not understand that a school 
boy of twelve years old often knows more than a heretical teacher of 
seventy : for the latter knows only what he has learnt by heart, while 
the former, having learnt the art of grammar, can read a thousand 
Latin books, and to some extent understand their literal meaning*. 

^ Cf. Preger, 8, who prints the complete form of the tract, which is given 
incompletely in Martene, Thes. v. 1777-. 

^ Preger, 26. ^ Id. 33. 

* Id. 29. For a discussion of this evidence see Die deutsche Bibeliiber. 


Both inquisitors thus agree that the use of biblical translations 
was the mainspring, in Germany as in France, Italy and Spain, 
of the Waldensian heres}^ : while the whole tenor of their evidence, 
and especially the circumstance that the first question to be put 
to a heretic by the inquisition was, whether he knew any biblical 
words b}' heart, shews that the use or knowledge of such trans- 
lations was prohibited. That Waldensian heretics used German 
translations of the New Testament and parts of the Old from 
1231, and throughout the thirteenth century, is also beyond 

§ 3. The origin of the existent manuscripts of the old German 
translation of the New Testament, and part of the Old, is much 
disputed; a great deal of controversial literature on the subject 
has appeared in pamphlets and periodicals in Germany from 
1885 onwards^. It is certain at any rate that all the early 
German printed Bibles follow a text derived, as regards the 
New Testament and part of the Old, from a group of late 
fourteenth century manuscripts, and that this text is followed 
in the majority of the manuscript plenaries, or collections of 
the epistles and gospels, with glosses. There was, that is to 
say, a German translation of the New Testament at least, which 
was sufficiently widely known to be copied in all the plenaries 
and early printed Bibles, and to be translated into Low Dutch. 
The oldest and most remarkable manuscripts of this translation 
are those at Wolfenbiittel, Freiberg and Tepl^ all written 
shortly before or after 1400, the oldest being the New Testament 
which belongs to the cloister of Tepl in Bohemia^. Controversy 
has raged as to whether the prototype of the manuscript was the 
work of an orthodox or a Waldensian translator: possession of 
the translation in other manuscripts can be traced to both 

^ There is a good bibliography at the end of Allemandes {Versions] in 
V. See especially Keller; the above quoted works of H. Haupt contending 
for a Waldensian origin; and F. Jostes' Die Waldenser und die vorlutherische 
Bibeliibersetzung, Munster, 1885; Haupt, Walden. Ursprung des Codex Tep- 
lensis, Wiirzburg, 1886; and W. Walthers' Die Deutsche Bibeliibersetzung 
des Mittelalters, Brunswick, 1889, as leaving the question undecided. 

2 Cf. W. Walther, HJ, xii. 687; and F. Jostes in HJ, xv. 771-, xvin. 

' Grundriss derGermanischen Philologie, Paul, H., Strassburg, 1901-9,11. i. 
p. 354. Though this is the oldest complete New Testament, the same trans- 
lation is found in older plenaries: cf. MSS. 532, 4878, 66, 157, 58 at Munich, 
cited by Haupt, Walden. Urs. 26. 


Waldensians and orthodox, and so has little significance as to 
origin. It seems probable that the actual Tepl manuscript was 
copied by an orthodox scribe, since it has directions to shew 
which parts of the gospels correspond to the special gospels for 
the three masses for Christmas Day^ It is true that from the 
earliest times Waldensians used the Sunday and saints' day 
gospels in translations 2, perhaps more even than the continuous 
text of the New Testament; but between 1380-1400 it is more 
likely that this use indicated an orthodox owner. It is also likely 
that the manuscript was copied in a monastery: not merely on 
the grounds that it is written in several hands ^, which might even 
more easily prove that it was copied for a university stationer 
or bookseller than in a monastic scriptorium, but because, at the 
date, orthodox opinion was beginning to allow the use of biblical 
translations in German monasteries, more readily than to lay 
people*. The real question, however, is as to the origin of its 
prototype; for, when hnguistic knowledge was so slight, and 
translations never bore their authors' names, there is no difficulty 
whatever in supposing that an orthodox scribe copied a text 
which 150 years earlier had been Waldensian in origin, or vice 
versa. The first Waldensians incorporated the old Norman psalter 
in the book of translations they presented at the third Lateran 
council 5; the fifteenth century Dominicans in Italy certainly 
used the old Waldensian translations : there was not, before the 
Reformation, any question as to the orthodoxy of the contents 
of particular translations, only as to the propriety of their 
existence^. Two points, however, stand out in connexion with 
the original of the Tepl manuscript: 

i. The earliest Waldensian (Provencal) translations were made 
anterior to the issue and general acceptance of the famous Paris 
revision of the Vulgate, of the thirteenth century. The earliest 
existent Waldensian texts, Provencal, Catalan and Italian, were 
founded on a Latin Bible, the use of which prevailed widely 
in the Visigothic kingdom of Narbonne, up to the thirteenth 

1 Tepler Bibel. 40; Walden. Urs. 15; Keller, c. iii. 

2 See p. 34. 3 Jostes, Die Waldenser, 8. 

* See pp. log, 121. * See pp. 27-8. 

* Keller's endeavours to read heretical meanings into the German trans- 
lation at Tepl shews a lack of historical perspective: see Keller, 83-. 

D.W. B. c 


century, but was afterwards completely superseded by the Paris 
Vulgate^. It is characterised by a set of peculiar readings, 
amounting to over thirty, in the Acts of the Apostles, and these 
readings appear, as S. Berger pointed out, in the early Provencal, 
Catalan and Italian Bibles. They appear also in the Tepl manu- 
script: and S. Berger, whose authority is very high, gave it as 
his opinion that the prototype of the Tepl manuscript was trans- 
lated from such a Latin version, or even from a very early 
Provengal version ^i he therefore concluded that the Tepl manu- 
script was of Waldensian origin ^. This remains the chief positive 
argument for such an origin ; for, although scholars can parallel 
particular variant readings from other manuscripts, their num- 
ber and coincidence with the Visigothic Vulgate has not been 
satisfactorily explained by any theor}' save that of S. Berger*. 
The question is not ; Is it more probable that an orthodox or a 
heretical translator made the German translation shortly before 
1400? but. Is it more probable that a Waldensian or an orthodox 
person made its prototype, since he used as his basis a particular 
Latin version which was not in use much after 1200, or the 
Provengal translation founded on it? The absence of record of 
the making of an orthodox translation at the date, and the cer- 
tain knowledge that the greater part of the New Testament then 

1 Walden. Urs. 30-. 

2 Earlier than existent manuscripts: cf. Walther, 191. 

3 Walden. Urs. 31. S. Berger in Revtte Historique, xxx. i. 1886, p. 168, 
traced the textual resemblances between the Tepl MS., particulariy the 
Acts, and earUer Waldensian (Proven9al) texts, and concluded: "From so 
many resemblances, none of which by itself would suffice to estabhsh a 
certainty, but the accumulation of which leaves scarcely room for doubt, 
we must conclude that according to all probability . . . this, the most impor- 
tant German Bible of the middle ages, appears to have been translated in 
part, by the efforts of the Waldensians, from an original written in one of 
the Proven9al dialects." 

* Walther, in his long and laborious work on the mediaeval German Bible, 
agrees that the original of the Tepl MS. was much older than the Tepl MS. 
itself, and that the Tepl manuscript has remarkable resemblances to the 
Romance translations. He is unwilling however to accept S. Berger's con- 
clusion (see p. 191), though his alternative theories are unconvincing, and 
unaccompanied by evidence. "Why," he asks, "if there is some resemblance 
between the French and German versions, should the French not have 
corrected theirs from the German? Or why should not either of them, in 
preparing a Romance or German version, have used an already existent 
catholic version? " We have, however, excellent historical evidence as to how 
the earliest Proven9al translations were prepared, cf. Etienne de Bourbon 
in Anec. Hist. 291, and pp. 26-7 of this book. 



existed in Waldensian translations, makes the theory of a 
Waldensian origin at least probable. The argument, that a 
Waldensian translation would not have been used by the 
orthodox 150 years later, certainly has no strength. In any 
case, the strongest argument for the antiquity of origin of the 
original of the Tepl manuscript, is S. Berger's verdict on its 
Latin source. 

ii. Controversy has also raged as to the nature of the tracts 
which accompany the biblical translations in the Tepl manu- 
script, and which have been claimed to prove, not merely a 
Waldensian original, but even Waldensian possession of the 
manuscript itself. The Latin tracts are patristic and incon- 
clusive: they may or may not have been copied from the same 
manuscript as the translation, and in any case both Waldensians 
and orthodox used patristic literature in support of their doc- 
trine^. The other two tracts are curious. They are in German, 
which says something for an early association with the ancestors 
of the Tepl translation, and they consist of a list of the seven 
sacraments and the seven articles of the faith, both with short 
expositions'^. That on the seven sacraments may have been 
originally orthodox or Waldensian, since many Waldensians 
acknowledged the seven sacraments, and some accepted them 
at the hands of orthodox priests: arguments from the order of 
the sacraments in the tract are inconclusive, for it is very 
doubtful whether there was a recognised order either among 
Waldensians or orthodox at the date. The tract on the articles 
of the faith, however, has a very marked verbal resemblance to 
those demanded from Waldensian ordinands, as contained in an 
early manuscript : the seven articles in both are indistinguishable 
in orthodoxy from the catholic seven articles, but the verbal 
resemblance is much closer than between the Tepl articles and 
any other orthodox catechism or articles with which contro- 
versialists have compared them^. The signiiicant feature how- 
ever is the date of origin to which the number of the articles 
point. The division of the creed into articles or clauses was 

1 Cf. Jostes, Die Waldenser, 9-; Walden. Urs. 1-9; for Waldensians and 
patristic literature, David of Augsburg, in Preger, 29, etc. 
^ Jostes, Die Waldenser, 10-; Walden. Urs. 9-18. 
^ Id. 11-13. 



primitive^ and arbitrary: the division into seven, or the doubled 
number, fourteen, had no particular relation to the structure of 
the creed, but was an arbitrary summary of its contents under 
the number denoting perfection: the whole creed was divided 
into seven, or seven clauses were assigned to both the godhead 
and the humanity. The division into seven goes back at least 
to the third century, and it is hkely that it was superseded by 
the division into fourteen in the thirteenth, or early fourteenth 
century. English manuals and catechisms in the fourteenth 
century certainly teach twelve or fourteen articles of the faith^: 
and it is probable that this was the continental custom. The 
synod of Var in 1368 set forth fourteen articles of the faith for 
the instruction and guidance of parish priests of little learning^, 
as do the majority of fourteenth century manuals and catechisms. 
It is thus certain that the division of the creed into seven articles 
goes back to a period anterior to the fourteenth century, and 
probable that it was only used in the fourteenth century as a 
verbal and traditional rendering of an older form: it had been 
generally superseded by the fourteen articles. This would seem 
to shew a very early origin for the Tepl tract, quite possibly at 
about the date of the original translations themselves, and it 
strengthens the argument for the antiquity of those translations. 
Thus the Latin source of the earliest German biblical transla- 
tions, and the antiquity, and probably Waldensian nature, of a 
tract accompanying the Tepl version, both point towards the 
early thirteenth century as the date of the first German trans- 
lations ; a date at which the historical evidence is much stronger 
in favour of a Waldensian than an orthodox origin. 

§ 4. The Rhine valley and Rhine mouth seem from the 
twelfth century onv.^ard to have been the scene of religious 
movements among laymen, of the association of lay people in 
communities for the purpose of leading a devout life, and, 
(closely connected with this), of the tendency of such communi- 
ties to deviate into heresy, through the "mediocre learning," as 

^ The creed of Origen at Alexandria, a.d. 230, and the creed used at the 
baptism of Palmatius, Rome, c. a.d. 220, were both divided into seven 

2 See pp. 196-9. I have not found a manual or catechism of the date which 
divides the creed into seven articles. 

' Mansi, xxvi. 486. 


their enemies said, of the local leaders of the movements. While 
Peter Waldo was getting the gospels translated for himself at 
Lyons, Lambert le Begue (the Stammerer) was preaching in 
the Netherlands. Gilles d'Orval, a religious of Liege, the town 
where Lambert himself preached, wrote in 1251 a chronicle of 
the city; he says that Lambert, the founder of the Beghards, 
"although he was but little instructed in the studj^ of letters," 
was a celebrated preacher at Liege, c. 1 167-91: he incurred, 
however, the displeasure of the bishop, and when he was im- 
prisoned in the castle of Rivogne in consequence, " and had been 
kept some little time in captivity, he translated the Acts of the 
Apostles into French^." Another chronicler states "he was a 
fervent preacher of the new devotion which filled Liege and the 
neighbouring regions," — a phrase curiously reminiscent of the 
contemporary description of the Brethren of the Common Life 
as the "founders of the new devotion." Lambert translated 
many books, especially the lives of the saints and the Acts of 
the Apostles 2; the Acts and a life of our Lady were probably 
in verse ^. His career as a popular preacher, founder of com- 
munities and translator of scriptures, bears remarkable re- 
semblance to that of Gerard Groot (or, the Great), the founder 
of the Brethren of the Common Life. Though orthodox himself, 
the resemblances in his story with that of the early Lollards is 
also curious, while it is certain that the name Lollard was 
copied from that applied to the Beghards*, or followers of 
Lambert, early in the fourteenth century. Beghard, or the 
Latin, Beguinus, was derived from Lambert's own surname: 

^ Mon. Germ., Scrip, xxv. 12: lib. iii. § 43; and Berger, 49. 

- Mon. Germ., Scrip, xxiii. 855. 

' Inq. Neer. 11. 365, 25. 

^ The English word beggar is probably derived through O.F. begard from 
the Flemish beggacrt, a follower of Lambert le Bdgue; the form beggaert 
being derived either directly from B^gue with the masc. ending ard, hard, 
or from the Latinised Beguinus, with ard. The earliest English example is 
beggares, in the Ancren Riwle of 1225, and the word beg means always, 
to ask alms, (not, to be a lay preacher). There is no Flemish word beg, to 
ask alms. See NED. Grosseteste, '\i'26^, knew of these lay preachers: he 
told the Franciscan William of Nottingham that " there was a higher degree 
of poverty than mendicancy, namely to live of one's own labour; hence, he 
said that the Beguines are of the most perfect and hoi}' religion, (religious 
order), because they live of their own labour and do not burden the world 
with exactions." {Eng. Franc. Hist. 87.) The Wvcliffites were great students 
of Grosseteste. 


Lollard, from a Flemish word meaning to "mumble" or 

Beghard, Beguinus or Beguina had at first no opprobrious 
significance, but in 1209, and from then onwards, the Beghards 
received various ecclesiastical condemnations. This was due 
partly to the looseness of their organisation and wandering life, 
partly to suspicion of contamination by heretical pravity. The 
Waldensian heretics had in fact come to Lambert's own city of 
Liege in 1203 2, and the similarity of their life of lay piety to that 
of the Beghards probably led to a mutual influence upon each 
other. But the term Lollard, which had always a heretical 
impHcation, was not apphed to the Beghards till the beginning 
of the fourteenth century, when they had fallen seriously into 
disrepute. "Lollard" was applied to Wychffe's followers and 
poor priests from the resemblance of their wandering life, and 
doubtful orthodoxy, to those of the Beghards or Lollards of the 
Netherlands (one of whom had been burned, as a " Lollard," as 
early as 1322), and whose existence as a band of "wandering and 
hypocritical fellows^" had been noticed in Brabant as early as 
1309. These societies of devout lay people, living without 
monastic rule, were disliked by the regular religious, not onl};' 
on account of their dubious orthodox}^ but as rival associa- 
tions : 

And thus they are plainly wont to say : if this man or woman desire 
to remain a virgin, why does he or she not enter our religion? What 
is such a person doing in the world ? Why does he or she not fly to the 
cloisters of nvms or monks from the midst of Babjdon^? 

^ Lollen or lullen, see NED; Gieseler, iv. 159; and in Anec. Hist. 307, 
the Waldensians "learn the gospels by heart in the vernacular and mumble 
the one to the other." This meaning of Lollard, — a heretical Flemish lay 
preacher, — was undoubtedly that implied by the Irish Cistercian monk, 
Henry Crump, who caused a disturbance in 1382 by calling the Wyclififites 
"Lollards," in a sermon preached in the church of S. Mary the Virgin 
(FZ 311). But ecclesiastics connected the derivation with lolium, the tares 
sown among the wheat; and the populace, and even Wycliffites themselves, 
with the ME loll (lounge, sprawl). Cf. the Wycliffite preacher who said "the 
most blessed Loller" was Christ Himself, "lolled between two thieves" 
(p. 274), and the examples in NED. 

- SH, Waldo. 

^ Hypocritae gyrovagae, Gieseler, iv. 159. 

* Id. n. 2. For those in Italy, n. 3; in France, in 132 1, Lib. Sent. Thol. 298; 
and for the Dominican prohibition of biblical translations made by the friars 
for houses of nuns or Beguines in 1242, supra p. 37; those in Spain, p. 49. 


So strong was this feeling, that the term " Beguines" was applied 
even to Franciscan and Dominican tertiaries, not only of the 
Rhine country, but in France, Spain and Italy^. 

As associations of devout but unlettered lay people, the 
Beghards and Beguines were a class to whom vernacular scrip- 
tures would have been specially useful, and there is evidence 
that vernacular books were popular among them. They were 
infected with Waldensianism at an early period, very shortly 
after Lambert's own death; and there are some indications that 
among the vernacular books they used were translations of the 
canonical scriptures. 

A bishop of Doornik in the late twelfth century issued an 
ordinance, commanding all parish priests to proclaim as heretics 
publicly and frequently at mass, all those who, among other 
crimes, "translate the psalter^." In 1310 the archbishop of 
Trier condemned the Beguines because "they feign themselves 
to the unlearned to be expounders of holy scripture 3." In that 
same year a very learned Dutch Beguine, Margaret Porete, was 
condemned and burned at Paris : she had held heretical tenets, 
and made a translation of holy scripture^. 

Some Beguines also were infected with the heresies of the 
Brethren of the Free Spirit, and the Fraticelh, and studied the 
books of Peter John Ohvi, and especially his exposition of the 
Apocalypse, in the vernacular, as the inquisitor of Toulouse 
frequently ascertained; later Beghards studied other heretical 
and semi-heretical books in the vernacular^. The Beguine 
movement, though influenced both by the German mystics and 
by the Brethren of the Common Life, nevertheless remained 
a parallel movement down to the beginning of the fifteenth 

There are other evidences that early Dutch translations of 
the Bible were received with hostility by the hierarchy, besides 
Lambert's Acts of the Apostles, composed in prison. In 1271 
Jakob van Maerlant, a Dutch poet and layman, translated, — 
not the Bible itself, but — Peter Comestor's Historia Scholastica 

1 Lib. Sent. Thol. 299, 300, 313, 316, 318, 325. 

2 Inq. Neer. 1. 149. 
^ Id. I. 155. 

* Id. II. 64. * See p. 82. 


into Dutch verse ^. This work was later translated by clerks into 
French and German for royal or noble students, without exciting 
opposition: but Maerlant was himself a layman, and seems to 
have intended his translation, — a very free one, — for popular 
use. He complained in a later poem that there was far greater 
eagerness to read tales of Tristram and Lancelot, Perceval and 
Galahad than the gospel, "which is too hard for us, because it 
is so true and righteous: and mark now a clear and certain 
token, — he who would so gladly hear it, for him it ma}^ easity be 
deemed unfitting-." Maerlant incurred ecclesiastical censure of 
some sort for his translation of the Rijmbijbel, and the tradition 
of this was sufficiently widely spread to be known to an English 
writer of the fourteenth century. Maerlant himself mentions it 
in a subsequent translation of the Speculum Historiale, in which 
he omitted to translate the biblical portions, either because he 
had already translated them, or a large part of them, in the 
Rijmbijbel, or (as he himself hints), because such translations 
were unacceptable to ecclesiastics. He says in the Spiegel 
Historiael, i. 3, that he will give only the main facts of his 
original, omitting the theological portions and learned dis- 

because they are too hard for the lay people: and also I am afraid 
about it, that the papacy might take it amiss, if I should wish to 
undertake this. And I have been subjected to attacks from this 
source, because I have made known to the lay people secret things 
out of the Bible^. 

1 Rijmbijbel, ed. David, J., Brussels, 1858-9; cf. Jonckbloet, i. 228-. 
Maerlant' s poem, Die Clausule van der Bible, is only a hymn to, or life of, 
our Lady. For the view that opposition to the Rijmbijbel was due only to its 
lay authorship, see Hellwald 115; Hist, of Flemish Literature, Delepierre, 
London, i86o, 39. 

^ Truffe van minnen ende van stride 

Leest men dar de werelt wide; 

Die ewangelie es ons te zwaer, 

Om dat soe recht seit ende waer. 

Merct een tekin harde clare: 

Wie so gherne horen tware, 

Hem mach lichte niet gescien. 

Men sabre noch duegt an zien. 
Leven van Sint Franciscus, Tideman, J., Leyden, 1847; Werken uitgegeven 
door de Vereeniging ter bevordering der oude Nederlandsche Letterkunde, Vierde 
Jahrgang, Derde aflevering; p. 4. 

^ want den leeken eist te swaer; 

ende occ mede hebbic vaer. 

Ill] maerlant's rijmbijbel 73 

Maerlant's pupil, Jan de Weert, himself a layman, mentions the 
opposition his master had incurred, in his Disputation between 
Jan and Roger ^■. 

Because he unbound the Bible into Dutch: 

And because he exposed himself for his poem's sake: 

For this they were wroth. 

The matter is referred to in the tract in favour of biblical 
translations, written in England at the end of the fourteenth 
century, probabty b}' John Purvey: 

It was heard of a worthy man of Almain, that some time a Fleming, 
(his name was Jacob Merland), translated all the Bible into Flemish. 
For which deed he was summoned before the pope of great enmity: 
and the book was taken to examination and truly approved. It was 
delivered to him again, in confusion to his enemies^. 

It is thus certain that some sort of storm was raised against 
Maerlant by the publication of the Rijmbijbel, no doubt by the 
local ecclesiastics. In his earlier and famous poem, the Wapene 
Martijn^, he had lamented over the decadence of the world in 
his day, and specially over the evil condition of the Church, and 
the ignorance and idle lives of the clergy. These were naturally 
hostile to him afterwards: Maerlant said, in his preface to the 

dat des dat paepscap belgen soude, 

of ic mi dies onderwinden woude. 

Ende anderwaerven ebbic gewesen 

in haer begripen van desen, 

want ik leeken weten dede 

uter byblen die heimlichede. 
Quoted Tepler Bibel. 36; printed in Spiegel historiael, Amsterdam, 1849; 
cf. Jonckbloet, i. 229. 

' As quoted by Jostes, 36: 

Want die Bibele hi in Dietsche ontbant, 

Ende voor sijn dicht thooft hi boot, 

Voor dies hadde toren. 
With slight variations in Denkniciler altniederlandischer Sprache und Littera- 
tur, Kausler, E., Leipzig, 1866, in. 16; and in Jonckbloet, i. 229. Jan de 
Weert lived at Ypres, was a doctor of medicine, and died about 1362. He 
was a great admirer of Maerlant, and also a translator: his chief work was 
the translation of the Speculum Peccatorum into Dutch, as the Nieuwe 
Doctrinael of Spiegel der Sonde, c. 1351. For his other works, cf. Biogra- 
phisch Woordenboek der Nederlanden, Van der Aa, Haarlem, 1877, xx. 96. 
- Printed in Appendix. 

^ Jacob van Maerlant's Strophische Gedichte, Verwijs, E., Groningen, 1879, 
XI-; cf. Maerlant's Werken beschoud. als Spiegel van de dertiende Eeuw, 
Jan te Winkel, Ghent, 1892, 68; 183-200. For Maerlant's laments about the 
clergy of his day, cf. also his Der Kerken Claghe, in the Strophische Gedichte. 


Rijmbijbel, that he had enemies who were ever ready to attack 
himi. It is significant also that for years after the pubHcation 
of the Rijmbijbel in 1271 nothing appeared from Maerlant's pen, 
though both before and after these years his output was large 
•and regular. It is quite possible that his enemies appealed to the 
Curia about the matter, for appeals to Rome in the thirteenth 
century were regular, and often occasioned by quite minor 
matters. Maerlant may have actually travelled to Rome, or 
authority to deal with the matter may have been sent to the 
local bishop of Utrecht, John of Nassau. Maerlant's reference 
to the "papacy" in his Spiegel Historiael is, moreover, precise, 
and would scarcely have been used if no appeal to Rome had 
been made at all. If he actually travelled to Rome to defend his 
Rijmbijbel, and obtained an assurance that it was harmless, 
coupled with a warning not to meddle with high matters in the 
future, both his own words in the Spiegel and Purvey's form of 
the tradition would be easily understood. The Curia was less 
ready to condemn translations than the local bishops, the Rijm- 
bijbel was after all only a translation of the Historia Scholasiica, 
and the authorities at Rome had not been annoyed, like those 
at Utrecht, by the popularity of the Wapene Martijn. 

Nearly a hundred years later, another la^' undertook the 
work of translating the Historia Scholasiica into prose, in 1358 -. 
His preface shews that, at the date, the majority of the clergy 
still regarded Innocent Ill's letter and the synodal decisions as 
prohibiting biblical translations. The author states his intention 
of translating the Bible for popular edification : 

And yet I know well that it shall be much begrudged among the 
clergy. Now, that they may well understand the usefulness thereof, 
know that . . . because it torments some clerks, that men should unbind 
the secrets of scripture to the common people : and they refuse to know, 
that the apostles of Christ preached and wrote their teaching in all 
tongues and speeches to the people^. 

1 Quoted te Winkel, 66: 

Die altoes versch ende nuwe 
Talrestont sijn daertoe gerust 
Dat hem emmer begripens lust 
Mijn gedicht ende mine wort. 

2 For prose versions, V, Ncerlandaises [Versions], iv. 1549; HH, in. 119; 
Boek'zaal, 235-9. 

3 Quoted in full, Boekzaal. 367-9; partially, Tepley Bibel. 36. Actually the 
author translated only the O. Test, portion of the Hist. Schol., which he 


Similar references to the state of clerical opinion at the time are 
too numerous and important for us to belittle the opposition 
of these clerks as that of a "few zealots^." 

§ 5. The German mystics of the upper Rhine in the fourteenth 
century gave the first important impetus towards the use of 
vernacular Bibles from the side of orthodoxy. The Beghards 
were suspected of heresy: Maerlant had been a layman: but 
many of the Gottesfreunde were Dominicans or Franciscans, and 
therefore of trustworthy orthodoxy. It is true that direct advice 
to lay people to use translations comes rather from the later 
"Friends of God," when the movement had already become 
partly heretical, or from the lay side of the movement, which 
was accused of heresy at an early stage: but the work of the 
most unimpeachably orthodox "Friends of God" did a very 
great deal indirectly for the sanction of vernacular Bibles, by 
encouraging the practice of meditation among the laity as a 
primary duty. 

Denifle has shewn that the real significance of the German 
mystics, the Dominicans Eckhart, Tauler, Suso, and the other 
Gottesfreunde, was not the originahty of their thought, — even 
in Eckhart's case, — but their popularisation of scholastic 
mystical teaching by means of vernacular sermons and vernacu- 
lar writings^. Through these, the mystical theology of the 
pseudo-Dionysius, of S. Augustine, S. Bonaventura and the 
Victorines first reached a wide lay pubhc : and this led eventually 
to a demand for bibhcal translations which devout lay people 
could use for meditation. The fact is hardly (as Eicken ex- 
presses it) 3 that teaching as to the duty of striving after im- 
mediate communion with God led by analogy to the desire for 
an immediate acquaintance with His Word; for the early 

seems to have regarded as equivalent to a glossed text of the Bible : " It has 
long been in my mind, that I would gladly translate the foundation of the 
scripture out of Latin into Dutch, because I hope that many holy men who 
are ignorant of clergy shall profit by it" (Bockzaal, 368). The book was 
first printed in 1477 at Delft [id. 365), with the names of the printers, but 
not the last editor. 

1 Tepler Bibel. 36; Jonckbloet, i. 241; Hellwald, 102, 115. 

2 Meister Eckhart's Lateinische Schriften, itnd die Grundsanschauung 
seiner Lehre, in Archiv fiir Litter atur- und Kirchen-Geschichte des Mittelalters, 
II. (1886), 416-. 

3 Geschichte und System der Mittelalterlichen Weltanschauung, Eicken, H., 
Stuttgart, 1887, 786. 


followers of the Friends of God were taught to lay far greater 
stress on guidance by a Friend of God, or enlightened spiritual 
director, than on a personal study of the scriptures: 

"Dear Christian men," said an early Friend of God, perhaps 
Nicholas of Bale, " I ad^dse you in all truth that you learn to be able 
to fight against all vices, . . . and whoever is not yet well prepared to 
fight, let him seek out such men as are well learned in the eternal truth, 
and ask them to teach him to fight against all vices: and let him also 
gladly hear sermons and read good little books, through which men 
may also become well instructed^." 

"It would be well for such men, who wish to live to the truth," 
said Tauler, "to have a Friend of God, to whom they could submit 
themselves, and who would direct them according to the Spirit of 
God;. . .such men ought to seek an experienced Friend of God, even 
twenty miles round, who would know the right way and guide them 

But, on the other hand, it was certain that teaching which en- 
couraged lay people to imitate "religious" in the practice of 
meditation and attention to God, would soon need to provide 
material for such meditation. For a Benedictine monk or a 
Dominican friar, the material had always been the Vulgate : the 
sanction of German scriptures for nuns or tertiaries who could 
not read Latin, and finally for lay people, followed naturally, 
more especially when their use was only demanded for those 
under close religious direction. 

Meister Eckhart, or "the Master," as he was called by his 
followers 3, died in old age in 1327, after being provincial of the 
Dominican order in Saxony since 1304. His chief works remain 
as vernacular sermons, no doubt preached chiefly in convents 
of Dominican nuns. Denifle has pointed out the importance of 
the constitutions for the reform of these houses in the German 
provinces in 1281. Dominican convents of women were especially 
numerous and important in Germany, and most of all on the 
upper Rhine, and the care of these obviously involved a great 
labour to the friars' convents. In 1252 Innocent IV had removed 
the charge of all of them except two from the Dominican order, 

^ Printed in C. Schmidt's Johannes Tauler von Strassburg, Hamburg, 
1841, 231. 

* The Inner Way, Hutton, A. W., London, 1909, 174. 
^ Archiv, 11. 529. 


to leave the brothers more free for preaching, etc.^ (just as in 
1242 the chapter general had sought to interdict the friars from 
being visitors to, or in charge of, women's convents). The 
example of this pope however was not followed 2, the care of 
them was again committed to the brothers, and in 1281 Her- 
mann of Minden, the provincial, drew up constitutions for the 
reform of the houses, and their direction by the friars. " Ye shall 
give heed," it was provided, "that the sisters lack not the word 
of God, but that it shall be preached to them frequently, accord- 
ing as befits their learning, by learned brothers^." It was further 
enacted that the lecturers at the Dominican studia, and the 
masters of arts, were to lecture to the sisters, and that these 
sermons were to take place on vigils rather than on saints' days 
or Sundays, in order that the people should not be attracted 
from the houses of the brethren, or from their parish churches, 
on those days, — a provision which clearly shews that lay people 
were admitted to hear the sermons, probably in the sisters' ante- 
chapels. This provision was carried out, and the most learned of 
the brothers were, sent to preach to the sisters: a circumstance 
which was the main cause of the spread of mystical ideas among 
the laity. Many of the German mystical sermons were thus de- 
livered, including those of Eckhart and Tauler; the brothers 
preached the theology they had themselves learned, but "sicut 
eruditioni ipsarum convenit," in German. Denifle claims that a 
large number of women in the Dominican convents came from 
the highest burgher class, and some from the nobility*: their 
intelligence was not slight, and fitted them to profit by such 
sermons^. Such was the genesis of German mystical preaching 

^ Archiv, 11. 642. 

2 To Denifle's regret: he sees a connexion between this burden on the 
brothers, and the paucity of Dominican theologians in Germany in the 
fourteenth century; id. 645. There was exactly the same problem in the 
Franciscan order; nearly a century earlier, it meets us among the Prae- 

* Id. II. 645, 650. 

* Id. II. 647. 

* The Dominicanesses at Nuremberg had more than one volume of 
Eckhart's sermons, c. 1469, and many other sermons: some taken down by 
one of the sisters during the sermon; cf. p. 112. Mediaeval writers hke Rolle, 
the author of theCloiid of Unknowing, and Hilton give such frequent warnings 
that their metaphors must not be understood literally, that the need of 
some degree of education in the hearers of mystical discourses is apparent. 


within the Dominican order, afterwards copied sporadically by 
other orders : Strassburg was thus a centre of German mysticism, 
because it had seven convents of Dominican nuns. The sermons 
influenced not only the nuns, but the laity who frequented their 
chapels, to whom the friars were also confessors and directors; 
and in the fourteenth century the term "Friend of God" was 
used, not of the members of a particular rehgious association, 
but of those who aspired to a hfe of mystical piety, whether 
rehgions, secular priests or lay people. 

The leader of the movement in its early stages was a layman, 

Nicholas of Bale, who was influential between 1330 and 1382, 

and acted as spiritual director to four other laymen who lived 

with him, and also to Tauler in his youth^, and to Rulman Mers- 

win of Strassburg. Nicholas himself had been a young knight, 

had been converted, and given himself to the study of the 

saints' hves in German. He was regarded by Tauler as a man of 

the greatest holiness, and only at the end of his career incurred 

suspicion of heresy, through confusion with the Beghards. He 

evaded the inquisition for a time, but was finally burned as a 

heretic,— and as a " Friend of God," not as a Beghard,— in 1397^: 

one of the most celebrated of his pupils, Martin of Mainz, a 

Benedictine monk of Reichenau, having suffered in 1393. 

Other Friends of God were also burnt, before and after this 

date;— there was enough burning of Beghards and Friends of 

God at this time to justify any English Lollard's fear of the same 

fate for ^'■ears before the De Haeretico Comhurendo statute of 

1401. The movement was throughout regarded with some 

jealousy by the clergy, on account of its lay element : but it may 

fairly be considered orthodox until brought into disrepute by 

the speculations of Rulman Merswin, a layman who founded a 

religious community near Strassburg, and was condemned as a 

heretic in 1382, though his community survived him. 

Between 1300 and 1350, when verse translations and homihes 
upon the Sunday gospels were being prepared in the north of 
England, and a verse Legendary, or lives of the saints, in the 

1 Gieseler, iv. 186; Friedjung, 185. See also Denifle's researches on the 
early Gottesfreunde, Tauler and Merswin in Das Buck von geistlich Armuth, 
Munich, 1877, preface, and Tauler's Bekehnmg, 1879. 

- The exact date is disputed. 


south, parallel work was going forward among the Friends of 
God in Germany. A German gospel harmony, with the epistles 
for Sundays and saints' days, dates from 1367^: but a later 
manuscript incorporates the preface of a biblical translator of 
about 1340^. The latter was a layman of the Gottesfreunde type, 
who believed that biblical translations would be useful to lay 
people, but was much opposed by orthodox scholars and ecclesi- 
astics for such a belief, and for engaging on the work of trans- 
lation; the opposition he mentions is like that of the Dutch 
translator of the Histona Scholastica^, but he describes his 
enemies more vividly and at greater length. A translation in 
prose of the Sunday gospels and epistles was also apparently 
prepared by the Gottesfreunde about 1340^ : it may go back to 
earlier collections made by the immediate followers of Eckhart 
for German nuns: and these again may have been founded on 
the Waldensian translations condemned by German inquisitors 
about 1250, and earlier. The collection of c. 1340 is contempo- 
rary and has been connected with the work of another Friend 
of God, Hermann of Fritzlar^. The latter collected, between 
1343 and 1349, ^ set of prose sermons on the lives of the saints, 
in which the mystical teaching of Eckhart is intermingled, and 
wrote a preface to them, with illustrations from his own travels 
in Italy, Spain and Germany. His sharp reproaches of worldly 
priests and teachers are similar to those of Nicholas of Bale, and 
the above-mentioned translator; and he made use of earlier 
material in apparently the same way as the collector of the 
Sunda}^ epistles and gospels. 

There is thus a certain amount of direct evidence that the 
Friends of God, orthodox or semi-orthodox, advocated the use 
of biblical translations by the laity. Nicholas of Bale, or one of 
his early followers, urges the reading of German books of piety 

1 This is the earliest plenarj'^ quoted by Haupt in the list of MSS. cited in 
Walden. Urs. 26. 

2 Printed p. 118. The translator apparently belonged to the same period 
as Nicholas of Bale, and Hermann of Fritzlar, but he may have been 
slightly later. 

' See p. 74. 

* See ADB, viii. 118, and Keller, 47. 

5 See HH. His Buck von der Heiligen Leben followed an earlier compila- 
tion, perhaps by the Dominican, Gieseler von Schlotheim, lector at Cologne 
and Erfurt, and the latter used a still earlier one, c. 1337. 


in 1356: it is noticeable both that he is not mainly concerned 
with biblical translations (though he may have included such 
books as German plenaries among the books he considered 
useful), and that there were many "great teachers" of the time 
who considered German books of edification, of any sort, un- 
lawful for the laity, — an opinion stated as common knowledge 
in an imperial edict of 1369. After the passage quoted earlier, 
the tract continues: 

But some teachers say, that German books are harmful to Chris- 
tianity. That in one way is very true, and in another way not true. 
In one wa}^ it would certainly be good that certain books should not 
be turned into German, the books that have many glosses, for such 
books do not appertain to lay people. For you will take a part of them, 
and expound it according to your carnal manners, and you cannot 
get the matter clear, and so you go astra^^: and such glossed books 
are proper for the priesthood. But such little books as this little book 
is, and also other German books which are of this kind, and moreover 
not written contrary to the hol}^ scriptures, — such German books are 
very useful and very good for simple people, and you shall not let 
the great teachers deprive you of them (for those teachers themselves 
are full of the scriptures and the doctrine of God) ; if they seek them- 
selves, in the honour of this world, more than God. But where you find 
teachers who seek not themselves, them shall you gladly obej-, . . . 
and such counsel is, moreover, not contrary to holy scripture, for the 
holy scripture and the Holy Ghost are in union one with another ^ 

The next reference is more explicit. Otto of Passau, a Fran- 
ciscan lector at Bale, wrote in 1386 a book of allegorical and 
mystical piety, called the Four and twenty elders, or the Golden 
Throne, in reference to the Elders of the Apocalypse^. Nothing 
is known of Otto except what he himself tells us in the preface^ ; 
the book was regarded as orthodox and became intensely 
popular, though it appeared just at the time when the Gottes- 

^ C. Schmidt's Tauler, 231. 

- Die vier und zwanzig Alten, oder der guldin Tron, Antony Sorg. 
Augsburg, 1480, to which the references are given, the later editions being 
unfoliated. A modernised edition was printed in 1835 at Landshut, as the 
tenth volume of the Leitstern auf der Bahn des Heils, entitled Die Krone der 

* See Boekzaal, 322, and E. Schroeder's article in Gott. Gel. Anz. 1S88, 
p. 251. This article, while treating of the attitude of religious orders to 
biblical translations, confuses the authorship of the Four and twenty elders, 
attributing it on p, 255 to Otto of Passau, and on p. 257 to John Nider, the 
Dominican. This article is probably the source of the error in HH, where 
John Nider is said to have written a book called Four and twenty ciders. 


freunde movement was declining into heresy^. The preface 
states that the book is addressed to all the Friends of God, 
clerical and lay, male and female, — that is, it was intended for 
the devout section of the population only. Certain sections deal 
with the holy scriptures 2, their great usefulness, and the obliga- 
tion of man to follow them ; and in one place the author gives the 
first mediaeval approbation of biblical translations by a religious : 

I advise you also with all diligence, to read the scriptures of the 
Old and the New Testaments oftentimes with reverence and earnest- 
ness, either in German or in Latin, if you understand Latin^. 

The advice is one of great interest, but it proceeded from the 
participator in a certain movement and was addressed to a 
certain class, and cannot therefore be quoted as representative 
of the general opinion of the friars or the clergy at the time. If 
it were so, it would be paralleled in the very numerous con- 
temporary manuals and works of piety. 

§ 6. The Beghards, as has been said, dragged on a rather 
precarious existence during the fourteenth century. Restrictions 
had been placed upon them by three synods from 1269 to 1281 : 
and a sweeping condemnation was passed against them by the 
synod of Beziers in 1299. They were again condemned at 
Cologne in 1306, and in 1310 the synod of Trier passed a decree 
against " those who under a pretext of feigned religion call them- 
selves Beghards. . .and, hating manual labour, go about begging, 
holding conventicles, and posing among simple people as inter- 
preters of scripture^." An attempt was made at Vienne in 131 1 
to suppress them, as the main instruments in the spread of 
heresy : and between 1366 and 1378 a fresh and serious attempt 
was made to suppress them in Germany, by Urban V and 
Gregory XI, aided by the "pfaffenkaiser," Charles IV. 

^ The authorities quoted are the Bible, the Fathers, "those heathen writers 
whom the Church does not condemn," and S. Elizabeth of Schonau. 

* 1480 ed. f. ciii. : "Der xiiii alte leret von gotlicher geschrifft und gotlicher 
kunst." f. cix. : "Von der heiligen geschriflft wie man jr volgen sol " f. ex. : 
"Was die heilig geschrifft grossen nucz schafft." 

' Id i. cxi. : " Ich rat dir auch mit allem fleiss das du die geschrifft der 
alten und der newen ee dick und vil mit andacht und mit ernst lesen solt, 
es sei in teiitsch oder in Latein, ob du Latein verstandest." 

* Mansi, xxv 261: " Seque fingunt coram personis simplicibus exposi- 
tores sacrarum scripturarum." The Waldensian influence had thus survived 
in the Beghards of the Rhine country in 1310. 

D.w. B. 


It was recognised, in this outburst of persecution, that heretical 
behef s had been spread by German ' ' scriptures, ' ' including glossed 
plenaries and other books of homilies and semi-mystical devo- 
tion. Certain Friends of God at least had contended for German 
epistles and gospels, against the opinion of the main body of the 
clergy; and some had already been burned as Beghards and 
heretics. The Beguines who approximated to the Brethren of 
the Free Spirit had used the condemned works of Berengarius 
and John Peter Olivi; and other Beguines had used the German 
sermons of Eckhart to support their pantheistic heresies. 
Eckhart's works had been condemned by bull in 1329^, as a 
result of this confusion, though a later buU had tacitly ignored 
the earlier condemnation. It was probably against the works of 
Eckhart that the reiteration of the prohibition of German scrip- 
tures was largely directed, either because they were still con- 
sidered heretical by some theologians (though studied with the 
greatest reverence in some Dominican convents), or because 
their doctrine was considered utterl3^ unsuitable for the un- 
instructed laity, — a qualification which was constantly recog- 
nised by mystical writers in the vernacular themselves, in the 
fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. A champion of German 
scriptures in 1398 expressly excepted 

those books which in the st\^le of their writing differ from that of 
the doctors of the Church : and this is said because of certain German 
books which have a new, profane, and abusive mode of speech, and 
certain of them are entitled: Of Eckhart, or t\\e Sermon'i of Eckhart^. 

John Nider^ the Dominican also described certain Beghards^ at 
the time of the council of Bale, who 

use subtle, sublime, spiritual and metaphysical words, such as the 
German tongue can hardly express, so that scarcely any man, even an 
educated man, can fully understand them; and in these they wrap up 
lofty sentences about spirit, abstraction, various lights, divine persons, 
and the grades of contemplation. 

And certain German books, full of their subtle sermons, plainly do 

1 Raynaldi, Ann. Eccles., Lucca, 1750, V, 450. 

- See p. 75. 

3 A Swabian and a reformer, belonging to the convent of Bale; ti438- 

^ In his Formicarius, or Myrmecia Bonorum; in the 161 1 edition, lib. iii. 
c. V. p. 215; of. Schroeder in Gd«. Gel. Anz. 1888, p. 255. For the same argu- 
ment against translations in England, see pp. 289-94. 


good service to their evil intention, and use such expressions; and 
some of the books were written foolishly and rashly, or were allowed 
to be copied, — unless I much mistake; and there are some at least 
which are obviously falsel)- ascribed to certain honest and ancient 
doctors of religion by certcin Beghards or heretics. For they hide 
the poison of their depravity beneath the cloak of such words, and 
express the venom of their iiialignant heresy by means of them. 

Against such books of subtle sermons, and the translations 
undertaken by the laymen of the Gottesfreunde movement, a 
sweeping measure of prohibition was enacted by the emperor. 
Charles IV had always been a staunch supporter of the Church 
and ecclesiastics, and was himself interested in devout literature, 
legends of the saints^, etc. : but it was not till 1369 that his inter- 
view with Urban V at Rome led him to undertake a campaign 
against German books of piety. The pope had already made a 
fresh attempt to suppress heresy in Germany by means of the 
inquisition: in 1367 he sent Walter Kerling^, and three other 
Dominicans, as inquisitors under papal authorisation, and called 
on all German prelates to support them : one heretic was burnt at 
Erfurt and seven elsewhere. When the Emperor was returning 
from Rome in 1369, he issued from Lucca, at the request of the 
pope^, a number of bulls in support of the inquisition, assuring 
to it privileges and protection which it had never before received 
in Germany*. The fourth of such edicts issued within a week 
dealt with the subject of German books at great length. It was 
addressed to the Dominican inquisitor Walter Kerling, to Louis 
de Caligula, and two other Dominicans to be chosen by Walter 
Kerling as fellow inquisitors. After the usual reference to the 
tares (zizania), which the enemy of man had sown in the Lord's 
field, and which should be rooted up b}' the faithful, it proceeded'^ : 

^ See Friedjung, 149. '' Id. 194. 

' Id. 195; and Mosheim, 368. The first of the group of imperial edicts 
issued in support of the inquisition in 1369 was promulgated "opitulante 
Domino Deo ac domino nostro summo pontifice mandante. ' ' Friedj ung states 
that these edicts were aimed against the heretical Beghards, and the "last 
remains of the Waldensian heretics," p. 196. 

* 10 June, 1369, jurisdiction of the inquisition increased indefinitely: six 
great nobles appointed its protectors: order for the confiscation of a third 
part of a heretic's goods to be confiscated to the inquisition; 11 June, 1369, 
all houses of Beghards and Beguines to be suppressed; 17 June, 1369, the 
last unconditional edict modified in favour of the orthodox and old estab- 
lished Beghard liouses; 17 June, 1369, edict against German devotional 
books; cf. Friedjung, pp. 194-9. 

* Mosheim, pp. 368-75; hiq. iii. 612. 



Wherefore, since we have received truslrworthy information that 
there are in Germany sermons, treatises and other books written in 
the vulgar tongue, which are used by Iciy people, or those who are 
almost lay people^: and that these books are generally harmful, 
erroneous, and infected with the lepros) of heresy : and that the lay 
people who read them do not understand them in a safe and good 
sense^: and that they wish to know thrc^ugh their own understanding 
more than it befits them to know, and not soberly and according to 
the measure of faith : and that they turn away their ears from hearing 
the truth, and turn themselves instead to error, through him who 
is the father of lies. . . .Wherefore we strictly' enjoin and command all 
the venerable archbishops, bishops . . . and all clerics secular and regu- 
lar. . .and all dukes, princes, marquesses etc.. . .and each and every 
man, on their obedience to the Holy Roman Empire: . . .that ye assist 
the said inquisitors and their deputies to demand and confiscate such 
books, treatises, sermons, pamphlets, leaves, bound books, etc., 
written in the vulgar tongue, from all men, whatsoever their rank: 
and any other books written in any other manner, which are suspected 
of containing heretical errors, which books might give occasion to 
certain seducers of souls to preach and teach errors. And all these are 
to be taken from all persons, secular and regular, and chiefly from lay 
people (and the more especially, since it is not lawful, according to 
canon law, for lay people of either sex to read any books whatsoever 
of holy scripture written in the vulgar tongue^), so that such books 
may be examined : lest through a false understanding men should 
be led into heresy or error, even as many Beghards and Beguines in 
these days are, alas, led into error and heresies. And ye shall lend 
your counsel and effectual help, with all your powers and with devout 
minds, to punish those who are rebellious and disobedient with the 
penalties set forth below, according to the style of the inquisition, . . . 
for the effectual prevention of books of this kind. . . . And ye shall lend 
your counsel and effectual help that the aforesaid books should be 
presented to the inquisitors to be burned*. 

^ " Personas laycas vel pane laycas." Laicus in mediaeval Latin frequently 
bears the sense of unlettered: as here. 

^ This and the following sentence are such as were frequently used in argu- 
ments against biblical translations, by those who claimed that a translation 
of the bare text did not give the subsidiary mystical understandings, and 
was dangerous. See Index, Textus. 

^ ' ' Praesertim cum laycis utriusque sexus, secundum canonicas sanctiones, 
etiam libris vulgaribus quibuscunque de sacra scriptura uti non liceat." 
Mosheim, p. 370. 

* Martini printed this edict from Mosheim's unpublished work, and colla- 
ted it with a MS. at Helmstadt: see p. 368, and Inq. Neer. i. 215-17. The 
names of the witnesses to this group of edicts leave no reason to doubt their 
genuineness. The edict is perhaps the "antique statute" referred to in 
certain statutes made for Dutch tertiaries by the chapter-general at 
Utrecht: the copy was made by the warden of the Barbara- Kloster at Delft 
before 1585: "Renovatum est illud antiquum statutum, quod cantica 


It is noticeable that this very stringent edict was addressed to 
the inquisitor to whom the Emperor had, shortly before, "con- 
firmed and approved all the powers and privileges of inquisitors 
in Lombardy, France, Toulouse, Carcassonne, Italy, Gallia, 
Germany and elsewhere^." 

The decree of 1369 had an indirect result in the breach between 
Charles IV and Henry von Miigeln^, who in one sense compares 
with the Englishman, Richard Rolle, and in another with Maer- 
lant. Like Maerlant, he was a layman and court poet, — one of 
the most famous amongst the meistersingers. He wrote some 
verses descriptive of the contents of the Bible: and then, like 
Rolle, and at about the same stage of the development of the 
vernacular tongue, he prepared a translation of the psalter, with 
glosses. Rolle wrote his psalter before 1349: von Miigeln some- 
time between 1345 and 1370. It is significant that both chose 
the psalter for translation, and both thought it necessary to 
afford a gloss as well. Rolle chose the gloss of Peter Lombard 3, 
von Miigeln the postill of Nicholas of Lyra, — a much more up- 
to-date choice. Lyra was a Franciscan, with a great reverence 
for the Hebrew text of the Old Testament, and considerable 
knowledge of Hebrew. Von Miigeln's choice of Lyra's postill 
for the gloss made his work fairly popular and simple, since 
Lyra made no attempt to give a fourfold interpretation to each 
passage : but there is no indication that his translation was made 
specially for lay people. He had hved for a long time at Prague, 
enjoying the favour of Charles IV, but, after the issue of the 
1369 edict against German scriptures, he fell into disfavour and 
left the court. 

It is noticeable, in contrast to Charles IV's edict, that his 

canticorum, Biblia ac etiam novum testamentum, ante annos aliquot im- 
pressa, non legentur, iuxta mandatum imperiale, nee detinebuntur in con- 
ventibus sororum " {Hist. Episcopatuum foederati Belgii, Van Heussen. 
Antwerp, 1755, i. 413). The reference may however be to the imperial edicts 
(1529, 1533 or 1550) of Charles V, prohibiting the making or use of transla- 
tions of the Bible: see Harney, 212, 218. 

1 Mosheim, 345. This is significant as shewing that provincial decrees, 
passed for the strengthening of the inquisition, were not purely local in 
effect, but were regarded as precedents. As Kerling was expressly given 
the powers of the inquisitors in Toulouse, it was certainly within his right 
to enforce the decree of Toulouse, 1229, against biblical translations. 

2 Walther, 589, 718; cf. infra, p. 145. 
' See p. 146. 


successor, the Emperor Wenzel, had more Uberal ideas about 
translations. He is said to have ordered a certain Martin Rotlev 
to translate the Bible, and a late fourteenth century manuscript 
exists, known as the Wenzel Bible, though it contains only the 
Old Testament^. The translation, however, is related to that in 
other manuscripts, and goes back to a common original, now 
lost. The book was not meant for popular use, and was not 
widely copied: it was probably meant for the possession of the 
Emperor or some exalted personage. 

Like the earlier decrees of Toulouse, Paris, etc., the imperial 
edict clearly prohibited German translations of the Bible, 
plenaries, service books, psalters, sermons, books of mystical 
instruction, and not only these, but (if strictly interpreted) such 
orthodox manuals as books of vices and virtues, confession 
books, etc., — since these, like Eckhart's sermons, could be re- 
garded by a zealot as " de sacra scriptura tractantes." It was, in 
fact, an attempt to revive the policy of the synod of Toulouse: 
but at a date when the growth of orthodox vernacular manuals 
made such a sweeping prohibition impossible. In England it 
would have rendered illegal Rolle's psalter, the Prick of Con- 
science, and the Ayenbite of Inwyt, while in Germany the develop- 
ment of German plenaries and orthodox manuals was more 
advanced. Etienne de Bourbon could enforce such a decree, 
because orthodox French manuals in the thirteenth century 
were still so rare as to be possessed only by the great: Walter 
Kerling could scarcely do so, and it was possibly at his request 
for further instruction, possibly at the petition of Nicholas of 
Bale himself^, that a fresh edict was issued by Gregory XI in 
1375, the rescript Ad Apostolatus^. This was much less sweeping 
than the imperial edict : 

Since it has come to our apostolic ears, that in some regions in 
which ye exercise the office of inquisitors of heretical pravity, there 
are certain simple laymen, for the most part illiterate, who read or 
have read to them certain books of sermons written in the vulgar 
tongue, which are said to contain heretical errors: and that these 
laymen usurp to themselves the office of preaching, and publicly 

^ See F. Jelinck, Spy ache der W enzelbibels , Gorz, 1899; and Amer. J our. 
of Phil. XXI. 62-75, The Wenzelbibel, by W. Kurrelmeyer. 

2 Friedjung, 198. 

3 Mosheim, 378; Inq. Neer. i. 237. 


propound doctrine which they know not, because they have not 
learnt it: and that through reading and hearing what they do not 
understand, become masters of error rather than disciples of truth: 
Since therefore books of this kind in the vulgar tongue are too dan- 
gerous, and since it is not lawful to preach except for those to whom 
it is expressly granted, . . .we command your discretion by the apos- 
tolic authority, that you cause such books to be brought forward 
and exhibited to you, in those places in which ye exercise the office 
of the inquisition, in order that you may diligently examine them 
among you ; and ye shall condemn by apostolic authority those books, 
or those parts of them, in which ye shall find heretical errors. And ye 
shall announce them to be erroneous and heretical to the people in 
sermons, and by the apostolic authority prohibit for the future any 
such lay person from presuming to preach, or any other man from 
daring to write, buy, sell, or possess condemned books or sermons of 
this kind, or to say that he believes any dogma written in them, or in 
anywise to disclose it^. 

Moreover, the words secundtim canonicas sanctiones express the 
belief that bibhcal translations^ were generally prohibited, — a 
belief held by the majority of ecclesiastics down to the last 
quarter of the fourteenth century, and by a very important 
number of them, even in Germany, to a later date. This pro- 
hibition is referred to as a matter of common knowledge, for 
which proof is unnecessary. The canon law, like the common law 
in England, was primarily unwritten and traditional, to be de- 
cided by cases tried in the ecclesiastical courts. By this time it 
had become almost entirely written, the earlier traditional law 
having been further elaborated by papal legislation, as English 
common law was gradually limited and defined by statute law ; 
and it was, finally, expressed in the great ecclesiastical codes, 
the Decreinm of Gratian, and the Decretals of Gregory IX, the 
Liber Sextus, etc. The words "canonical sanctions" might refer 
to any such expression of the canon law, as interpreted by 
commentators of acknowledged authority, or to synodal edicts. 
But the common knowledge here appealed to was probably that 
of the confiscation and burning of vernacular scriptures by the 
inquisition, from which the inference was obvious that "canoni- 
cal sanctions" lay behind their action. These sanctions were not 

^ Friedjung, 198. 

^ Compare also the frequent condemnation of vernacular prayer-books in 
the examinations of suspected Lollards, in/ra: and the fact that a Dutch 
theologian found occasion for defending the usefulness of vernacular prayers, 
P- 95- 


simply the prohibitions of provincial synods, binding only within 
the province itself, for the inquisitor of Passau's evidence shews 
that German Bibles were regarded as evidence of heresy in other 
provinces than Trier, and this is confirmed by that of David of 
Augsburg for Austria and Bavaria, and the wide powers given 
to Walter Kerling himself. Not merely were the decisions of 
local synods cumulative in effect as precedents, but, wherever 
the inquisitors worked, the sanction of the synod of Toulouse in 
this matter seems to have lain behind them. For most people, 
assistance at a book-burning was a far more frequent source of 
education than the study of the decisions of provincial synods, 
and it was to knowledge thus gained that the edict of 1369 
appealed. In any case, the words are those of the Emperor's 
responsible advisers, and^not merety of a few "fanatics or 


Bible reading in the Empire and the Netherlands 

c. 1400-1521 

§ I. At the end of the fourteenth centurj^ a fresh movement, 
the "New Devotion," arose in the Netherlands, and sought to 
estabhsh a devout community Hfe, not under religious vows like 
those of the monks, and not supported by mendicancy like the 
friars. This movement of the "Brethren of the Common Life" 
struggled to increase devotion among lay people, and it succeeded 
in converting a large section of orthodox German opinion to the 
usefulness of German and Dutch books of scriptures for this 
purpose. The "New Devotion" was founded through the 
exertions of Gerard Groot, who died in 1584: and it took shape 
in the formation of houses of Brethren or Sisters of the Common 
Life, as at Deventer, or of canons regular under the influence of 
Groot's teaching, as at Zwolle. The strength of the movement 
lay largely in its insistence on learning among the brethren or 
canons themselves, and their zeal for secular education. It was 
not merely their devotion, but their intellectual ability that 
enabled the founders of the New Devotion to save themselves 
from being confounded with the heretical Beghards, and to pro- 
tect themselves from the attacks of their enemies : their learning 
also of course largely protected them not merely from the 
punishment for heresy, but from heresy itself. Nevertheless, 
they were at first bitterly attacked as "Lollards" and heretics, 
both on account of their zeal for the use of German books of 
devotion by the laity, and through the jealousy of many regulars, 
who regarded any life in community not under the three re- 
ligious vows as necessarily "Beghardist" and "Lollard." 

In 1398 the Brethren of the Common Life summoned to their 
house in Deventer a gathering of the law school at Cologne and 
other friendly ecclesiastics, to obtain from them legal pronounce- 
ments, or "determinations," on the many points for which the 
inquisition attacked them. The most important was that on the 


lawfulness of the manner of community life which they practised, 
and which the new communities of sisters practised under their 
direction. But second in the list of determinations^, both for 
length and importance, came a joint determination of the doctors 
on the lawfulness of the use of German "scriptures " in the wider 
sense, including biblical translations, by the laity. The librarian 
at the house of De venter at the time was Gerard Zerbolt-, or 
Gerard of Zutphen, and it is more than likely that in such a 
capacity he acted as secretary to the conference of doctors, and 
possibly even had some share in the drawing up of their joint 
determination. From the fact that a seventeenth century 
editor 3 printed the determination, in a slightl}' altered form, 
from a manuscript which he calls "the book of Gerard Zerbolt," 
the tract has long been ascribed to this brother. The earliest 
manuscript, however, states quite clearly^ that when certain 

^ The determinations exist in four MSS. (i) Royal Library at the Hague, 
MS. 355, the earhest, (2) Burgundian Library at Brussels, MS. 2285-2301, 
quarto, (3) Helmstadt MS., see Mosheim, 433-, (4) Cologne MS., see 
HH, III. 478. Jostes printed the Hst of the determinations, and that on 
vernacular scriptures, in HJ, xi. 14-22; 709-17, without stating from which 
MS. he was printing : but Dr By vanck, librarian at the Royal Library, the 
Hague, finds that his version is identical with that of the Hague MS. Mo- 
sheim used this MS. also, and his editor Martini collated his transcript with 
the Helmstadt MS. Mosheim printed, not this determination on vernacular 
scriptures, but some of the others more directly defending the brethren's 
manner of life against the inquisition, and also the inquisitor's comments 
upon them; for the documents in this heresy trial, see Inq. Neer. 11. 176-84. 

^ See Jostes, Die Schriften des Gerhard Zerbolt von Zittphen in HJ, xi. 
(1890), I-; Revius, 41. 

^ Revius. 

* The list of doctors' names is given in the title of the determination on 
vernacular scriptures, which comes second on the list, and not at the 
beginning, as responsible for the whole set of determinations. The first 
(see HJ, XI. 4) is a tract " from the sayings of the saints and the determina- 
tions of the doctors" on the mode of life of the brethren; the second, this 
tract with the doctors' names ; the third and fourth are attributed to Everard 
Foec; the fifth, a direct attack on the inquisitors of Cologne, is by a " certain 
devout and learned man" who prefers to remain anonymous; the sixth 
is the determination of abbot Arnold. Jostes regards the list of nine lawyers 
as responsible for the whole set of determinations, and imagines that one 
of them must have been responsible for the tract on vernacular scriptures : 
he inclines to abbot Arnold, while others have ascribed it to Everard Foec. 
But since this special tract is attributed jointly in the MS. to the nine lawyers, 
it is superfluous to ask which of them was the author, and misleading to call 
the tract anonymous (HJ, xi. 14). Abbot Arnold's concurrence in it makes 
him, as far as is known, the next religious after Otto of Passau to approve 
of German Bibles, — but he excluded the Apocalypse as unsuitable for the 
laity, while Otto's work is based upon it. 


doctors were assembled at Deventer in 1398 to give the brethren 
their verdict on certain doubtful points, nine of them, whom it 
mentions by name, concurred in giving this determination on 
the lawfulness of vernacular scriptures. Of these nine, three 
were doctors of law, three doctors of decretals, or canon law, 
and three licentiates in law^. All were men of position and in- 
fluence, and probably all were secular priests except the abbot 
Arnold of Dyckeninghe. With their decision concurred "many 
others," whose names are not given. 

There are no grounds for supposing that the university of 
Cologne had been especially influenced in its attitude to biblical 
translations by the spread of Wyclifhte teaching, as was the 
case at Prague. It was almost certainly influenced by the earlier 
liberal teaching of the Waldensians, Beghards and Friends of 
God, and it was certainly no friend of the inquisition introduced 
by Charles IV: these influences and motives to some extent 
account for the readiness of the doctors to support the Brethren 
of the Common Life in the matter. It is interesting to compare 
their pronouncement with the words of Matthias of Janov, a 
doctor of Prague, who held the same views on many disputed 
points as Wychffe, and died in 1394. He had the greatest 
reverence for the sacred text, and, though he did not suggest 
its popularisation, would perhaps have been ready to agree with 
the doctors of Cologne in their determination. 

"And because I read blessed Augustine-," he says, "in the book 
Of Christian Doctrine, and Jerome, who says that the study of the text 
of the most holy Bible is, first and last and above all things, necessary 
to each man desiring to attain to a knowledge of theological truth : 
and that the Bible is the first and fundamental matter, and ought so 
to be, to each lettered Christian: immediately my soul was joined 
to the Bible in a perpetual love. For I confess that from my youth 

1 "Of Hermann Stakelwegghe, provost of S. George in Cologne, John de 
Novo Lapide,' canon of Aachen, John called Bau scholasticus of Mechlin, 
doctors of law: and of Arnold abbot of Dyckeninghe, Gerhard of Groningen, 
John of Wercborch, doctors in decretals : and of Ralph ' de Rivo ' dean of 
Tongres, licentiate in law ; and of Tielman Eckhart of Attendorn, licentiate in 
law, advocate of the church of Cologne. With whose Responses concur Master 
Everard Foec, dean of S. Saviour at Utrecht, licentiate in both laws, and 
many others." Mosheim, 433; Inq. Neer. 11. 177. 

* Gieseler, iv. 240. Purvey, the editor of the second version of the Wyclif- 
fite Bible, had the same devotion to Augustine's O Christian Doctrine; 
see pp. 281, 303. 


it has not departed from me, even to old age, neither in the way, nor 
when I was occupied, nor when I was at leisure. And in all my per- 
plexity, in every doubtfulness, I ever found in and through the Bible 
sufificing and enlightening help and consolation to my soul : and in all 
my perturbations, persecutions and sadnesses I fled in all cases to the 
Bible, which, as I have said, walks ever with me, as my best beloved. 
. . . And when I saw that many men carried with them everywhere 
the relics and bones of divers saints, for their especial defence and 
singular devotion, I chose for myself the Bible as my elect, the com- 
panion of my pilgrimage, to bear ever with me." 

Matthias limited the necessity of a knowledge of the text of 
the Bible to theological students, even though he took up a 
Wycliffite position in many of his other writings. To what extent 
the doctors of other German universities would have sided with 
the lawyers of Cologne or with the chancellor of the university 
of Paris, whose hostile attitude will be mentioned later, is 
doubtful: but there would probably have been more liberal 
opinion among the learned for the ten years before the council 
of Constance than later. No doubt many potential German 
Bibles burned with Hus. 

The determination of the lawyers of Cologne and the abbot of 
Dyckeninghe is headed thus: 

It is asked whether it is lawful for lay people to read or possess sacred 
books written in the vulgar tongue, or translated out of Latin into the 
vulgar tongue'^} 

To which it is briefly answered : that to read such books is lawful 
and meritorious, provided they do not contain heresies or errors, 
and especially if they treat clearly of plain subjects, and do not 
disagree with the books of the saints, either in the style of the writer, 
or in likeness of reasoning. Which is thus proved : if lay people ought 
not to read such books, it must be either because they are lay people 
and unlettered, and it is not lawful or suitable for such people to read 
or study holy scripture: or else it is because, though it is not pro- 
hibited for lay people to read holy scripture itself, yet it is unlawful 
or evil to read or have holy scripture in the vulgar tongue. But neither 
of these two can be proved : nay more, each of them is out of accord- 
ance with the sayings of the saints, and contrary and repugnant to 
their counsels : and this can be declared in many manners. 

The arguments given in the determination are then collected 
quite symmetrically under these two heads : and it is of especial 
interest that Innocent Ill's letter to Metz, as incorporated in the 

1 HJ. XI. 14. 


Decretal of Gregory IX^, is dealt with under the first head. That 
is, the nine doctors allege it to prove that holy books may be 
read by the laity : but not to prove that the canonical scriptures 
may be read in the vulgar tongue; a conclusive e^ddence as to 
their opinion on the letter. To prove that it is lawful and suit- 
able for lay people to read holy scripture (in the wider sense), 
they quote this letter of Innocent IIP, and passages from SS. 
Augustine, Chrysostom, Jerome (who exhorted "not only a lay 
woman, but over and above that, a married woman," to study 
the scriptures), Gregory, etc.; and, like Maerlant, they lament 
that "there are many lay people to-day, who constantly read 
the Song of Roland and the Trojan War, and other foolish and 
unprofitable fables: and indeed it would be beneficial to them to 
expend that labour on reading and understanding divine 

The doctors then pass to the second contention: that holy 
scripture may be translated into the vernacular, "and first, 
about the canonical scriptures." Here, they do not allege the 
letter of Innocent III to Metz, as indeed, considering the letter 
as a whole, they could scarcely do; but they point out that the 
whole canonical scriptures were at first written in the language 
of the people for whom they were intended, and not in Latin; 
that the saints translated them for the benefit of the heathen to 
whom they preached, — as S. Bartholomew is said to have done 
in India; and that holy scripture was translated into Latin, not 
in order that it might be hidden to certain people through their 
ignorance, but expressly that it might be generally open to all. 
They conclude, that the Hebrews, Chaldeans, Syrians, Arabs, 
Goths (for whom Ulphilas translated the holy scriptures), the 
Egyptians, Russians, and Armenians have the holy scriptures 
in their vulgar tongues, " and perhaps, if any man inquired more 
diligently, he would find that they exist in every language under 
heaven : what then is the reason that holy scripture may be read 
in the tongues of so many nations, and yet not in the German 
language? " 

1 See p. 31. 

* Or rather, the sentence "the desire of understanding divine scriptures 
is' not to be reprehended but rather commended," omitting the passages 
following, "Cast not pearls before swine," etc. 


This academical decision is in marked contrast with the con- 
temporary judgements of distinguished Franciscan and Domini- 
can friars in England ^ The arguments in favour of vernacular 
scriptures are very similar to those given in the determination 
for bibhcal translations which is probably by an English Lollard^; 
but, while the English .thesis leaves the affirmative conclusion 
unqualified, the Dutch one goes on to give five careful limita- 
tions. First, the vernacular writings must not contain heresy, 
for the letter of Gregor}^ XI in 1375 ^ was directed against such 
books; secondly, they must deal with simple subjects, for 
children should be fed with milk and not with meat; thirdly, 
they must deal openly with the subject, and not figuratively, 
like many books of the Old Testament (the prophetical books 
and others), and some of the New Testament (hke the Apoca- 
lypse and others), such as simple people cannot properly digest; 
fourthly, they must be similar in style to the books of the 
doctors of the Church, because "there are German books which 
have a new, profane and abusive manner of speech, some of 
which are called Of Eckhart, or the Sermons of Eckhart" ; and 
lastly, the meaning must agree with the books of the saints, and 
care should be taken to see that they are properly translated. 

This determination was probably of great service to the 
Brethren of the Common Life in their efforts to instruct lay 
people and houses of sisters by means of German books and 
pamphlets, and in their defence against the inquisitors. In 
another of these determinations of 1398, Everard Foec, dean 
of S. Saviour's at Utrecht, defended the brethren "against a 
certain person who used publicly in his sermons to attack the 
devout persons dwelling in [the brethren's] congregations." The 
next is a defence "by a certain devout and learned man," "of 
those devout persons of both sexes in the province of Cologne, 
whom the inquisitors of heretical pravity have molested and 
slandered for their customs and manner of life*." The Brethren 

^ See pp. 289-94. * See Appendix. 

^ Described as "illud rescriptum apostolicum quod incipit Ad Aposto- 
latus " ; see p. 86. 

* Mosheim prints, p. 443, " The observations of the Inquisitor of Belgium 
on the Responses of the Masters of Cologne." It seeks to expose " the falsehoods 
of the sect of the Gerardists (followers of Gerard Groot), who declare them- 
selves protected by the determination of the Masters of Cologne. Extracts 


of the Common Life succeeded in obtaining approval of their 
manner of Hfe from the council of Constance; but the question 
of the lawfulness of German devotional books remained open. 
The brethren maintained their right to teach by these means, 
but they had to struggle for it. On the one hand, the determina- 
tion found a fresh editor, who may or may not have been him- 
self one of the brethren, within a few years of 1398, and was 
incorporated in a popular and orthodox volume of sermons 
about 1466. On the other, the records of the brethren them- 
selves contain evidence of the struggle, down to about the middle 
of the fifteenth century. 

To complete the history of the determination of 1398 first : it 
is found in a slightly altered form in an early fifteenth century 
manuscript, "the book of Gerard Zerbolt," from which Jacobus 
Revius printed his history of De venter in 165 1. The manuscript 
comes from the library of Deventer, and it is therefore likely 
that the editor himself was one of the brethren; Revius states < 
that he made two extracts, De lihris Teutonicalihtis'^, one of 
which is substantially the 1398 determination, the other^ a short 
and interesting tract on the lawfulness and profitableness of 
using German prayers instead of Latin ones, by those who knew 
no Latin. The editor changes the strictly logical form of the 
earlier determination by substituting a preface of his own for 

from the acts of the Inquisition will therefore be given by Master Eylardus . 

Schoeneveld, friar preacher, in 1399 inquisitor for Saxony, in Utrecht, 

and the surrounding neighbourhood." The extracts, whether obtained from 

"Gerardists" examined by the inquisition, or in depositions given against 

them, dealt with thejife in the Brethren and Sisters' communities: i.e. the 

sisters say grace in the vernacular, listen in silence to reading during the 

whole meal, and have every Sunday a sermon read to them in the vulgar 

tongue by a sister; certain learned Carthusians object to their manner of life. 

"They have certain pieces of information in defence of their order against 

the inquisitors, which I judge to be the aforesaid determinations of the 

doctors of Cologne, made impertinently enough on their behalf, and w-ith 

evil intention translated into the vulgar tongue, with the authorities and 

citations." (The Dutch translations exist also in the original MSS ) Cf. Inq. 

Neer. 11. 184. This quarrel with the Dominicans of the inquisition probably 

accounts for the hostility of M. Grabow, and the opponents of Busch. It is 

interesting that this determination for vernacular scriptures was expressly 

obtained as a defence against the inquisition. 

^ Revius, 4 1 ; for a list of editors who have printed from Revius, or referred 
to the tract, generally, as that of Gerard Zerbolt, see HJ, xi. 1-2. 

- For this tract see Index, Vernac. prayers. It is found also in two MSS 
containing the 1398 determination. , 


the original thesis, which maintained that either (i) it was wrong 
for lay people to read holy scriptures, or (ii) it was wrong to 
translate the scriptures into the vernacular. He then copies the 
references of the original determination to prove its two points, 
and adds the two points themselves at the end: regardless of 
the fact that the two sets of citations have no exact relation to 
the theory maintained in his own preface. It is interesting to 
compare his own views on the subject, as stated in his preface, 
with the conclusions of the original determination^ : 

Since there are some who have small understanding of holy scrip- 
ture and the sayings of the holy fathers, who believe and state that it 
is unlawful for laymen, and unlettered people, to read divine scrip- 
ture and exercise themselves in the sacred page: and since they judge 
that devotional books written in the vulgar tongue, or translated into 
it (such books as are solely or mainly intended for lay people), 
ought to be condemned, and completely avoided and rooted out: 
therefore, it is profitable to know whether all books of the scriptures 
and the holy doctors, or which of such books, may lawfully be read 
by lay people. 

The editor then states that two kinds of teaching are found 

in holy scripture, which (with S. Paul and the author of the 

Epistle to the Hebrews) he compares to "milk and meat": the 

simple and open doctrines, and those which are deep and 

obscure, unsuitable for the simple. Lay people, he says, may 

read in the vulgar tongue books which deal with matters of the 

first class: but not those deaHng with the second. He defines 

moreover books included in the first class: "such as the lives 

and deeds of the saints, the passions and triumphs of the 

martyrs, and other teaching concerning vices and virtues^, the 

glory of the saints and the misery of the damned, and books like 

these which are plain and open." It is noticeable that whereas 

the original determination contended for the right of the laity 

to read the more plain and open books of the Bible, this editor 

does not : it is noteworthy that his Hst did not include vernacular 

plenaries or gospel books. He did not, however, omit the 

1 Revius, 41. 

2 Books of Vices and Virtues were a distinct class in the middle ages, 
generally analyses of the seven deadly sins, and the virtues opposed to them. 
A "book of vices," or a "book of virtues" is considered sufficient title for 
a mediaeval catalogue or will, cf. TV, 762. 


passages of his original citing authorities to prove that some 
biblical books may be read in the vernacular; on the contrary, 
when he began to copy the original determination, he copied all 
the citations. But his own preface agrees exactly with the class 
of Dutch books for which John Busch, a notable reformer in 
this movement, contended in the early years of the fifteenth 

The determination was also used in a very popular collection 
of sermons written about 1466, bj' the Augustinian hermit of 
Osnabruck, Gottschalk [Holen^]. The sermon for the second 
Sunday in Advent deals with the text : Quaecunque scripia sunt 
ad nostram doctrinam scripta stmt, and contains a very short 
epitome of the determ.ination, occupying not more than one- 
eighth of the whole sermon. This has three sections, the first 
shewing the necessity of written scriptures through the frailty 
of human memorj^ and the second proving the supernatural 
character of the canonical scriptures. The third begins by 
stating that " It is doubted by many whether it is lawful to read 
and possess sacred books written or translated in the vulgar 
tongue." The main body of the determination is then sum- 
marised very shortly, perhaps because the citations were felt to 
be too academic for a sermon; but the limitations at the end 
(that the said books must contain nothing heretical, and must 
deal only with plain material, and that plainly, and in "a manner 
according with the writings of the saints ") are given in full. The 
greater part of the last section of the sermon proceeds to deal 
with the necessity of avoiding pride in the collection of a great 
multitude of books^. The collection was popular: and the in- 
clusion even of the much-abridged determination shews Holen 
to have regarded the use of translations as lawful. 

Meanwhile, the Brethren of the Common Life continued to be 
the chief champions of Dutch devotional books. But they had 
to struggle for their opinions, even though they were no advo- 

1 Cf. Sermonum opus exquisitissimum . . .lectoris patris Gotschalci eremitari 
diui Augustini professi, 1517. Sermo V. Doniin. II in Adv. 

^ This tract, usually attributed to Zetbolt, has also been ascribed to 
Nicholas von Dinckelspiihl, originally through the mistake in Denis, i. 2477, 
MS. dcxlvii, f. 8; Denis was followed by Aschbach, J., Gesch. der Wiener 
Univ., Vienna, 1865, i. 440, and by Keller, p. 68. The latter also imagined 
that the determination opposed translations. 

D.W.B. 7 


cates of unlicensed Bible reading among the laity^. The doctors 
in 1398 had declared the use of translations of the simpler books 
of the Bible canonical and lawful, and there is good reason to 
believe that the brethren actually encouraged their use in the 
houses of nuns and tertiaries which they directed. But among 
the laity they only argued for the free use of Dutch books of 
edification, not the canonical scriptures themselves; though they 
would, no doubt, have been willing to allow particular penitents 
to use Dutch or German plenaries. Vernacular lives of Christ^ 
were popular and lawful among the devout of the Netherlands, 
as in other countries: there are indeed, a particularly large 
number of such manuscripts. 

It has been stated that the condemnation of the Dominican 
Matthias of Grabow, the bitter enemy of the brethren, at the 
council of Constance in 1415, was a triumph for the defenders 
of Dutch Bibles-: but there is no evidence at all that the 
Dominican had attacked the brethren on this score, or that the 
fathers of Constance, including Gerson, who himself opposed 
vernacular Bibles, would have condemned him for his attack on 
Dutch scriptures. 

An interesting Dutch manuscript was written in 1407 for the 
library of the canons at Zwolle by John Henricson, who describes 
himself as "the Warden^." He was probably only the scribe, 
and there is no evidence that the manuscript was intended for 
the use of lay people: but it contains interesting features. After 
the Dutch pericope*, — gospels, epistles and Old Testament 
lessons, — it contains a translation of S. Paul's epistles, with the 
preface, possibly of John Henricson, but more probably of the 

1 Eicken, 786, misrepresents the brethren's attitude when he says, "from 
1400 onwards they made it one of their chief efforts to translate and pubhsh 
translations of the holy scriptures," if he means canonical scriptures. 

- Tepler Bibel. 38. 

3 Cf. Jostes, Die Waldenser, 26, "dit boeck hoert in der clerckehus 
bynnen Zwollen" ; " Here are the four gospels in Dutch. Written by me, John 
Henricson the warden, an unworthy priest, in the year 1407, the Thursday 
before the nativity of our Lady." These "four gospels" are actualty a 
pericope, with the O. Test, lessons as well: they are followed by the trans- 
lation of S. Paul's epistles, and by separate homilies upon them. The 
preface to the epistles is printed in Boekzaal, pp. 235-9; Jostes regards the 
date of the original translation of the epistles as about 1380. HJ, xi. 12. 

* See p. 112 n. A pericope is a collection of the sections of holy scripture 
appointed to be read in church. 


earlier translator. It states that S. Paul wrote his letters for all 
Christians, some in Latin, some in Greek, some in Hebrew, so 
that all alike could read them^: 

And thus these epistles, which are profitable and useful to those 
who understand Latin and Greek and Hebrew, are profitable also for 
Dutchmen. And it is a strange thing, that we make and come across 
so many Dutch books, and that these bright and shining epistles, 
inspired by the spirit of the living God, are not commoner among 
lay people, who hold Christ's teaching dear; for, next to the gospels, 
these are the most edifying books that ever were written.. . .And 
because the epistles are difficult, and treat of many matters in few 
words (because Latin is more convenient for speech than Dutch), 
therefore holy mother Church has come to the help of this difficulty 
with the teacher's gloss, so that men may the better understand, and 
not be put to confusion. Also, many matters, as has been explained, 
are not here told in as few words as in the original. 

The words and sentiments should be ascribed, however, to the 
original translator, — probably some clerk influenced by the 
Gottesfreunde movement, — and not to the warden at Zwolle. 

Many instances shew the value set by the Brethren of the 
Common Life upon biblical studies among themselves, — not, of 
course from biblical translations. The first monastery of the 
brethren, that at Windesheim, was begun in 1386, and one of its 
chief works was the establishment of a corrected text of the 
Vulgate, —a work, as in England at the date, necessary for those 
interested in translations-. The chronicle of Windesheim states 
that William Vornken, the prior, was a man of great piety, "and 
he was no little esteemed among us, because he was able to make 
moralisations and mj'stical interpretations of a part of the Bible, 
and nearly the whole of the psalter^." John Scutken, a brother 
of Windesheim who died in 1423, translated many service and 

^ Boekzaal, 282. It is not certain that many contemporaries would have 
agreed that the Pauline epistles were clear enough material for translation, 
though books of the Sunday epistles, glossed, appeared later. Cf. the state- 
ment of Jacob van Tombe, that because there were many passages hard 
to be understood in S. Paul's epistles "our holy forefathers wisely decreed 
that the unlearned laity should not read the Bible: but they themselves 
selected out of the scriptures books of devotion called Getydeboexcketis , 
leaving out the aforesaid passages, and gave them to the laity." Claer 
bewys van de warachtige Kerke Cristi, Antwerp, 1567, p. E i. 

^ Cf. Busch, p. xix; and cf. Purvey's difficulties in establishing a correct 
Latin text to translate from, p. 258. 

* Busch, 331. 


devotional books into Dutch, as Gerard Groot^ had done before 
him : but he also translated the psalter, the pericope, and perhaps 
a set of epistles and gospels with sermons. John Busch also, in 
his autobiography, shews that much biblical study was pre- 
scribed in the noviciate at Zwolle ^, where he received the habit 
in 1419. Here he read both Old and New Testaments, with the 
great doctors upon them, till he should be "as clothed in these 
as the body is in its outward clothing." When, however, his 
ceaseless study led to confusion and difficulties, master Arnold of 
Noethern advised him that he was overstraining his capacities, 
warning him that 

children should be fed with milk and not with meat, . . . for it is not re- 
quired that every one should know the deep things of God and holy scrip- 
ture, and seek to investigate them : but it is enough for them to live 
well, to believe well, and to have a good intention to do the will of God^. 

A little later, Busch compares the holy scriptures to a fallen oak 
tree, from which the different officials of the abbey each carrj^ 
off the roots, leaves, trunk, oak galls, according to their different 
needs. Busch gives a long account of his subsequent career in 
his Liher de Reformatione Monasteriofum, for he, like other 
Brethren of the Common Life, not only directed new com- 
munities, but was sent by the bishop to reform houses of the 
older orders. He gives one or two instances shewing that German 
books were used in such reformed convents*, and the catalogues 
of such nunneries shew that they included a small number of 
gospel and epistle books, though of course by far the greater 
number were German or Dutch sermons, lives of saints, and 
manuals of devotion. 

Busch relates one interesting instance of how he overcame the 
opposition of a Dominican to the lay use of German books ^. 

" A certain lector of the order of friars preachers in the town of 
Zutphen^," he says, " publicly preached, that lay people ought not to 

^ There seems no evidence that Groot translated any part of the Bible : 
but he perhaps translated freely in his sermons: "verbum Dei sanctum 
Christi evangelium canonicamque scripturam. . .predicavit." Busch, 252. 

* A house of Austin canons founded under Groot's influence. 
^ Busch, 708, 9. 

* Id. 730, "more than a hundred congregations of sisters in the diocese 
of Utrecht used German books"; 732, "two nunneries at Zutphen had Ger- 
man books read in refectory." * Id. 730. {Lib. de Ref. Monast. c. iii.) 

* Id. c. iii. p. 730. Of a lector of the friars preachers , who preached that lay 
people ought not to have German books. 


have German books, and sermons ought not to be made to the people 
except in the church or the cemetery. Then I, being but a simple 
brother in Windesheim, was sent to Zutphen with brother Theoderic 
William to carry out some business for our monastery; and hearing 
this, and knowing that more than a hundred congregations of sisters 
and Beguines in the countr}^ round Utrecht had many German books, 
which they read daily by themselves, or in the hearing of others in the 
refectory, firmly contradicted this; because they read and listen to 
German books of this kind in Zutphen, Deventer, ZwoUe, Kempen, 
and everywhere, in the towns and country. I went therefore to the 
church of the monaster^' of those friars preachers, and asked for the 
prior, to whom I said : 

' My lord prior, I have heard your lector preach publicly that lay 
people ought not to have German books. Now he preached this 
wrongly, and he ought publicly to retract it. For the princes of the 
land, and the common people, men and women, have many books 
written in German, and read in them and study them. Even you and 
your brothers often preach to the people in the vulgar tongue. Do 
you wish, then, that your sermons should be remembered ? ' And he 
answered: 'Certainly.' Then I said: 'If they had them in writing, 
then they would the better remember them : why therefore ought they 
not to have books in German ? ' 

Then he answered : ' Many lay people have books in German, 
namely of Sentences, and the like, which a certain doctor of our order 
translated from Latin into German: and some have the missal with 
the canon in German^, and therefore it is not good for them to have 
or read books in German.' 

To whom I said: 'No, I do not approve of that, that simple lay 
people, men and women, should have such lofty and divine books in 
GeiTnan ; nay, for when I have found the canon [of the mass] in Ger- 
man among nuns, I have burnt it. But moral books of vices and 
virtues, of the incarnation, life and passion of our Lord, of the life 
and holy conversation and martyrdom of the apostles, martyrs, 

1 Cf. the quotations from the Formulare Inquisitionis, 1420, in the Staats- 
archiv at Miinster, Jostes, Waldenserbibeln , HJ, xv. (1894), 779- The 
inquisitor, James of Swabia, wrote to ask for instructions as to his powers 
with regard to German plenaries, or even German mass books. He had found 
"complete mass books written in the vernacular among lay people, the 
canon only excepted, and also other books, namely, expositions of the 
gospels, and such like." " It is doubtful," he says, "what ought to be done 
about these books in such times as ours. For it is said that in some places 
heretical lay people, both men and women, use these books, perchance with 
the canon, and believe, according to the Waldensian error, that it is lawful for 
laymen to celebrate and say mass; and the canon may easily be added to 
these books, and heresies and errors follow, which cannot be so easily extir- 
pated. It is asked therefore, what should be done with these books. Appa- 
rently they ought not to be burned, because there is no heresy therein: 
yet they may give rise to heresies and errors." Cf. the German "mass book" 
at Nuremberg, p. 112 n. 7. 


confessors and virgins, and homilies and sermons of the saints, 
tending to the reformation of Hfe, the disciphne of manners, the fear 
of hell and the love of the heavenly country, — it is most useful for all 
people, learned and unlearned, to have and read such books daily. 
And if you are not willing to admit this, I will myself shew you in 
writing the sayings of the doctors of holy Church, Augustine, Gregory, 
Ambrose and Jerome, and of other orthodox teachers, that it is lawful 
and very useful to have books of this kind.' 

And he answered : ' If you produce from manuscripts the sayings 
of doctors, we too shall produce the sayings of doctors to the con- 

Then I spake more plainly: ' My lord prior : as your lector publicly 
preached before the people that they ought not to have German 
books, so must he publicly revoke this: or else shall I arrange with 
the lord bishop of Utrecht and his household, in the great chapter, 
that neither you nor your lector shall preach any more in the diocese 
of Utrecht.' 

But the prior said : ' It seems to me then, that you have a com- 
mission to do this from the bishop of Utrecht. Be at peace : for I will 
arrange that our lector shall revoke those words.' And when for my 
* part I wished to go to the lector, who was lying upon his bed, the prior 
said: 'He is a very learned man.' To whom I answered: 'Therefore 
I would the more gladly speak with him, that he might the better 
understand his error.' Yet, at the petition of the prior and of the 
brother whom I had with me, I did not go to the sick man forth- 
with: because his prior promised me that he should revoke those 

Another time, when I was going from Deventer in a boat through 
Yssel towards Zutphen, I questioned the men and women who were 
sailing with me, what the friars preachers in Zutphen were wont to 
preach. They answered : 

• Our lector sometimes preached, that lay people ought not to have 
books in German; but he revoked that in this summary fashion: 
" You good people, when I preach the gospel to you, you forthwith 
tell it askew to others. Now I spoke to you at another time in a ser- 
mon about German books which the laity ought not to have, and I 
noticed this point: that some women, or even men, sometimes lay writings beneath the altar cloth, so that mass may be read 
over them, and when it is finished, they take away such writings, 
and make with other people many incantations, divinations and 
auguries. Now 1 forbade you to have and read such writings. But j^ou 
may well and lawfully have and read good books and moral books." ' 
And the people in the boat who said this added, that tliey had been 
greatly astonished at this, that he should have revoked what he said 
in such a way, not knowing who had compelled him to it. But I, 
hearing this, was well content at his recanting in this manner, because 
there were two houses of sisters in that town which always read 
German in refectory at table, while they were eating." 


Buscli's account of the matter shews the attitude of the 
Brethren of the Common Life to bibhcal translations. They were 
not primarily concerned with the spread of these, but of Dutch 
devotional books: yet probably their attitude was chiefly in- 
strumental in making orthodox opinion more favourable to 
biblical translations at the end of the fifteenth century. 

§ 2. In the period 1400-1526, however, the most eminent of 
the brethren's contemporaries, and the most liberal of orthodox 
reformers, remained hostile to bibhcal translations. This is most 
interesting in the case of Jean Gerson, who was so definitely con- 
vinced that they were mischievous, that he actually included a 
proposal for their formal condemnation in his scheme of reform, 
presented to the council of Constance. Gerson became bachelor 
of theology in 1384, the year of Wychffe's death, and from 1395 
onwards, when he became chancellor of the university of Paris, 
he was regarded as the greatest of European scholars and the 
chief champion of ecclesiastical reform. He was a leading spirit 
in the council of Pisa, 1409, which deposed the rival popes, and 
elected the Franciscan, Alexander V. There is some evidence 
that the latter was connected hi some way with the practical 
suppression of biblical translations in England^: but he lost 
Gerson's support through his championship of the privileges of 
his own order against the university of Paris. Gerson continued, 
however, to write and preach that a general council should meet, 
to heal the schism and reform abuses. When the council of 
Constance met in 1415, Gerson attended as legate of the French 
king, and representative of the Galhcan church; and his per- 
sonahty and learning gave him an outstanding influence. 
Though the council succeeded in healing the schism, and in 
passing a certain number of canons dealing with reform, many 
other suggestions for reform failed. Among them was that put 
forward by Gerson in his tract On communion in both kinds, 
where he stated that there were many people who wished that 
the reading of scripture should be everywhere permitted. To 
refute these, Gerson discussed the authority of the canonical 
scriptures, and their manner of exposition, and then gave other 
arguments against "the heretics" who were opposing him. 

^ See Index and Appendix. 


"Now this use of holy scripture by modern nien," he says, "as if 
holy scripture should be believed in its bare text wnthout the help 
of any interpretation or explanation, is a kind of use which is attended 
by grave dangers and scandals.. . .Moreover, the errors of the Beg- 
hards and the Poor Men of Lyons and the like have sprung from this 
pestiferous root, and do daily increase: because there are many lay 
people who have a translation of the Bible into the vulgar tongue, 
to the great prejudice and scandal of catholic truth, and it is proposed 
in the scheme of reform that this should be abolished^." 

Gerson's proposal was not embodied in a decree: but the 
council passed one which shewed that it still regarded the better 
education of the clergy, and the improvement of their instruction 
of the laity, as the great aim, — not the encouragement of the use 
of biblical translations. It confirmed a proposal of Gerson and 
Pierre d'Ailly^, and enacted that, "to counteract the ignorance 
of those priests who have already been promoted" (as opposed 
to those still in training), short text-books should be written for 
cathedrals and important collegiate churches, and should be 
publicly read in synod, both in Latin and the vulgar tongue. 
These should give the necessary instruction on the virtues and 
vices, the creed, the sacraments, the form of confession, etc. 

Also, in each of the said churches there ought to be a reader of 
theology, who shall lecture on the second and third book of the 
Sentences, or who shall take the material in the said books and shall 
apply it shortly to the exposition and explanation of the epistles 
and gospels, which are read in church in the course of the year^. 

^ Tractatus contra haeresim de communione laicoriim sub utraque specie, 
published at Constance in 1417. Gerson, Opera, Du Pin, Antwerp, 1706, i. 
459. This tract is quoted by the Dominican friar, Martin Harney, in the 
tract which he wrote against that of the Jansenist, Antoine Amauld, on the 
subject of vernacular scriptures. Harney's learned treatise seeks to estab- 
lish that the mediaeval Church was right in prohibiting biblical translations. 
He says that at the council of Constance a certain scheme called the Reforma- 
forium was drawn up, so that, inter alia, "the reading of holy scripture in the 
vulgar tongue should be restrained, at least within due bounds." To prove 
his statement he gives several quotations from Gerson's writings, "for his 
single testimony in this matter is worth that of many men, even of many 
credible witnesses : for he acted in the name of many others, he acted before 
the whole council of Fathers, and it is obvious that he cannot have acted 
thus through party zeal, or from any such motive." Harney, 185. 

- Magniun oecumenicum constantiense concilium, V. d. Hardt, H., Helm- 
stadt, 1700, tom. i. pars viii. p. 428, where the decree is coupled with 
d'Ailly's name. It is given in Gerson's tract, De Reforniatione, in Concilia 
Constantiensi, Opera, 11. 914: but the expedient had of course been in use 
in many provinces in the fourteenth century. See pp. 141, 196. 

^ For the complaint of a contemporary that the study of the sacred text 

ivj GERSON 105 

. Gerson explained his opposition to biblical translations also in 
other treatises. In his tract Against idle curiosity, he said that 

Presumptuous curiosity, and singularity, easily cause a schism in all 
knowledge, and consequently destroy it. The building of the tower of 
Babel gives us an example of this, for the division of languages ruined 
and destroyed it: and even so, on the other hand, does unity of 
language strengthen the building of the Church.. . .In addition, it 
follows from the aforesaid points, that the translation of holy books, 
of our Bible especially, is justly prohibited, except in the case of 
moralisations and Bible histories. It is easy to find very clear reasons 
for this^ 

He brought out the same point in a sermon, speaking of a certain 
heretic, who was 

deceived by a false understanding of scripture : even as there are many 
other men who understand scripture according to their own private 
opinion, and not according to the exposition of holy doctors, which 
they know not, or are unwilling to understand and consider. And 
therefore I take this as evidence, that it is most dangerous to give to 
simple men, who are quite unlearned, books of the holy scripture 
translated into French, because they may forthwith fall into many 
errors by a false understanding^. 

Here Gerson expressed the fundamental objection to biblical 
translations by the best minds of his century: the translation of 
the "bare text," unaccompanied by glosses to explain also the 
secondary interpretations, was too dangerous. 

"Even as some good might come," he wrote elsewhere, "of the good 
and true translation of the Bible into French, if it were soberly under- 
stood, even so, on the other hand, innumerable errors and evils would 
arise if it were badly translated or presumptuously understood, con- 
trary to the exposition of holy doctors. It would be better to be 
completely ignorant of the matter: even as in medicine and similar 
sciences it would be better to be completely ignorant than to know 
little, or to know wrong^." 

was neglected at the universities, cf. Nicholas de Clemanges, " I marvel that 
the theologians of our time read so negligently the pages of the divine 
Testaments." Gieseler, iv. 176. 

^ Lectiones duae contya vanam curiositateni, Opera, i. 106. The last sen- 
tence reads: Rursus sequitur ex praemissis prohibendam esse vulgarem 
translationem librorum sacrorum, nostrae Bibliae praesertim, extra morali- 
tatcs et historias. 

' Harney, 188. 

^ Decern considerationes contra ad^tlatores principum, consid. iv. and v.; 
Harney, 189. Gerson wrote a tract, De sensu litterali sacrae scripturae et de 
cansis errantium, which it is interesting to compare with Purvey's treatment 


A tract written* by a Carthusian, who died in 1470 adopted 
the same point of view. Jean le Riche (loannes Divitis), a 
Carthusian of Ghent, wrote among other theological works a 
treatise entitled: Why it is not always profitable for worldly 
people to have the books of holy scripture translated into the mother 
tongue'^. The tract itself has perished, or exists only in an 
unknown manuscript: but its contents can be inferred from 
its title. 

The attitude of fifteenth century orthodoxy in Germany can 
also be inferred from the silence on the subject of biblical trans 
lations of those churchmen most anxious for reform. Their 
exhortations to the laity did not include advice to study the 
Bible for themselves, except in a few cases between 1500 and the 
Reformation. The teaching of Geiler of Ka3'sersberg was typical 
of the most liberal and devout opinion of his time, and he urged, 
as Gerson might have done, the careful instruction of the laity 
in holy scripture at the hands of the priest, and pronounced 
against the publication of German Bibles. He himself preached 
long and eloquently at Strassburg, no doubt basing his sermons 
'on the gospel for the day; and, when he occasionally exhorted 
the readers of his treatises to be diligent in gaining a knowledge 
of holy scripture, it was almost certainly this means which he 

of the same subject in the preface to his version. Gerson states that, " there 
is opposition to the truth, in England, in Scotland, in the university of 
Prague, and in Germany, and even, shameful as it is to admit it, in France. 
. . . And these sowers of heresy, and enemies of truth (truth which they 
know, or should know, since they call themselves catholics), claim that 
their sayings are founded upon holy scripture, and on its literal sense; 
and they say that they follow and recognise scripture only, and reject 
and despise other constitutions and writings." Therefore he proposes to 
consider what the literal sense of holy scripture is, and how it is to be inves- 
tigated and held: and, like Purvey, cites the "seven rules of Ticonius," 
which had lately been brought into prominence by Nicholas de Lyra, in his 
commentary on the biblical text. (See p. 181.) Gerson then again mentions 
that his heretical opponents are to be found in England, "have destroyed 
the university of Prague, and have even reached Scotland." Opera, 1. 1-7. 
Cf. other discourses on the four senses of scripture, 11. 350, 365; and his 
sermon before the council of Constance, inviting the fathers to condemn 
many errors, including those of Wycliffe and Hus, "which cannot be con- 
demned merely by an appeal to the bare text of scripture, without reference 
to the expositions of the doctors"; 11. 278. 

^ Quo pacta secularibus non semper conducant libri sacrae scripturae 
materno idiomate translati; cf. Illustrium sacri Cartusiensis ordinis scriptorum 
catalogus, Petreius, T., ed. Miraeus, D. A., Cologne, 1609, 161. 


had in mind, in the case of lay people. In his book on the 
Christian Pilgrimage, he drew an exact parallel between the dutj' 
of receiving at the priest's hand the sacrament of the altar and 
the word of God. 

Eliaswas fed with the bread of angels, and with water fromapitcher. 
And thou, O Pilgrim, when thou art weary and failing, refresh thyself 
. . .by receiving bread,. . .the sacrament of the Eucharist, the body 
of the Lord,. . .and drink from the pitcher the water of heavenly 
wisdom springing forth to everlasting life: that is, the word of God J 
which water . . . thou shaltfind in the pitcher of holy scripture. . . . More- 
over, see that thou drink as from a pitcher of the water of the word 
of God, only as given thee by the angel, and according to his advice. 
For there are people who drink of that water of scripture at will 
and without measure, and not from the hands of the angels of God, 
who are the priests of the Church, from whose mouth they should 
acquire the law : but they presume to understand them by their own 
proper intelligence, like the Waldensians, the Brethren of the Free 
Spirit, the Bohemians, and other heretics^. 

In some of his sermons Geiler spoke even more plainly on the 
dangers to which the laity were exposed through the publication 
of German Bibles: 


It is dangerous to put knives into children's hands, for them to 
cut bread with themselves, for they may cut themselves. So also 
holy scripture, which contains the bread of God, should be read and 
explained by such as are already far advanced in knowledge and 
experience, and will set forth the undoubted meaning. For inexperi- 
enced people will easily take harm from their reading. . . .We read the 
Bible and other scriptures, and do not understand. We have not the 
skill to read intelligently and according to the true Christian meaning. 
It is certainly a foolish thing that the Bible is printed in German, 
for one must understand it quite otherwise than it is written, to do it 
justice. [A reference to the need of understanding not only the literal, 
but also the "moral," "allegorical" and "anagogical meaning."] If 
you have already a book on fencing from which to learn to fight, 
you cannot fight therewith, till you have learned from a fencing- 

^ The Ckristenbilgerschaft, or Peregrinus, quoted by L. Dacheux in Jean 
Geiler de Kaysersberg, 1478-1510, Paris, 1876, 226 and 229. This interesting 
study overstresses the extent to which biblical knowledge was " widespread " 
in the fifteenth century: see p. 2. Janssen also, in Gesch. des deuischen 
Volkes, 1881, I. 608, is not justified in representing Geiler and S. Brandt 
as solitary individuals who preached against translations out of excess 
of paternal solicitude for their flocks : Geiler's pronouncements against the 
dangers of lay Bible reading are exactly in line with the best mediaeval 
thought, from Gregory VII to the Reformation. 


master. If you have already a cobbler's knife, and have leather ready, 
and a needle and thread, you still cannot make a shoe, until you have 
learned. Therefore, if you wish to read the Bible, beware of falling 
into error ^. 

'/ Geiler's attitude is noteworthy, because he lived till 1510, 
when printed German Bibles had become fairly common, and 
because he was not a conservative zealot, but a great preacher 
of reform. Two manuals had already, in 1508 and 1509, begun 
to recommend the laity to read the Bible in a spirit of piety and 
humility: but Geiler retained the normal mediaeval fear that 
such a course was too dangerous. 

It is doubtful if Geiler's friend, Sebastian Brandt, viewed the 
printed German Bibles with much more favour, though he men- 
tioned that Hebrew, Slavonic and Bohemian versions existed^. 
Brandt's famous satirical poem, the Ship of Fools, was published 
first in German in 1494, and achieved an enormous popularity. 
It was at once translated into Latin, Dutch, English and French, 
parts of it were sometimes preached from the pulpit, and Geiler 
delivered pubhc lectures upon it-''. The section "On the con- 
tempt and despising of holy scripture," lamented that though 
"All lands now are full of holy writ,. . .the Bible, the teaching 
of the holy fathers, and many another similar book, . . . yet no 
one improves himself therewith*," and throughout the section 
Brandt emphasised the same point. The English verse trans- 
lation of 1509 lamented that the world was full of: 

Such as despiseth ancient scripture, 
WTiich proved is of great authority, 
And hath no pleasure, felicity or cure 
Of godly Prophets which wrote of verity : 
A fool he is, for his most felicity 
Is to believe the tales of an old wife. 
Rather than the doctrine of eternal life^. 

^ "Es ist fast ein bosz Ding das man die bibel zu teiitsch triickt, wen 
man musz sye gar vil anders verston weder es do stot, will man im echter 
rechtthun," Christlichen Bilgerschaft, Bale, 151 1, p. 127, quoted J. Kehrein, 
Zur Geschichte der deuischen Bibeliibersetzung vor Luther, Stuttgart, 1851, 
and Janssen, J., Gesch. des deuischen Volkes, 1881, i. 609. 

* Dacheux, 226. 

3 The Ship of Fools, iranslaied by Alexander Barclay, ed. Jamieson, T. H., 
Edinburgh, 1874, introd. 

* Dacheux, Ixxvi. 

* Barclay, i. 72. 


But though Brandt lamented the neglect of scripture, it is 
doubtful if he would have recommended the unrestricted use of 
translations, for in his section on "Heretics," he is much of his 
friend Geiler's opinion as to the danger of false interpretations. 
Heretics are: 

False prophets, not following the right. 
Which with false hearts, imperfect of credence. 
Not duly worship the law of God almight, 
Nor His holy doctrine with worthy reverence : 
And other such as vary the true sense 
Of Goddis law, expounding other wise 
Than it in the text clear and plainly lies^. 

They holy scriptures rehearse much other wise 
Than the Holy Ghost them uttered first of all^. 

Thus there is a good deal of evidence that cathohc reforming / 
opinion, at the beginning of the sixteenth century, was much the ; 
same as that of Gerson at the beginning of the fifteenth. 

§ 3. BibHcal translations were used in women's convents in 
the fifteenth century more freely than elsewhere, because in such 
cases they were always used under the direction of the warden or 
confessor of the house. A fifteenth century Dutch manuscript 
shews the closeness of this supervision : the sister who had charge 
of the books was to see that 

H anything in the book appeared to be false, it should be brought 
before the rector of the house for him to oversee, before it is allowed 
to be commonly used by the sisters. . . .Great care is to be taken, not 
to lend books to outside people without the permission of the rector. . . . 
Uncommon books are not to be read in refectory till the rector has 

first seen that their contents are good and profitable Books are 

not to be lent to ignorant people ^. 

Men's convents occasionally contained bibUcal translations, but 

1 Barclay, n. 225. 

- Id. u. 226. Cf., for quotations from the Narrenschiff, Janssen, ed. 1881, 
I. 609. The poem does notice the danger to faith through misinterpretation 
of scripture, and in such a manner as to render it very hkely that Brandt 
disapproved of the printed German Bibles; but the main emphasis in the 
matter is that the world is full of holy books, which all can read, and yet 
men do not reform their manners. 

3 Nederlandisch Prosa, van de deriiende tot de achtiende eeuw, ed. V[loten]. 
J. H., Amsterdam, 1851, i. 297-9. 


there is much more evidence for their use in women's convents^, 
and especially in Holland. Some Dutch convents used German 
gospel books from 1400 onwards: and between 1450 and 1526 it 
is quite possible that their use was general, not only in the Nether- 
lands, but in Germany. The evidence for this has, however, been 
very much exaggerated. Extraordinarily few catalogues of 
sisters' libraries, compared to those of men's houses, have come 
down to us. No English nunnery catalogue, for instance, is 
known, while only one Dutch and one German one are printed 
and accessible ; which, in view of the very numerous survivals of 
those of men's houses, must shew that the sisters' libraries were 
relatively infrequent and unimportant. Probably there were 
many of the less well-governed and well-instructed houses in 
which very little reading was done at all : and others where the 
reading was confined to the vernacular sermons, saints' lives, 
and books of vices and virtues, which form the bulk of the two 
catalogues which are known to us. The evidence is too slight 
for certainty, and the diffusion of vernacular Bibles has been 
overestimated by the mistaken idea that all the items recorded 
in fifteenth century Dutch catalogues were themselves in Dutch^: 

1 Isaac de Long, after his extensive search for Dutch biblical MSS., stated 
that more biblical MSS. came from women's convents than from men's 
(Boekzaal, 335, 336). He considered that surprisingly few examples existed, 
and that the nuns could have used them little: but, actually, biblical MSS. 
from the nunneries of other countries are fewer than from Dutch ones. 
W. Moll, Kerkengeschiedenis van Nederland voor de Hervorming, ii^. 334, 
says that: " We can say very little about the distribution of our old biblical 
translations. As to their use by lay people [sic], they were apparently 
read most in communities of women, in the houses of Beguines, or Sisters 
of the Common Life; and also in communities of men, which included besides 
the monks unlettered lay brothers, oblates, etc. It is probable that they 
existed in many, if not in all convents, from the middle of the fifteenth 
century, either wholly or in part, for the manuscripts which are found in our 
public or private libraries give manifold internal evidence of a monastic 
source." Moll's statement, however, apphes to the period, post 1450, when 
the labours of the Brethren of the Common Life had been largely successful : 
and does not justify' a general assertion that German nunneries freely used 
biblical translations " in the middle ages"; also, his statement was probablj' 
partly due to a misunderstanding of the one nunnery catalogue known to 
him: see p. 113, n. 5. 

- Fifteenth century catalogues, whether of the libraries of noblemen, 
monasteries or princes, were often written in the vernacular, — French, 
German, English, Dutch, etc. But it is generally quite clear that the bulk 
of the books, where the language is not stated, were in Latin, and not in the 
vernacular in which the catalogue was written. The custom, in writing 


but nevertheless, there is good ground to believe that the 
majority of biblical translations used by the orthodox were 
written for use in houses of women. 

The earliest known nunnery catalogue is that of the Dominican 
nuns of Nuremberg, written between 1456 and 1469. The con- 
vent was one of those which prized the works of Eckhart and 
the early Gottesfreunde, and was directed by the Dominican 
friars who were their successors. It had been reformed shortly 
before the making of the catalogue; and, from the size of the 
library, and the information given in the catalogue about the 
copying of manuscripts by the nuns, it must have been one of 
the most learned in Germany. The nuns were drawn from the 
upper burgher or noble class, and the Dominican rule for nuns, 
as well as for friars, emphasised the duty of study; we should 
expect therefore to find Dominican nuns among the best edu- 
cated of the day. We have both the catalogue of their librar}^ 
and an interesting note-book of the volumes which were read in 
refectory throughout the year. The library catalogue includes 
350 volumes^, and a careful note is made as to how each book 

a catalogue in Latin, was to leave the language unspecified except in the case 
of vernacular books, and in most cases this earlier custom seems to have 
been followed when catalogues came to be written in the vernacular. Such 
a catalogue frequently states: "this book is written in Romance, or in 
German, or in Dutch " : and in such a catalogue, when the language of certain 
items .i. carefully specified, it is much safer to conclude that the other items 
are in Latin, especially when no translations of such works are known to have 
existed. Again, if, in such a catalogue, a number of works of the same class 
are given, and the language of the earlier volumes is not given, while it is 
stated that the last is "in German " or " in French," it is fairly safe to think 
that the unspecified ones are in Latin; because it was customar}' in Latin 
catalogues thus to append the vernacular copies at the end of the section. 
The conclusion is not positive, but, in dealing with an otherwise carefully 
made catalogue, it is fairly safe to assume that some few items would not 
have been stated to be "in Dutch" or " in German," if all the manuscripts 
had been in Dutch or in German. For catalogues written in German, whose 
contents are undoubtedly Latin books, cf. especially Gottlieb, 51 (the chapel 
of S. Peter at Lucerne); 56 (the spital of the Holy Ghost), where the books 
are all liturgical; 28 (the Kreuzkirche) ; 25 (the EHzabethenkirche), 
1483. For French catalogues of books mainly in Latin see Gottlieb, 97 
(Pierre Cardonnel); loi (Clairvaux) ; and lists on pp. 102, 124-6, 134-5. 

1 Cod. Musei Germanici, Nuremberg, Cent. vii. 79, flf. 86-146: Item die 
hernach geschrieben puecher hat der Convent hie zii sant Kathereyn zu Niirn- 
verg prediger ordens, see Gottlieb, 55, no. 131. Jostes printed this most inter- 
esting catalogue in Meister Eckhart und seine Jiivger, Collectanea Friburgen- 
sia, fasc. iv. (1895), pp. 113-; but confuses his account of it by consider- 
ing it as the Ust of refectory reading-books (cf. p. xxiii). The list of refectory 


was obtained: whether it was brought by a sister on admission, 
copied by one of the sisters, or given by a benefactor. It is 
written in German, and has been cited as if it recorded a collec- 
tion of German manuscripts, containing very numerous German 
biblical translations^; but this is clearly a mistake. It is incon- 
ceivable that a Dominican convent would have possessed 350 
German manuscripts, including a set of " psalters for the choir 2," 
and no single volume in Latin, liturgical or otherwise. Moreover, 
26 manuscripts are specified as being in German, or as "in 
Latin and German " ; and some are specified as being in " Nether- 
landish," or "in the speech of the Netherlands^." The biblical 
and gospel books, as in all catalogues, are placed at the beginning 
of the first section. The language of the first volumes is not given; 
the last of the biblical books, however, are a psalter in German, 
and an " Epistle, gospel, and Nicodemus-gospel, and the psalter, 
the one verse Latin and the other verse German*." In all prob- 
ability, it was only the psalter in this latter volume which had 
one verse Latin and one German; thus no biblical book except 
the psalter is stated as being in German at all. The 26 German 
books mentioned in the catalogue included one book of "sins," 
— a discourse on the ten commandments, seven mortal sins'*, etc. 
— one German psalter, two Latin and German psalters, seven 
books of sermons^, one "missal " (or, perhaps, antiphoner), for 
Advent and Lent', a tract of S. Augustine, the Dominican Rule 

reading-books, from which he prints an extract, is actually in Cod. Musei 
Germanici zu Nximberg, Cent. vii. 92, ff. 45-: see Gottlieb, 55, no. 132. 
It would have been most interesting had Jostes printed this list also, only 
the title and the first item of which are printed in Gottlieb. As it is, his 
article does not refer to it, but only to the list of extracts and page references 
which immediately precedes it. Whether the library catalogue and the 
refectory lists are in separate MSS. (Cent. vii. 79 and Cent. vii. 92), or are 
bound together, as Jostes implies, I am unable to ascertain. 

1 Jostes, Meister Eckhart, p. xxiv, and HJ, xv. (1894), 771; xviii. (1897), 
133, followed by Mandonnet in V, 11. 1470, who states that the Dominican- 
esses had 15 biblical books, 1 1 pericopes, and 5 gospel harmonies, in German. 

^ Meister Eckhart, 119: section C of the catalogue contains 9 psalters, 
language unspecified, and the tenth and last is a German psalter. 

3 Id. 138, no. IX. and 136, no. xxxi. 

* Id. 119, nos. X., XI. 

' Id. II J, no. VI. 

« Including no. xxiv. p. 148: a volume of sermons preached by the father 
confessor of the house, and written out by the sisters. 

' Id. 122, no. XVII.: described as "die mesz" in German for Advent and 
Lent, and beginning. Ad te levavi. Possibly an antiphoner or a pericope: the 


in German, two copies of the Rule in German and Latin^, five 
books of prayers, two of hymns, two Lives of our Lady, and a 
tract on a psalm 2. 

The convent also possessed some German books used specially 
for reading in refectory : though library books were also used for 
this purpose. Another manuscript gives a "note book of what 
shall be read at dinner and at collation throughout the whole 
year, so that it can be found indicated for every week, and day, 
and festival, what ought to be read therein^." The list gives 
also the library numbers of the books, and the pages which are 
to be read, and the notice ends: "Also, after the note-book, the 
books are written down which are described in the note-book." 
This list (which begins with Suso's book of the Eternal wisdom, 
in German*) has not been printed in full. On Christmas Eve 
the reading was to be the "prophecy and epistle and gospel for 
the third mass," or "from the lessons and from the three masses 
on Christmas Day " : perhaps the German translation of the 
epistles and gospels, etc., which they were about to hear in Latin, 
or perhaps German discourses upon them. 

The other nunnery catalogue is that of the Franciscan ter- 
tiaries at Delft. This community was founded through the in- 
fluence of the Brethren of the Common Life, and was continu- 
ously directed by them 5. It was an offshoot of the Franciscan 

word "mesz" is used loosely elsewhere, in the notice about the refectory 
reading-books, where the reading for Christmas Eve at dinner is to be, 
"the third mass and the prophecy and epistle and gospel." The only parts 
of the Missal which could have been read in refectory would have been the 
epistle and gospel: actually, there is no "prophecy" or "lesson" or O. Test, 
passage in the three masses for Christmas Day; and the prayers from the 
missal would not, of course, have been read. Similarly, it is very doubtful 
if this MS. was a complete German missal, see p. loi. 

^ Metster Eckhart, 132, no.xv.; 131, no. i.; 132, no. xvii.; there were also 
many copies of the Rule in Latin. 

* These 26 MSS. were, from the incipit or the description, certainly in 
German: possibly other volumes of sermons, prayers, etc., were also in 
German. Dr M. R. James, however, who has kindly looked through these 
two nunnerj' catalogues for me (see n. 5), considers that the majority of the 
MSS., where the language is not specified, were in Latin, and that the biblical 
books at the beginning of the catalogue were certainly in Latin. 

^ See p. Ill, n. i; Gottlieb, 55, Meister Eckhart, 114. 
^ Gottlieb, 55, no. 132. 

* De Boekerij van het St. Barbara-Kloster te Delft, in de tweede helft der 
vijftiende eeuw, Moll, W. ; printed in Kerkhistorisch Archie/, verzameld dour 
N. C. Kist en W. Moll, Amsterdam, 1866; deel 4, 213-28. 

D.W. B. S 


tertiaries of S. Agatha at Utrecht, with which house Gerard 
Groot was himself connected; the sister of S. Agatha's who had 
charge of the books was "to take most great and especial care, 
by the advice of the director, that books written either in Latin 
or in the vulgar tongue, should be catholic and well translated, 
and shall use no profane or abusive manner of speech^ " ; so that 
it is evident that the mother house had sisters sufficiently 
educated to read Latin, and a director who allowed them to 
read Dutch. This is interesting, because the tertiaries at Delft 
and Utrecht came probably from a lower social class than the 
Dominicanesses at Nuremberg, and it has been questioned 
whether they could read Latin books at alP. The catalogue is 
headed : These are the study-hooks which belong to the library of the 
Convent of S. Barbara in Delft; it is written in Dutch, includes 
109 manuscripts, and dates from the second half of the fifteenth 
century. It is difficult to say M'ith certaint}?^ in this case whether 
the majority of the books were in Dutch or Latin : the connexion 
with the Brethren of the Common Life, and the social class of the 
tertiaries, make it much more likely than in the case of the 
Nuremberg convent that most of the books were in Dutch. The 
list begins with biblical books, of which there are seven ^ : one of 
these is stated to be a Flemish gospel book, which renders it 
most Ukely that the others were in Latin. The convent would 
almost certainly have possessed a few Latin biblical books for 
study: and it would be very probable that they should have had 
in Latin four gospel books, glossed and unglossed, the epistles 
of S. Paul glossed, part of the Canticles : and in Dutch, a gospel 
book. Most of the other books were probably in Dutch. 

These two catalogues shew a marked difference in character 
from those of men's convents. They are of course smaller, do 

1 Moll, 220; the last words recall the determination of 1398, see p. 90. 

- Id. 230; Moll's belief that the majority of the MSS. were in Dutch rests 
upon the belief that a knowledge of Latin was very unusual at the mother 
house at Utrecht. Busch, however, expressly states that some of "our 
sisters" (those directed by the brethren), were good Latinists: Busch, 576. 
He mentions, however, four houses of Augustinian nuns, to whom he was 
sent to introduce reform, who said the hours of our Lady in German, in 
choir: id. 549. Cf. Erasmus's statement on the subject, p. 116. 

3 Moll, 224; I. Gospels and epistles; 2. Gospels with concordances, two 
copies; 3. " Een vlaems ewangeUboc"; 4. S. John's gospel, with the exposi- 
tion; 5. Gospel of Nicodemus; 6. S. Paul's epistles, glossed; 10. Three pieces 
from the Canticles. 


not contain a complete gloss on the Vulgate, or glosses on the 
separate biblical books, and are almost completely lacking in 
patristic works. They have relatively many more sermons, pious 
manuals, and books of mystical devotion, and a larger proportion 
of vernacular books ^. 

Besides these catalogues, another exists, in manuscript only, 
of the women's cloister at Wonnenstein, in 1498 -; and, among 
the list of biblical manuscripts and plenaries quoted by Le Long, 
there are eight which came from nunneries. Dutch Bible his- 
tories, or translations of Peter Comestor, were owned in the 
fifteenth century by the nuns of S. Margaret at Haarlem; the 
Franciscan tertiaries of the convent of Sion in Liere, 1412; and 
the nuns of S. Agnes without the walls at Nymwegen, in 1453^. 
The convent of S. Ursula at Enkhuysen owned the four gospels, 
or a gospel harmony; and a nun of the canonesses regular of 
Haarlem near Syl, — sister Mary, the daughter of Jacob William- 
son of Dordrecht, — copied the Epistles and Acts in 1447. The 

^ Other books of interest in the Nuremberg catalogue are those in section 
D, p. iig, devoted to gospel harmonies, lives of our Lord, the "Bible his- 
tory" of P. Comestor, etc.; section B, sermons, including those of Eckhart 
and Tauler; the large section of "confession books"; an "Abcdarius"; 
the Eternal Wisdom ; the Vent sancte and Veni creator in German; " a treatise 
against the heretical Waldensians " ; several Imitations; many saints' lives, 
etc. The Delft catalogue includes the Revelations of Mechthild ; the Passionate 
for summer and winter; Cassian's Collations; tracts from SS. Bernard, 
Augustine, etc.; lives of SS. Francis, Barbara, etc.; confession books; a life 
of our Lord; Ruysbroeck, — the reading of whose treatises would not have 
been allowed to quite uneducated people; letters of Gerard Groot; a work of 
Gerard Zerbolt; Sydrach, S. Lydwin of Schiedam's book, etc.; but no book 
of medicine, like the Nuremberg catalogue. Dutch gospel harmonies, or 
lives of our Lord, were frequent in convents : cf . that printed by J . Bergsma, 
De levens van Jesus in het middelnederlandsch, Leyden, 1896, in the Bibliothek 
van middelnederlandsche Letter kunde; a harmony founded on that of Victor 
of Capua. The translator says in his preface : "I greet in our dear Lord God, 
Jesus Christ, all those who shall read this book, and hear it read, and as^c 
them to pray for me. One of my dear friends prayed me, on a certain time, 
that I would translate the gospel out of Latin into the Dutch language: 
and so I made one fair history out of the texts of the four gospels of the life 
of our Lord Jesus Christ, from the time that He was conceived and born 
of the holy maiden, our Lady, till that time that He sent His holj' Spirit to 
His disciples" ; but actually the text follows Victor of Capua pretty closely, 
and quotes from his preface. Both the Nuremberg nuns and the Delft ter- 
tiaries studied similar Lives, or Gospel Harmonies more than the actual text 
of the gospel. 

- Cloister library at S. Gallen, MS. 973, 3. 1-9; cf. GottUeb, 83. 

' Boekzaal, 249, 250; cf., for the following examples, pp. 277, 286, 287, 
291, 294; for gospels of two other Dutch nunneries, Addit. 26659, 26631. 



seven canonical epistles and the Apocatypse, written in 1399, 
was owned then or later by the nuns of S. Denis in Amsterdam. 
The nunnery at Landen had a glossed plenary, and the convent 
of S. Ursula at Haarlem another; while the nuns of Brunteshusen 
had three glossed plenaries in the last half of the fifteenth cen- 
tury^. The number is greater than those known to have be- 
longed to men's houses^, and interesting to compare with the 
single English example, — the manuscript given to Sion in 1517 
by lady Danvers. It is also greater than that of biblical trans- 
lations proved to belong to lay people at the time: and, together 
with the other evidence, shews that the chief readers of the 
German Bible in manuscript were the nuns and tertiaries, 
especially in the Netherlands^. 

Walther considered it likely that some of the names of scribes 
or owners on the German manuscript Bibles he examined were 
those of laymen^, though he was unable to identify them with 
certainty. There is one marked difference, however, between 
the German manuscripts of which he speaks, and the English 
biblical manuscripts, — both very numerous groups. The German 
manuscripts give the scribe's name in 19 cases : no English biblical 
manuscript has one at all, although the}^ are very frequently 
found in contemporary manuscripts of a different class. The 

^ Jostes, Die Waldenser und die vorlutherische deutsche Bibeluhersetzung, 
Miinster, 1885, 25. 

^ The "library of the order at Wittenberg" in 1434 was catalogued in 
German as having 31 books, Gottlieb, 83; see Kern, 397, for late fourteenth 
century catalogue of Roodekloster (Rubea Vallis, in the Netherlands), 
enumerating 22 Dutch books belonging to the house, the first of which 
was a gospel book, Gottlieb, 261. The four gospels were copied in 1472 bj' 
brother Ghysbert Beynop, for the canons regular of Vredendal, near 
Utrecht; and two houses of the Brethren of the Common Life had Dutch 
Bibles, — Hem, near Schoonhoven, and Gouda; cf. Boekzaal, 278, 333, 335; 
of. also p. 99, supra. 

' Erasmus, writing in defence of vernacular Bibles, says : " In many places 
there are religious, both men and women, who have the sacred books 
translated into the vulgar tongue, and read them, and even recite them in 
chapels, with the connivance of the bishop." {Opera, 1706, ix. 786.) 

^ Walther, 725. A MS. containing the five Wisdom books of the O.T. in 
German, written 1465, although it does not give the translator's or reviser's 
name, says in a prologue: " Because all lay people do not understand Latin, 
therefore I will translate these books out of Latin into German"; id. 386. 
Hans Zattelin, of Memingen, id. 130, who in 1481 ordered a complete 
German Bible to be written by Martin Huber, the schoolmaster of the place, 
was probably a layman; the copy was made from, or corrected from, one of 
the early printed Bibles. 


19 German scribes were all men: there is no reason to be sur- 
prised at this (though it might have been natural enough to find 
some sisters' names among them), for it was of course exceedingly 
common in the fifteenth century for convents to get manuscripts 
written for them by professional scribes^, and some of these 
books may have been for conventual use. The presence of so 
large a number of scribes' names reflects the greater security in 
Germany for the writers of such translations. 

§ 4. The first German Bible was printed in 1466. There is no 
doubt that it and its successors were derived, as far as the New 
Testament is concerned, from the original of the above men- 
tioned manuscript of about 1400 at Tepl: but there has been 
much discussion as to intermediate editors, and as to the trans- 
lators of the Old Testament. During the period of about 1400- 
1466, a complete translation of the Bible had been made, or 
older partial translations had been merged in a complete Ger- 
man Bible : for it is not thought likely that the printers of 1466 
translated any part themselves, though they may have made 
verbal changes. 

The three earliest manuscripts which contain portions of this 
text are, as has been mentioned above, those of Tepl, Freiberg 
and WolfenbiitteP, the latter containing most of the Old Testa- 
ment. Parts of the same Old Testament text are also contained 
in a Nuremberg manuscript^ of about 1450; and this manuscript 
is connected with the name of a Dominican translator or reviser, 
John Rellach. One or two passages incorporated between the 
books of the Old Testament * give certain details concerning the 
circumstances which led Rellach, who belonged to a probably 
Dominican convent in Constance, to undertake the work. The 
manuscript is confusing: it contains translations of Joshua, 

1 Cf. Bibliom. 28-31. 

- For minute analyses of these and other German bibhcal MSS., see 

3 StadtbibHothek, Solgersche Bibl., :\IS. N. 16: cf. Walther, 147. 

* For details, see Walther, 148-54. For the theory that Rellach was the 
original translator of the text used by the early printed editions (which is, 
however, discredited owing to the existence of the text in earlier MSS.) see 
]ostes, Die Waldenserbibeln und Meister Johavnes Rellach, HJ, xv. (1894), 
771-95 ; XVIII. (1897), I33~45. ^^d the controversial literature which it 
occasioned, in the bibliography, HH, iii. 65. For the weak point in Jostes' 
argument, the dating of the pre-Rellach bibhcal MSS., see HJ, xv. 781. 


Judges, Ruth^, and the three books which follow them in the 
Vulgate: and intervening passages from different scribes or 
translators. The preface to the book of Joshua, careless^ 
copied so that Jerome's preface is confused with the trans- 
lator's, is that of a layman of the Gottesfreunde type, with a 
strong prejudice against highly-learned ecclesiastics. If another 
extract in the same manuscript is his work, as it certainly is in 
his style, he possessed a special enemy, whose varied and apos- 
tate career he describes. There are also passages about Rellach 
by a fellow-student, one possibly by Rellach himself, and one by 
a scribe who describes himself as "Peter Zarter, cathedrahs 
[magister]," dated 1471. The ascription to Rellach of the preface 
by the earlier translator has led to confusion^, but the mistake 
is now clear. 

The preface of the translator of Joshua, Judges and Ruth is 
found in two other manuscripts 3, both earUer than that of 
Nuremberg: and the text is that of the Wolfenbiittel Old Testa- 
ment. The preface is in a south German dialect, and begins*: 

This is a foreword against him, who is opposed to the German 
writing, which is, nevertheless, useful and profitable for men's souls. 
My enemies have up till now done violence to their own conscience, 
because they have till now been silent as regards my plan to translate 
the holy gospel^ into German. Now however they have taken a 
different stand, inspired by foolish pride, and they bring forward 
foolish counsels, and say : 

" But what shall we [clergy] now preach, when [lay] men read and 
listen to the holy scriptures in the German tongue in their rooms and 
houses? " 

Him^ will I answer from holy scripture, until it is again necessary 
that we should meet. Now mark that they have objected to me with 
the more pride, because they think that they themselves excel in 
holy scripture, and have somewhat noised this abroad : and would that 
their knowledge were less than it is ! For no one accuses the perfect 
of knowledge, and withholds them from preaching, if they read and 
strive diligently to strengthen faithful Christians in the word of God. 

1 Walther, 147; HJ, xv. 777-9; see supra, p. 79. 

- Jostes' articles fail to recognise the distinction. 

3 Vienna MSS. 2845, 3063: see HJ, xv. 777. 

* Id. 777-9; Walther, 147-52. 

5 Which would seem to shew that the tract was originally written in 
connexion with some New Testament translation. 

« The author, or the careless scribe, continually changes from the singu- 
lar to the plural, with respect to his enemies. 


Woe to you who call good evil, and evil good: as they do, who in their 
pride contradict what learned priests and blessed laymen praise and 
call good. It is through pride that these unlearned philosophers and 
their followers contradict with their subtlety, and fight against, the 
righteous truth: that is, they fight against the holy scriptures and 
hinder the spread of their revealing^. . . . 

And my proud enemies, set about with highmindedness, have held 
forth before lords and learned people, desiring to gain their respect : 
but thus is their deep folly the more fully known to the people, who 
before knew it not. For while they were wisely silent, they were 
esteemed prudent and well-learned. .. .And now they hotly attack 
my fitness to deal with the lore of holy scripture : whereof I have good 
hope towards God that they shall be confounded and put to silence. 
And now they suggest from pride that I am too poor a scholar for 
this matter, because I have not been in great places of learning^. And 
that is true ! But the Holy Ghost supplies by His grace what is lacking 
in me, and it is also well supplied by the help and counsel of learned 
people. For I have known many a man, who has been at places of 
learning, and returned as ignorant as he went, unless it be that he has 
gained patrons, or learned how to find Easter ^i for the knowledge of 
holy writ is neglected. For the truly learned wUlingly hear and dili- 
gently^ learn, and gain true knowledge in their owti home, when they 
ponder what in universities is counted worthless. For it is quite 
obvious that there are certain simple lay people who thoroughly and 
perfectly understand holy scripture, in all its parts : even as there are 
some, who think they know what they have never learned. 

The preface to the book of Joshua ^ perhaps describes the same 
opponent whom the translator wished to meet again : 

" My enemy," he says, " is an apostate monk, who has gone from one 
order to another, and now is not living under a rule at all : he has been 
an Augustinian, ... a parish priest and a Benedictine : no faith is to be 
placed in such a man. My lord the bishop of Eichstadt has denounced 
him, and exhorted him to return to his cloister." 

Both passages, in their denunciation of worldly ecclesiastics who 

1 Offenbarung : translation. For a very similar attack by a Friend of God 
on learned prelates and "grossen Pfaffen," see the Buck von geistlicher Ar- 
muth, Denifle, H. S., i8o. Denifle has shewn that the book is not Tauler's, 
but earlier in date. 

2 Hohen schulen. The term would signify primarily universities, but might 
include episcopal theological schools, or Dominican "studia sollemnia." 
The statement that the writer had not been to "hohen schulen" tells 
strongly against Jostes' theory that this preface is by the Dominican 
Rellach, which is untenable on other grounds. 

* "Di meisterUche goldyne czal": probably a punning reference to the 
"golden number" for determining Easter. 

* Printed HJ, xv. 785-6. 


seek to prevent the spread of biblical translations, deny the 
right of laymen to make them, and hinder the laity from using 
them, resemble the tract of Nicholas of Bale against the worldly 
prelates who "say that German books are harmful to Chris- 

The other abstracts deal with " the master of this book," John 
Rellach. They state that when the news was brought to Rome 
of the fall of Constantinople, 1453, "we students" were dis- 
ma3'ed and sad, and especially after the eloquent sermon of 
Leonard of Chios, bishop of Mitylene, describing it 2. John 
Rellach, however, declared that S. Peter's ship should never 
founder: and declared that he would translate the Vulgate into 
German, till the knowledge of it should be so spread that the 
Church should be compensated for the loss of the Greek biblical 
manuscripts. He was ordered, however, to preach the crusade 
against the Turks, which delayed his plan. Moreover, he himself 
probably regarded it as perilous, since he answered those who 
twitted him for delay "that a prophet was a very different 
person from a commentator^." He himself describes his travels 
in another manuscript * : they took him from Rome to Constance, 
Mainz, Fulda, Marburg, Norway and Finland. He visited S. 
Bridget's monastery of Vadstena, saw the book of her revela- 
tions, and was probably encouraged in his scheme of translation 
by the favour of the Brigittines for such works. He had begun 
making an index of the contents of the biblical books, to help 
the uninstructed laity, in 1450^; and, after his return from his 
travels, he translated Joshua, Judges and Ruth, or revised an 
earlier translation, — again shewing by his reply to his friends 
that he considered the action risky ^. He is called the "master " 

^ See p. 80. 

* Walther, 151; HJ, xv. 782. 

3 Id. 784 : " Es ist ain ander ding ze sein ain prophet, und ist noch ain ander 
ding ain tolmetsch." 

* Printed HJ, xv. 793-5- 
5 Walther, 151. 

* HJ, XV. 795. During his travels "the students" had begun the work of 
translation in Strassburg, Bale, Speyer and Worms: they asked Rellach, 
"Master, where is that plan of yours?" To which he answered that the 
" lamb should become the lion, and that the soldier in arms never proclaims 
his own valour," — meaning apparently, that he had not thought it prudent 
as yet to speak openly of his plans; he then set to work to translate the book 
of ^Joshua (using actually an older text). 


(owner or translator) of this book in one or two later notices: 
and as late as 1471 Peter Zarter thought it adv-isable to state 
in a note, that the "master of this book " considered Bible study 
good and profitable for the laity : though he was perhaps quoting, 
not Rellach, but the preface of the earher translator embedded 
in the manuscript. However little original translation was 
actually due to Rellach, the manuscript shews that there was 
in 1453 a Swiss Dominican who was anxious to promote the 
spread of biblical translations. 

Between 1466 and 1522, the date of the printing of Luther'^ 
New Testament, eighteen editions of the German Bible were 
printed, fourteen in German, four in Dutch ^. The publisher of 
the earliest edition was Mentel of Strassburg-, of whom we know 
little, except that he was in favour at the court of the emperor 
Frederick III, so that no suspicion of heresy attaches to him. 
The other edition of most interest for the question of the lawful- 
ness of the use of translations is that of Cologne, 14S0, which 
has an interesting preface ^^ This states that highly learned 
masters of the schools 

read and use the translations of S. Jerome, whereas unlearned and 
simple men, both spiritual and secular, but especially children brought 
up in monasteries and dedicated to be religious, should use the 
German translation of the Latin Bible, for the avoiding of idleness, 
on saints' days, when they have time. Therefore a lover of the salva- 
tion of all men, not moved by earthv praise and honour, but by 
Christian love and ^-irtue, and urged thereto by certain men of good 
heart: this man, with the help and counsel of many highly-learned 
men, has had printed at great cost, in the city of Cologne, the German 
translation of the Latin Bible; which translation was made many 
years before, and used in manuscripts by many devout men, both in 
men's and v.-omen's convents: and long before this time it has been 


1 For descriptions and bibliographies of these editions, see Walther , 1 1 3- 1 8 . 
HH, III. 65. The number of editions is large, but not particularly large com- 
pared with the number of issues of various popular pious manuals ; it is, of 
course, very much smaller than that of liturgical books in frequent use, 
Uke missals and brevferies. 

- Walther, 204. 

' Boekzaal, 387-92; cf. Tepler Bibel. 31; Hain, *3i4i. The Bible was 
printed by Henricus QuenteU in 1480, though it does not contain his name 
or the date. See Walther, 655-71 ; and J. Geffcken, BUdercatechismiis des 
fiinfzehnien J ahrhiinderts , Leipsig, 1855, 9. The text was followed by the 
Lubeck Bible. 1494, which has a similar preface, but added the gloss of 
Nicholas of Lyra to the text. For the original translator, see supra, p. 64. 

^ ♦ 


printed in the Oberland, and in some towns of the Netherlands: and 
it has spread into many lands, and is bought there with the greatest 
eagerness at great cost. 

This preface almost takes the form of an explanation or 
apology for tthe printing of the book, and is interesting as 
shewing that the editor thought his work would be of chief use 
to simple priests and religious, and as alleging that German 
manuscripts had been widely used, not by lay people, but in 
convents. This agrees with other evidence as to the users of 
such translations: and the regions cited are those where, long 
before, the Waldensian heretics, then the Beguines, the Gottes- 
freunde, and finally the Brethren of the Common Life, had been 
' influential, and friendly to the use of a vernacular literature of 

i The history of the early printed German Bibles is of special 
mterest for the attitude of the Church to biblical translations. 
Such editions are earlier, and much more numerous, than those 
of any other country. Of course this was partly due to the 
flourishing condition of the Rhine towns at the time, and to the 
number and vigour of the printing presses, which had multiplied 
earlier in the Rhine towns than elsewhere. No doubt, also, the 
early appearance of printed Bibles in German}^ was due to the 
relaxation in favour of biblical translations, in some orthodox 
circles, which was strengthened after 1466 by the diffusion of 
the printed editions. The question is nevertheless very interest- 
ing: What share did the official ecclesiastical world take in the 
production of these editions, and what was its attitude towards 

The two extreme answers to these questions can be put aside. 
On the one hand, there is no evidence that the editions were the 
work of a definite sect of heretics, like the Lollards or the 
Waldensians, and as such condemned by authority. The 
Hussites had preserved Wycliffe's teaching in Bohemia when it 
had been almost stamped out in England, and other sects 
existed, who set store on the lay reading of the Bible : but there 
is no definite evidence to connect the early printed editions with 
these sects. On the other hand, it is quite certain that none of 
these printed Bibles was an oflicial edition^, approved by 

» Keller, 67-. 


authority: though to issue such an edition would have been as 
possible to any bishop, as to order the publication of tracts on 
faith and conduct at diocesan synods, a thing which had often 
been done in the past. 

The chief authority on the history of the German Bible con- 
siders, however, that there is evidence that the attitude of 
ecclesiastical authority was not favourable to the issue of these 
editions^; and such a conclusion agrees with the evidence 
examined above as to the usual mediaeval attitude towards 
biblical translations. First, there is no evidence of any change 
in the carefully considered mediaeval idea, that lay Bible reading, 
unsupervised by the clergy, was harmful. If John Busch, who 
held advanced and liberal ideas on the subject, and who only 
died about 1480, did not approve of unlicensed Bible reading, it 
is not probable that the majority of German bishops did so in 
1466. Secondly, it is noticeable that, while the cloister presses 
of Germany were turning out a stream of devotional literature, 
both Latin and German, they never printed any translation of 
the Bible^. Thirdly, the absence of printers' names in the four 
earliest editions, and in some of the later ones, is strong evidence 
that the printers expected no thanks from ecclesiastics for their 
work^. Just as Luther's Bible found printers who were not too 
scrupulous as to the view the Church would take of their work, 
so the printers of the early German Bibles considered it safest to 
conceal their names, — even in an edition as late as the tenth, of 
1485, at which date the absence of a printer's name is most /^^ 
unusual. •Tbifdly, the absence of the translator's name, though 
not as significant as the absence of the printer's, probably shews 
that the earliest editors were laymen. Walther considers that 
the first four editions at least were due to the efforts of laymen, 
and that their anonymity was due partly to suspicion that their 
enterprise would not be well received*. 

^ Walther, 204, 5. 

^ Falk, Die Druckkunst im Dienste der Kirche, Cologne, 1879, 10. 

^ Walther, 205. The publisher (not printer) of the first German Bible, 
Mentel of Strassburg, was apparently orthodox, see id. 204; Putnam, 11. 12, 
states that Anthonius Koberger of Nuremberg, who printed a German Bible 
in 1483, was a verj' well-known publisher; and that Christ Froschauer of 
Zurich, an associate of Zwingli and an ardent reformer, printed a German 

* Walther, 206. 


Lastly, there is the evidence of the censor's edicts on the 
subject; and, though these have been interpreted as intending 
to prevent only bad translations, there is some ground for 
thinking that the authorities would not have been displeased 
had they prevented the printing of translations altogether. It 
is certain in any case that no German Bible was approved by the 
ecclesiastical censor, as, for instance, were two books from Venice 
and Heidelberg in 1480, and the Cologne Latin Bible of 1479, 
which still bear the censor's mark^. The most interesting edict 
is that of Berthold, count of Henneburg, archbishop of Mainz, 
and archchancellor to the emperor, in 14862. Printing, it states, 
is useful for the increase of knowledge : 

Yet we have found that certain men, inspired by the desire of money 
or by vain glory, have abused this art : and have perverted what was 
given for the instruction of humanity to ruin and calumny. For we 
have seen even books of the divine office, and the mysteries of our 
reUgion^, translated from Latin into German, and handled by the 
common people, to the degradation of religion. And finally even, 
how can we express ourselves about the translation even of the cano- 
nical books and the precepts of the law*? For, if these books should 
be translated most suitably and prudently by the most prudent and 
eloquent of men, yet this branch of science is so exceedingly knotty, 
that even the whole life-time of a most wise and prudent man would 
scarcely suffice for it. Yet certain rash and ignorant fools dare to 
translate into the vulgar tongue, and to print, such volumes : for whose 
translation many learned doctors have confessed that their under- 
standing is too small, because of the great inappropriateness and*" 

^ Reusch, I. 56. Books passed by the censor were marked " Admissum " ; 
"Temptatum"; or "Examinatum admissumque ac approbatum ab alma 
Universitate studii civitatis Coloniensis, de consensu ac voluntate (censor's 
name), pro tempore rectoris eiusdem"; see also i. 58, and for a 1491 ordi- 
nance by a papal legate, Mansi, Supp. vi. 681. 

^ Printed Codex Diplom. Anccdotorum, Gudenus, Frankfurt, 1758, iv. 

^ i.e. breviaries and missals. 

^ Sacrorum canonum legumque preceptis : the remainder of the edict shews 
that this expression refers to the Bible, and not to a translation, for instance, 
of the Decretals, or some collection of canon laws, for which the next sen- 
tence would be quite inappropriate, even if it were less incredible a priori 
that anybody should translate books of canon law into the vernacular. 
These were quite useless except to men who could plead in the Latin tongue 
before ecclesiastical judges. The "books of both laws " is a frequent mediae- 
val term for the ' ' books of both Testaments, ' ' — the old law, and the new law ; 
see pp. 81 n. 3, 227, 256. 

The later reference to the gospels and epistles renders it almost certain 
that this expression means the Bible. 

IV] censor's edict of i486 125 

abuse of words. What shall we saj^ finall}^ about works of the 
other branches of science, with some of which false passages are 
mingled and false titles given, or when they are sometimes attributed 
to famous authors, to obtain the more buyers? 

Let such translators sa}', if they have any regard for truth, whether 
they do this with good or evil mind, and whether the German lan- 
guage is sufficient to treat of these things 1, of which so many great 
writers both Greek and Latin have written with such exceeding 
accuracy and skill, both of the highest mysteries of the Christian 
religion, and of natural philosophy? For it must be confessed that thp 
poverty of our mother tongue is quite insufficient, and that it would be 
necessary for translators to invent unknown names for things out of 
their head ; or, if they used old names, they would corrupt the true 
meaning : which we fear the more, because of the great danger in the 
case of the sacred books. For who would enable simple and unedu- 
cated men, and even women, into whose hands copies of the sacred 
books might fall, to pick out the true meaning^? For it is obvious, 
and certainly no prudent man will deny, that the text of the holy 
gospels, or the epistles of S. Paul, need much supplementing and 
exposition by other writers. Yet such books are met with, and even 
frequently [in the vernacular]. 

What shall we say then of the translation of those works which 
rest under the sharpest disapproval of writers of the catholic Church ? 
We might say much : but let the bare mention of them here suffice. . . . 

We therefore command and enjoin that no work, of whatever 
branch of science, art or knowledge, shall be translated from the 
Greek or Latin or any other tongue into the common German tongue, 
or, when translated (even with any change of style or title) , shall be 
published or bought, publicly or privately, directly or indirectly: 
unless both before printing, and between printing and publication, 
they are licensed to be printed and published by John Bertram of 
Naumburg^, in the case of theological books, and . . . [three other 
professors in the case of books of law, medicine and arts, respecti vel)?] , 
deputed by our letters patent. 

This edict seems to have been effective in suppressing the 
printing of Bibles in Mainz itself for the next ten years: but not 
altogether in the other big towns of the province, where evasion 
was probably easier. Yet it is noticeable that after 1488 only 
three editions of the German Bible appeared in the next thirty 
years : a number significantly small compared with that of the 

* For the same argument about Italian, see Passavanti, p. 46; about 
English, friars Butler and Palmer, Appendix. 

2 Thfe backbone of the mediaeval argument: the need of the fourfold 
interpretation of scripture: cf. p. 288. 

' Rector of the university of Mainz; cf. Reusch, i. 58. 


years 1466-1486^. No biblical translation, however, bears the 
mark of having been approved by Bertram of Naumburg, who 
should, presumably, have censored all such works till his death 
in 1 5 15. This is the only edict which refers expressly to biblical 
translations: but in 1479 the rector of the university of Cologne 
issued one against all printers, buyers and readers of heretical 
and erroneous books, "and such things as are hurtful to the 
Christian religion," and this edict was confirmed and applied to 
the provinces of Cologne, Mainz, Trier and Magdeburg by pope 
Alexander VI in 1501^. The later censorial edicts do not deal 
specially with biblical translations, like that at Mainz: but are 
quoted to shew that censors of erroneous books existed elsewhere 
in Germany at the time, and that we might have expected to 
lind one or two of the numerous German Bibles bearing their 
mark of examination, had the ecclesiastical world been generally 
favourable to such translations. In 1479 ^ Latin edition of the 
scrfptures was printed at Cologne, with the approbation of the 
censor of the university^: so that the omission of the censor's 
mark in the Dutch Bible printed at Cologne in 1480 is the more 
marked. On the whole, however, it was not tiU printed German 
Bibles had spread beyond control, that the official attitude to 
them changed, — and not then in all cases, as we have seen in 
that of Geiler of Kaysersberg. 

§ 5. Lastly, it is interesting to trace the growth of orthodox 
favour towards bibUcal translations in the years 1450-1526, the 
period of the spread of the printed editions. Evidence of this 
can be found in the edicts of provincial councils, in manuals, and 
in instances of the ownership of translations by lay people : and 
(a most important point), in the case of the councils and manuals, 
it cannot be paralleled in an earlier period. 

In the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, councils and synods 
had passed many regulations for the preaching of sermons in the 
vulgar tongue : but the end had always been the instruction of 
the faithful in the elements of the faith'*, not the translation to 
them of the Sunday gospel. The value of these sermons at mass 

1 Walther, 718. 2 Reusch, i. 54-6. ^ Putnam, 11. 11. 

* Canon lvi. of the diocesan synod of Strassburg, 1335, required all parish 
priests in the sermon at the Sunday mass, to preach and explain the creed 
to their people in the vulgar tongue. See Dacheux, 7. 


was specially emphasised in Germany in the fifteenth century; 
and, at the end of it, priests were advised to explain the meaning 
of the Sunday gospel in German. No case is known where a 
synod enjoined the preliminary reading of the text of the gospel 
in German, before 1526; although one manual recommended in 
1504 that the priest should do this in place of the sermon, if 
hard pressed for time. At the end of the period, however, there 
are two cases of synods^ recommending a close exposition of the 
text of the gospel: priests were to "expound the honest meaning 
of the words." 

In 1403 the council of Magdeburg, in addition to the universal 
canonical duty of attendance at mass on Sundays and holy days, 
laid the faithful under obligation to hear the sermon of their 
parish priest or his substitute^; even as they bound the priest to 
preach the sermon. In 1445, 1497 and 1504 synods enjoined 
that parishes with Slav inhabitants must have an assistant 
priest who could speak that language, or should have the ser- 
mon translated for them by an interpreter 3. The synod of 
Eichstadt, 1447'', was the first to recommend a close exposition 
of the Sunday gospel, and here there is no mention of an actual 
translation : 

We enjoin priests to be cautious in their sermons, and not to utter 
useless and vain tales, utterly offensive to pious minds, but rather 
to preach on Sundays and holy days the holy scripture of the Old 
and New Testament, plainly and intelligibly. First, let them explain 
the text in the vulgar tongue, as it lies, adding a commentary, 
or verse by verse, even as they know to be suitable for their people's 
capacity ^. 

The fifteenth century synods do not generally mention the 
sermon when requiring attendance at mass; but in 1492 that at 
Schwerin forbade parish priests to be absent on Sundays, thus 
depriving the faithful of mass and sermon; and at Freysingen® 

^ Eichstadt and Ratisbon, see infra. 
2 Con. Germ. v. 697. 
^ Dacheux, 8. 

* 'Con. Germ. v. 364. 

^ Pnmo textum, prout jacet, vulgariter exponendo subjunctis postillis 
vel per membra declarent, veluti plebis capacitati convenire cognoverint. 

* Dacheux, 8. The preaching of a sermon was certainly general at the end 
of the century: the sj-nod of Bale, 1503, and various writers, denounced 
those who went out into the churchyard during the sermon. 


visitors were to ask if the parish priest preached every Sunday. 
The synod of Ratisbon in 1512 reiterated almost verbatim the 
decree of the synod of Eichstadt about sermons, but omitted the 
words emphasising the closeness of the exposition, "as the text 
lies,. . .verse by verse^." The synod of Meissen, 1504, ordered 
the priest to "read the Pater and Creed in the vulgar tongue to 
the people, and teach it them^" at the sermon, in language that 
shews that the synod of Eichstadt did not intend to order "the 
reading of the gospel in the vulgar tongue " in the sermon. 

This is borne out by the advice given in the very popular 
Manuale Curatorum, or manual of parish priests, composed by 
Ulric Surgant of Altkirch, the parish priest of S. Theodore at 
Bale, who died in 1503^. The manual gives a list of books suit- 
able for the study of young priests, and analyses preaching under 
live headings, — the homily, the prone, the sermon proper, etc. : 

But sometimes, if the priest is in great haste or has to say several 
masses, the parish priest may say to the people: "I shall merely read 
to you the gospel for the day, without comment or introduction; 
these are the words of S. Matthew, and this is the meaning, in the 
vulgar tongue " : or, "Instead of a sermon for to-day, I will tell you the 
gospel for the Sunday, with its meaning, in brief." 

The priest is however warned to tell the people that he is only 
telling them the sense of the words: for he might translate in 
one way, and there are printed gospels which might translate 
in another: and laymen or women might read them at home, 
and say: "My book has not got the text as the preacher says," 
as if he had said something wrong*. 

From 1470 onwards various German manuals, written for the 
laity, recommended attendance at the Sunday sermon. In 1470 
the Spiegel der Sunder went so far as to say that : " Whoever has 
in his house boys of fourteen and girls of twelve, and neglects 
to send them to the sermon, sins mortally, as they do in not 

^ Con. Germ. vi. 112: primo textum subjunctis postillis declarent, veluti 
plebis capacitati noverint convenire. 

" Dacheux, 10. 

3 Dacheux, 19, and E. Schroder, Gott. Gel. Am. 1888, 254, for the passages 

* "Dis ist der Sinn der Worten: non sine cautela, ideo quia evangelia sint 
in vulgari impressa; et ille sic, alius sic, vulgarizat, et laici viri seu mulieres 
in domo prius legentes ista deinde dicerent : liber meus non habet sic textum 
ut praedicans dixit, quasi male dixisset." Geffcken, Bildercatechismus , 10. 


going^." In 1484 the Hymmelstrasz and the Licht der Seek 
both recommended the faithful to go, and to write down what 
they heard^. In 1508 the Nntzlich...Buchlin, and in 1509 the 
Wurzgdrtlein^ went further, and recommended the faithful to 
read the scriptures for themselves, in a spirit of humility: "if 
you should read them in a spirit of pride, they will be hurtful to 
you." In 1513 the Himmelstiir* urged that 

All that you hear in sermons orthrough other modes of instruction. . . 
should incite you to read with piety and humility the Bible and holy 
books, which are now translated into German, and printed and dis- 
tributed in large numbers s, either in their entirety or in part, and 
which you can purchase for very little money. 

More striking still is the preface to the Bale plenary of 1514^: 

Hast thou pious books? Read them on Sunday after the sermon, 
after supper and in the midst of thy family. There ought to be no man 
who has not a copy of the holy gospel with him in his house'. 

The number of these exhortations to Bible reading is of course 
small compared to the stream of such manuals and books of 
homilies which came from the press ^: but, since they cannot be 
paralleled in earlier manuals, which were also very numerous, 
they are interesting as evidence of the turn of the tide. 

Four cases of individual ownership, or copying of biblical 
translations, might perhaps be noticed. In 1399 Wernerus 
Dominicus Mynne, possibly a layman, completed the writing of 

^ Dacheux, 14; this tract, published Augsburg, 1470, is a confession book, 
compiled chiefly from three fifteenth century Latin manuals. It is not a 
German edition of the much older Latin Speculum Peccatorum, which was 
translated into English in the fourteenth century, and which has no refer- 
ence to sermons. See Geffcken, Bildercatechismus, (ii), 47-79, for long extracts 
from this work, and from many similar contemporary confession books. 

^ Dacheux, 14; Bildercatechismus, (ii), 106. 

' Janssen, i. 59. 

* Id. I. 56. 

* There were 22 editions of the psalms before 1509, 25 of the epistles and 
gospels before 15 18. 

* Schroeder, Gott. Gel. Am. 1888, 254. 

' This is, incidentally, the preface meant to secure customers for the 
edition of the epistles and gospels, not merely a pious exhortation. That 
the reading of glossed plenaries was popular, however, is shewn by the issue 
of 102 editions of gospels and epistles with homilies between 1470-1520. 
Janssen, i. 54. 

* Cf. the German manuals of the date in Hentsch: the Frauenbuecklein, 
c. 1500, p. 229, gives many instances from the Bible, but no tract advises 
the use of German plenaries, etc. 

D.W.B. q 


a Dutch plenary in the house of Hugo of Necelhorst^. About 
1450, or a httle later, Elizabeth von Volkensdorf, a daughter of 
one of the noblest and richest families of upper Austria 2, 
possessed about fifty German books, of which the catalogue has 
come down to us. The list included a Bible, a psalter, a gospel- 
book, an epistle-book, the Apocalypse, a homily on the epistles, 
and another on the gospel In Principio, and two copies of 
"Our Lady's Bible," — that is, her life. In 1462 a burgher of 
Leyden, Willem Heerman, left to the church of S. Peter in that 
town a complete copy of a Dutch Bible, for the use of "all good 
pious men, who wish to read therein something profitable^"; 
and in 1474 a Dutch Bible History was written for master Hugh 
Gherytz, a surgeon^. These cases, which could perhaps be in- 
creased in number by an exhaustive search, contrast with the 
complete absence of evidence of lay ownership in England, after 
1408 ^ except among the Lollards; but they do not oppose the 
conclusion that the greatest users of translations were convents 
of women. 

It seems a fair deduction from the evidence given in this 
chapter to say that at the beginning of the fifteenth century the 
orthodox champions of biblical translations were few, and con- 
fined to the circle of the Gottesfreunde; that the Brethren of the 
Common Life were largely influential in extending the use of 
translations in convents, and of German manuals among the 
laity; that the printing of German Bibles was done without the 
approval of the Church, and that though, about 1500, some 
writers of manuals had begun to approve of their possession by 
lay people, other orthodox churchmen continued to regret it. 

^ Boekzaal, 292. 

2 Die Bibliothek des Chorherrnstiftes St. Florian, Czemy, A., Linz, 1874, 
237, 8. " Hie ist ze merkchen waz ich Elspet Volchenstorfferin pueher hab 
deutscher." Cf. Kern, 400. 

^ Moll, Kerkenges, 11-. 335; cf. Jostes, Waldenser und die vorluther. Bibel, 
Munster, 1885, 28. 

* Boekzaal, 251. 

^ Absence of owner's names in the MSS., or in wills. 


Biblical translations before W y cliff e : as known to 
W y cliff es contemporaries, and as known to us 

§ I. Between the death of Wydiffe in 1384, and the pro- 
hibition of the WycHffite translations in 1408, there was con- 
siderable discussion about the lawfulness of making any trans- 
lation of the Vulgate. Apart from evidence that such discussion 
went briskly forward^, we have five treatises written between 
1380 and 1408 dealing with this subject, occasioned of course by 
the Lollard effort to popularise their own bibhcal translations. 
This discussion could not of course ignore the argument from 
precedent, so that it affords ample evidence of what Wj^clif^e's 
contemporaries believed about the existence of earlier biblical 
translations, and the examples with which they were acquainted. 
Three of these treatises were by Lollards, and pleaded for the 
lawfulness of translations, while two were by friars, who wrote 
against them^. There is also an interesting reference to biblical 
translations in a non-controversial tract, the Dialogue between a 
Lord and a Clerk, which John Trevisa prefixed to his English 
version of Higden's Polychronicon in 1387. Trevisa, chaplain to 
lord Thomas of Berkeley, was a professional "turner" or trans- 
lator, and he recounted in the Dialogue how his lord had recom- 
mended him to English the Polychronicon, and had overcome 
his scruples as to whether the popularisation of such a work was 
profitable. The "Lord" called to witness the making of earlier 
translations of learned works, and included in his catena such 
instances as he could give of the translation, in verse or sermon, 
of any part of the Bible: he was plainly ignorant of any com- 
plete English translation of the Bible, suitable for a precedent. 

In the five controversial tracts also, the champions of ver- 
nacular Bibles employed the argument from precedent largely, 
and their opponents could not altogether ignore it. Both sides 

1 Cf. Pollard, 203-8. * Printed, Appendix 11. 



mentally ran through what they knew of earlier English trans- 
. lations: the Lollard party, like the jurists of Cologne, eagerly 
/' sought for all the instances that they could find, to prove that 
( translations had been made and used by orthodox Englishmen ; 
and since at least one of their treatises is the work of a scholar, 
the non-reference to any translation immediately preceding the 
days of Wycliffe is very strong proof that such translation was 
completely unknown. Had any such orthodox translation 
existed, and been at all widely used by the faithful between 
1350 and 1408^, it is scarcely conceivable that the two anti- 
translation treatises should have been written at all. But these 
"anti" treatises did deal with the alleged precedents of Bede's 
translations. The importance of the historical references in 
these tracts and in Trevisa's Dialogue is this: that it enables us 
to distinguish clearly between recognised translations and tracts, 
and those which existed at the time but were quite unknown, 
and without influence. It enables us to see what archbishop 
Arundel meant, when he said in 1408 that translations made 
before Wycliffe's day should remain lawful: because the trans- 
lations of which he was thinking were not those which^ might be 
"alleged" by a modern specialist in English literature. We can 
reconstruct from these tracts a list of these works, as known to 
the contemporaries of Wycliffe and Arundel, both in the periods 
before and after the conquest. 

§ 2. There was a fairly general concurrence of opinion that 
large parts of the Bible had been translated into prose in Anglo- 
Saxon times, and the two names with which the translation was 
connected were those of Bede and Alfred. Probably the basis 
of the idea was the writers' knowledge of some manuscript of 
the Anglo-Saxon gospels in one of the abbey libraries : we should 
probably have dated the manuscript as written about 1050 or 
1 100 A.D., as were those now in existence, but fourteenth century 
scholars believed them to be much earlier, and connected them 
with the names they found mentioned as translators in written 

1 With the exception of the psalter : the translation of which was always 
regarded as more permissible than that of other parts of the Bible, and 
occurred earlier. The pro-vernacular writers quoted Hampole in their 
favour: the anti- vernacular ones did not bring up the point of English 
psalters at all. 


John Purvey, whose Hst of historical precedents is by far the 
largest, mentions that 

S. Oswald 1, king of Northumberland, asked of the Scots an holy 
bishop Aidan to preach to his people : and the king himself interpreted 
it on English to the people. If this blessed deed be allowed to the king 
of all holy Church : how not now as well ought it to be allowed a man 
to read the gospel on English, and do thereafter? 

Trevisa says that "Caedmon^ of Whitby was inspired by the 
Holy Ghost, and made wonder poesies in English, nigh of all the 
stories of holy writ." 

Three writers mention Bede. "The holy man Beda^" says 
Trevisa, "translated S. John's gospel out of Latin into English," 
— a statement justified by a passage in the Ecclesiastical History'^. 
Purvey the Lollard mentions the same precedent : 

Venerable Bede . . . translated the Bible, or a great part of the Bible, 
whose originals been in many abbeys in England.. . .And Cistrence 
saith, that the evangely of John was drawn into English by the 
foresaid Bede, which evangely of John, and other gospels been yet 
in many places of so old English, that unnethe can any man read 
them 5. 

Palmer the Dominican, when expressly challenged with the 
precedent of Bede's translation, made two objections: 

Even if Bede did translate the whole of holy scripture, nevertheless 
the Church did not accept his translation, because perchance he erred 
in it, even as Jerome and nearly all the others who have presumed to 
translate it. And secondly, I assert that Bede did not translate it, 
except inasmuch as it was necessary to salvation and easy of under- 
standing; because, according to his own teaching, he could not trans- 
late the whole into the barbarian tongue, as I have shewn above®. 

The Franciscan Butler also made a veiled reference to the 
supposed translations of Bede, quoting first from the third book 
of Aristotle's Rhetoric, "quanto maior est populus, tanto minor 
vel remotior est intellectus." 

"Therefore, though it might have been allowable," he says, "that 
the common people should be able to read holy scripture at a time 
when few speaking that tongue were converted to the faith, in what- 

^ See p. 441. 2 Pollard, 206. * Id. 206. 

* Ven. Bedae Hist. Eccles., Plummer, C, 1896, i. Ixxv. 
^ See p. 441; Cistrence = Ranulph of Chester, or Higden, author of the 
Polychronicon : which was translated into English by Trevisa. 
« See p. 435. 


ever nation it might be : nevertheless it does not follow that it would 
be allowable in the same nation nowadays for all in like manner to be 
able to read the scriptures, as in the days when they were catechu- 
mens. And if it can be proved that any recognised or canonized doctor 
did translate the holy scriptures for any people to read, or even 
advised them to read, nevertheless it does not follow that it would 
be allowable nowadays : because one matter remains doubtful, even 
that saying of Aristotle, that * the greater the people, the smaller its 
understanding.' Therefore the best way of knowing God is by reflect- 
ing about Him, and by prayerfully entreating Him, and Christians 
- get more good from these two methods than by reading or hearing i. 

Trevisa mentions too that king Alfred^, "that founded the 
university of Oxford, translated the best laws into English 
tongue, and a great deal of the psalter, out of Latin into English " ; 
and Purvey, probably quoting from the same source, says that 
" Alfred 3 the king ordained open schools of divers arts in Oxford, 
and he turned the best laws into his mother tongue, and the 
psalter also." 

There is, of course no a priori reason why Anglo-Saxon 
scholars should not have translated the Bible, as fourteenth 
century critics believed that they did. In a missionary church 
this should have been useful, not to the unlettered layman, but 
to the young monks and priests sent out to instruct them. Trans- 
lations were made for use in the Eastern branch of the Church in 
the ninth century, and their use was confirmed by the pope in 
879 ; the western feehng against translations did not harden till 
the time of Gregory VII. Nevertheless there is no evidence that 
a complete translation, even of the four gospels, was made till 
ML-.- \ the time of Aelfric, in^the eleventh century, or that bibhcal 
translations were used at all in the Anglo-Saxon period for the 
regular instruction of monks, priests or laity. Generally speak- 
i ing, the text of the Bible was studied only by the monks, and it 

was studied in Latin. 

Bede, who died in 735, wrote Latin commentaries on all the 
books of the Bible, and the story of his completion of an Enghsh 
translation of the gospel of S. John on his death-bed is familiar. 

1 See p. 406. ^ Pollard, 206. 

3 See p. 441 . Anglo-Saxon interlinear glosses on the psalms date from the 
ninth century: Paues, 1902, x. ; but Anglo-Saxon psalters were written as 
late as the twelfth or thirteenth centuries: cf. Fitzwilliam, 12, the Peter- 
borough psalter of 1260-70. The whole number of remaining manuscripts 
is, however, small. 



He probably translated only about the six first chapters, as is 
explicitly mentioned by Cuthbert his pupil in a letter. In either 
case, the translation is not extant, and would have been of little 
use to any except the monks of his day..' These of course did a 
large amount of missionary and pastoral work: but the secular 
clergy appear, from Bede's description of them, to have had very 
little learning. In a letter to bishop Egbert, Bede exhorted him 
to take especial care in instructing ordinands in 

the Catholic faith, which is contained in the apostles' creed and the 
Lord's prayer, which scripture in the holy gospel teaches us. For it is 
certain, that all who have learnt the use of the Latin speech, will best 
learn this in Latin: but make the unlearned, that is, those who know 
only their own tongue, learn them in their own language, and care- 
fully repeat them; and this should be done, not only in the case of 
laymen, that is, those hitherto living the secular life, but also in the 
case of monks and clerks, who know Latin. . . . Wherefore I have myself 
had both these, that is, the creed and pater noster, translated into the 
English tongue, for the sake of many priests, who are often un- 
learned ^ 

The words throw light on the learning of secular ordinands oi 
the day, and shew how little likely they were' to attempt trans- 
lations of the Sunday gospel at mass, or an3'thing of the kind-. 
The only translations made by the command of king Alfred 
were those chapters of the Bible he incorporated in the collection 
known as Alfred's Dooms, or Alfred's Laws^. He began this by 
an English rendering of Exodus, chapters xx. to xxiii., — the 
account of the giving of the law to Moses, and of the Mosaic 
civil code. This was followed by that passage from Acts xv. 
which describes the enactment of the council of Jerusalem, and 
gives the relation of Christianity to the Mosaic law. The other 
books which Alfred actually selected for translation were not 
bibhcal, but such works as Gregory's Pastoral Rule and Bede's 
Ecclesiastical History ; he and Aethelwold, bishop of Winchester, 
also ordered the translation of S. Benedict's Rule, for the benefit 
of seculars joining the monasteries. Alfred died in 901: but 
though we possess twelve manuscripts of English glosses on the 

^ Plummer's Bede, i. 408. 
. 2 For the learning of the Anglo-Saxon clergy, cf. R. Graham's Intellectual 
influence of English monasiicism, RHT, vii. 24 ff. ; and for a priest who knew 
the old British, or Gaelic, language, Gesta Abbatum, RS, 28, i. 26; cf. also 
Schools of Med. England, Leach, A. F., 1915. 5i ff- ^ Cook, 69. 


psalter, some of them from the ninth century, there is nothing 
to connect any of them with his name. The behef of Purvey and 
Trevisa that he translated a large part of the psalter was due to 
the assertion of William of Malmesbury, that he "attempted to 
translate the psalter, but died when he had barely finished ex- 
plaining the first part^." This descnption fits the first trans- 
lation of the psalms which has come down to us: a translation 
actually of the first part, or quinquena, of fifty psalms; this 
work originated, however, early in the tenth century^. 

The earlier verbal glosses on the psalter would have been 
useful in teaching novices to read the divine office, but word for 
word glosses could never have been actually read aloud, because 
they did not form consecutive English sentences. This was the 
case also with the earliest Saxon gospels which have survived, 
the Lindisfarne gospels or old Northumbrian gloss, which was 
written about 950 a.d., and the slightly later Rushworth gospels, 
or old Mercian gloss. Such works must have been used for 
private study only: they could not have been read aloud, in 
either church or refectory. 

The earliest surviving gospels, which can properl}^ be called a 
translation, were the West Saxon gospels of an otherwise un- 
known Aelfric, monk of Bath, who wrote about 900, or soon 
after. There are seven manuscripts of this version, some of a 
good deal later date. A more famous Aelfric, the scholarly abbot 
of Eynsham, who died c. 1020, wrote both a vigorous paraphrase 
of parts of the Old Testament, and a set of homilies on the 
Sunday gospels, most of them prefaced by a translation^. 

" I regretted," said Aelfric, " that the English knew not nor had not 
the evangelical doctrines among their writings, those men only ex- 
cepted who knew Latin, and except for those books which king Alfred 
wisely turned from Latin into English, which are to be had.. . .Not 
only have we explained the treatise of the gospels in this matter, but 
also the lives or passions of saints, for the use of the unlearned*." 

* GestaRegumAngloriim.u. 12^. ^ £3,111.894. ^ Cook, 11. Set. viii. 135. 

* Homilies of the Anglo-Saxon Church, Thorpe, B., London, 1844, i. 1-3. 
Aelfric exhorted Wulfsine, bishop of Sherborne, that ordinands must possess 
the books needful for saying mass, and performing their pastoral duties: 
"Before a priest can be ordained he must be armed with the sacred books, 
namely a psalter, book of epistles, book of gospels, missal, book of hymns, 
manual or Encheiridion, Gerim, passionale, penitentiale, lectionary. These 
the diligent priest requires, and let him be careful that they are all accurately 
written." Bibliom. 47. For opposition to translations. Cook, lxx. 


The words shew that Aelfric was not aware of any translation 
of the gospels at the time, though the West Saxon gospels were 
already in existence. 

Such Saxon gospels as have been preserved in manuscripts 
date from about 1050- iioo, and the question arises as to their 
original use. References to Saxon gospels occur also in the 
catalogues of mediaeval libraries, or in lists of Saxon manuscripts 
written in later treatises: but they are rare. Waltham abbey 
had two richly bound Anglo-Saxon gospel books in its library 
at the Dissolution^; the Durham book, or the Lindisfarne 
gospels, another richly bound volume with relics in its cover, 
is mentioned in the Durham catalogues; and Burton abbey had 
a copy of the gospel book in Anglo-Saxon^. The cathedral 
priory of Christchurch, Canterbury, had between 1284 and 133 1 
no less than seventeen English books (out of a total of nearly 
two thousand) 3, and one of these seventeen was an English 
"textus" of the four gospels, a twelfth century manuscript we 
still possess. Three others were a paraphrase of Genesis, some 
English sermons, and an Enghsh Acts of the Apostles, — possibly 
also a paraphrase, since no manuscript of the Acts in Anglo- 
Saxon exists. Bath had also the four gospels in Anglo-Saxon 
about 1 100*, and two English psalters occur in a list of eleven 
Anglo-Saxon manuscripts which belonged in the twelfth century 
to either Worcester or Westminster^. Glastonbury in 1247 had 
two Anglo-Saxon books, which, from their position in the 
catalogue were probably paraphrases, or glossed bibhcal books ^. 

1 W. Winters, Hist, notes on MSS. of Waltham Holy Cross, RHT, vi. 265. 

* CVD, p. xxxiv; Addit. 23944. 

' Canterbury, xxv. 51. The 17 English MSS. form a separate section in 
this catalogue. The English textus is probably the eleventh century Royal 
I. A. 14. 

* Parker Coll. no. CXL. 

5 See C.C.C. Descrip. Cat. 11. 202, for MS. C.C.C. 367. The list of Saxon 
MSS. mentions a passionale, two Dialogues, a martirologe, two psalters, two 
Pastorals. S. Benedict's Rule, the Vision of Barontus of Pisoia, and another 

* Joh. Glaston. Chron., Hearne, T., Oxford, 1726, 11. 424. The number of 
English MSS. as mentioned in these catalogues has been much over-estimated, 
apparently through the idea that the books described as "vetusti" were in 
English; cf. especially Miss Graham in RHT, vii. 37. All the books, however, 
were classified as novus or vetustus, legibilis or illegibilis: vetustus had no 
reference to language, and was clearly used of Latin books; e.g. 11. 423, aha 
bibhotheca (biblia) Integra vetusta sed legibilis; 424, cantica canticorum et 


S. Paul's cathedral had in 1295 two Saxon manuscripts, one an 
Old Testament as far as Zechariah, the other, probably given by 
bishop Hugh de Orivalle c. 1075, as far as Job^. These seven 
cases are all the references to possible biblical translations to be 
found in printed monastic and other catalogues^, save for one 
case of a "Christes book" in English, which was probably an 
English gospel; in 1073 Leofric, bishop of Exeter, gave to his 
monastery "one book of Christ in English^." The two tenth 
century " Christes books " at York, and the four " Christes books" 
which the abbey at Bury S. Edmunds possessed about 1050^, 
were probably in Latin and not English, since they are men- 
tioned in lists of liturgical books, and the language is not speci- 
fied. Thus the monasteries of Waltham, Durham, Burton, 
Canterbury, Bath and Exeter are the only known possessors of 
Saxon gospel books about iioo a.d.^ 

liber sapientiae, vetusta et sine glosa; quattuor evangelia vetusta et sine 
glosa, inutilis; 425, epistolae Pauli vetustae et glossatae, inutiles; 424, 
luvencus de evangeliis, vetustus et inutilis; 426, liber de quadriforio b. 
Augustini, vetustus sed legibilis; Augustinus de perfectione honiinis, ve- 
tustus; leronymus, de consonancia evangeliorum, vetustissimus; 429, Beda 
de arte metrica, de rhetorica, super Lucam: omnes isti vetusti et quasi inu- 
tiles; 430, Decreta nova non tamen bona, etc. Thus vetustus clearly applies 
to condition, not language: 426, bonus sed aliquatenus vetus; 437, licet ve- 
tusti sint legi tamen possunt (of Latin MSS.). These instances are given 
because similar mistakes as to the meaning of vetustus in other catalogues 
have probably caused over-estimation of the number of A.S. MSS. Only 
8 out of c. 605 codices in the Glaston. cat. of 1247 are mentioned as 
being in English. These were the two glossed books mentioned above, 
Orosius, two Sermons, a passionale, a medicinale, and another English book : 
pp. 424, 34, 6, 9, and as correctly quoted in Somerset Med. Libraries, Williams, 
T. W., Som. Arch. Soc. 1897, 69. See for king Ine's munificent adornment 
of the covers of a Latin gospel book at Glastonbury, Som. Med. Lib. 48. 

1 Archaeol. 1. 451, 496. The second MS. had relics in its cover. 

^ Except for one or two sermons and loose paraphrases; Wells, Somer- 
set, had Aelfric's sermons, Som. Med. Lib. 117, Eng. Monast. Lib., J. Hunter, 
27; for list of 8 A.S. books at Durham, see CVD, 5; 6 A.S. ones at Abbotsburj', 
Eng. Mon. Lib. 8; for an A.S. book, probably Bede's, at Rivaulx c. 1150, 
Reliq. Antiq. 11. 185; for 2 A.S. books at Bury, JSwry, 23; i at S.Augustine's, 
Canterbury, Canterbury, lxxxiv. 

' Monast. 11. 527; Parker Coll. 40, MS. cxc. For " Christes book" see Lay 
Folks MB, 155: probably the term was simply a variant for a " gospler " or 
gospel book, but it may have meant a " textus," or book of the four gospels. 

* Lay Folks MB, 155; Bury, 6, in a list made between 1044 and 1065, dis- 
tinguishing gospel and epistle books. 

* For givers of Vulgates to monasteries between 661 and 1066, see Monast. 
II. 13; Bibliom. 95, gg, 113, 115, 119, 122, 130, 131, 156; Yorks. Archaeol. 
and Top. Jour. 11. 371; Som. Med. Lib. 48, 49, 89; Royal MSS. i. D. in.. 
I. D. IX.; Titus D. 27. 


The rarity of these Saxon gospel books, compared with the 
fact that not only the great monasteries, but every church and 
chapel had to be provided with a Latin gospel book^, is very 
strong evidence against any general custom of reading the 
gospel in English after the Latin at mass. Permission to do so 
in Slavonic was granted to Methodius, for political reasons: 
similar papal sanction would apparently have been needed also 
in England, but it was never given to an English prelate. Had 
such a custom existed, evidence for it would almost certainly 
have survived, as it has in the case of the vernacular bidding 
prayers, said before the sermon. The strongest evidence put 
forward for the custom has been, that surviving manuscripts of 
Saxon gospel books are divided by headings, which state that 
"this is the gospel for a certain Sunday, or week-day." The 
evidence of the rich bindings has also been called upon to shew 
that the manuscripts were liturgical books. In face of the other 
evidence, however, the headings can only have been made for 
the private study of the monks: had they been meant for 
hturgical use, the ends of the gospels would, it seems probable, 
have been inserted also, whereas actually the text sometimes 
continues uninterruptedly for a chapter or two, after some 
heading^. The translations would have been useful in the 
preparation of sermons, for the canons of Aelfric recom- 
mended the mass priest, on Sundays and mass days, to tell the 
people the sense of the gospel in Enghsh, and then to explain 
the creed and pater noster, as often as he could^. But the 
canons clearly refer only to translations in the course of the 
sermon, not to a recognised custom of reading the translated 
gospel as part of the mass*. 

Popular knowledge of the Bible in the Anglo-Saxon period 
was based, not on translations, but on sermons, and on the old 
popular paraphrases attributed to Caedmon, — a poet and 

1 See Aelfric's canons, in Lay Folks MB, 155, id. 211 for criticism of Lin- 
gard's opinion concerning the reading of Saxon gospel books in church, and 
id. XII. for bidding prayers. 

2 Of. the arrangement in the Saxon gospel book printed hy B. Thorpe, 
Da Halgan Gospel, 1842, pp. 73-9, 79-83, 94-6. "9-123, 125-9, where ferias 
in various weeks after Pentecost have "gospels" of nearly two chapters 
of S. Mark or S. Luke. Altar books would almost certainly have had the 
correct endings indicated. 

3 Lay Folks MB, 212. * As in Armenia, in 879, see p. 23. 


peasant, to whom the verse only, and not the translation of the 
biblical stories, was due. These poems were intended to be learnt 
by heart and sung by the people, for whom the memorisation 
of verse was much easier than prose. It is claimed that a written 
version of the songs of Caedmon exists in a manuscript, which 
contains the story of Genesis, Exodus and Daniel, and a poem 
on Adam and Eve and the fall of man. The earliest manuscript 
H of these songs belongs to the ninth century : but others were 
copied as late as 1250. Though no doubt poets of much later 
date contributed to these songs, and the form in some of the 
manuscripts may be entirely due to them, yet it seems 
historical to class them as a cycle, which, like so many early 
group-poems, long existed unwritten before taking final shape. 
Up till and during the twelfth century, while English was still 
mainly the language of the serfs and villeins, some knowledge 
of these Old Testament epics may have been handed down by 
memory and influenced belief, — just as a poem written about 
1400. describes a peasant's religious knowledge as received thus 

In Lenten time the parson did him shrive: 
He said: "Sir, canst thou the}-- believe?" 
The ploughman said unto the priest: 
"Sir, I believe in Jesu Christ, 
Which suffered death and harrowed hell. 
As I have heard mine ciders telF." 

The Harrowing of Hell was the most general name of the 
different Anglo-Saxon and Middle-English verse translations of 
the apocryphal gospel of Nicodemus. 

§ 3. It is noticeable that almost the only translations cited be- 
tween 1066 and 1400 were those brought forward by Purvey the 
Lollard, and scholar. The two other Lollard treatises men- 
tioned none, perhaps because their writers were unaware of 
any : and the friars who wrote the anti- vernacular treatises did 
not consider the precedents alleged sufficiently important to 
refute: particularly as the Lollards could not produce any 
translations except that of the psalter. Purvej^ nevertheless, 
made a gallant effort to produce historical arguments from the 

1 Reliq. Antiq. i. 43. 


period in question. He quoted the words of "the great subtle 
clerk Lincoln," or Grosseteste, on the duty of preaching^: 

"If any priest say he cannot preach," he saith, "one remedy is, 
resign he up his benefice : another remedy is, if he will not thus, record 
he in the week the naked text of the Sunday's gospel, that he con the 
gross story, and tell it to his people ; that is, if he understand Latin ; 
and do he this every week of the year. ... If forsooth he understood no 
Latin, go he to one of his neighbours that understandeth, which will 
charitably expound it to him, and thus edify he his flock, that is, 
his people. Thus saith Lincoln^: and on this argueth a clerk and 
saith: if it is lawful to preach the naked text to the people, it is 
also lawful to write it to them, and consequently, by process of time, 
so all the Bible. Also a noble holy man, Richard Hermit, drew on 
English the psalter, with a gloss of long process, and lessons of Dirige, ^ 
and many other treatises, by which many Englishmen have been 
greatly edified.. . .Also sir William Thoresby^, archbishop of York, 
did do draw a treatise in English by a worshipful clerk whose name 
was Gaytrik, in the which was contained the articles of the faith, 
seven deadly sins, the works of mercy, and the ten commandments, 
and sent them in small pagines to the common people, to learn this 

^ See p. 442. 

* This sermon of Grosseteste's (referred to elsewhere as beginning : Scriptum 
est de Levitis, seep. 442) has not been printed. There is no reason to doubt 
its authenticity, however, for his ordination sermons, some of which are 
printed in the Fasc. Rev. Exp., contain passages very similar in character; 
of. id. II. 251, for the need of the preaching of the gospel of Christ being 
the chief cause of the evil condition of the Church; 256, "the work of the 
salvation of souls . . . consists of setting forth by word and deed the gospel 
of Christ, consisting both of the Old and New Testaments"; 260, 265, the 
first duty of a parish priest is the instruction of his flock; 340, for a letter 
ordering the archdeacon of Lincoln to assemble the rectors, vicars and parish 
priests in their deaneries, in order that the bishop, who cannot, as he is 
bound, preach the gospel of the word of God throughout so large a diocese, 
may preach to them how they shall teach the people committed to their 
charge. His visitation articles (see p. 195) enjoined on parish priests to teach 
the laity the essentials of the faith in English ; and when they had said the 
divine office, to "apply themselves to prayer and the reading of holy scrip- 
ture, so that by the understanding of scripture they may be ready, as 
pertains to their office, to give a reason to all who ask them concerning their 
hope and faith." For Grosseteste's own learning, and famiharity with the 
scriptures, see p. 182. 

3 Thoresby issued a Latin catechism based on Peckham's canons of 1281 
(see p. 196) for his own province in 1357: and with it an expanded English 
version, made by John Gaytrik, a Benedictine of York, and known as the Lay 
Folks Catechism (EETS, OS, 26, 118). This tract was copied into the bishop's 
register, and shews that a mediaeval bishop could issue a vernacular tract, 
when he wished, as an official publication. Forty days' indulgence was 
granted to those who should learn the tract by heart. The original Catechistn 
was expanded later, in one case at least by a Lollard writer, see Wells, 356. 


and to know this, of which be yet many a company in England. . . . 
Also, Annachan in the book of questions saith that the sacrament 
may well be made in each common language i, for so, he saith, did the 
apostles ; but we contend not that, but pray antichrist that we might 
have our belief in English." 

The only other precedent quoted is that of the French Apoca- 
lypse, mentioned by the "Lord," in the Dialogue between a Lord 
and a Clerk. "Thou wotest," he says, "where the Apocalypse is 
written in the walls and roofs of a chapel, both in Latin and 
French 2," alluding to the chapel of Berkeley Castle. In the pre- 
Wycliffite period, such vernacular scriptures as existed were 
naturally in Anglo-Norman or Anglo-French, the language of 
the upper classes. A complete Anglo-Norman Bible existed in 
1361^ but must have been rare, for only three manuscripts re- 
main to us. The oldest part of this Bible, apart from the 
psalter, was the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse, which was also the 
most popular; there are 84 existent manuscripts^, including 

1 This same passage is alleged in a tract, probably also by Purvey the 
Lollard, see pp. 270-4. FitzRalph, archbishop of Armagh, was much quoted 
by Wycliffe and the Lollards, as being a vigorous opponent of the friars. 
His De Quaestionibus Armenorum deals with many matters besides those 
connected with the Greek schism: the ninth book discusses "that question 
raised by the Armenians according to holy scripture, whether, namely, 
any definite form of words is necessary for the consecration of the body 
and blood of Christ, and what that form is. . . . No Christian doubts that the 
sacrament may be made as well in one tongue as in another, since the 
apostles did this, and since they handed on the tradition of doing this. For 
Matthew wrote the gospel in Hebrew, John in Greek, Mark in Italian, as did 
Paul the epistle to the Romans ... each without doubt taught that the 
consecration should be made in those tongues in which they wrote : where- 
fore it is clear, that consecration can take place in each language, — nay 
more, for it appears that the gift of all tongues was for this reason conferred 
on the apostles, in order that they should believe that the form of consecra- 
tion in this sacrament, as with the other documents of salvation, should be 
exercised to each nation in its own tongue." Since, FitzRalph continues, 
the synoptists related different forms of the words of consecration, it is clear 
that no set form of words is needed, but a certain intention, "thus the 
sacraments may as well be consecrated in one tongue as in another." 
{Summa Domini Armacani in Quaestionibus Armenorum, Sudoris, J., Paris, 
151 1, f. 66.) 

■^ Pollard, 206. 

* See p. 221, and Panes, 1902, xix. Jean de Sy's continental version of 
the Bible, executed in 1355 by order of king John of France, was merely a 
revision of the old Anglo-Norman Bible, for which see also Berger. For a 
MS. of Proverbs and Canticles, written by a clerk "in prison" in 1312, see 
Casley's Catalogue, 1734, i. A. xx. 

* Paues, 1902, xxi; L' Apocalypse en frangais, Delisle, L., and Meyer, P.; 



those written both in France and England. Many of them are 
incorporated with the Bible Historiale^, which largely accounts 
for the diffusion of the work. This Anglo-Norman Apocalypse 
was a translation of Gilbert de la Porree's Latin comment on 
the Apocalypse, which was arranged in groups of three to five 
verses, with the gloss following each group; the Anglo-Norman 
form was itself turned into Middle-English between 1340 and ^ 
1370^. The "Lord" in the dialogue may have referred to this 
Anglo-Norman prose Apocalypse, but he is more likelj^ to have 
been thinking of an Anglo-French metrical version, written in 
short rhyming verses, which was also popular, and began : 

La vision ke Jhesu Crist 

A son serf monstrer fist, etc.'* 

Mural inscriptions were more frequent in rhyme than in prose, 
as in the case of the Dance of Death at Bale, and Holbein's 
Dance of Death. 

It is natural the "Lord" should not have quoted the Anglo- 
Norman Bible as a precedent, since it was so rare that Trevisa | 
had probably never seen one: but some reference to a French 
psalter might have been expected, unless he was consciously 
limiting himself to English, for they were somewhat commoner. 
Eadwine's PsaUerium triplex, of about 11 20, had an Anglo- 
Norman, as well as an Anglo-Saxon and Latin version: and the 
so-called Oxford psalter, of about the same date, became the 
basis of all subsequent Anglo-French versions*. The west midland 
psalter of about 1350 was translated from a French original, and in 
the pre-W3^cliffite period the Anglo-French psalter was, with the 
Apocalypse, the best known biblical book in the ^'ernacular. 

Gilbert de la Porree died in 1154, and the Anglo-Norman translation of his 
gloss on the Apoc, of which we have three versions, was made in the thir- 
teenth century. 

1 In 47/70 fourteenth century MSS. (of England and France). 

* See p. 302. 

* Ed. by Meyer, P., in Rom. xxv. 174 f. C.C.C. Camb. 20 has this Apoc. 
combined with the Latin text; but some combination of the Latin text 
with the Anglo-Norman prose version and gloss probably occurs also in some 

* Paues, 1902, XX. For possessors of French psalters, see pp. 186, 221. 
Laud. Misc. 91 is an early fourteenth century commentary on psalms' 
Ixviii. to c. ; Merton 249 is a thirteenth century comment on certain psalms, 
the text in Latin, the exposition in French. 


The only strict precedent quoted, for English biblical trans- 
lations, was that of Richard the hermit's psalter, and this is 
strong evidence that about 1408 it was the only one generally 
known. It was certainly the earliest biblical book to be trans- 
lated into English prose after the conquest. The upper classes 
were mainly French speaking till about 1350, and the south of 
England, as more in contact with Normandy, more completely 
so than the north. It was therefore natural that the first local 
renaissance of Middle-English literature should occur in the 
north rather than in the south, and this was connected with the 
lyrical, mystical and didactic works of Richard Rolle^ of Ham- 
pole. Rolle's English psalter is in several ways characteristic of 
the attitude of mediaeval orthodox translators. The choice of 
the book was significant, and shews that the aim was increase of 
devotion in those who said the hours, or the divine office, and 
not the general instruction of the laity in the New Testament. 

Great abundance of ghostly comfort and joy in God comes in the 
hearts of them that say or sing devoutl}- the psalms, in loving of 
Jesu Christ. . . . Soothly this shining book is a chosen song before God, 
as a lamp lightening our life, health of a sick heart, honey to a bitter 
soul. ...In this work I seek no strange English, but lightest and 
commonest, and such that is most hke the Latin, so that they that 
know not Latin, by the English may come to many Latin words. In 
the translation I follow the letter as mickle as I may; and, there I find 
no proper English, I follow the wit of the word. In expounding I follow 
holy doctors, for it may come in some envious man's hand, that knows 
not what he should saj-, that will say that I wist not what I said, 
and so do harm to him^. 

RoUe made the translation for the recluse, dame Margaret 
Kirkby; and the "holy doctors" which he followed were those 
of Peter Lombard's catena on the psalter. He did not translate 
these in their entirety, for the quotation of eight or nine doctors' 

^ See Incendium, 38, and Miss H. Allen's forthcoming catalogue of Rolle's 
works. Rolle's life as a wandering hermit approximated much more to that 
of a Flemish Beghard, than to that of a friar, or enclosed anchorite : and the 
same charge of vagrancy was objected against him. He was never a priest, 
though he had spent a year or two at Oxford. 

2 Bramley, Psalter, 5. For a later psalter in Enghsh verse, based on Rolle, 
see Carleton Brown, 26. For references to biblical translation occurring 
in the body of Rolle's gloss, see, for the need of the guidance of the Holy 
Ghost by translators, Bramley, 61 ; for a curious interpretation, " Thou shalt 
raise holy writ, that lay sleeping whilst men understood it nought," id. 509. 


comments on every verse makes the original Latin very long: 
instead, he selected a few lines of comment for direct translation 
in expounding each verse, and gave the substance of the other 
glosses in his own words, and in much shorter form. The English 
gloss contains much of Rolle's characteristically exuberant de- 
votion and fervour throughout: and, towards the end, the 
number of literal translations from Peter Lombard become 
very few. Rolle's influence was primarily greatest in the north 
of 'England, but his translation was copied throughout the 
fifteenth century by scribes of different dialects, and became the 
standard English version of the psalms. Trevisa's patron, lord 
Thomas of Berkley, was one of those to have the psalter copied, 
in 1415. 

It is significant of the attitude of the fourteenth century to 
biblical translations, that Rolle selected the psalter for trans- 
lation, that he meant it for use by a religious, and that he did 
not translate merely the "bare text," but added a long gloss. 
His choice of Lombard's gloss for translation was merely that 
of the standard commentary of the age, and as is the case with 
so much Middle-EngHsh literature, had been anticipated by 
Anglo-French translators. The earliest existent Anglo-French 
psalter dates from about 1200^, is accompanied by the gloss of 
Peter Lombard, and has several variants: but, though Rolle may 
have seen such a psalter, there is no evidence at present that he 
made his translation from the French rather than the Latin. 
He wrote and read Latin very easily, and there are no Anglo- 
French constructions in his Enghsh. 

The awkwardness and stiffness both of his translation of the 
text of the psalter, and of the first Wycliffite version of the Bible, 
were probably due to the intention of translating a gloss as well 
as a text. When the Latin gloss so often expounded each word 
separately, it was most necessary to give a translation as nearly 
word for word as possible, or confusion would have arisen in 
translating the gloss. Free translations, "following the wit of 
the word," were made at the time by preachers in their sermons, 
and Rolle could have made such a translation had he wished: 
but the translation of the gloss would have been more difficult, 

1 V, Frangaises [Versions], S. Berger states (p. 42) that the great ma- 
jority of French biblical MSS. are glossed. 

D.w. B. 10 



and such a gloss was considered much more advisable in the 
fourteenth century than the making of a "bare text^." It is 
finally significant that the propriety of Rolle's biblical trans- 
lations was never questioned, whether in his life-time or later. 
Translations of the psalter were never considered as quite on a 
level with those of other parts of the Bible^: Rolle's was made 
with no propagandist aim : it was not meant primarily f o'- lay- 
people, and it was not a translation of the bare text. The last 
reason probably explains why it obtained so nmch more popu- 
larity than a contemporary English translation of the psalms, 
made in the west midlands, of which only three manuscripts 
have survived to us, and which was never mentioned by con- 
temporaries^. This translation was not made directly from the 
Latin, but from Anglo-French: possibly it was the version be- 
queathed by a London merchant in 1348, the year before Rolle's 
death. Another little-copied translation was that of Jerome's 
Psalterumi Ahhreviahim, which is found in only two manuscripts, 
and which is, roughly, contemporary with the Wycliffite trans- 

It is noticeable that Purvey, in his search for historical 
precedents for translating the Bible, made no use of those of 
verse translations : this was no doubt partly because such trans- 
lations were not widely known, but also probably because the 
precedent had not the same value. No verse translations, or 
Bible stories, or "moralisations," or homilies on the gospels, 
could be appealed to by teachers in support of their doctrine, as 
in the case of a prose translation : and therefore no verse trans- 
lation was ever condemned as heretical. Precedents for the 
translation of the bare text were what Purvey sought, and he 

^ For the exemption of this psalter in 1408 see chapter xiii. ; and for the 
Lollards' treatment of it, p. 304. ^ Though see p. 71 for a prohibition. 

* Ed. Biilbring, K. D.. Earliest English Prose Psalter, EETS, OS, 97. The 
attribution to William of Shoreham has been already discredited, cf. Wells, 
403: perhaps the possible early date of Shoreham's Ordination strengthens 
this conclusion. A William de Shoreham was ordained acolyte by arch- 
bishop Peckham at Croydon in 1287: CYS, Reg. Joh. Peckham, 256. Merton, 
249, ff. 1 17-142, a thirteenth century MS., has a French translation and 
comment on certain psalms, in which the first verse of the psalm is given in 
Latin, and an exposition follows in which every three or four Latin words 
are quoted, then paraphrased in O.F. There is no literal and connected 
O.F. version in this MS., though the translation could be extracted from the 


included the reference to bishop Thoresby's Httle books of in- 
struction because they contained translations of certain parts 
of the bare text of the Bible, namely, the ten commandments 
and the pater noster. Nevertheless, verse translations and loose 
renderings of parts of the Bible were made between 1066 and the 
days of Wycliffe, and had some influence on the laity. 

The first verse translation of the psalter was made c. 1300-50 
and, like Rolle's psalter, in the north of England. It is the only 
complete translation which has survived, but there are various 
contemporary translations, or paraphrases of single psalms^, and 
especially the seven penitential psalms. A common version was 
an east midland paraphrase of the seven penitential psalms, 
possibly the work of Richard Maidstone, a Carmelite friar, and 
written about 1370; but, as this poem has an eight line verse to 
each verse of the psalms, it is a very long and very loose para- 
phrase of the original. These later verse psalms were not, like 
the northern verse gospels, close translations written in verse 
for the instruction of the "lewid," but rather religious jeux 
d' esprit, hardly intended as translations at all. Both during and 
after the Wycliffite controversy similar verse translations of the 
psalms were made: the prohibition of 1408 of the translation 
"alicuius textus Bibliae" seems never to have been interpreted 
as applying to verse translations of the psalms, and the render- 
ings of Clement Maidstone, Lydga.te and Brampton never 
aroused comment. 

Many long poems and compilations included stories from the 
Bible, and were, in a sense, the successors of Caedmon's para- 
phrases. The Cursor Mundi was a long biblical poem, written 
about 1300, which included many stories from the Old Testa- 
ment, though it had a connected plot apart from the biblical 
narrative. Poems founded on single Old Testament stories were 
composed between 1350 and 1400, and dealt with such subjects 
as Adam and Eve, Joseph, etc. The moral poems of Ptirit^i and 
Pjitience were mainly composed of Bible stories, and date from 
about 1370, while that on Susanna was written about 1370-80. 

An interesting set of translations is that of the Middle-English 
verse plenaries, or renderings of the Sunday gospels, with 
homilies. These usuall}' folloxved the order of the Church's year, 

^ See Wells, 402-5. 

10 — 2 


but there was a tendency to combine them so as to form con- 
secutive Hves of Christ, or gospel harmonies. The earhest of 
these was such a gospel harmony, written about 1200 by the 
Augustinian canon Orm, who called his work the Ojjnulum^ in 
reference to his own name. He dedicated it to his brother 
Walther, — his brother after the flesh, by baptism, and in holy 
religion, and stated in the dedication that he had collected into 
his book nearly all the gospels, as they befel in the mass-book 
throughout the year. Orm did not, however, translate the gos- 
pels in their liturgical order, though his poem was divided up 
into portions of about the length of a liturgical gospeP. He com- 
posed his own gospel harmony, translating first a chapter of one 
gospel and then a chapter of another : and to bring his harmony 
into relation with the mass-book, he inserted a table of the 
opening words of the liturgical gospels before the text. But, 
though he wrote the poem to make the gospel known to the 
English, there is no evidence that the single manuscript of his 
poem was ever copied, or was known to his contemporaries. 

The Ormulum stands by itself, and had no influence on later 
verse renderings of the Sunday and Saint's Daj' gospels: but the 
other verse renderings and homilies were all developments of 
the same original cycle, — now generally known as the Northern 
Homily Collection^. It is not impossible that they should have 
been actually delivered as sermons in the pulpit on Sundays, 
for we have references to the preaching of sermons in verse in 
the fourteenth century, especially by the friars*, and one manu- 

1 Ed. Holt, R., Oxford, 1878. 

2 Id. Lxxxii.-Lxxxvii. and table of Latin "texts" at end of dedication. 

3 See Gerould, G. H., North English Homily Collection, 1902 ; and in MLN, 
22, 95; Cat. of Rom. iii 320; Wells, 287-92, 805. 

* Wycliffe frequently accused the friars of preaching from apocryphal poems 
and verse gospels: and sometimes his language implies that they actually 
recited them, for the sake of novelty, in the pulpit. The friars "some by 
rhyming and others by preaching poems and fables adulterate in manifold 
wise the word of God"; they seek new and attractive forms of preaching, 
and while the poor priests preach plainly and simply, "the friars preach 
feigned words and poems in rhyme" (Op. Min. 331). They "dwell upon 
apocryphal poems" {Polem. Works, i. 41), and in preaching "make use of 
rhymes... for they say that unless they add some novelties beyond the 
accustomed manner of preaching, there will appear no difference between 
subtle theologians. . .and little lettered country priests" [Sermones, i. xvii.; 
IV. 266) The abbot of S. Albans in 1426 preached a Latin sermon to the 
monastic vicars, the last half being in verse. [Amundesham, RS, 229-31.) 


script of the gospel homilies, which inserts a Latin passage, has 
a note that this is to be omitted when the book is read to lay 
people. It is more likely however that these verse translations 
and homilies were meant for private study, or to afford material 
for Sunday sermons by the parish priest. 

The earliest form of this set of verse gospels was made some- 
where in the neighbourhood of Durham, early in the fourteenth 
century. It was made with the desire of instructing the "lewid" 
folk in the meaning of the gospels, just as the Ormulum had been. 
The compiler speaks of his aim in the prologue, without giving 
his own name; probably he was some Austin canon or parish 
priest, rather than a monk or friar: the tone of his prologue, 
with its interest in lay people, is very similar to those of his con- 
temporaries, Maerlant and Jan de Weert in the Netherlands. 
Just as Robert of Bourne, a Gilbertine canon, translated the 
Manuel des Pechiez for lay people in 1303, so the author of the 
rhj^med gospels took a French book for his model, — the rhymed 
French gospels of another north-countryman, Robert of Great- 
ham. The latter had made them, between 1250 and 1300, for a 
certain noble lady. Aline or Eleanor^, to whom he was chaplain: 
she was very fond, he said, of listening to chansons de geste and 
history, and as these were mostly untrue or only half true, he 
made for her a set of gospels, set forth most fairly in Romance, 
or French, and added a homily or exposition to each gospel. 
The translations are in jingling verse, easy to learn and 
remember: and as a tour de force for the first vSunday of 
the year, Robert gave all the lines of this gospel the same 

There are some interesting lines in Robert's prologue, which 
shew that he expected opposition to his work of translation from 

^ This is explained in a prologue, about 300 lines long, most of which is 
printed by P. Meyer in Rom. xv. 298-305. Robert calls his treatise the 
Mirror, says holy scripture is like an apple tree, whose apples only fall 
to the ground with shaking, and explains its literal and metaphorical senses. 
From the connexion of the manor of Greatham with the de Montforts till 
1264, it is conjecturable that the Eleanor, to whom the gospels were dedi- 
cated, belonged to that family, which had more than one member of the 
name. The prologue, with its side references to frequent opportunities 
of hearing histories and romances sung by minstrels, suggests that she was 
a great lady. For a promised discussion of the authorship of the Mirror, see 
H. E. Allen in Modern Philology, xiii. April, 1916, 741 n. 


certain quarters, just as Maerlant expected and received it for 
"unbinding the Bible into Dutchi," in the same half-century. 

" I will not tell my name as yet," he says, " for the envious to tell 
abroad : and so that they may not take from us that good thing, of 
which they themselves wish to hear nothing. For it is the custom 
of the envious to be grudging, and to cause annoyance. They all 
despise the works of others, and seek to prevent holy writings^." 

"The good thing of which they themselves wish to hear 
nothing" is the gospel and its exposition: Robert speaks in the 
same prologue of those who hear or recite the gospel, without 
understanding the meaning of the Latin^ : and his words shew 
that even in England between 1250 and 1300, while there were 
as yet no Bible-reading heretics to cause special alarm, orthodox 
feeling, or sections of it, regarded the uncovering of the biblical 
text to lay people, even in verse, as probably harmful^. At the 
end of his book of homilies, however, Robert disclosed his name, 
to ask the prayers of his readers : 

Here end the Sunday [gospels], shortly related and expounded. 
Now let all those who hear and say them pray for Robert of Greatham, 
that God may protect his life, and keep him in His watch and ward. 

When the unknown north-countryman turned Robert's verse 
gospels from French into English, — or composed English verses 
largely founded upon them, — he did not translate Robert's pro- 
logue, but composed his own. He said nothing in it about 
expecting any opposition, or concealing his name, though he 
actually made no mention of it, and we are still ignorant of it. 
He had in mind readers or hearers of a lower social class than 
Robert of Greatham, — the unlettered who came to the parish 
church on Sundays to say their prayers, and receive such in- 
struction as they might^. For them, he says, he will "undo" 
the gospels in English, for they have as great need to know what 
the gospel at mass means as learned men, for both were bought 
with Christ's blood. When he describes some incident in our 
Lord's life, the translation, though in rhymed verse, is fairly 

1 See p. 73. 

* Rom. XV. 300, 11. 129 f. ; cf. for similar opposition to Aelfric, supra, p. 136. 
3 Rom. XV. 302, 11. 271-4. 

* A later prose translator of Robert's prologue into English translated 
the lines about the expected opposition, and emphasised them, see chap. xii. 

* Metrical Homilies, Small, 4-5. 


close; when the subject was difficult, like the first chapter of 
S. John's gospel, the verse was expanded into a loose paraphrase. 
The collection was much copied and enlarged during the 
fourteenth century, but the tendency of the later manuscripts 
was to omit the translations of the gospels themselves, and give' 
the homilies only, or to add to these livety "exempla" or moral 
tales. At the same time when the northern verse gospels were 
being composed, an Austin canon, Richard Cricklade, who died 
in 13 10, was engaged in writing homilies on the gospels in English 
tp the people^; and a fourteenth century manuscript exists 
which has the texts of the Sunday gospels in French, and the 
homilies upon them in English 2. 

The later forms of the Northern Homily Collection added a 
verse Legendary, or lives of the saints. In another verse collec- 
tion, made in the south of England, the process was exactly 
the reverse : the legends of the saints were the earliest material 
reduced to rhyme, while homilies on the Sunday gospels were 
added later. The earliest form of the collection was made, 
probably by the monks of Gloucester, between 1275 and 1300, 
though they perhaps used some still earlier English pieces in 
making the collection^. Their chief Latin sources were the 
legends of the saints: but they also used sources which dealt 
with the lives of our Lord and His Mother, and therefore covered 
the same ground as many of the gospels for Sunday and the 
festivals of Christ. For this reason, and not because the verse 
founded on them corresponded to any liturgical Latin source, 
they were loosely called a temporale^. Apocryphal sources as 
well as biblical ones were used, particularly the different lives 
of Mary, Gospel of the Infancy and the Gospel of Nicodemus. The 
tendency was to form, not a complete set of the gospels for 

^ Stevens' Monast. 11. 73, 

2 Harl. 6561. For a thirteenth century French verse commentary on the 
Sunday gospels, see Bnt. Mus. Cat. Addit. MSS., MS. 26,773; for French 
verse gospels, Dom. xi. 87. 

^ Though not the Legenda Aurea, which was being translated indepen- 
dently into English at this time; Wells, 292. 

* The northern verse gospels for Sundays and festivals were more correctly 
called a temporale, for they corresponded to the proprium de tempore or 
temporale of the missal. The contemporary scribe who called this compila- 
tion a "temporale" was misleading: he seems to include under it anything 
which was not the legend of a saint. For MSS. of the Northern Horn. Coll. 
and the Southern Legendary, see Wells, and Carleton Brown. 


Sundays and great festivals, but the complete story of the life 
of our Lady and the life of Christ, told consecutively, in verse, 
and the tendency of the final and complete form, found only in 
a single manuscript, goes farther still. This has a complete Bible 
history, in verse, covering the same ground, though more ex- 
peditiously, as Peter Comestor had done earlier in Latin, and 
the Cursor Mundi in much earlier English. It gives a summary 
of Old Testament history from the Creation to Daniel: then the 
life of our Lady, the life of Jesus, the Passion, the stor}- of 
Longinus, the harrowing of hell, and the destruction of Jerusa- 
lem. The translation in some places keeps fairly close to the 
bibUcal text, sometimes gives the story in the poet's own words, 
without borrowing from any other source, and sometimes inserts 
apocryphal matter. The last form of the work was written 
shortly before 1400, and illustrates the tendency of orthodox 
writers of the period to try to instruct the ignorant in the gist 
of the gospel narrative, without translating its letter, — a ten- 
dency which was of course strengthened by the edict of 1408. 
The number of existent manuscripts shew that all over Europe 
some form of gospel harmon}^ or life of Christ, was considered 
the most suitable form for the study of the gospels by devout 
lay people : sometimes the life was built up by a rearrangement 
of the Sunday gospels, and sometimes the Latin Bible histories 
or gospel harmonies were translated into prose or verse^. 

Probably the life of Christ which was most popular for trans- 
lation throughout Europe was that which was, often, in the 
middle ages, attributed to S. Bonaventura^ (1221-74). It was 
more popular, because originally written for the instruction of 
a w'oman, and not, like Peter Comestor's Historia Scholastica, or 
Clement of Llanthony's Monotessaron, for historical study by 

There is quite as much homily or meditation in this book as 

actual narrative. No complete prose translation^ of it was made 

^ For a verse translation of Comestor, in Anglo-French of c. 1300, see La 
Estorie del Evangelic, Carleton Brown, 453. 

2 See Sancti Bonaventurae Opera Omnia, Quaracchi, 1882, i. xvi. no. 31: 
Meditationes Vitae Chrisii, and x. 25, id. This spurious work is not printed 
by the Quaracchi editors, but is found in the Vatican edition of 1609, Mainz, 
VI. 534-401. *Bonelli attributed it to the Franciscan, Johannes de Caulibus, 
see Opera, x. 25, and Brit. Mus. Cat. Addit. MSS., Addit. 36,983. 

3 Bodley, 789, has a prose translation of the Passion. 


before the days of Wycliffe: but verse translations of the parts 
of it deahng with the Passion were frequent. The commonest 
was a very free east midland translation in couplets^, which 
related the story, from the last supper down to the resurrection 
and harrowing of hell. This verse translation probably preceded, 
and perhaps inspired, a prose translation of approximately the 
same section of the Meditationes-, which abridged Bonaventura's 
work, and told the story less directly and vividl}' than the verse 
translation. It was used however by Rolle, and quoted in his 
Meditation on the Passion of the Lord, which is a more fervent 
and glowing work, and, of course, much farther from the original. 
A later but much closer tranMation^ was made about 1400, 
apparently in the south of England, begiiming, like the early 
verse translation, at the account of the last supper. These 
partial translations shew the early popularity of this work, which 
Nicholas Love translated later, and which was formally approved 
by the archbishop for the reading of the devout. Another Life 
of Jesus has survived in a single manuscript, and was probably 
translated from the French about the time of Wycliffe's teaching, 
or shortly before 1400^. 

Another life of Christ was occasionally read by the upper 
classes in England in the fourteenth century: the original French 
form of the beautiful Romantic poem of Guillaume de Deguille- 
ville^, the Pelerinage Jhesucrist. This Cistercian monk of 
Chaaliz®, who died in 1360, wrote three poems, which in one 
sense are the ecclesiastical counterpart of the Romaunt of the 
Rose, and in another the predecessors of Bunyan's Pilgrim's 
Progress. The Pelerinage de la Vie Humaine, written in 1330-31, 
told how the soul, assisted by the grace of God, is strengthened 
by the sacraments, encounters the vices and virtues, and finally 

1 Ed. Cowper, J. M., EETS, OS, 60, 1875. The editor attributes it without 
sufficient grounds to Robert of Bourne; see Wells, 358. The dialectal and 
MS. evidence date it as about 1300-25. 

2 Privity of the Passion, Horstmann, i. 198; for RoUe's work, see Wells, 


' In Laud Misc. 23, ff. 76-102 b it is an exact translation of Bonav. 
Meditationes, Rome, 1588, vi. 399, cap. l.xxiv. It is found also in Caius, 669, 

ff- 75-- 

* See Wells, 405. 

* Cf. Lounsbury, 11. 208; Cat. of Rom. 11. 558-67, for Addit. 22,937. 

* Chaalis or Chailly in Valois, near Senlis. 


the pilgrim passes to a Cistercian monastery. The second pil- 
grimage was that of the soul after it left the body, the Pelerinage 
de I'Ame, the third the Pelerinage JhesticHst^, written in 1358. 
These Pelerinages were known to Chaucer, and turned into 
French prose by a chaplain who dedicated them to the duke of 
Bedford, regent of France; and the first was also turned into 
English verse by Lydgate. The English form of the Pelerinage 
de la Vie Humaine, known as The Pilgrim'^, and that of the 
Pelerinage de I'Ame, known as Grace Dieu^ were among the 
books most frequently possessed by the English laity in the 
fifteenth century. Lydgate did not translate the Pelerinage 
Jhesucrist, perhaps because of the existent translation of the 
Meditationes Jesu Christi : and so far as is known, no such trans- 
lation was made of it for English use. Thus this poem was 
known only to the French speaking upper classes before 
Wycliffe's day; but the same kind of treatment of the life of 
our Lord, — its interpretation in the language of fourteenth 
century chivalry, — prevailed in the miracle plays, which all 
classes crowded to see. It is therefore not without interest, as 
shewing a presentation of the gospel narrative widely influential 
on the fourteenth century laity. 

The same instinct for romance made verse translations of the 
apocryphal gospels and biblical books popular among lay people. 
The Gospel of Nicodemus^ had been translated into Anglo-Saxon 
verse by Aelfric, and was again turned into English verse about 
1300-255 ; it was translated into prose seven times, — once by 
John Trevisa. The Gospel of the Infancy gave rise to a poem called 

^ The three pilgrimages are edited Stiirzinger, J. J., Roxburghe Club, 

2 Pilgrimage of the Life of Man, Englished by John Lydgate, 1426, Fumi- 
vall, F. J., Roxburghe Club, 1905. Furnivall states, Ixv, that this Peleri- 
nage was independently translated into English prose by William Hendred, 
friar of Leominster, and thence by an anonymous writer into verse. It is 
entitled simply The Pilgrim in Ff. 5. 30: the title in the fifteenth century 
MS., Laud Misc. 740, connects it with the Romaunt of the Rose. 

^ Translated into English prose in 1413, by R. W., Cat. of Rom. 11. 580. 
Verse translation, Caius, 124; part prose, part verse, Kk. i. 7, "liber qui 
nuncupatur Grace Dieu " ; "translated out of French into English with some 
additions of the translator, 1400," Bernard, Cat. no. 2552. 

* See p. 180 for the Latin form, and contents. 

^ Wells, 326; MLR, X. 222. For the use of apocryphal gospels see Boek- 
zaal, 348-53- 


the Gesta Salvatoris, or Infantia Salvatoris, between 1300 and 
1350, and the verse life of the Blessed Virgin and our Saviour^ is 
of about the same date. English miracle plays drew from these 
poems, especially the Gospel of Nicodemus, to which was due the 
popularity of "hell-mouth " as a stage accessory and in windows 
and frescoes. 

1 Ed. Vogtlin, A., Stuttgart, 1888. 


Pre-Wycliffite biblical study by clerks: (a) the higher 

clergy, friars, monks 

§ I. Some light is thrown on the origin of the Wydiffite Bible 
by the evidence of the attitude of earUer and contemporary 
Englishmen towards biblical study. Two separate questions are 
involved: whether the teaching of the Church emphasised the 
duty of priests and lay people to acquaint themselves with the 
text of the Bible : and whether they were sufficiently educated 
to do this, either through the Vulgate, vernacular translations, 
or some other means. How far, in short, were the Lollards 
justified in claiming that Bible reading was a novelty, both to 
priests and lay people? The whole point of their championship 
of English Bibles was to make the "meek and poor and charit- 
able hving of Christ " known to the multitude, and thus to pro- 
voke a return to the simphcity of life of the apostolic Church : 
what grounds had they then for asserting that this simphcity 
of life was generally unknown or unrecognised? The temporary 
success of their teaching says something for its novelty: the sect 
of Wycliffites, a contemporary said, "is held in such great 
honour in these days, and has so multipHed, that you can hardly 
see two men passing in the road, but one of them shall be a 
disciple of Wychffei." if the novelty attracted such attention, 
it affords some justification for the Lollards' claim that they 
made the scriptures accessible to those who before were ignorant 
of them : and raises the question of the place of the Bible in the 
lives of clerks and lay people before Wycliffe's day. 

The Bible had always been the foundation of theological 
teaching, as much in mediaeval as patristic times. There was 
no change in the attitude towards it as to a final authority : the 
question is rather, whether familiarity with it played any 
necessary part in the lives of the body of the clergy, and of lay 
people. They were famihar with a theology founded upon it; 

1 Cf. De Dominio Divino, Poole, R. L., 1890, xi. 


they were familiar with office books which embodied parts of it : 
but did they make use of the sacred text itself, in their education, 
or later? 

The question of the extent to which biblical study was carried 
on in England by clerks alone^ is itself a large one. Three cen- 
turies passed between the Norman Conquest and Wycliffe's days, 
and during them the training and education of the clergy made 
considerable progress : generalisations true of one century would 
not be true of another. But till the end of the period bishops had 
to struggle to get their parish priests well enough educated to be 
able to read freely the text of the Latin Vulgate : and to refuse 
ordination to those who could neither read nor write at all. The 
possibility of Bible reading by clerks was conditioned by educa- 
tion at a grammar or local theology school, and not, in the case 
of most parish priests, by a theological course at a university. 
There is much more evidence as to the educational level reached 
by parish priests in the later centuries than in the earlier: but 
it should not be assumed that because there are more complaints 
about the defective education of the clergy in these later cen- 
turies, it was therefore worse than in the earlier. The contrary 
is far more probable. The level of clerical education in Europe 
steadily improved between the eleventh century and the four- 
teenth, and it was due to the improved education of some priests 
that more complaints were made about the ignorance of the rest. 
It was due to earlier educational efforts that a higher standard 
was now felt to be possible : and it would be a mistake to suppose, 
for instance, that because archbishop Peckham complained of 
the ignorance of priests in his day, fewer priests could read Latin 
in 1300 than in iioo. On the contrary, fewer complaints were 
made about priestly illiteracy in iioo, because it was not then 
recognised as in any way possible that most parish priests should 
be able to read Latin easily. The efforts of the popes and local 
bishops to improve the education of ordinands were regular, if 
not very effective, throughout the two centuries; and the preva- 
lence of complaints in the later ones was not a sign of decadence, 
but of a higher standard. Until the episcopal registers have 

^ It is not proposed to include secular clerks in minor orders in the investi- 
gations of these chapters, but only those clerks who were ordained to the 
priesthood, and monks and friars. 


been systematically studied on the subject, no final statements 
can be made as to the education of English priests during the 
period, so that attempts at generalisation are difficult and mis- 
leading. But, nevertheless, there is already a good deal of 
evidence available as to the education of priests and their 
acquaintance with the Bible : evidence of their education at the 
universities, theological and grammar schools: of the examina- 
tion of ordinands : the books at their disposal for biblical study : 
the sermons the}^ gave: the manuals they used: and the books 
they normally owned. It is convenient to deal first with priests 
whose education had reached the graduate stage, — those who 
had sufficient fluency in Latin to use the books contained in the 
great libraries, — and in the next chapter with those who were 
not graduates, and were not fluent Latin scholars. 

§ 2. The mediaeval parish priest was not normally the 
graduate of a university. This explains the astonishing differ- 
ence of intellectual level between the books we know to have 
been common in libraries for biblical study, and the educational 
standard required for institution to a living: the gulf between 
the apparently conflicting statements, that the Sentences of 
Peter Lombard was the normal text-book of theology, and that 
the minimum knowledge of Latin required for institution to a 
benefice was : ability to say certain short formulae by heart, and 
to read the Latin services. The proportion of ordinands who were 
graduates can be roughly estimated from the bishops' registers 
already printed, and checked by the record of the number of B.A. 
degrees conferred b}^ the universities. It is of importance in 
making even a rough guess at the number of clergy who could 
have read the Vulgate freely. 

Were all the bishops' registers in existence, and were they 
printed, the total number of graduate ordinands to the priest- 
hood could be told exactly, for the registers stated the candi- 
dates' academic standing carefully. But the registers themselves 
have gaps, are not yet completely printed, and have not as yet 
been methodically searched^: so that final statements as to the 
numbers of secular priests and their learning, at a given date, 
are not possible. This is particularly the case, because calcula- 

^ The present writer hopes to do this in a future study, for the purpose 
of giving the history of education in the middle ages a firmer statistical basis. 


tion of the number of ordinands from registers already printed 
shews that this number fluctuated greatly in different dioceses, 
in the same diocese from year to year, and, to some extent, in 
all the dioceses for different centuries^ : so that accurate generali- 
sations cannot be formed from the combination of the records 
of a few years in different dioceses and different centuries. There 
were twenty-one dioceses in England, and they differed greatly 
in size: but, taking Exeter as one of average size, and bishop 
Brantingham as ordaining apparently a medium number of 
secular priests in a fairly central period of the middle ages, 
1370-94, this would give the number of secular priests ordained 
each year as 21 x 35, or 735. Again, about 1300, there were 
in England 8542 parishes, churches or endowed chapels^, 
served by priests (either the holder of the benefice or his 
vicar). If the average post-ordination life of a mediaeval 
priest is taken as 25 years, this would give an average of 
approximately 302 secular priests ordained per annum. The 
number must actually have been larger, for there was in 
England a fairly large, though unascertained, number of 
priests, other than those who served the parish altars. This is 
suggested even by an entry in archbishop Thoresby's register of 
1361-2^, a decade after the Black Death. 302 may thus fairly 
be taken as an inferior limit, while the real number of annual 
ordinations to the secular priesthood was probably between 
that and 735'*. This contrasts with the small number of B.A. 
degrees granted by Oxford and Cambridge together in any year 

^ e.g. Giffard, Worcester [Reg. ed. Bund, W.) 1282-90, ordained on average 
60 secular priests per annum. 

Sede Vacante Reg., Worcs. (ed. Bund, W.) 1 301-1434, averaged 40 s. ps. 
in 1 301. 

Sede Vacante Reg., Worcs. (ed. Bund, W.) 1301-1434, averaged 20 s. ps. 
in 1434. 

Brantingham, Exeter {Reg. ed. Hingeston-Randolph) 1370-94, averaged 
35 s. ps. p. a. 

2 Cutts, 385. 

' Cf. A. Hamilton Thompson in ^rc/mco/. Jour, andser. xxi. No. 2, p. 115. 

* More exact figures could be supplied by calculations from episcopal 
registers: but unfortunately at no given date, (e.g. 1250, 1300, 1350 or 
1400), is anything like half the area of England accounted for in published 
registers. The poll-tax returns of 1377 do not distinguish between clerks 
in priests' or minor orders; the returns of 1 380-1 underestimated the popu- 
lation, as is shown in E. Powell's Rising in East Anglia in 138 1, 1896, 
PP- 7. 123. 


before the Reformation : it is probably safe to say that between 
1300-1400 the average did not exceed loo^, and that it was 
lower earlier. Hence all the secular priests who were ordained 
were certainly not graduates of a university: and this is con- 
firmed by the entries in the registers. Of the 812 secular priests 
ordained by or for the bishop of Exeter between 1370-94, nine- 
teen were M.A.'s; bishop Trillek of Hereford ordained only four 
M.A.'s among 1741 priests^. Hugo de Welles, again, was bishop 
of Lincoln from 1209 to 1235, and his diocese included the 
university' of Oxford; presentations to livings in the arch- 
deaconry of Oxford might be expected to include a high average 
of graduates, but of the 156 presentations in sixteen years, only 
thirteen were made to graduates^. The register of Grosseteste*, 
his successor, one of the greatest advocates of an educated parish 
clergy, gives only about the same proportion of graduates, as do 
other registers. 

The normal parish priest was thus clearly not the graduate of a 
university. Although the large majority of graduates proceeded 
to the priesthood, only a small proportion of these settled down 
to pastoral work as their chief occupation. From the stream of 
graduates were recruited the university' professors, the great 
canonists and civil lawyers, the doctors, and the large number of 
clerics who became what we should now call civil servants. 

^ The actual numbers of the different degrees granted have only been 
worked out in the Fasti Oxonienses (ed. Bliss, P., 1815), and the Cambridge 
Catalogus. . .et nutnerus omnium Graduatorum (1572), after 1500. In 1500, as 
earlier, the B.A. degree was still the necessary preliminary to all other degrees, 
except the doctorate of music, which was still in the fifteenth century 
ranked with the humbler mastership of grammar. Only the regulars re- 
ceived theological or legal degrees without taking the B.A. and M.A. 
{Univs. II. pt ii. 452), and these did not become parish priests: so that the 
number of B.A.'s granted indicates the largest possible number of graduate 
secular priests which could have existed. The Fasti Oxon. number of B.A. 
degrees granted gives an average of 43 p. a. between 1503— 1526, var5ring 
between 20 in 1503 and 70 in 1522. The Cat. Grad. has an average of 35 
B.A.'s p. a. between 1500 and 1526, varying between 7 in 1500 and 46 in 
1524. The Eve of the Reformation, Gasquet, F. A., 1905, pp. 38-9, quotes 
numbers for "the average number of degrees taken by all students" for 
1449-59, and 1506-35, which clash with those of the Fasti Oxon. and the 
Cat. Grad. ; but some, if not all, of this difference would be due to counting 
the same student three or four times over in successive years, when he took 
his B.A., M.A., B.D., D.D., or passed from the arts course to civil or canon 
law, or medicine. ^ Ed. Parry, J. Y., CYS 

3 Rot. Hug. de Wellis. Phimmore, W. P. W.. CYS, p. xiii. 

4 Ed. Davis. F. N.. CYS. 


Some became the domestic chaplains of the greater nobles and 
bishops, and as members of their households transacted the 
greater part of the administrative business of the country, while 
a certain number of them had proceeded to their degrees from 
the friaries of Oxford and Cambridge, and a few became monks. 
Many of the graduates who retained fellowships or lectureships at 
the universities, or who formed part of the royal or some other 
great household, were assigned livings or cathedral prebends as 
part of their stipends : but they were not primarily parish priests, 
never resided continuously in their parishes, and usually put in 
a vicar to do the parochial work^. The resident parish priest had 
received his education, — if he were not merely an uneducated 
layman thrust into a living by some lay patron, — in some 
grammar school, cathedral grammar or theology school, or friary 
theology school^: or possibly he had resided at a university for 
a year or two without taking his degree^. The university grad- 
uate could read Latin easily: the examination in Latin at in- 
stitution to a benefice required something very far short of this, 
and mediaeval bishops found a difficulty in securing that all 
parish priests should be able to recite certain Latin formulae by 
heart, and read and intone the Latin services. Difficulties about 
illiteracy are constantly found in the registers, and papal indults 
to ordain illiterate candidates were sometimes granted on a 
large scale ^. It seems broadly true to say then, from the evi- 
dence of the registers and contemporary writers, that between 
the Conquest and Wycliffe's day the average parish priest was 
not a graduate, and probably could not read Latin freely ; some- 
times, even, he could not translate it at all. The gap between the 
scholarship of the graduate and non-graduate clergy was great, 
and it corresponded broadly to that between those who could 
read Latin freely and those who could not. The two classes in 
actual life included on the one hand the bishops, university and 

^ Episcopal registers give abundant evidence of this, and such a book as 
the Testamenta Eboracensia gives many details of bequests of vestments, 
altar plate, etc. by some member of the bishop's staff to the church of his 
prebend, and to the vicar he had appointed to reside there. 

" See p. 189. 

^ The numbers resident at the universities compared with the degrees 
granted, shew that many must have stayed a year or two and gone down 
without taking a degree : the earliest part of the arts course was concerned 
with Latin, or grammar; see p. 162. * See CPP, i. 394. 

D.W.B. II 


cathedral clergy, friars, and some monks : and, on the other, the 
parish priests. The education of these two classes, and the 
extent to which they were familiar with the text of the Vulgate, 
or would have been benefited by translations of it, differed 
greatly, and will be considered separately. 

§ 3. The education of graduates was not in itself connected 
with the study of divinity or the Bible; from the very 
beginning, the training given by Oxford and other univer- 
sities to the majority of students consisted of the arts course, 
and had nothing whatever to do with the study of the Bible 
or theology. Students came up at varying ages, but normally 
between thirteen and sixteen^, and the course for the first seven 
years was the same for all of them if they stayed so long: the 
lectures and exercises necessary for taking the bachelorship and 
mastership of arts. All the other courses, theology, medicine, 
civil and canon law, were post-graduate courses 2, taken by only 
a small proportion of students. Many left before taking their 
bachelor's degree, for which four or five years' study was needed, 
and the majority left on taking their mastership in arts, after 
another two years^. Only religious* were exempted from this first 
seven years' training in arts before other studies, and the course 
consisted of grammar (i.e. classics), logic, natural philosophy, 
and nothing else. These "artists," living in halls, colleges or 
hoscels (as the hostels were organised at the end of the middle 
ages), certainly obtained some partial familiarity with the Bible 
from the religious exercises prescribed: but nothing from their 
university course as such. They attended mass each day, and, 
since they were fairly familiar with Latin, understood and were 
familiar with the epistles and gospels: there was possibly a 
certain amount of Bible reading at meals^, and compulsory 
attendance at university sermons. But these exercises were on 
a plane with the hearing of grace before meals, and the singing 
of the Salve Regina together after the evening potation, — not 
necessarily performed with much attention. Thus the mediaeval 
graduate, if he went down after taking his B.A. or M.A., cer- 

^ Univs. 11.604. ^ Id. n. 452-S. 

3 Id. II. 455-6. * Id. II. 452; Kellaw's Reg., RS, iv, xc. 

5 Id. II. 620, 625. For a Vulgate bought for reading in hall, see C.C.C. 
Descrip. Cat. xi. 


tainly had the abihty to read his Vulgate and books of com- 1 
mentaries upon it, but it is quite unhkely that he had ever done 
so. The wills of such students, and the inventories of their be- 
longings taken by the college or university, afford no instance 
of a student possessing a Vulgate, or any biblical book^. 

In the early days at Oxford, while the influence of Grosseteste, 
Adam Marsh and the friars was strong, the friars gave all the 
lectures upon the Bible at the universities, as well as in their other 
houses. By Grosseteste's regulation the first morning lecture, or 
place of honour, was given to the lecturer on the Bible. Roger 
Bacon complained bitterly that things were worse in his day : '^ 

Even more grievous is it that, in the study of theology itself, holy 
scripture is too much neglected, and that philosophical wrangHngs 
prevaU. The expounding of holy scripture consists almost solely in 
making divisions, solving apparent contradictions, and drawing 
parallels.. . .The reading of holy scripture itself is of small account, 
compared to the study of Peter Lombard's Sentences. For he who is 
lecturing on the Sentences has the principal hour for lecturing, accord- 
ing to his will ; . . . but he who is lecturing on the Bible has to beg for 
an hour for lecturing, according to what shall please the lecturer on the 
Sentences. Also, the lecturer on the Sentences can dispute, and is held 
as a master, but he who is lecturing on the sacred text cannot dispute^. 

Giraldus Cambrensis, Ralph of Beauvais and other scholars'^ 
also lamented that insufficient knowledge of Latin was often a 
cause why even the higher clergy were sometimes unable to 
understand the Bible and service books. Those graduates who 
had proceeded gradually and in due order through the arts 
course to other studies, could certainly read the Vulgate and 
biblical commentaries: but only those who proceeded to the 
theology degree ever actually studied them in their university 
course, or owned them as students: and, even in their case, 
mediaeval scholars complained that more attention was paid 
to the Sentences than to the biblical text itself. 

1 Cf. Mun. Acad., Anstey. H., RS, 1868, 543, 557, 592. 

2 Opus Minor, Brewer, RS, 328. Cf. Witzel, 18, and the similar complaint 
of Stephen, bishop of Doornik, ti20o: " The study of the sacred books has 
fallen into neglect among us in the confusion of offices; for scholars applaud 
only novelties and masters are assiduous for glory rather than doctrine, 
and they write new fresh little summaries and confirmatory commentaries 
about theology on all hands, and with them they soothe, retain and deceive 
their hearers." Maerlanis War ken, te Winkel, 130. 

' Gemma Ecclesiastica, cap. xxxvii. : " How ignorance of letters is due to 
the excessive study of secular law and of logic," Gir. Cambren. 11. 348. 

II — 2 



§ 4. The friars did much for the study of the Bible at the 
universities, and the training of parish priests in their local 
theology schools^: but there is no evidence that in England they 
made use of biblical translations in either work. From their 
work for ordinands, and for the laity, it would have been natural 
to find them the producers, users or supporters of such trans- 
lations, but the evidence is all against this. They had excellent 
libraries, and some of the catalogues have survived^: but only in 
one case was an English Bible found among them, — in that of 
the Cambridge Dominicans at the Dissolution^. Each order of 
friars, moreover, kept records of the literary works of the 
members of its order, and the lists remain^: but there is 
no mention of any biblical translation among them. In the 
Wycliffite controversy itself, there is no lack of evidence to 
shew that they were the chief enemies of vernacular scriptures^. 

The Franciscans' attitude to biblical study was marked by two 
features, both largely due to the work of Grosseteste and Bacon : 
the encouragement of the study of the learned languages, as 
subsidiary to that of the text, and the championship of the 
literal interpretation, as against the three subsidiary ones. 
Bacon, who died in 1294, justified the pursuit of all knowledge 
for the sake of the light thus thrown on the sacred text : 

"I wish," he says, "to shew. . .that there is one perfect wisdom, 
from whose roots all truth proceeds, and that this is contained in the 
sacred books ; for I say that there is a science which is mistress of all 
others,. . .or rather, that there is one only perfect wisdom, which is 
wholly contained in the holy scripture, which canon laAV and philosophy 
ought to interpret^. . . . For it must needs be that all knowledge, which is 
useful and necessary and worthy of the sons of God, should by the will 
of God be set forth in scripture : and there is gathered together in bud 
what is unfolded later in leaf, when it is expounded by the canon law 
and philosophy. Wherefore, all truth is there forced into one spring, 
which is borne by an abundance of streams into canon law and philo- 

^ See p. 192. 

- Bibliom. 79, 80; AM, 11. 760; Henry IV, ni. 445; for the two Franciscan 
libraries at Oxford, Bibliom. 199, at London, 200; Dominicans at London, 
id. 201. 

^ See chapter xiii. 

* See Dominican, Carmelite, Augustinian, etc. writers, in J. Stevens' two 
additional vols, to the Monast., London, 1723, 11. 197 ff., 165 ff., 218 ff. For 
friars' translations other than biblical, see W. Herbert's hymns, Carleton 
Brown, 485; Rel. Antiq. i. 86. 

5 See pp. 269, 289. * Witzei, 15. 


sophy : and there, in that root, is bound together whatever in canon 
law and philosophy is elegance of branch, splendour of leaf, beauty 
of flower, and abundance of fruit." "That alone in philosophy is 
useful and worthy, which sacred lore deigns to require, as from a 
handmaiden 1." 

The whole governance of the Church, he says, ought to be 
founded on the scriptures, — a sentiment in which he antedates l^ 
the Franciscan, William of Ockham, and the Lollards^. The 
strife and contention in the world and Church nowadays arise 
because the jurists borrow and derive their decisions from the 
civil law, instead of from those holy scriptures, which were the 
true and sole foundation of the canon law. 

So fundamental was Bacon's reverence for the Bible as final 
authority, that he planned the whole of his Opus Mains with 
reference to it. The first two parts dealt with the relation of 
theology to philosophy; the third, with languages and interpre- 
tation; the fourth, with the relation of mathematics, geography 
and astronomy to the scriptures; the three last with optics and 
the other experimental sciences. Since in holy scriptures there 
are things set down from the height of heaven to the very depth, 
a theologian should know all for the sake of understanding 
them^. He lamented especially the lack of a literal under- 
standing of the text, due to lack of linguistic knowledge*: 

Above all, the study of languages is neglected, with fatal conse- 
quences to theolog3^ which is of necessity founded on writings in 
foreign languages. For they cannot understand the text, nor know 
the expositions of the outlines, since all are mingled together in Greek, 
Hebrew and Arabic. . . . for they accept an infinite number of errors 
and superfluities, and what is doubtful as certain, and dark, as self- 
evident, . . . and soil theology through faults which proceed from pure 
ignorance^. . . .There are in the world as many correctors, or rather 
corrupters [of the Vulgate text] as there are readers, for each pre- 
sumes to know that of which he is ignorant. . . . For if the letter is in 
most cases false, and in others doubtful, then it must needs be that the 

1 Witzel, 16, 17. 

* His fellow-Franciscan, William of Ockham, struggled with the same 
question of authority in the Church, but did not follow Bacon closely enough 
to be a real link between him and Wycliflfe : he was sure rather of the falli- 
bility of the different possible repositories of authority, than convinced that 
a return to primitive Christianity was possible: see Lane Poole, Hist, of 
Med. Thought, 1884, 277-81. 

3 Witzel, 20. < Id. 12, 186, 187. 5 jd, 18. 19. 



literal meaning accords with it, and consequently, the spiritual mean- 
ing. . . . And one root of this matter is ignorance of the languages 
from which the text is translated, through which an almost infinite 
number of words are omitted in the text. . . . For we theologians are 
ignorant of the alphabets of these tongues, wherefore it follows that 
we are ignorant of the sacred text^. 

rt , Bacon was the first great mediaeval theologian to emphasise 
I the value of the literal meaning of the sacred text, as against 
f^\ the allegorical, the tropological (historical), and anagogical 
/y***^' ,^ (mystical). All mediaeval scholars implicitly accepted this 
yj^', iX fourfold interpretation of the Bible, and it was one of great 
IV importance later in the controversy over the lawfulness of 

translations. But the academic dispute over the relative value 
of the literal, as opposed to the three other interpretations, began 
much earlier than the translation controversy in England, was 
carried on among orthodox scholars concurrently with it, and 
survived it. The supreme value of the literal meaning, first 
asserted by Bacon, was again and more clearly asserted by a 
Norman Minorite, Nicholas de Lyra, who died in 1340. His 
postill, or commentar\^ on the Bible became the universal text- 
book for scholars in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, 
although, even within his own order, theologians hotly opposed 
his principles. His work is important as the chief link between 
Bacon's attitude to the Bible, and that of the Lollards, — or, at 
any rate, that of the first generation of scholarly Lollards. They 
appealed to Lyra freely to justify their disregard for the secon- 
dary interpretations of the text, and Purvey translated and in- 
corporated large portions of Lyra's prologue into his own work. 
Lyra explained in the first prologue to his commentary the four- 
fold interpretation of scripture^; and he devoted the second to 
emphasising the need of understanding the primary or literal one: 

Further, it should be noticed that the literal sense, which is the 
foundation, seems in these modem times to be much obscured; 
partly through the fault of scribes, who through the similarity of 

1 Fr. Witzel considers that Bacon exaggerated the corruption of the text 
in mediaeval MSS.: but Denifle confirms it: see Archiv, iv. 263-311, Die 
Handschriften der Bihel-Correctoren des 13. Jahrhunderts. The variations 
in the text were a great difficulty to mediaeval translators: see an Italian 
one, p. 46. and Purvey 's efforts to get the text of the Latin Bible " somedeal 
true," p. 258. 

2 Antwerp, 1634; not paginated. 


letters have in many places written otherwise than the true text has 
it; partly through the influence of certain correctors, who have in 
many places inserted vowel points ^ where they should not be, and 
begun or ended verses where thej' ought not to begin or end; and 
through this the meaning is varied, as we shall make clear, God help- 
ing us, when we treat of these places. And partly also it is obscured 
through our manner of translation, which differs also in many places 
from the Hebrew books: even as Jerome notices in his treatise on 
Hebrew problems. . . . Moreover, it should be noticed that the literal 
sense is much obscured through the manner of exposition tradition- 
ally handed down from others: for, though these men said many 
good things, nevertheless they have touched little on the literal sense, 
and have multiplied the mystical senses to such a degree, that the 
literal sense has been entangled among so many expositions, and partly 
suffocated. Thus they have so much subdivided the text, and read 
into it so many meanings ^ that they almost bewilder the under- 
standing and memory, and distract the mind from understanding the 
literal sense. I propose therefore to avoid these and like errors, and 
with God's help to insist upon the literal meaning, and only occasion- 
ally to insert few and short mj^stical expositions, and that rarel}'. 
Also I intend to adduce the declarations as to the literal sense, not 
only of catholic doctors, but also of Jewdsh ones, especially of the 
Rabbi Solomon, who has spoken most reasonably of all the Hebrew 

He then quotes the seven rules for the exposition of holy scrip- 
ture from Isidore of Seville's De Summo Bono. Lyra's postill 
was almost universally used for the light it threw upon the 
Hebrew text: but some, even of those who used it, thought it 
necessary to record their divergence from his views as to the 
literal interpretation of scripture^. The Minorites at Oxford 

^ Lyra was predominantly a Hebraist, and was referring to the great 
changes in meaning made by such a procedure with a Hebrew text. His 
treatment of Hebrew present and future is interesting: mediaeval scholars 
apparently understood only imperfectly that Hebrew has only one form for 
the two tenses. Where the Vulgate, Ex. iii. 14, read Ego sum qui sum, Lyra 
noted that the tense should be future, Ego ero qui ero; cf. Lyra, i. 511. 
See pp. 175-6. 

^ The 1634 edition prints, after the Postilla, the Additions to it of Paul de 
Sancta Maria, master in theology. The Additions, which were addressed to 
the chancellor of king John of Castile, were finished by 14^9, and stated that 
"Since the intention of the postillator turned chiefly upon the literal sense: 
therefore it seemed above all things needful to inquire whether the literal 
sense is worthier than the other senses of holy scripture: and it appears 
that it is not worthier." The Additions are thus a tract twice as long as Lyra's 
two prologues, which they traverse, though arguments on both sides are 
given. To prove that the literal sense is not worthier, Paul claims that : 
(i) "The letter killeth but the spirit giveth life." (2) The three spiritual 


continued to buy many Jewish manuscripts for their hbraries 
and elsewhere^, owing to the impetus given by Lyra's work to 
the study of Hebrew, and the wills of mediaeval scholars often 
record possession of the postilP. 

§ 5. There is no evidence again that monasteries made much 
use of biblical translations for the training of novices, or the use 
of the more ignorant among the brethren; and this although 
there is plenty of evidence that many monks were not well 
enough educated to read the Vulgate easily. Theoretically, the 
monks were all a Latin reading class, and had access to libraries 
of the same type as the colleges and the friaries, or even to more 
extensive ones. Their primary duty was the recitation of the 
divine ofhce, and piety required that they should meditate upon 
the sacred scriptures; moreover, the tradition of learning, and 
the great libraries, remained to the larger monastic houses after 
the universities had withdrawn from them the prerogative of 
scholarship. But monastic records shew that the education of 
the majority of the monks cannot be measured by that of the 
few scholars the monasteries continued to produce^. 

The Vulgate was certainly the foundation of every monastic 
library. The length of the book is much more apparent in 
manuscript than printed, and it consisted generally of three or 
four volumes, or sometimes of a set of separate biblical books. 
It was always placed first in the monastic catalogue, and followed 
by separate biblical books, the glosses upon them, the longer 
comments or postills upon them, and then the patristic works 
more or less closely connected with them. Besides the library 

senses are nobler because the other is merely historical. (3) Aristotle says, 
that if one thing exists for the sake of the other, that other is the greater. 
(4) Many things in holy scripture are false, if taken literally. (5) Interior 
things are nobler than exterior: as the interior grace in the sacraments is 
nobler than the exterior sign. (6) Human and divine knowledge proceed 
from the less perfect to the more perfect: thus the literal sense, the begin- 
ning, is the less perfect. (7) The worthier sense is that which supplies the 
defects of the other: thus the mystical sense steps in where human under- 
standing fails. These arguments are quoted because they are so similar 
to those given by opponents of biblical translations. After these Additions 
is printed the reply of an anonymous Minorite, defending Lyra; then Paul 
de Sancta Maria's reply to him; and then a final defence by Matthew 
Thoring, minister of the Minorite province of Saxony. 

1 Steven's Monast. i. 133. 

- Comment, de script. Brit., Leland, J., 1709, 322; Bibliom. 182. 

3 Cf. PL, 186, c. 1441; 166, cc. 1377-1446. 


books, the monastery possessed gospel and epistle books, which 
were kept separately with the altar furniture, and not always 
mentioned in the library catalogue^. The textus, or gospel book 
for the mass, was usually richly bound, sometimes in gold, like 
those left to the monks of Bath in 1122, and Peterborough in 
1056 2. Nigel, bishop of Ely, was robbed by the soldiers of 
Stephen of his precious gospel book^; Henry II, when he wished 
to make a valuable present to the Carthusians of Witham, 
forced the monks of Winchester to part with a Vulgate which 
they had just written out with especial care, and which the 
Carthusians, ignorant of its origin, received with the greatest 
joy*. William Longchamps sold thirteen richly illuminated 
copies of the gospels for king Richard's ransom in 1199: in- 
cluding one which had belonged to king Edgar. William, the 
abbot of Malmesbury and historian, stripped twelve gospel 
books of their rich bindings for the same purpose 5. 

The great abbeys all recorded the gifts of their benefactors, 
and Vulgates and gospel books were given by a succession of 
such men, ranging from king, abbot, prior or bishop in the early 
centuries, to the exceptional monk who possessed one or two 
books before he came, or acquired one after, in the fourteenth 
and fifteenth centuries. At S. Albans, abbot Paul, who died in 
1089, caused to be written for his abbey eight psalters, an 
epistle book, and three illuminated textus^; Geoffrey of Gorham, 
who wrote the earliest miracle play of S. Katherine, copied a 
psalter for the abbey; abbot Simon gave a Vulgate, c. 1167; 
abbot John a gospel book and the Historia Scholasiica of Peter 
Comestor; abbot Wallingtord, two Vulgates'. The gifts to the 
monks of S. Swithun, Winchester, were very similar s. In 1283 

1 Cf. Gir. Cambren. vir. 167; Rites of Durham, SS, 8; Account Rolls of 
Durham, SS, 11. 426; and cf. the different catalogues of books kept con- 
temporaneously at Durham in CVD. 

* Som. Med. Lib. 39; Bibliom. 95; cf. id. 61, 62; CVD, 196; Trans. Bibliog. 
Soc. VII. 104. 

' c. 1133. Bibliom. 167. 

* Somerset Carthusians, Thompson, E. M., 59. The Carthusians subse- 
quently returned it, when they learned the heart-burning the incident had 
caused at Winchester. 

* Anglia Sacra, I. 633; Bibliom. 24. 

* Lincoln Cath. Stats. 11. 829. 
' Bibliom. 173-82. 

« Id. 156; CVD, 127; Camb. Univ. Lib. MSS. Cat. 11. 10. 


Nicholas Thorn gave to the monks of S. Augustine at Canterbury 
a "Bible corrected at Paris^," and about 1331 G. de Romenal, a 
monk, gave that house a Vulgate and a Historia Scholastica^ ; 
about the same time John Bocton, a monk of the other Canter- 
bury monastery of Christchurch, gave to his house a Vulgate, a 
Bible in Latin verse, and a Historia Scholastica^. The verse Bible 
may have been the poem Aurora, or it may have been that verse 
history of the Old Testament composed in hexameters by a 
monk of Canterbury, a manuscript of which we still possess*. 
Abbot Faritius gave Abingdon a textus in 1135^; the prior of 
Rochester gave a psalter written by himself in 1189^; Evesham 
received various Vulgates, textus and psalters in the twelfth 
century'; Bury^ Durham^ and Glastonbury^" all had similar 
benefactors. The first abbot of Croxton himself copied the 
greater part of the Bible, and abbot John Howton gave a Bible 
in nine volumes to its library ^^ The abbey of S. Peter at Glouces- 
ter had a benefaction of thirty-five books from Robert Aldsworth 
of which a list was made between 1263 and 1284; it included five 
Vulgates, two glossed psalters and one unglossed, a Historia 
Scholastica, and some expositions of the Sunday gospels, — a re- 
markable list to have belonged at that date even to one of the 
higher clergy ^^ Rochester was given several Vulgates, from 1 108 
onwards^^. Peterborough had a fine library^*: about 1177 abbot 
Benedict had a Vulgate in twenty-one volumes, partly glossed, 
written for the abbey, and in 1272 William Paris the prior had 
the gospels laid beneath the foundation stone of a new chapel 
there, as a symbolic act^^. We possess, besides the catalogue of 

^ Canterbury, Lxxi. 

2 Id. 79. 

3 Id. 72. 

* See Bernard, Cat. no. 2578. 

* Abingdon, RS, 11. 45. 

* Bibliom. 61, 62: and for several other givers of biblical books to the 

' Id. 133-8. * Bury, 7, 8g. 

' Rites of Durham, SS, 107, p. 8; Account Rolls, SS, 11. 432; CVD, 117. 

^" Cf. J oh. Glaston., ed. Hearne, 11. 443; Bibliom. 139, 142- Som. Med. 
Lib. 49. 

^^ Monasticism in Staffordshire, Hibbert, F. A., 1909, 63. 

12 C.C.C. Descrip. Cat. 485. " Bibliom. 61. 

^* Hist. Anglic. Script. Varii, Sparke, J., 1724, 149. Trans. Bibliog. Soc. 
IX. 23. 

^* Bibliom. 96, gS. 


Peterborough, lists of the private books of various thirteenth 
century abbots: Robert of Lindsay, in 1214, had six books, in- 
cluding two psalters, a verse Bible, and Vincent of Beauvais* 
Speculum Historiale, but no Vulgate; abbot Holderness, twelve 
books, and no Vulgate; abbot Walter, c. 1233, eighteen books 
including a Vulgate; abbot Robert, eighteen, and no Vulgate; 
abbot Richard of London, ten, and no Vulgate ; abbot Woodford, 
in 1295, twenty, and no Vulgate. The Templars in London had 
two Vulgates and an epistle book^, in 1307. Thus, towards the 
middle of the fourteenth century, almost all the records of 
Vulgates which we possess are of those belonging to the monas- 
teries: even abbots of bookish tastes would not necessarily 
possess one of their own, because the manuscript was too long 
and too valuable. The monks who did stud}^ it must have studied 
some gloss or commentary on a biblical book much more often 
than the text of the Vulgate itself, because even the great 
monastic libraries usually possessed only three or four complete 
copies each of the Vulgate before the days of Wycliffe. Compared 
with the total number of monks, this was a very small 
number, even if the Vulgate were divided into several volumes. 
It would be quite a mistake to think that each monk had even a 
copy of the gospels, much less a Vulgate, in constant use for 
private study^. Such famiharity with the gospels as they 
possessed was almost certainly derived much more from saying 
and assisting at mass, and hearing the liturgical gospels; while 
some familiarity with other parts of the Bible would be gained 
from the lessons at mattins^. 

Thus, though the Latin Bible was certainly studied, to some 

^ Nor. and Norw. Archaeol. Soc. v. 90. 

^ Cf. Bibliom. 26. 

^ The office for mattins consisted of one "nocturn" for a feria, and three 
for a Sunday or festival, each nocturn including a long passage from the 
psalms, and three "lessons," from the Bible or the Fathers. The lessons 
for the ferial office, of a single nocturn, were generally taken from some part 
of the Bible other than the gospels. When the office had three nocturns, the 
first three were biblical, but not from the gospels; the second group of three, 
patristic; and the third group consisted of a verse or two from the gospels, 
with a patristic homily of three lessons upon those verses. Thus only a verse 
or two of the gospels was ever read at mattins, though about fifteen or 
twenty verses of the prophets, epistles. Acts, Apocalypse, etc., were so read, 
in the biblical nocturn. The "lessons" at the other hours consisted only 
of a verse or two at each office. 


extent, in the monasteries, it was not so studied by all the 
monks. It might be said with tolerable certainty that there is 
no period in the history of English monasticism, between the 
Conquest and the Reformation, when the monks of even the 
best managed monastery numbered none but those who could 
read Latin freely and easily. The Usns Ordinis Cisterciensis made 
allowance for illiterates in the twelfth century, and in England 
after the Black Death many illiterate persons were received. 
The maintenance of houses for monastic students at Oxford and 
Cambridge by different orders, or groups of orders, probably did 
most for maintaining the scholastic level in the monasteries : but 
from the thirteenth century monastic writers sometimes pre- 
scribed that disciplinary statutes should be expounded to the 
monks in vulgari, which shews that they could not all be relied 
on to understand even simple Latin^. Giraldus Cambrensis re- 
lates two stories of unlearned abbots of his own day, — about 
1200. Robert of Malmesbury was reported to the pope for 
illiteracy by his own monks, and when examined by the pope's 
commissioners, and requested to translate a Latin passage into 
French, rendered repente, "i\ se repentit." The other abbot was 
asked to translate the sentence Vere dignum et justnm est, 
acqmim et saltdare, and translated aeqmim as "cheval" and 
salutare as "saillavit"; some considered he ought to be deposed, 
but the pope allowed him to remain abbot because he ruled his 
house well and maintained good order^. The Speculum Sancti 
Edmundi^ of archbishop Edmund Rich, a manual of instruction 
for "us folk of religion," has a passage where a monk who knows 
no letters is told to attain to "contemplation of holy writ" by 
listening to sermons: yet the context shews that not the Bible, 
but some religious manual would be there expounded to him. 

But, although there were always many monks who could not 
read Latin freely, biblical translations were very infrequently 
found in monasteries before the days of Wycliffe; and this 

^ Cf. Mag. Vit. S. Hugonis, RS, 37, p. 34. " Gir. Cambren. 11. 346. 

' Wells, 346; Horstmann, i. 219, 23, 41. This is the earliest apparent 
reference to the reading of vernacular books in refectory, of which I am 
aware. But "collation" was primarily a reading, and not a meal. Love's 
Mirrour, which belonged to the canons of Oseney c. 1450, is divided into 
portions, but for meditation, not refectory reading, as is stated in EETS, OS, 
133. I9I3. PP- 1-4; see supra, pp. 152 and 174. 


though it was common for a monastery to possess a copy of its 
rule and constitutions in the vernacular. Besides the evidence 
afforded by references to gifts of books in the monastic chronicles, 
where the name of the book and the giver are often carefully 
stated, there are at least twenty-five existent catalogues and 
books of monastic libraries for the period^, which give clear 
evidence as to what books the monks possessed. Excluding 
Anglo-Saxon gospel books, a few of which were still preserved 
in the great abbeys 2, and to which sir Thomas More must have 
alluded in his words as to the possession of English Bibles, 
there is not a single reference to the possession of an English 
Bible, prose psalter^, gospel book, or any other biblical book. 
What is true of the monastic libraries, is true also of the five 
known catalogues of college libraries, and inventories of in- 
dividuals^, before Wycliffe's day. 

It would perhaps be more reasonable to expect to find French 
Bibles or psalters in monasteries in this period : but the number 
of these cases is very small. We know of a French Bible at 
Peterborough c. 1321, and part of one at Reading^; while 
Christchurch, Canterbury, had four Latin and French psalters, 
and one of the monks a Latin and French psalter of our Lady. 
Durham in 1391 had four French psalters, out of a total of 
twenty-six^. Glastonbury had a set of Sunday sermons in 
French, and the nuns of Barking, c. iioo, a French verse life of 
S. Catherine'. Existent manuscripts of Bibles Historiales are 
commoner than those of French biblical books proper: but the 
monasteries possessed in nearly every case a Historia Scholastica 
in Latin, and very rarel}' in French. The small number of these 
French biblical books would be realised by comparison, not 
merely with Latin Bibles, but with many of the works of S. 
Augustine or S. Jerome, which would occur in nearl}' every 
monastic catalogue. 

1 Dated between 1077 and 1389. 
- See pp. 137-8. 

* For a verse psalter at Norwich, see C.C.C. Catnb. Descrip. Cat. MS. 278; 
Rolle's own MS. of the psalter was owned by the Hampole nuns. 

* See p. 20, n. i. 

* Hist. Ang. Script. Varii, Sparke, J., 170; Royal MS. 1. c. 11. 

* Canterbury, in, 122, 127-9; CVD, 10: for a French Spec. S. Edntundi 
183; cf. Merton, 249. 

' Joh. Glaston., Hearne, 443; Ashburnham MS. 112. 


Nor is there any evidence that the Bible was used for reading 
in the refectories of monasteries, or that the refectory reading, 
at the period, was in any language but Latin. A list of books for 
refectory reading at Durham about 1100-50 still survives, but 
the works are all patristic^. The Speculum Sancti Edmundi 
implies the reading of a vernacular manual, — or perhaps the 
exposition of a Latin one, — at collation 2; the Carthusians of 
Hinton had in 1343 two books of Latin homilies for refectory 
reading 3. The pseudo-Bona Ventura's Meditationes were divided, 
not for refectory reading, but meditation, as the author 

§ 6. The university graduates, with many friars and monks, 
can thus be roughly classed together as men to whom bibhcal 
knowledge was accessible by means of the Vulgate, and Latin 
commentaries and homilies. In practice the graduates, unless 
they went on to the study of theology, did not concern them- 
selves with the Bible at all: the biblical literature afforded by 
the great hbraries was used only by those seculars who took a 
theological degree, by most friars, and by some monks. The 
biblical literature available for such students included glosses, 
commentaries, gospel harmonies, Bible histories and compendia 
of the contents of the Bible, and the apocryphal gospels ; besides 
the large amount of patristic literature which dealt partly with 
theological problems, and partly with biblical exegesis. 

A great step forward in the study of the Vulgate was taken 
when the Dominicans of Paris, under Hugh of St-Cher, or Hugo 
of Vienne, with the help of a committee of fifty, compiled the 
first concordance to it; a work which is the foundation of that 
in use to-day^. The commonest reference books on the Bible were 
the two glosses, the Glosa Ordinaria of Walafrid Strabo, of about 
840, and the Glosa Interlinearis of Anselm of Laon, of about 
1 100^. The Glosa Ordinaria gave brief commentaries drawn from 
the Fathers upon each verse : it was probably the source of most 
of the patristic quotations in mediaeval sermons and homilies. 
A much more elaborate catena of patristic quotations was com- 

1 CVD, 9. 2 See p. 172. ^ Som. Med. Lib., Hinton. 

* Bonav. Opera, 1609, vi. 401. 

^ See Concord. Hugonis Cardinalis, Venice, 1768. 

^ See Eng. Bible, Hope Moulton, W., 27. 


piled for the psalter by Peter Lombard, and a very much longer 
one on the four gospels by S. Thomas Aquinas, the so-called 
Catena Aurea^. 

Every Hbrary contained also a large number of commentaries 
on the different biblical books, ranging from those of the Fathers 
to those of mediaeval theologians themselves. The comments 
of Origen, S. John Chrysostom, S. Jerome, S. Augustine, the 
Venerable Bede, S. Anselm, Hugh of St-Cher, S. Bonaventura, 
and S. Thomas Aquinas were the most frequent, and occur in 
mediaeval catalogues with almost the regularity of the Vulgate 
itself: but the works of other mediaeval theologians were also 
popular. These were sometimes the substance of the lectures 
delivered at the universities on the biblical text, in the course 
of graduation in theology, and especially in the case of friars. 
Typical of such works were the comments of Nicholas Gorham, 
an Oxford Dominican who wrote postills on every book of the 
Bible, and Robert Holco te. a Cambridge Dominican who died 
in the Black Death^. But after 1340 the commentary most in 
demand by what we should now call "scientific scholars" was 
the above-mentioned work of Nicholas de LjTa, the Franciscan. 

Study of the biblical text in the middle ages was based upon 
these and similar commentaries : but another very popular form 
of study was the making, reading, expanding, analysing and 
summarising of biblical harmonies^. Harmonies of the gospels 
were naturally the most widely studied, but compendia of the 
whole Bible, or harmonies of biblical and secular history, came 
in for much attention. The few widely known Latin harmonies 
were generally re-edited by later scholars with the object of 

^ See pp. 177, 271. A "libellus de sacris scripturis tractandis" in Bodl. 
115 begins: "There are certain rules for the handUng of the scriptures," 
but does not actually treat of mediaeval biblical study: it appears to be a 
chapter of some patristic work. Digby, 154, flE. 26-, has a Latin tract "On 
the nature and worthiness and interpretation of the scriptures," but throws 
no fresh light on methods of study. Nor does Queen's Coll. O.xf. 389, f. 2, 
which has a fragment "de modo legendi s. scripturas." 

^ See Mandonnet in V, 11. 1466. 

* Concordattcia bibliorum or evangelistarum, generally means a gospel 
harmony, not a concordance in the modern sense. Cf. Descrip. Cat. King's 
Coll. 77, Concordancia evangelistarum, in a 1452 catalogue; and King's MS. 
40, Concordancia Bibliorum. An Exempla Bibliorum, or Liber de exemplis 
s. scripturae means the work of the Dominican Nicholas de Hannapis, 
patriarch of Jerusalem 1288-91, cf. Addit. MS. 36,984. 



making them more and more comprehensive and compendious, 
while at the same time they were summarised, analj^sed, and 
arranged in the form of alphabetical indexes by the diligent 
scholars of particular libraries^. The original forms were widely 
spread: the later expansions and contractions, though very 
numerous, nearly always exist as single manuscripts, and must 
have been the scholastic apparatus of particular students. Of 
the Latin gospel harmonies 2, the Diatessaron of Tatian was the 
earliest. S. Augustine's tract, De consensu Evangdiorum, was 
not precisely a harmony, but a discussion of the points of 
similarity and difference in the four gospels; it was very largely 
used. The first important mediaeval harmony was that of Victor 
of Capua, which used Tatian's work as a basis: but it was not 
common in English libraries. The two Latin harmonies most 
commonly found there were those of Zachary Chrysopolitanus, 
and Clement of Llanthony. Other gospel harmonies, which 
confined themselves much less strictly to the Bible narrative, 
were those attributed to S. Bonaventura, and Ludolphus of 

The harmony known as that of Zachary Chrysopolitanus 
was probably written by a "master of the schools" at the 
cathedral of Besan9on in 1134^. The manuscripts of this and 
Clement of Llanthony's harmony generally contain a table for 
finding the liturgical epistles and gospels in the text, in all 
probability for private study and not for use at the altar*. This 
shews that the later tables of lessons in manuscripts of Wychffite 
New Testaments were much more probably for private study, 
following this old precedent, than to enable the reader to follow 
the lessons actually at mass; and much less were they meant 
to be read aloud at mass after the Latin epistle and gospel. 

^ Cf. for expansion and summary of C. of Llanthony's Unum ex Quattuor, 
p. 177, n. I ; for the Minorite William Norton's alphabetical table of Lyra's 
glosses, Merton, 12, § 7, written in 1403; for a "compendium" of the 
Historia Scholasiica made by the Carmelite Walter Hunt, Stevens' Monast. 
II. 174; for a Bible harmony by an unknown "MaUiam," also probably 
'a summary of the Hist. Schol., Harl. MS. 3858. 

^ See V, II. 2099. The Diat. was used in a Latin translation. 

3 PL, 186, where the harmony is printed ; cf. Stowe MS. 8; C.C.C. MSS. 
475, 27. For a table of lessons, Stowe, 8, f. 190. 

* Epis. visitations shew that churches had to be provided with gospel 
and epistle books: gospel harmonies would not have been sufficient. 


Clement of Llanthony's harmony was much more popular 
than any other Latin harmony in England: libraries of any 
considerable size contained it as a matter of course. The learned 
Franciscan, William of Nottingham, who died in 1291, prepared 
a new edition of it, and a certain chaplain of archbishop Arundel 
was moved to compile a summary and alphabetical table of its 
contents, which he dedicated to ArundeP. 

The Meditationes Vitae Christi of the pseudo-Bonaventura has 
been mentioned earlier. The Magna Vita Jesu Christi of 
Ludolphus of Saxony was written about 1330, by a friar who 
became a Carthusian of Strassburg. It had all the doctrinal 
implications in the life of Christ drawn out to great length ; it is 
more intellectual than the Meditationes, and does not merely 
give patristic glosses verbatim, like the Catena Aurea. It was 
often translated into the vernacular, though not into English, — 
probably because the English form of the Meditationes was then 
so popular. Besides these well known gospel harmonies, others 
less well known were probably composed but not copied^. 

Combinations of biblical and sacred history were also popular, 
especially since universal history was drawn from so few sources 
besides the Bible. The Historia Scholastica of Peter Comestor^ 
was so popular, that by 1480 the monks of Christchurch, 
Canterbury, had accumulated as many as twenty-one copies 
from different donors. The book had no doctrinal or mystical 
glosses, but was a summary, in the author's own words, of 
biblical history and additional information about such person- 
ages as Herod, Antipater, Archelaus, Augustus, etc. A good 
many mediaeval scholars occupied their time by making 
abbreviations of it, especially of the part dealing with the 
gospels; the tendency was to leave out the secular information, 
and abridge the events of our Lord's life between the baptism 
and Passion, — omitting, that is, most of the parables and 
miracles*. It was often translated into the vernacular, the most 

^ Laud Misc. 165, ff. 1-588. For Nottingham's harmony and its pro- 
logue, see Bernard, Cat. nos. 1562, 2067; Rawl. C. 572. Thomas Langley 
gave Nottingham's work to Durham, in 1437, CVD, 119; Christchurch, 
Canterbury, had two copies of this "gloss on the Unum ex Quattuor," 
Canterbury, 95, 105. 

^ Cf. that of brother Jordan, CVD, 182; and Canterbury, 159, 165. 

^ PL, 198, c. 1050; Lounsbury, 11. 373. 

* Cf. the summaries in Laud Lat. 109, Univ. 42, Magd. Oxt. 53. 

D.w.B. 12 


famous case being the French translation by Guyart Desmouhns 
in 1 27 1. This was later combined with French translations of 
the biblical books, and was much commoner than these books 

The Speculum Historiale of Vincent of Beauvais carried uni- 
versal history down to a later date than the Historia Scholastica, 
going down to 1243. 

The Compendium Sensus Litter alis T otitis Divinae Scripturae^ 
of Peter Aureoli is a good example of what advanced biblical 
study meant to theologians of the early fourteenth century. 
Peter Aureoli was born about 1280, graduated in theology at 
Paris about 13 14, and then became lector in the Minorite 
convent of Toulouse. Just at the same time, in the Dominican 
friary, the famous inquisitor of Toulouse was trying to purge 
France of the Waldensians and the Fraticelli. Aureo li was 
appointed in 1316 to lecture on the Sentences at Paris, perhaps 
the most honoured theological professorship of the day: and 
he was made minister of the province of Aquitaine in 1319, 
and bishop of Aix in 1321, dying however the year^fter. His 
treatise divided the Bible into eight parts, and was marked 
by a strong tendency to rhythmic classification. The seven 
visions of the Apocalypse are shewn to have been fulfilled by 
the seven successive periods in the Church's history, from the 
time of the early persecutions under Julian the Apostate till 
the day of Judgment. Though the book probably owed its 
origin to Aureoli's desire that the clergy should be better 
acquainted with the Bible, that they might cope the better 
with the Waldensians, it ignored all the questions which the 
Waldensians raised. 

Compendia of Bible history in Latin verse were also often 

^ Berger, i-ix. : cf. supra, p. 71- 

2 Compendium . . .fr. Petro Aureoli Ord. Min., ed. fr. Philiberto Seeboeck, 
Ad Claras Aquas (Quaracchi), 1896, This is an excellent cheap edition 
of a book most useful to those who wish to reconstruct for themselves 
university lectures on the Bible at the date. The book was still used in the 
fifteenth century: cf. Merton MS. 12, which WilHam Romsey, fellow of 
Merton in 1448, had wTitten "at his own expense," presumably for the use 
of the college. Richard Barre, bishop of Ely, possessed a Compendium, 
Harl. 3255. The book was very often called a Breviarium s. scripturae, 
cf. Merton 12, f. 21 ; CVD, xxxix. 146; Nicholls' Leicester, appendix i. 107; 
Canterbury, 168. 


found in the libraries, especially a long poem called Aurora^, or 
from its opening words, the Quattuor est primus. This was a 
paraphrase of the whole Bible in elegiac verse, except Canticles, 
Lamentations, Job and the Acts, which were in hexameters^. 
Petrus de Riga, its author, was a prior of S. Denis at Rheims, 
in the late twelfth century, and his poem was praised in fervid 
language by a canon of Autun, as "fiHing the heart with light, 
like the sun shining upon the world^." Enthusiasm soon com- 
piled a summary of the poem, also in verse, and "versified 
Bibles*," referring to this summary or the Aurora, were frequent 
in mediaeval libraries. The surprising popularity of the Atirora 
may have been partly due to unfamiliarity with the Vulgate 
text, or to that craving for theological novelties which so many 
writers deplored, as tending to oust the study of the Bible itself. 

Another less frequent verse harmony was that of the gospels, 
Canones Evangelistarum^ , which had a great effect on the 
development of miracle plays, and of sacred art in the later 
middle ages. Another verse harmony which became widely 
spread in vernacular translations was the thirteenth century 
Speculum Humanae Salvationist, which has much comparison 
of the gospel characters with Old Testament types. 

The apocryphal gospels were never, of course, seriously studied 
for purposes of dogmatic theology: but information from them 
was incorporated into the Historia Scholastica, and especially 

^ Extracts are printed in Polycarpi Leyseri Historia Poetarum et Poema- 
tum Medii Aevi, Halle, 1721, pp. 692-, including principally the Recapi- 
tulation, sometimes attributed to P. de Riga himself. 

- Id. 696. 3 Id. 748. 

* Laud Misc. 576; LI. 5. 15; C.C.C.Camb. 107; Bernard, Ca/. Durham, 541. 
Quoted as the Aurora, Canterbury, 165; five in the 1247 cat. at Glastonbury, 
Joh. Glaston., Hearne, 11. 423-44; Eng. Mon. Lib., Hunter, 6, etc. For Biblia 
versifies, see Canterbury, 104, 109, 114; for expositiones Bibliae versifice, id. 
129; for two Biblia versificata, id. 196-8; for adaptacio veteris et novi testa- 
menti versifice, id. Christchurch, no. 246. 

^ Bernard, Cat. no. 1853; no. 1953, Canones seu harmonia quattuor 
Evangelistarum ; Rawlinson, A. 384, § 2; cf. Rawl. C. 288, f. 14: Canones 
Evangeliorum : versus super contenta librorum. The incipit is, Quattuor 
est primus. 

* Printed by Giinther Zainer, Augsburg, c. 1470. The author, perhaps 
Johannes Andreas, in another poem (the Epithalamium , Digb)', 65, ff. 79— 
102) refused to give his name. Andreas died in 1348, and wa^ the author of 
the Speculum Marie Virginis, often found in connexion with the Spec. Hum. 
Sal. See Madan, Sum. Cat. iv. MSS. 21,778, 22,002. Cf. MSS. C.C.C. Oxford, 
i6i; All Souls, 20; Douce, 204. 

12 — 2 


into the lives of our Lady which were so popular by themselves, 
and so frequent a preliminary to lives of Christ. The Evangelium 
Nicodemi, in its Latin form, was perhaps the best known: it is 
otherwise described as the Gesta Salvatoris, or Acta Pilati de 
passione et resurrectione Jesii Christi : sometimes it was described 
simply as the gospel "found in the praetorium of Pontius Pilate 
by Theodosius the Emperor i." This is a sort of gospel harmony 
of the Passion and Resurrection, containing little extra-biblical 
detail in dealing with the Passion, but much in deahng with the 
Resurrection. In the story of the Passion, the man born blind, 
Veronica, a woman present at the wedding at Cana, and different 
spectators of His miracles, plead for Christ at His trial, in a long 
passage inserted into the narrative at that point. It is from the 
description of the descent to Hades that the gospel was best 
known: the saints Carinus and Lenthius, walking in Jerusalem, 
describe to Nicodemus, Joseph and Gamaliel the descent to 
Hades, or "harrowing of hell" by Christ, and write it in books 
of parchment; they then go in procession to Paradise, and are 
met by Enoch and Elias. Clerks drew from this poem largely 
in arranging miracle plays, which had a great influence in 
forming the scriptural conceptions of the less educated classes. 
This list of books, — the glosses, commentaries, Bible histories 
and compendia, practically exhausts the tale of books available 
for biblical study during the period. The most varied in number 
and character were the commentaries: the others were stock 
reference books, found in almost every large library. But though 
mediaeval scholars had this apparatus available, even the 
graduate clergy did not always avail themselves of it, or make 
themselves familiar with the biblical text, as is shewn sometimes 
by surprising misquotations. The mediaeval habit of quoting 
from memory may be responsible for some of these, but some 
are not merely verbal inaccuracies. The knight of La Tour 
Landry emploj^ed two priests and two clerks to help him in 
editing his collection of edifying tales; but the biblical ones are 
sometimes surprisingly inaccurate, — the stor}^ of Ruth has 
nothing in common with the biblical narrative except the names. 
A fourteenth century translator even of the liturgical gospels, 

1 Codex Apoc. i. 213 flf. 


which should have been famihar, could speak of the raising of 
Jairus's son, throughout. One chronicler, complaining of the 
Taxatio of Nicholas IV, stated that " Joseph took all the land 
of Egypt, except that of the priests^" In some Middle-English 
verses for Palm Sunday, " bishop Caiaphas " is mentioned, and a 
treatise on dreams refers to David and his " boke of swevenyng," -^-^ ^ 
or Book of Dreams^. Fitzherbert, in his Book of Husbandry^ 
quotes S. Paul as recommending economy, " Leste thou spende 
in shorte space that thynge, that thou shouldest lyue by long." 
The Speculum Humanae Salvationis, 1324, mentions Joseph's 
sacrifice of his son, instead of Jephthah's sacrifice of his 
daughter*. Lydgate the monk wrote somewhat later than this 
period, and was particularly learned in the scriptures; but he 
could represent the Egyptians as suffering from twelve plagues 
instead of ten*. 

§ 7. The references of contemporaries to those whom they 
considered great biblical students are interesting. S. Hugh of z/' 
Lincoln, who died about 1200, had lived with the Carthusians 
before his appointment as bishop, and he preserved the same 
saintliness of life afterwards. After the recitation of prime, he 
had passages from the gospels read aloud in Latin, so that the 
four gospels were gone through in the four seasons of the year, 
while the other canonical scriptures were read through at night 
office and at table^. Archbishop Lanfranc was greatly concerned 
with the state of the Vulgate text, and ordered it to be carefully 
corrected, as did another learned Norman bishop, Gundulph of 
Rochester. The great humanist scholar, John_of_Salisbury, re- 
garded the seven rules of Ticonius, as set forth in the De Doctrina 
Christiana, as classical for biblical study', so did Lyra and 
Purvey later. He emphasised the value of the subsidiary mean- 
ings of the text^; "for although the superficial meaning of the 
letter be accommodated to a single sense, a multitude of mys- 

^ Capes, 27. 

* Rel. Antiq. 261. 

' Ed. Skeat, W. W., 1892, p. gg, on which occurs also a wrong attribution 
to "Solomon." 

* Christian Iconography, Didron, trans. Millington, 203. 
' Lounsbury, 11. 190. 

« Mag. Vita, RS, 138, 341. 

' Policraticus, ed. Webb, C. C. I., Oxford, 1909, 11, 153. 

* Id. 144. 



teries lie hid within : and often allegory edifies faith, and history 
morals, and the mystical meaning leads heavenwards in many 
manners." Robert Grosseteste, bishop of Lincoln from 1235 to 
1253, was a great student of the scriptures himself, as well as 
their exponent to others. 

When king Henry asked him, as if in wonder, where he had learnt 
the nurture in which he instructed the sons of nobles and peers of the 
realm, whom he kept about him as pages (since he was not descended 
from noble lineage, but from humble parents), he is said to have 
answered fearlessly: "In the house and guest chambers of greater 
kings than the kings of England ": because he had learnt, from under- 
standing the scriptures, the manner of life of David, Solomon, and 
other kings 1. 

Grosseteste's own familiarity with the scriptures is shewn 
again in his letters, which are full of biblical images, especially 
from the Old Testament 2. His constant efforts to improve the 
learning of his parish priests, and their scriptural knowledge, 
will be mentioned later^: but his care for the instruction of all 
classes came out in other directions. He wrote to the regent 
masters of theology at Oxford, warning them to make the books 
of the Old and New Testaments the fundamentals of their study, 
"all your reading, especially at such a time, ought to be of the 
books of the Old and New Testaments*," and he spoke elsewhere 
of the "irrefragable authority of scripture^." He wrote to a 
canon of Lincoln, warning him not to neglect pastoral duties for 
more advanced theological lecturing: 

It is much to be feared that by seeking to teach certain scholars 
in Paris the subtleties of wisdom, you will thereby refuse to teach 
Christ crucified to a great multitude of simple souls: for you will not 
minister to your cathedral scholars solid food [instruction on the 
Sentences and perhaps the text of the gospels and epistles] , nor to the 
simple flock of Christ the milk of simple doctrine [instruction on the 
commandments, creeds, mortal sins, etc.]^. 

( Although Grosseteste was probably of all mediaeval bishops 
the most anxious to extend knowledge of the scriptures, he went 
no further than his contemporaries in the use of the vernacular 
for instruction. His circle was French-speaking; he himself 

^ EETS, OS, 32, VIII. 2 Epistolae, RS, xlvii. 

* See p. 195. * Fuse. Rev. Exp. 11. 393. 

6 Episi. 18. * Fasc. Rer. Exp. 11. 340. 


possessed a copy of the ManueldesPechiez^, and he is said to have 
translated the pater noster and ave for lay use. He wrote the 
Chasteau d'Amour'^ in French for the instruction of a court lady, 
and wrote various letters of instruction to the different "Alien- 
ores" of the de Montfort family: but his name has never been 
mentioned in connexion with any French or English biblical 

Giraldus Cambrensis was another scholarly ecclesiastic whose 
views are of interest, because he often insisted on the insufficient 
knowledge of Latin, which made his contemporary clergy unable 
to expound the scriptures. His evidence applies to the period 
of the rise of Waldensianism, for he was born in 1147, and died 
in 1223. He was certainly vain, but there is no reason to dis- 
believe the various cases that he cited: 

"For you will find," he says, "such defects of learning, not only 
in the lower priesthood, but even in the higher: in abbots, priors, the 
deans of great churches, and archbishops. . . . Also, there is the case 
of the archbishop who began his semion thus: Audite et intelligite, 
vos omnes qui estis in isto sacro synodo, and when one of his clerks whis- 
pered a, a, he was not impatient of correction, but added, in ista 
sacra synoda, and when the clerk still whispered, o et a, he repeated 
for the third time, in isto sacro synoda^." 

The same archbishop, he said, was once presiding over an 
ecclesiastical court at Oxford, in the presence of many learned 
scholars, and when the same titter arose over the archbishop's 
eccentricities in declensions, one of those sitting near rebuked 
them by saying, "What are you whispering among yourselves? 
that is the ancient grammatical form," at which they could not 
suppress the laughter with which they had at first struggled out 
of reverence to his person. And another time, when S. Thomas 
of Canterbury was in exile, those English bishops who were con- 
sidered most eloquent and learned were sent to pope Alexander 
III, to support the king's case and weaken the archbishop's. 
And when they were presented, and were relating the arguments 
which they had planned and thought out, there was not one of 
them who did not commit a barbarism or solecism in such a 

1 Bernard, Cat. no. 2313. * Wells, 366. 

' Gir. Cambren. 11 345, cf. Visitation of Sarum. S. Francis to Dante, 
Coulton, G. G., 298, and Grosseteste's rejection of Passelewe as an unfit and 
unlearned candidate for the see of Chester, Episiolae, RS, Ix. 


presence : Oportuit, oportebat, oportebatur, oportuerunt haec fieri, 
said one who seemed more eloquent than the rest, but did not 
actually understand the use of an impersonal verb. Peace, 
brother, peace, said the pope, for neither should such things have 
occurred, nor such words have been said. These and other stories 
are supported by that decree of the fourth Lateran council, 
which remarked that ignorance in a bishop was scandalous, 
and not, for the future, to be tolerated. 

Archbishop Peckham, himself a Franciscan and full of the 
traditions of his order, made great efforts also to improve clerical 
education, and the sermons of parish priests. In a letter to the 
bishop of Tusculum, dated 1284, he lamented over the frequent 
appointments of un-preaching bishops, as elsewhere over the 
ignorance of the clergy. He described in his letter the seven 
chief abuses of the Church of his day : the sixth is the " vilipensio 
Evangelicarum," or small esteem in which the contents of the 
gospels are held. 

For according to the doctrine of saints, a bishop's office consists 
chiefly in the doctrine of the Word of God, whence the episcopal order is 
called by the holy Fathers, the ' ' order of preachers ' ' : yet in celebrating 
elections or conferring dignities, no mention is made of the office of 
preaching; and since in this respect no question is asked as to what 
the gospels say, but as to what the common gloss clamoureth, the 
commandments of God are made of none effect for the traditions of 
men. Hence the study of wisdom is everywhere forsaken, and all 
men run after those branches of knowledge which bring worldly 

He himself nevertheless continued the study of the scriptures, 
and we have in 1283 a correspondence between him and the 
provincial of the friars preacher, who have, he declares, unjustly 
detained a Vulgate worth 113 marks (or over £1000 modern 
money), which he exhorts them to return-. 

Bishop Stapledon of Exeter, in spite of his preoccupation 
with the royal exchequer, found time to translate the pater 
noster, ave and creed into French, for lay use^; about the same 
time a "master Adam of Exeter" composed a French exposition 

1 Reg. Johannis Peckham, RS, 77, Martin, C. T., 1884, 11. 696; see also 
p. 196, for his Ignorantia Sacerdotum. 

2 Id. II. 542. 

' Register, Hingeston-Randolph, 565. 


on the pater noster^. Stapledon had a considerable hbrar3^ 
for he had two chests made to carry his books, and at his 
death bequeathed ninety-one volumes, three of which were 

There is no record of any English ecclesiastic who owned an \y 

English or French Bible before the days of Wycliffe, apart 
from the abbot of Peterborough who gave his monastery a ! 
French Bible which had perhaps belonged to him privately. | 
This contrasts with the number of known owners of Vulgates 
among bishops and the greater ecclesiastics during the same 
period ; for, besides those monks or abbots who caused Vulgates 
to be written for their houses, there are more than twenty known 
owners of Vulgates between the Conquest and Wycliffe's day. 
The wills of lesser personages than great nobles and bishops are 
infrequent before 1300, so that it is not possible to say whether 
archdeacons and cathedral dignitaries commonly owned a 
Vulgate before that date. They would not necessarily own more 
than the different service books, though they would probably 
have access to a Vulgate in a librar5^ 

Twelve early donors of Vulgates or textus to monasteries were 
bishops: Wilham de Carilef of Durham, 1095, Gundulph of 
Rochester, 1108, John of Bath, 1122, Nigel of Ely, about 1133, 
Hugh Pudsey of Durham, 1194, Longchamps of Ely, 1199, 
Richard Chandos of Chichester, 1253, archbishop Peckham, 
1283, Nicholas of Winchester, 1299, Richard Gravesend of 
London, 1303, Stapledon of Exeter, 1326, Grandisson of Exeter, 
1369*. Seven were either cathedral clergy, or connected with 
the universities. Nicholas, archdeacon of Bedford and canon of 
Lincoln, gave a large Vulgate to Lincoln minster about 1180; 
\ Roger of Ely, dean of York, gave several Vulgates to the uni- 
versity of Oxford in 1225; Thomas de la Wile "master of the 
schools at Sarum," or chancellor, owned a Vulgate in 1254; 

^ Pembroke, 112, f. 71. ^ Register, 561. 

' Bibliom. 68 and CVD, 117; Bibliom. 61; Som. Med. Lib. 39; Bibliom. 
167 a.nd Anglia Sacra, i. 622; AM, 11. 859; Bibliom. 70 and CVD, 118; Avglia 
Sacra, i. 633; TV, 762; Register Peckham, RS, 77, il. 542; CVD, 127; Hale 
and Ellacombe in Camden Soc, New Series, x. 1874, 50; Register Stapledon, 
Hingeston-Randolph, 564; Trans. Bibliog. Soc. vii. 104. For later bishops, 
see Brantyngham, Register, in 1394; in 1403, Wykeham, TV, 768; 1404, 
Skyrlaw, CVD, 127; 1416, Mascall, Register, CYS, v.; 1423, Bowet. TE, in. 
74, 76; 1435, FitzHugh, North Country Wills, 42; 1437, Langley, CVD, 120. 


Henry Melsaneby had a textus about 1260; Michael Northburgh, 
archdeacon of Suffolk, bequeathed a small Vulgate in 1361; 
Henry Leicester, fellow of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, 
bequeathed one in 1376, and Thomas Farnylawe, chancellor of 
York, two in 1378^. From this time onwards, the wills of canons 
and other higher ecclesiastics would usually include a Vulgate; 
and whereas in the earlier cases, all the Vulgates were left to 
corporations, or were, with one exception, entailed, Vulgates 
were now sometimes bequeathed to private individuals uncon- 
ditionally 2. 

No recorded will of a secular priest mentions any English or 
French psalters, or any English or French devotional book, 
before the days of Wycliffe, though in 1380 John Katerington, 
canon of S. Mary at Litchwick, gave an English Legenda to that 
church^, and in 1385 Richard Ravenser, archdeacon of Lincoln, 
left to lady Isabella Fryskney "the book of Apocalypse which 
she has of mine*," which, from the context, was probablj^ in 

Thus in answer to the question, to what extent the highest and 
best educated of the secular clergy, the friars and the monks, 
were familiar with the text of the Bible, it appears that those 
graduates who proceeded to the degree in theology were usually 
familiar with it, though an even greater emphasis was laid on 
their familiarity with the Sentences. The training of friars made 
them, as a class, more familiar with the Bible than any others : 
the acquaintance of monks with it differed from great knowledge 
to almost complete ignorance. The Vulgate was so valuable a 
book that few individuals except bishops possessed it before 
1300; but it had become cheap enough for most cathedral clergy 
to possess one before 1400. There is no evidence in wills for the 
use of English scriptures before the days of Wycliffe, and there 

1 Line. Cath. Stats. 11. 787; CVD, xxxi. ; Hist. Antiq. Oxon. 11. 48 and 
Bibliom. 27; Casley's Cat. 4; CVD, 196; London Wills, ii. 6i : C.C.C. Descrip. 
Cat. XI.; TE, i. 102-3. For later Vulgate owners, see chapter xiii. 

2 Which shews the greater cheapness of the books in the later periods. 
Earlier testators sometimes bequeathed the Vulgate to an individual for 
life, specifying the monastery to which it should pass, or sometimes be- 
queathed it to an individual and his heirs. The monasteries, or cathedral 
chapters, were the recipients in most cases. 

^ Parker Coll. 34. 

* Early Line. Wills, 68. 


is only a single case of the ownership of a French Bible by a 
monastery, and none by a secular priest; the records of the use 
even of French psalters are very scanty. There is nothing in the 
history of translations in England to shew that they were ever 
encouraged by any section of the orthodox: there is no move- 
ment, for instance, comparable to that of the Gottesfreunde in 
Germany. In that country, a provincial constitution of the 
Dominicans had bidden the brothers send their most learned 
lecturers to preach in the sisters' chapels: and certain of the 
laity were, in consequence, led on to practise lives of meditation 
and prayer. In England, the Dominican brothers were not 
bound by their constitutions^ to direct the convents of Domini- 
can nuns, and perhaps in consequence there was no similar 
demand for English scriptures among the devout laity. Though 
French translations sometimes existed in the libraries of the 
greater nobles and ladies, there was no movement to encourage 
their use by the priesthood: while, except in the case of the 
psalter, no English translation existed. 

^ See Archiv, 11. 644: Hermann of Minden compiled the Domiaican con- 
stitutions in question only for his own province. 


Pre-Wycliffite biblical study by clerks : 
(b) parish priests 

§ I. If the typical parish priest between the eleventh and the 
fourteenth centuries were not the graduate of a university, where 
did he get his education, and in what did it consist? If he did not 
own a Vulgate after he settled down to work in his parish (as in 
most cases before 1370-80 we have every reason to believe he 
did not), what biblical or theological training did he get before 
ordination? The questions belong to a post-Tridentine age, 
which vaguely assumes that theological or biblical knowledge 
of some sort was always a necessary prelude to ordination, 
whether acquired in a diocesan seminary, or merely exhibited 
in an examination before ordination. Actually, the attainments 
of the mediaeval parish priest should be viewed rather as a link 
between those of the Anglo-Saxon and the post-Tridentine 
priest : for, though many mediaeval priests were no doubt better 
educated than the Anglo-Saxon ones, the minimum educational 
demands for institution to a benefice seem to have remained 
the same in both periods: ability to recite a few necessary for- 
mulae in Latin by heart, and to read and sing the Latin mass. 

It is possible to say with some certainty to what extent a 
normal parish priest was acquainted with the biblical text before 
his ordination, because a certain amount of evidence has been 
already collected as to the educational course in the various 
schools he might have attended. Since lay patronage was so 
common, and the minimum standard of education for institution 
to a benefice so low, the candidate for institution might have 
attended only an elementary school, or he might have attended 
any of the various grades intermediate between that and the 
university. He might have attended the university itself for a 
year or two, but in that case his studies have been described in 
the previous chapter. 

There is no evidence whatever that biblical translations were 


used for instruction in any school of any kind before the days of 
WycHffe (or between his time and the Reformation). Scholars 
learned to construe the Latin psalms, ave, or pater noster, 
into French or English, but there is no reference to the use of 
any biblical translation in school 1. English ones were non- 
existent, but French ones, or Bibles Historiales, though expensive 
and rare, might conceivably have been used, had it been con- 
sidered generally desirable that young grammar or theology 
scholars should be acquainted with the sacred text: but there 
is no evidence at all that French translations were actually 
so used. Such acquaintance with the Bible as the mediaeval 
parish priest possessed was gained from the Latin Bible, not 
from translations. 

A mediaeval candidate for ordination m.ight have previously 
attended a small parish elementary school, a grammar school, a 
cathedral theology school, a friary theology school, or possibly 
no school at all. The references in episcopal registers to "enor- 
mously illiterate" holders of benefices, or would-be holders, 
perhaps refer to some younger sons, educated as lay persons and 
not as clerks, and finally provided for by the gift of a living from 
some relation or patron : such persons might never have attended 
any school. But the majority of resident parish priests were prob- 
ably the children, not of the nobihty, but of small freeholders 
or craftsmen, who had availed themselves of the educational 
ladder offered by the different schools, and scholarships. 

It is now generally recognised that the monasteries rarely had 
schools for secular children after the eleventh century, but only 
for the "oblates" who were destined to become monks, and who 
in most cases never left the convent precincts until they took 
the vows^. The larger houses had almonry and song-schools 
where a small number of boys were maintained, chiefly to sing 
treble in the feast-day services: and abbots occasionally re- 
ceived the children of noble parents to be trained in their houses 
as pages, as any other great noble might do. But there were no 

1 There is no evidence that the north midland glosses were lectures 
delivered in school, as Miss Powell suggests, see chapter xn. They were 
moreover contemporary with Wycliffe, and probably produced under the 
influence of the Wycliffite movement. 

* Coulton, G. G., Mediaeval Studies, x. 


schools for secular boys in the modern sense, either for day 
scholars or boarders. 

In the lowest grade of school, the small parish or elementary 
school, the children indeed learned to read upon the psalter or 
primer^, but there was of course no further question of the use 
of the biblical text. They were "ABC children 2," as Grosseteste 
called them, and they were taught largely with a view to their 
being able to sing in church, like the little clergeon in the 
Prioresses Tale^. 

At the grammar school again, the next grade, there is no 
evidence that children learned to translate the Latin Bible be- 
fore the days of Wycliffe. They learned Latin, which was a step 
towards it, but the Vulgate was not among the books they used. 
As late as 1357 the bishop of Exeter reprehended all the arch- 
deacons of his diocese, because clerks, or those who daily re- 
peated mattins and the hours of the blessed Virgin, did not 
understand what they said. He complained that boys in school, 
after they had learned to read, or say, even very imperfectly, 
the pater noster, ave, creed, and the hours of the blessed 
Virgin, passed on at once to other school books: "And so it 
happens that when they are grown up they do not understand 
v/hat they say or read every day." He then ordered, with what 
effect on the routine of the grammar school is not known, that 

boys henceforth should leave other studies, and be made to con- 
strue and understand the pater noster, ave, creed, mattins, and the 
hours of the blessed Virgin, and decline the words there, and parse 
them, before they go on to other books*. 

Later on, in the middle of the Wycliffite controversy, one writer 
refers to a practice of translating the epistles and gospels in 
schools, as well as the psalms^: and in this case it is not very 

^ Educ. Char. 347; bibliog. in A. F. Leach's Schools of Med. England, 


- And see p. 207. " Pueros abcdarios," Fasc. Rer. Exp. 11. 402. 

3 II. 46-9. The frequency, nature, and connexion with the grammar 
schools of these small schools has not yet been fully worked out. The parish 
priest, according to his will and ability, sometimes taught small children 
for nothing, or was sometimes paid to take private pupils. 

* Educ. Char. 317. 

5 In li. 6. 26. In the fifteenth century chantry schools also did something 
for the training of secular ordinands : but though chantries were beginning 
to be founded before Wycliffe 's day, there is no record of the founding of any 


clear whether the writer is referring to some grammar, or 
cathedral theology school. 

There were, however, in the thirteenth century, besides the 
grammar schools, a considerable number of cathedral and friary 
schools^, where theologj^ was taught, and it is from such schools 
that the bulk of the inferior secular clergy must have received 
their education. Before the rise of the universities, the cathedral 
schools had been more important than the monastic schools for 
the training afforded to seculars, but the universities drew from 
them, as from the monasteries, the best scholars and teachers 
of the thirteenth century. The papac}^ however, saw in the 
cathedral schools the best means of training the secular clergy, 
and did what it could to encourage them: the provision of 
salaries for the grammar master and theology master was always 
the difficulty 2. In early days the cathedral school taught both 
Latin, or grammar, and theology, but b^' about 1200 the gram- 
mar and theology schools had usually become separate. Lectures 
in the cathedral theolog}^ schools were apparently always given 
in Latin, and the subject, as at the universities, was the Sentences 
of Peter Lombard, and instruction on the elements of the faith. 
There is no e\adence that before the days of Wycliffe the cathe- 
dral schools afforded lectures on the biblical text, such as formed 
a small part of the course for the doctorate of divinity in the 
universities; or that, as early as this, theology students were 
taught to translate the Sunday gospels and epistles and make 
sermons upon them. In Wycliffe's own day, however, such a 
practice seems to have begun, to judge by the evidence of one 
of his followers: but how wideh^ it obtained, and whether it were 
the direct result of the Wycliffite movement, which influenced 
orthodox teachers as well as avowed heretics, is doubtful. 

The Mendicant orders did much, not only for theological study 
at the universities, but also, apparently, for the training of the 
secular clergy in their local theology schools. It was the Domini- 
can ideal to have no friary without a lecturer, or quahfied 

chantry school. Cf. CPP, i. 25, where in 1343 the living of Houghton was 
appropriated by the bishop of Durham for the maintenance of a parish 
vicar, resident rector and four chaplains, and four university scholarships. 

1 For the best modem study of these, see Eng. Franc. Hist. 158-76. 

^ Crise Scol. 42; Coulton, G. G., Mediaeval Studies, x, Simpkin, Marshall 
and Co., 1913. 


teacher of theology, and the Franciscans followed in their foot- 
steps. Franciscans could not take the degree of B.D. at Paris, 
Oxford or Cambridge, unless they had previously lectured at 
places reckoned as "studia generalia" in the order; or, in 
England, in the friary schools at London, York, Norwich, New- 
castle, Stamford, Coventry or Exeter^. The records of the 
Mendicant orders render it clear that seculars were allowed to 
attend these theology lectures^, intended primarily for the 
training of young friars: but Mr Little, in Studies in English 
Franciscan History, notices the curious lack of evidence that 
individual seculars in England had done so^. In face of this lack 
of evidence, the relative extent to which the secular clergy were 
educated in cathedral or friary schools can hardly yet be esti- 
mated: but there is no evidence that the training given was 
essentially different. The friars too lectured and disputed in 
Latin on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, with an eye to pastoral 
theology: under Grosseteste they "became proficient in doubtful 
points of scripture [quaestiones], and subtle moralisations suit- 
able for sermons^" : but, as at the universities, they taught their 
scholars a theology founded on the Bible, and not the biblical 
text itself. There is no direct evidence that the friars, for in- 
stance, lectured on the Sunday epistles and gospels before the 
days of Wycliffe, with a view to their scholars translating and 
expounding the text later in sermons. On the contrary, the 
manuals of preaching, composed by the friars^, which were very 
popular, commended more novel methods of sermon-making, 
likelier to catch the attention of the audience : which renders it 
improbable that the friars laid very great stress on the 
exposition of Sunday epistles and gospels in their local theology 

Thus there is on the whole very little indication that any 
attention was given to the study of the biblical text by secular 
ordinands. Boys learned their letters from the primer, and 
possibly, in the days of Wycliffe himself, they construed epistles 
and gospels in certain grammar schools : but there is no evidence 
that they were otherwise concerned with the text of the Vulgate ; 
and for its study by means of translations, — such as that re- 

1 Eng. Franc. Hist. 167. ^ Id. 168-73. 

3 Id. 170. * Id. 165. ' See p. 148 n. 


commended for young clerks in the Cologne Bible of 1480, — there 
is no evidence at all. 

§ 2. But, though clerical education was supposed to afford 
sufficient training in Latin for parish priests to be able to con- 
strue the Latin Vulgate and service books for themselves, there 
are many indications that this standard was never universally 
reached, and that in many dioceses, at many periods, the gap 
between theory and practice was very great. There was no 
effectual examination in letters for the priesthood as such, 
but the bishop or his official examined candidates for institution 
o a benefice, and sometimes examined the holders of benefices 
on visitation. The record of these examinations, in the episcopal 
registers and elsewhere, shew that the minimum standard was 
low, and that it was frequently not reached. The examination 
was viva voce, and for a hitherto unbeneficed priest consisted of 
"reading, construing, singing and speaking Latin," about 1370; 
while the confirmation of beneficed priests as archdeacons, 
priors, precentors, etc., at the same date, was generally preceded 
only by the examination in Latin^. The passage selected for 
examination was generally some portion of the canon of the 
mass, which shews that the intention was that priests should 
understand what they read, in this most solemn part of their 
duties. The council of Oxford in 1222 ordered that priests 
should be able, at least, to understand the consecration formula 
in Latin; but at the Salisbury visitation of the same year, the 
incumbents of five out of the seventeen churches were found 
unable to do so-. Dispensations of non-residence were often 
given to holders of benefices in order that they might continue 
their studies, and in such cases the living was really used to 
provide a university scholarship^; but, besides such cases, others 
are mentioned where the vicar or rector, or candidate for a 
benefice, was found insufficient in the knowledge of grammar or 
singing, and was given leave of absence for a stated period in 
order that he might "learn to chant," "learn music," or "learn 

1 Cf. CPL, IV. 175, 194, 6, 9, 222, 363. 401, 2, 413. 4, 421-5, etc. 

* Coulton, G. G., Mediaeval Studies, vii. For references to "enormous 
illiteracy" on the part of rectors, see Eng. Franc. Hist. 161, n. i, and Regis- 
ter of S. Osmund, Jones, W. H. R., in RS, i. 304-6. 

* Cf. introd. by Tout, T. F., to Reg. of John de Halton, CYS, xxxvii. ; and 
CPL, IV. 394, 233, 165. 184, 185, 305, 527, 317, etc. 

D.W.B. 13 


grammar": that is, pull himself up to examination level. One 
rector was thus examined three times during his four years' 
study, and finally rejected for his "ignorance of letters^." The 
"school" the candidate was to attend in such cases was not 
generally specified, but it was probably not the university; 
Northampton is mentioned in 1232, and the cathedral school at 
Lincoln three times ^. Statistics for the relative frequency of 
the ability to read Latin on the part of mediaeval parish priests 
cannot be given here : but the evidence quoted is enough to shew 
that although the clergy were, in theory, expected to expound 
the scriptures to their parishioners, they must frequently have 
been unable to translate the Latin text themselves. 

The Gemma Ecclesiastica of Giraldus Cambrensis describes in 
some detail the state of learning and morals among the clergy 
and laity known to its author: the descriptions would apply 
mainly to Welshmen, but not solely, since the learned arch- 
deacon was so great a traveller. He represents the parish clergy 
of about 1180-1200^ as being frequently ilHterate: 

We will shew by sundry examples the manner in which parish 
priests to-day explain to their parishioners the gospels and holy 
scripture. There is the case of the priest who was preaching to the 
people a sermon about S. Barnabas, and he said among other things: 
"He was a good man and a saint, but he used, however, to be a 
robber." For his authority was that verse of the gospel, namely, 
"Now Barabbas was a robber," and he did not distinguish properly 
between Barnabas and Barabbas. Then there is the case of the priest 
who was preaching about the Canaanite woman, and he said she was 
partly a woman and partly a dog, because he did not distinguish 
between Canaanite and canine. Then, that of the priest who was an- 
nouncing the feast of SS. Simon and Jude, and said that: "The one 
was a good man and a saint, and the other the man who betrayed 
Christ, and we ought not to honour his day for his own sake, but for 
that of his companion," confusing S. Jude with Judas*. 

He goes on with a string of such stories : those of the priest who 
could not translate the word broiled in broiled fish and honey- 
comb, and rendered it "donkey fish"; and when he was asked 

1 Rot. Hug. de Welles, CYS, Phillimore, W. P. W., xii., xiii., xiv. ; cf . CPL, 
V. 260. 

2 Rot. Hug. xviii. 

' He presented the Gem. Ec. to Innocent III in 1199. 
* Gir. Cambren. 11. 341. 


what a donkey fish was, answered that, just as there was a fish 
called a dog fish, so also there was a hare fish, and others like 
all the other land beasts, and this particular fish was a donkey 
fish, but it was not found in those parts. Then, there was the 
priest who thought that altera was a fish, because they let down 
the net on the right side of the ship and took it ; and the priest 
who gave the same translation for the numerals ^7'g hundred and 
fifty in the parable of the two debtors, and on its being remarked 
that the lord forgave them both the same amount, added: "but 
in one case the coins were Angevin, and in the other, sterling." 
There was too the priest who translated sanctus Johannes ante 
portam Latinam as, saint John who first brought the Latin language 
to England, and finally, the one who asked master John of Corn- 
wall who Busillis was? and when master John asked him where, 
and in what scripture the name was found, he said, "in the 
missal," and ran for his own book, and shewed him in die 
written at the foot of one column, and bus illis at the beginning 
of another. Master John took advantage of his question to 
bring up the point publicly when he lectured on the morrow in 
the schools, and to shew how great a scandal was clerical 

The anecdotes of Giraldus may have been partly dictated by 
vanity, but they are borne out by the evidence of the registers, 
and sometimes by the official language of mediaeval bishops. 
The most zealous of these for the equipment of the clergy for 
their office of explaining the scriptures were probably Grosse- 
teste and Peckham, and their words shew that ability to construe 
Latin easily could not be reckoned as general among parish 
priests. Grosseteste laid down, as the minimum knowledge 
necessary to a priest, only ability to say the ten commandments, 
and explain them to his people, with the seven deadly sins : and 
to understand "at least simply" the seven sacraments, and the 
three creeds^. They must be able to teach the children of their 
parishioners the our Father, creed, and hail Mary, and, since 
"some adults are ignorant of these things, as we hear," to 
examine them in them when they come to confession. He also 
stated frequently in ordination sermons that the cause of the 

1 Gir. Cambren. 11. 343. 

2 Grosseteste, Pegge, S.. London, 1793, 315, in the constitutions. 



evil condition of the Church was the failure of the clergy to 
preach the gospel of Christ^ : the instruction of his flock Was the 
first duty of a parish priest, and yet : 

To-day there are many pastors, bound to feed their hungry flock with 
the Word of God, who have no food to do it with : for there are many 
who do not know how to explain to the people a single article of the 
faith, or commandment of the decalogue^. 

There should be, he concludes, a manual to teach them the 
most necessary subjects, and in this desire he anticipated 
Peckham, Quivil and Thoresby, who actually supplied such 
manuals. Grosseteste's sermon, as quoted by a Lollard, to the 
effect that priests ought to translate the Sunday gospel for them- 
selves before making their sermon upon it, and that those who 
could not so translate it should seek help of their neighbours, is 
not known in its Latin form : but is paralleled in tone by many 
of his ordination sermons. 

Archbishop Peckham, in his constitutions of 1281, dwelt also 
on the illiteracy of the clergy, and the evils arising from it : 

The ignorance of priests precipitates the people into the pit of error ; 
and the folly or boorishness of clerks, who are commanded to instruct 
the minds of the faithful in the catholic faith, sometimes increases 
error rather than doctrine. ... As a remedy for which peril we com- 
mand and enjoin that each parish priest, four times in the year (that 
is, once in each quarter of the year), upon one or more holy days 
shall himself or by his deputy explain to the people in the vulgar 
tongue. . .the fourteen articles of the faith, the ten commandments 
of the decalogue, the two precepts of the gospel, the seven works of 
mercy, the seven mortal sins, the seven principal virtues, and the 
seven sacramental graces. And, lest any man should excuse himself 
from the aforesaid things through ignorance, since all the ministers 
of the Church are bound to know them, we here give them in a brief 

The Latin exposition which followed was such as Grosseteste 
had desired, and very similar to that issued by bishop Quivil of 
Exeter in 1287*. He enjoined that, since ignorance was the 

^ Fasc. Rer. Exp. 11. 251, 256, 260. 

2 Id. 265. 

^ Wilkins, ii. 54. No translation of the catechism was issued at the time, 
but archdeacons were ordered to expound it "in the domestic idiom" to 
the local clergy, who were to teach it to their parishioners in sermons. 

* Id. II. 143, 162, 


mother of all errors and ought above all to be shunned by priests, 
whose office consisted in preaching and teaching, each arch- 
deacon should inquire which vicars, rectors or priests were 
"enormously ilhterate," and report them. "Enormous illite- 
racy" was to consist of inabihty to say b}^ heart the command- 
ments, seven sins, seven sacraments and creed; and, to improve 
the level of clerical education in his diocese, Quivil not merely 
issued a tract summarising these matters, as Peckham had done, 
but ordered each parish priest to possess and use it, under penalty 
of one mark, payable to the archdeacon. Thoresby's similar 
tract^, issued, however, both in Latin and in English, has been 
mentioned earlier. These tracts, officially issued by archbishops 
and bishops, throw a twofold light on the question of the biblical 
knowledge of parish priests. They shew first, that translation 
or exposition of the Vulgate text was not one of the necessary 
duties of the parish priest: and secondly, that the minimum 
knowledge required of them was something very much less than 
ability to construe the Vulgate text. A tract issued even as late 
as 1494, written by a theological lecturer at Cambridge full of 
zeal for clerical education and the study of the scriptures, repre- 
sents it as not impossible even then that a priest should be un- 
able to understand Latin^: and the number of ignorant priests 
was much greater in 1300 than 1500. So far, the evidence for 
the education of parish priests, and the duties required of them 
by the bishops, bears out the Lollards' contention that the text 
of the Bible, and even of the New Testament, was largely un- 
known to them and their parishioners at the time. The parish- 
ioners knew the great events in our Lord's life, as given in the 
creeds and expounded thence in the pulpits: but they were not 
necessarily familiar, through the ministrations of their parish 
priests, with His teaching, miracles and life, as recorded in the 
text of the New Testament. 

§ 3. When the Waldensian and Lollard heretics complained 
that the laity were ignorant of the scriptures, since they could 
not read Latin and were not allowed to read translations, the 
orthodox answer was always, that it was the duty of the laity 
to listen to the scriptures, as expounded verbally by the priest, 

^ See p. 141. 

* Melton's Sermo Exhortatorius, quoted Gasquet, Eve of Ref. 134. 


in accordance with holy doctors. By this means unlettered men 
were to be saved from the dangers of wrongful interpretation, 
and strengthened in Christian faith and practice. To some ex- 
tent this answer was justified, for nearly all early mediaeval 
books of sermons were homilies founded on a text of the Sundaj' 
gospel or epistle, and sometimes referring to the contents of the 
gospel or epistle as a whole: and such books of homilies were 
written throughout the middle ages. This shews that the tradition 
of preaching on the Sunday gospel was continuous and wide- 
spread: but two circumstances tended to lessen its value as a 
teaching institution. The first was the infrequency of sermons 
in the early middle ages, and the second was the tendency to 
discard the Sunday gospel as a subject in later times. More- 
over, it was the one great duty of the priest to teach the faith, 
and not to expound the Bible, from the earliest middle ages to 
the Reformation; and it was on this that bishops and synods 
insisted throughout the period. 

The illiterac}^ of Anglo-Saxon priests rendered impossible the 
preaching of a compulsory number of sermons in the year. In 
1217 bishop Poore, of Salisbury, ordained that each archdeacon 
was to instruct the "simple priests^" within his archdeaconry in 
simple language on the articles of the faith: they were then to 
repeat the exposition to their parishioners "frequently, in the 
domestic idiom." Parish priests, that is, were not 3'et bound to 

1 Mansi, 22, c. 1103, § 3. "Simple priests " = illiterate. All the priests of 
the archdeaconry were, however, to be present : whether the archdeacon was 
to make his own exposition in Latin or English is not clear. When sermons 
were preached at all, there was generally no difficulty in securing that they 
should be in the vernacular except in the case of Wales or Ireland [or in 
Slavonic countries]. Giraldus Cambrensis was appointed to preach the 
crusade in Wales, and spoke so movingly in French that numbers took the 
cross without understanding his words, De Rebus, 75-6. Grosseteste insisted 
on the preaching of sermons "in the domestic idiom," and the later popes 
took some measures to secure vernacular preaching. In 1366, when the 
English held Gascony, the pope wrote to the archbishop of Bordeaux to ask 
whether Alexander Dalby, dean of S. John's, Chester, could "so understand 
the Welsh tongue as to be able to preach in it": since Edward, prince of 
Aquitaine, wished to have him appointed to the see of Bangor; as the arch- 
bishop had " many who spoke Welsh in his diocese," he was to send the pope 
a private report about it; CPL, iv. 25. An Irish priest was removed from a 
vicariate in Connor because "he neither understands nor can intelligibly 
speak the language of the parishioners," id. vi. 425, and complaints were 
lodged against Robert, bishop of Killaloe, because he was "ignorant of the 
scriptures and of the Irish tongue," id. vii. 7. 


preach every Sunday and holy day, but they were exhorted to 
preach "frequently." It was probably an advance in practice 
when archbishop Peckham made it compulsory for priests to 
preach four times a year at least. Later synods reiterated the 
injunction for the necessity of sermons, and increased their fre- 
quency: but the subjects for sermons remained the same 
throughout Europe from the twelfth century to the Reforma- 
tion^. They were thus summarised in the prologue to the Abbey 
of the Holy Ghost of c. 1370: 

Therefore our father the bishop. . .has treated and ordained, for 
the common profit, through the council of his clergy, that each on© 
that under him has cure of souls, openly, in English, upon Sundays, 
preach and teach them that they have cure of the law and the lore to 
know God Almighty, that principally may be shewed in these six 
things : 

(i) In the fourteen points that fallen to the truth (the creed). 

(2) In the ten commandments that God has given us. 

(3) In the seven sacraments that are in holy Church. 

(4) In the seven works of mercy unto our even-Christians. 

(5) In the seven virtues that each man shall use. 

(6) In the seven deadly sins that each man shall refuse. 

And he bids and commands in all that he may, that all that have cure or 
keeping under them, enjoin their parishioners and their subjects, that 
they hear and learn these ilk six things, and oftsiths rehearse them, till 
they con them, and sithen teach them their children, if they any have, 
what time so they are of eld to learn them. And that parsons and 
vicars and all parish priests inquire diligently of their subjects in the 
Lenten time, when they come to shrift, whether they know and con 
these six things: and if it be founden that they con them not, that 
they enjoin them upon his behalf, and of pain of penance, for to con 
them 2. 

There is no evidence at all among English records that the 
gospel was ever read in English at the beginning of the sermon 
till a year or two before the Reformation. The period when the 
practice began in Germany, between 1500 and 1526, can be quite 
clearly traced: but there is no evidence for such a practice in 
England till the year 1538^. The absence of reference to such a 
practice is decisive, because there is so much general evidence 

1 See p. 68. 2 eETS, OS, 26, 2. 

3 The visitation articles of two dioceses then ordered the gospel to be read 
in the pulpit in English each Sunday, but with accompanying clauses 
shewing this to be an innovation at the date : see chapter xiv. 


about the sermons of the period and their subject-matter, both 
in the decisions of diocesan synods, the books of sermons pre- 
pared for the help of the clergy, and the books to instruct them 
in the art of preaching. Since none of the three mention any 
such practice, the weight of evidence against it would seem 

From about 1300, moreover, when sermons were becoming 
more frequent, there was a tendency to use other illustrative 
matter than the gospel in popular preaching, as well as to use 
the saint's day legends for sermons in place of the saint's day 
gospels. Both tendencies were part of the growth of popular 
preaching, as an art in itself, and as a means of moving the 
congregation to devotion or almsgiving, instead of instructing 
them in the elements of the faith, or explaining the story of the 
gospel quite simply in English. The earlier northern rhymed 
gospels consisted first of the translation of the gospels alone: 
then of these translations with a moral tale added to each : but 
in later forms, generally of the moral tales, or exempla, alone^. 
The increase of popular preaching was connected with the work 
of the Franciscans, who were expert, not only in the practice of 
the art themselves, but in the preparation of books of materials 
for sermons, and of manuals on the art of preaching^. In the 
thirteenth century Guibert de Nogent wrote a treatise on How 
a sermon ought to he made; Alain de Lisle one on the Art of 
preaching, and between 1210 and 1228 Jacques de Vitry intro- 
duced many exempla into his popular Sermons in the Vulgar 
Tongue. The fabliaux were also used as sources for illustration, 
both by Odo of Cheriton and Etienne de Besangon in his 
Alphabetum Narrationum, c. 1284^. The latter treatise was 
arranged in dictionary form, so that the would-be preacher could 
easily find a moral anecdote on Abbess: Confessor: Confusion: 
and so forth, down to the final one on Zelotipa. These books 
of ready made sermons, or materials for sermons, were very 
frequent from the thirteenth century onwards, the most popular 
of all perhaps being the Gesta Romanorum*. Several of them have 

1 See p. 149. 

- English popular preaching in the fourteenth century, Toulmin Smith, L., 
EHR. VII. 25. 

3 EHR, VII. 27, 28; ed. Banks. M. M , EETS, OS, 126, 1905. 
* EETS, ES, 33. 


been printed, and a good description of some of them is given 
by Mr Little in his Studies in English Franciscan History^. The 
stories and sermons deal with the virtues and vices of all classes 
of society, monks, priests and seculars: but no single story or 
anecdote can be found to advocate the practice of reading the 
Bible, either by clerks or lay people, and this is very significant. 
In the Alphabetuni Narrationum, for instance, the only tale 
which mentions scriptural study is that of the abbot Pambo^, 
who, while still unlettered, went to another monk to learn to 
read. He was first taught the verse : / said, I will take heed to my 
ways: and went away to put in practice what he had learnt. 
This took him the remainder of his life, so that he never returned 
for a second lesson : the moral of the story being obviously, not 
the duty of studying the Bible, but of practising virtue. The 
stories themselves are non-biblical, and the great popularity of 
these books must have meant a lessening in the biblical character 
of the sermons delivered^. 

Three features of the preaching of the period are thus clear, 
and bear upon the question of the biblical knowledge of clergy 
and laity before the days of Wycliffe. First, that the Sunday 
sermon was not universal in all parishes before this date, since 
fourteenth century synods legislated on this point*, taking 
measures to provide that the parish clergy should be able to 
preach them. At the end of the century indulgences began to be 
granted for attendance at sermons, — though not usually those 
of the parish priest, but some other ecclesiastic. In 1371 one 
was granted to all who should hear the sermon in the presence 
of the duchess of Brittany^, and in 1372 another to those who 
heard that of the papal nuncio^. Shortly after, the chancellor of 
Lincoln obtained a hoHday from his duties there, on the grounds 
that he wished to "reside six weeks in his Kentish parish, and 
recreate his parishioners with sermons'." But the Sunday 
sermon was still not universal. Secondly, for a hundred years 
before WycHffe's day there had been a tendency to compose 
sermons from non-biblical rather than bibhcal matter, as the 

^ 135-157- ^ EETS. OS, 126, 468. 

3 For Wycliffite statements that the friars preached in rhyme, see p. 148. 
* For evidence on this point, see G. G. Coulton's Mediaeval Studies, 2nd 
ed. 1915, Appendix, 103. 

6 CPL, IV. 163. « Id. 171. ' Id. VII. 497. 


books of sermon materials shew; and thirdly, books on the 
manner and matter of preaching never suggest that the preacher 
should make a literal translation of the Sunday gospel in the 
sermon, or should inculcate the need of Bible reading for the 
laity at all. This last omission may seem obvious and inevitable 
when all but the privileged classes were devoid of books, and 
unable to read: but among the many virtues which different 
volumes of sermons inculcate on the devout and well-born laity, 
who could have had plenty of books if they had wanted them, 
Bible reading is not found. 

§ 4. None of the Latin or English manuals composed for the 
help of the parish priest suggested that it was his duty to study 
the Vulgate, or to translate its contents to his people in his 
sermons, or to urge upon them the need of studying it, either by 
means of translations or otherwise. The Latin manuals were 
more frequently possessed by the higher clergy than by parish 
priests: from about 1350 onwards the Oculus Sacerdotis^ of 
William de Pagula was a book frequently found in libraries, and 
mentioned in wills. It was divided into four parts; each part 
was sometimes found separately as the pars prima, secunda, 
tertia oculi sacerdotis, while the fourth was entitled the Cilium 
oculi sacerdotis, or Priest's Eyelid ; sometimes the different parts 
were described as the Pars D extra, or Sinistra Oculi Sacerdotis^. 
About 1380 John de Burgh, chancellor of the university of 
Cambridge, wrote another manual modelled upon it, and even 
longer, called the Pupilla Oculi, perhaps the most popular 
of all fifteenth century manuals^. The Ars praedicandi^ of 
Alain of Lille, and the Speculum Ecclesiae^ of Hugh of vSt-Cher, 
were also fairly frequent in English libraries. None of these 
refers to any duty of the parish priest to instruct his parishioners 
in the biblical text. 

1 Fabricius, iii. 181; Syon, 245; Reg. of Edm. Stafford, 1395-1419, 
Hingeston-Randolph, 416, 432; the Cilium was bequeathed in 1349, 
London Wills, 1. 607 n. ^ Pembroke MSS. 248, 281; Bury, 83. 

3 Fabricius, i. 221; Syon, 191. See Reg. Stafford, 394 and 404, where the 
book is twice bequeathed: once to be used by the ministers of the church 
of Exeter for their learning. It was bequeathed to the parish church of 
Swine by Peter the vicar, about 1400, together with the Speculum Cura- 
torum, see chapter xiv. Leicester abbey had it in 1492 (Nicholls' Leicester, 
I. app. 106) ; so Bury, 85, and Parker Coll. 43. 

* EHR vn. 27. 6 Ff. i_ „ §g 


§ 5. The references to the books owned by particular parish 
priests, or to their love of biblical study, are ver}' scanty. There 
is no record of one who owned either an English or French Bible 
before Wycliffe's day, and the earliest reference to a parish priest 
who owned a Vulgate is to Hamo, rector of Snaves, who gave 
one to the abbey of S. Augustine's, Canterbury, about 1300, 
probably at his death^. In 1384 the parson of Snettisham, 
Stephen Edrich, possessed one^; and about 1410 Robert Stone- 
ham, vicar of Oakham, bequeathed one^; there are five other 
cases of rectors or chaplains before 1450, excluding the cathedral 
and higher clergy*. The wills of parish priests before Wycliffe's 
death are relatively few, because it was not till about 1400 that 
persons with relatively little to leave made wills at all; neverthe- 
less, it is noticeable that the only books known to have been 
bequeathed were service books (except the single above-men- 
tioned Vulgate), and also that no English or French psalters or 
books of devotion are known to have been bequeathed. This 
emphasises the dependence of the parochial clergy on the gospel 
for the day, and their own powers of admonition, for the matter 
of their sermons; and it explains something of the difficulty of 
synods in enforcing the regular preaching of sermons at all. It 
agrees with the state of things indicated in Grosseteste's sermon, 
where he recommended those who said they could not preach, 
to learn the story of the Sunday gospel the week before, and tell 
it to the people on Sunday, going if necessary to some neighbour 
to have the Latin gospel translated for them^. In face of this 
absence of books, it is not surprising that there are no records 
of parish priests who devoted themselves especially to the study 
of the scriptures, as there are in the case of monks and of the 
higher clergy. The parochial clergy were not an order, and no 
doubt largely for that reason their work was often unrecorded : 
but the absence of any single mention fits in with the evidence 
as to their general lack of all except service books. There is no 

^ Canterbury, lix. 

* Lambeth MSS., James, M. R., 20. 
^ Early Line. Wills, 139. 

* In 1413, rector of S. Andrew Huberd, Eastcheap, Trans. Bibliog. Soc. 
VII. 114; 1423, r. of Rudby, TE, i. 405; 1417, r. of Waldegrave, Early Line. 
Wills, 125; 1432, a chaplain of York, TE, II. 29; 1446, c. of York, irf. 11. 117. 

^ See p. 141. 


evidence that any of the early Anglo-French or Middle-English 
translators were merely parish priests, although translation from 
the French was more within their reach than that from the 
Latin. The Ayenbite^oJ Inwyt was translated from the French 
by a Canterbury monk in 1340^; it is unknown what position 
was held by William of Waddington, who was responsible for 
the Manuel des Pechiez in its French form ; but Robert Manning 
of Bourne, who translated it as the Handlyng Synne in 1303, was 
a Gilbertine canon of the order of Sempringham^. William of 
Nassington, who translated the Speculum Vitae into English 
verse, and perhaps also the Prick of Conscience, was advocate 
of the court of York^; Gaytrik was a monk of S. Mary's, York*, 
and Walter Hilton was an Austin canon. Richard RoUe was a 
hermit, as was a certain translator of a sermon of S. Bernard's 
from French into English^; Mirk, an Austin canon of Lilleshall. 
Only William of Shoreham, the Kentish author of poems on the 
sacraments, the commandments and the creed, was possibly a 
parish priest^. The evidence as to their education, their books, 
and their literary work is all against their possessing enough 
learning before the days of Wycliffe to do much in the way of 
expounding the Bible to the laity. However hard working and 
zealous a class they might have been, their proper work was 
always regarded as the administration of the sacraments, the 
teaching of the elements of the faith, and the exhortation to 
lives of virtue ; it did not include the personal study of the Bible, 
or much preaching on the biblical text to their parishioners. 

1 Wells, 345. 2 7^ 3^2. 

3 Id. 348, 463. * Id. 355-. 

5 Dd. I. I. 

^ Wells, 349. The poems are dated by some authorities as between 1375- 
1400: but may be the work of a William of Shoreham, who was vicar of 
Chart in Kent c. 1320. 


Pre-Wycliffite Bible reading by lay people 

§ I. Sir Thomas More would probably have been surprised 
to learn that, until the days of Wycliffe hirnself, the language of 
those lay people who were sufficiently wealthy to own Bibles 
was French; or that, though they were bi-lingual, English was 
the language in which they addressed their inferiors, and French 
the tongue of civil conversation. Edward I swore in English, but 
he addressed his parliament in French. The upper classes in the 
time of Grosseteste^ and the de Montforts were still French 
speaking, but they were beginning to find Enghsh their native 
tongue, and French an acquired one. A French trouvere, writing 
about 1250, told how a young French squire was received into 
the earl of Oxford's family to teach his daughter French, which 
she spoke "not quite so well as if she had been born in Pon- 
toise^." French continued to be the language of Parhament and 
the law courts for a Httle longer; but in 1362, 1363, and 1364 the 
lord chancellor first opened parhament by Enghsh speeches. In 
1362 a statute ordered all pleading at the law courts to be con- 
3iicted in English instead of French, though the year books 
continued to be written in French-''. Wills continued to be written 
in French or Latin for some time longer : the first English sentence 
in the collection of London Wills occurs in a will dated 1405^ 
and directs that a chantry priest should ask for prayers for the 
founder in Enghsh. The grammar schools had already ceased 
to construe the Latin texts in French, and used English instead; 
and in 1404 two English ambassadors went so far as to de'clare to 
the French ones that they were completely ignorant of that lan- 
guage, — but this may have been due to diplomatic amour-propre^. 

1 For his French Chasteau d' Amour see EETS, OS, 71, xxxiii. 

2 Blonde of Oxford, Camden Soc. 1868, vii. » CHEL, 11. 70 

* I. 371. Vows of chastity were taken in French for some time longer: 
the first English one in the Ely register is in 1407. See EDR, Arundel, New 
Series, 116-39, 153; for 1896, 30; for 1900, 54; for 1901, 58. 

* De Ryssheton and Swynford, Royal and Hist. Letters, ed. Hingeston, 
F. C, I. Ixxvii, Ixxxvii, 307; cf.i. Ixvii. Knowledge of French had so much 
died out by 1432, that Oxford regularised the teaching of it ; cf. Univs. 11. 460. 



Thus, till the period of Wycliffe's own influence, and even 
later, lay people of the upper classes who used translations of 
the scriptures, or books of devotion, would naturally have had 
them in French. The last quarter of the fourteenth century saw 
the beginnings of a revival of vernacular literature all over 
Europe, and Wycliffe's followers were able to obtain the 
support they did in favour of biblical translations, because of 
the coincidence of their championship with this pro-vernacular 
wave. Had Wycliffe lived a hundred years earlier, his followers 
would have tried to circulate not English, but French Bibles, 
; among the dukes and knights. No English translation was made 
I before Wycliffe's time, not only because Bible reading was not 
' advocated for lay people, but because the most frequent trans- 

Ilators, the chaplains to noble families, would have prepared 
French translations, had they prepared any. 

§ 2. The great majority of lay people were, of course, illite- 
rate, and unable to read or write. This is sometimes obscured 
by mediaeval writers who deal with social life, and who speak 
of those of a single class as if that class alone existed. Thus 
writers like the Knight of the Tower, and those who compiled 
books of courtesy or manners, speak of the duties of women, 
or of young boys, when they actually mean only well born 
women, and the sons of nobles^. Thus most of the evidence as 
to the education of lay people, or their power of reading in after 
life, applies only to the upper social classes, a very small section 
of the whole population. There was, in the middle ages, a career 
open to talent : and those of lowly birth, like Grosseteste, some- 
times rose to great positions: but the career lay through the 
Church, since the student must at least be in minor orders. 
Those of the lower classes who gained an education did not re- 
main lay people: and those who became really proficient in 
Latin seldom remained merely tonsured clerks, without pro- 
ceeding to the priesthood. The majority of lay people were small 
farmers, farm labourers, personal servants, members of great 
households, soldiers, and the handicraftsmen of the town:. some, 
but not most of them, might go to a small local abc school as 
children, but they had no further acquaintance with books. 

^ Cf. the manuals mentioned, pp. 21-2. 


There is almost no evidence that little girls attended the ahc 
schools at all, though it is possible that in some cases they did 
do so^. Book-learning was no concern of most English people, 
before the fifteenth century, at any rate. 

There is, however, enough evidence as to how the children of 
the upper classes were educated, to render it certain that 
biblical translations played no part in it, either in the case of 
boys or girls. Noblemen's children were usually sent to some 
great household to be educated as pages and squires. They were 
sometimes sent to abbots' or bishops' households, as to those 
of any other magnate; and the daughters of knights and nobles 
were sometimes sent to board in a convent, and to be taught 
letters by one of the nuns. In the fifteenth century treatises 
were written on the education and training of young pages ; and 
this training, although less elaborate, was probably much the 
same in earlier centuries. The young page was to learn to take 
part in the stately routine of the life of a great household, and 
the knightly exercises of the day: but almost nothing is said 
about his literary education, certainly nothing of biblical study. 
Chaucer's young squire, who might have been a contemporary 
of Wycliffe, was a model of knightly virtues and accomplish- 
ments: he could write well, and make songs, and "well portray," 
or paint on vellum. 

The Book of the Knight of the Tower dealt expressly with the 
bringing up of noblemen's daughters, and was accompanied by 
a companion volume for his sons, which has not survived. The 
knight of "La Tour-Landry" was a Frenchman of Anjou, who 
was present at the siege of Calais in 1346, fought against the 
EngHsh in the ensuing wars, and died rather later than Wycliffe : 
his book was written about 1371^. But though it was written 
by a Frenchman, the life of well born English ladies at the time 
was much the same as that of his own daughters, and the book 
was soon translated into English^. The knight says in his preface 

^ In England : for the Paris schools for girls, taught by mistresses of 
grammar, see Jourdain, 127-9. Cf. Hentsch, 62, for the advice given in the 
Ancren Riwle, not to "turn your cloister into a school": the authoress's 
servant might however teach any little girl in danger of being taught along 
with boys. 

2 La Tour-Landry, vii. 

^ Id. I. XIV. 



that he means to compile, with the aid of two priests and two 
clerks, a book of instructions for his daughters, and to collect 
stories as examples of his admonitions. These stories are drawn 
from the Bible, the lives of saints, and the fabliaux; the biblical 
instances, the knight says, have been supplied by the two 
priests and two clerks. The knight has liberal opinions about the 
education of his daughters: maidens, he says, should be put to 
school, to learn virtuous things out of the scriptures^, like Saint 
Katharine, who by her wit and clergy, with the grace of the 
Holy Ghost, surmounted and overcame the greatest philo- 
sophers of Greece. 

And therefore it is a good example to put young children unto school, 
and to make them books of wisdom and of science, and books of 
virtues and profitable examples, whereby they may see the savement 
of the soul and of the body, by the example of good living of the holy 
fathers before us : and not for to study in the books that speak of love, 
fables, and of other worldly vanities. . . .Howbeit, there be such men, 
that have opinion that they would not that their wives, nor their 
daughters, should know no thing of the scripture. As touching unto 
the holy scripture, it is no force though women meddle not nor know 
but little thereof: but for to read, every woman it is the better that 
can read and have knowledge of the law of God, and for to have been 
learned to have virtue and science, to withstand the perils of the 
soul 2. 

But, though the knight is thus anxious that well born ladies 
should learn to read, and goes into great detail about the virtues 
and practices that should find a place in their daily life, it does 
not occur to him that the)^ should have a Bible or read it. They 
should, he says, say their mattins immediately on waking^, and 
hear as many masses as they may, fasting the while*; unmarried 
maidens should fast three days a week, Fridays if possible on 
bread and water, and Saturdays and Wednesdays at least eating 
"no thing that hath received death." They should say their 
prayers with attention, not twisting their necks round like 
cranes or tortoises^, never be late for mass, visit and feed the 

1 La Tour-Landry , 117: the knight uses "holy scriptures" and "holy 
writ" in the broader mediaeval sense: e.g. "holy writ saith, 'better were 
a short orison, said with good devout heart, than great long mattins, said 
without devotion,'" 7, etc. 

2 Id. 118. 3 ja, 7. 

* Id. 8-13, 47. * Jd. 15. I 


poor, and practise other pious customs. All these points the 
knight illustrates at great length with many "examples" or 
stories : so that it is fair to imagine that, if personal reading of 
the Bible or gospels had been among the practices of virtuous 
ladies of the day, he would not have omitted to exhort them to 
that also. Actually, however, he says nothing of the kind, but 
insists only on their saying their "mattins" or offices. 

Boj^s who were not sent to some nobleman's house for training, 
and who nevertheless obtained some sort of education beyond 
that of the abc school, may, after the beginning of the fourteenth 
century, have attended a grammar school. In the early days of 
these, probably the great majority of the boys who attended 
them became clerks or priests in later life: and there is not much 
evidence to the contrary before the days of Wycliffe. Just about 
his time, and in the time of William of Wykeham who outlived 
him by twenty years, some of the grammar schools were begin- 
ning to be used for the sons of the landed gentry who were not 
going to become clerks: that is, they were beginning to assume 
the likeness of the great public schools, instead of training 
schools for the clergy. The papal and episcopal registers begin 
about 1390 to speak of a new class of scholar, "literate laymen" : 
references to them are fairly frequent between 1390 and 1415, 
which seems to have been the period when the combination of 
literacy and laity was new. The description is not used earlier, 
and drops out later, probably because "literate laymen" were 
more frequent^. If a small number of grammar school boys did 
remain laymen before Wycliffe's day, they were the sons of the 
landed gentry: and there is no evidence that any grammar 
school provided biblical teaching. 

Well born lay people who could read were thus almost as 
dependent as the illiterate upon services, plays, and the coloured 
windows and carvings of churches, for their actual knowledge of 
the Bible. Sermons dealt mainly with elementary Christian 
dogma, and with the virtues and vices: but the miracle plays 
sometimes represented biblical scenes chosen from the whole of 
the Old and New Testaments. The Chester plays included 
twenty-four dramas or incidents, each to be acted by a separate 

^ Cf. CPL, IV. 360, 361, 488; V, 247. There are also references to literate 
laymen in 14 14 in DH, Sodor and Man, 82, and DH, Hereford, 127, 129. 

D.w.B. 14 


craft-gild: the first was that of the fall of Lucifer; the second the 
creation and fall; the third, the flood; the fourth, Abraham and 
Melchisedek; the fifth, Moses, Balak and Balaam; the sixth, the 
salutation and nativity. The series continued with the events 
of our Lord's hfe, and ended with the Ascension, scenes from 
Ezekiel's prophecy. Antichrist, and Doomsday. It must have 
been some such series as this that Henry IV watched for four 
whole days at Clerkenwell, with his wife and son^. The plays 
were not solely biblical; for the Harrowing of Hell, the story of 
the midwives at the Nativity, etc., were often introduced, with 
other apocryphal incidents. The verse banns of the Chester 
plays 2, probably written in the sixteenth century, warned the 
audience that all the events were not biblical: the monk who 
composed the plays: 

In pagentes set fourth apparently to all eyne 

the old and newe testament with liuelye comforth, 

Interminglinge therewith onely, to make sporte, 

some thinge, not warranted by any writt, 

which to gladd the hearers, he woulde men to take yt'. 

the beirthe of Christe shall all see in that stage. 

yf the scriptures a-warrant not of the mydwyfes reporte, 

the Authour telleth his Authour, then take it in sporte*! 

As our beleeffe is that Christe after his passion 

descended into hell, but what he did in that place, 

though our Authour sett after his opinion, 

yet creditt you the best learned, — those he doth not disgrace, 

we wishe that of all sortes the beste you ymbrace — 

you Cookes, with your Carriage see that you do well 

in pagente sett out the harrowinge of hell^. 

Besides the apocryphal incidents, the biblical characters tended 
to be approximated to their representatives of the day: Annas 

^ Capes, 373. ^ See chapter xiii. 

^ Chester Plays, pt i. 2. The banns are found in this form only in a MS. 
dated 1600, but some form may have been written in the fifteenth century: 
perhaps in 1447, when the plays were solemnly performed in Chester, id. i. 
These verses, if written about 1600, are curious as describing the author as 
a monk, "moonkelike in Scriptures well scene," or saying of him "For at 
this daye and ever he deserveth the fame which all monkes deserve, pro- 
fessinge that name." 

* Id. 5. 5 jd, 7. 


and Caiaphas appeared as mediaeval bishops, Jezebel persecuted 
"bishops of holy Church," and Pilate and Herod talked French 
to indicate their rank. The plays were written in verse, and 
were merely poems dealing with biblical incidents, not, in any 
sense, translations : but the origin of the Chester plays seems to 
shew that they were regarded with some suspicion, as popular 
English versions of the scriptures. They are described by the 
manuscript as "The Whitsun playes first made by one Don 
Randle Heggenet, o Monke of Chester Abbey, who was thrise at 
Rome, before he could obtaine leave of the Pope to haue them 
in the English tongue^." When the license was obtained, the 
plays were held in 1327 and 1328 2; and by about 1350 they 
must have been regarded by the Church as a useful means of 
instruction, for another monk of Chester then obtained an 
indulgence of 1000 days from the pope, and 40 from the bishop, 
for all who should attend them 3. The banns shew some reason 
to think that the plays were intermitted after the prohibition 
of English translations of the Bible in 1408, but revived again 
in 1447*. 

§ 3. If the Church had encouraged the laity, or such of them 
as were wealthy enough to possess books, to read the Bible or the "^ 
gospels in the period before Wycliffe's death, some traces of this 
must have survived in the manuals composed for their instruc- 
tion and the conduct of their life. Those who could have posses- 
sed the manuals themselves could have afforded to possess also 
copies of the gospels, or the Sunday gospels and epistles ; so that 
advice to study such books, in Latin or in translation, could have 
been given if desirable. The manuals themselves, though ad- 
dressed to lay people in general, were generally written for the 
upper classes, and assumed that the reader belonged to them: 
it would therefore have been natural for the writers to advise 
study of the Bible, or parts of it, if such had been the practice 
of the day. The earliest instance of a religious who gave such 
advice, Otto of Passau, in his Four and twenty Elders, might have 
been paralleled in England. 

Actually, however, no exact parallel exists: Otto himself did 

^ Chester Plays, i. 2 /^_ 2 n. 

^ Id. I n. Dom. Henry Francis obtained the indulgence from Clement VI, 
between 1342-52. * See chapter xiii. 



not write till the year of Wycliffe's death, and his teaching was 
the result of a special movement, which had no counterpart in 
England. But, though the manuals used in England offer no 
instances of the encouragement of Bible reading by the laity in 
general, they throw some light on questions connected with it. 

The Lay Folks Mass-Book, in its earliest form, was about the 
earliest of these manuals. It was originally composed by a 
\|' Frenchman, Jeremias, archdeacon of Rouen, about 1150^, for 
the benefit of some Norman baron, probably the owner of a 
private chapel. The book may have been used in its French 
form in England, since French would have been the natural 
language for such a book down till about 1350: Jeremias, more- 
over, passed some time in England^. His book, like Robert of 
Greatham's gospels, was translated into northern English; in 
this case, about 1300: fifty years later, it was recopied by a 
south-country scribe^. It did not give a translation of the mass 
prayers, but instructed the lay person in verse couplets how to 
behave, and use his own prayers, throughout, as weU as ex- 
plaining to him the different parts of the service*. The pater 
noster was not translated: 

It were no need thee this to ken, 
For who con not this are lewid men^ ; 

but the creed was explained in rhyme. The manual shews clearly 
that the gospel was read only in Latin, and that the layman, 
though not understanding it, was taught to hear it with the 
greatest reverence: 

Both the readers and the hearers 
Have mickle need methinks of lerers, 
How they should read and they should hear 
The words of God so leve and dear: 

1 Lay Folks MB, xi., xxxii. " Id. xl. a Wells, 355. 

* We possess only the M.E., not the Norman form, of the manual: but 
the direction to the reader to answer, Sed libera nos a malo, at the end of the 
pater noster is a trace of the responses still made by the laity in Jeremias' 
day in the use of Rouen : see Lay Folks MB, 46, and for other traces of the 
Rouen use, xxxii., lxii. The only English used at the mass was that of the 
bidding prayers, id. 62. For a priest who used a Welsh ejaculation at mass, 
see Gem. Ec. 33. 

» Lay Folks MB, 46. 


Men ought to have full mickle dread 
When they should hear, or else it read 

But since our matter is of hearing, 
Thereof now shall be our lering^. 

Therefore the gospel should be heard standing, and the sign of 
the cross should be made at the beginning and end. This book 
was in use from about 1150 to 1300 in its French form, and down 
till 1450 2 in English : but none of the manuscripts shew the least 
trace of any custom of translating the gospel at mass, either after 
reading it in Latin, or at the beginning of the sermon 3. Another 
verse manual for the laity at mass, the Merita Missae, makes 
the point even clearer: the laity are to stand out of reverence, 
and they will receive grace by simply hearing the gospel, 
without understanding it; just as an adder is affected by the 
charm pronounced over her, though she does not understand 

the words. ^t the gospel were full good 
Steadfastliche that ye stood, 
For no thing that ye stirred it. 

Though ye understand it nought. 

Ye well may wit that God it wrought. 

And therefore wisdom were it. 
For worship all God's works. 
To lewid men that been none clerkes : 

This lesson, now go lere it. 

And why ye should this lesson lere, 
Hearkneth all and ye may hear : 

There an adder hauntes, 
Ye well may find, and ye will seek, 
She understands nothing thy speech. 

When thou her endauntes: 

1 Id. 16, 17. Another MS., written for the useof the Cistercians at Rivaulx, 
alters this passage to make it useful both to those monks who could read, 
and those who could not. 

If thou of letter kan, 

To the priest hearken then 

His office, prayer, and pistle: 

And answer thereto with good will, 

Or on a book thyself it read. . . . 

If thou can nought read ne say. 

Thy pater noster rehearse alway. 

2 Wells, 355. 

' Cf. Lay Folks MB, xix. 17, 196, for the old Galilean liturgy, suppressed 
by Charlemagne, where the responses had been made by the laity in Gallic ; 
and for the reading of the epistle in Old French after the Latin. 


Nevertheless, she wots full well 
What is thy meaning every deal, 

When that thou her enchauntes. 
So fareth there understanding fails, 
The very virtue you all avails. 

Through grace that God you grantes^. 

Neither the Handlyng Synne^ nor the Ayenhite of Inwyt refer 
to neghgence in reading the Bible as a sin, though each was a 
collection of warnings against every variety of sin likely to befall 
a mediaeval layman or clerk. The Anglo-Norman form of the 
first was in use before 1300^, and the English after 1303. The 
Ayenhite of Inwyt^ was in Kentish prose, translated by a Bene- 
dictine from a French original. It contained no illustrative 
stories, but teaching on the subjects which all mediaeval councils, 
and all mediaeval teachers, considered necessary for the instruc- 
tion of lay people: the commandments, the creed, the pater 
noster, and the seven gifts of the Holy Ghost. A midland version 
of it, the Book of Vices and Virtues, appeared about 1400, and is 
often mentioned in the wills of lay people. This type of book, 
more than any other, represents the advice of the mediaeval 
Church to lay people: and the omission of all reference in it to 
scripture reading is significant. There was no further need to 
search for further confirmation of the faith in the scriptures, 
since this type of book had extracted from them the dogma 
necessary for leading a good life; while the dearness of books 
and the absence of education made it practically impossible that 
most lay people should go beyond these manuals. 

The Prick of Conscience was a very long and very popular 
poem, perhaps composed from a Latin original of Grosseteste's, 
but well enough known by 1350 for manuscripts of it to be 
found in both northern and southern dialects 5. The author 
explained in his prologue that he intended his work for those 
who walked in the darkness of ignorance, but he did not mention 
the Bible as a guide for them: the motto of the book is the 

^ Lay Folks MB, 140, 361, 379 n.; Wells, 356. The poem was probably 
written c. 1400, and used later. 

2 Wells, 342, 345. 

3 The Manuel des Pechiez. 

* Canterbury, lxxxiv. 371, no. 1507, lxxvi.-lxxvii.; 371, no. 1536. 
5 Wells, 447. 


philosopher's "know thyself," and the book itself was written 
in order that men should have guidance, and know: 

And which way they should choose and take, 
And which way they should leave and forsake^. 

He that right order of living will look. 
Should begin thus, as says the book. 
To know first what himself is. 

• • • • • • 

There this book is into English drawn, 
Of sundry matter, that are unknown 
To simple men that are unlearned. 
That can no Latin understand. 
To make them themselves first know. 
And from sin and vanities them draw. 

The author then states what things he considers it advisable for 
the ignorant to know, treating of each in one part of his book : 
the wretchedness of man's estate, the unstableness of the world, 
death, purgatory, judgment, hell, and heaven. He sometimes 
runs through a list of venial sins: but omission to read the 
gospels, etc., is not among them 2, any more than it is in the 
searching list suggested to lay people by Rolle in his Form of 
Perfect Living^. WilUam Nassington*, advocate at York, also 
concerned himself with the instruction of lay people at the end 
of this period, writing about 1375. He translated the Latin 
Speculum Vitae of John Waldby into short English couplets, and 
dealt with the usual points of instruction of the laity : the pater 
noster, gifts of the Holy Ghost, seven sins, seven virtues, etc. : 
there is nothing about Bible reading. He also turned into verse 
the first part of Rolle's beautiful Form of Perfect Living: but 
neither in paraphrase or original is there any mention of the 
subject. It is a sign of the suspicion which all theological books 
in the vernacular aroused about the time of WycUffe's condemna- 
tion and after, that a copy of Nassington's Speculum was in 1384 
formally presented to the chancellor of Cambridge by the 
stationers, with whom it had been left by a certain priest to be 

1 Pricke of Conscience, Morris, R.. EETS, 1863, 6, 10. 

- Id. 10, 94. ' Horstmann, i, 21-5. 

* Wells, 463. 


It was examined for defects and heresies, lest the less literate of the 
people should by it be negligently deceived and led into error: for 
four days it was with all zeal and diligence examined and approved 
in every college around. ... If it had not been orthodox, it would have 
been bumt^. 

Nassington explained in the preface that the work was for the 
benefit of the ignorant : 

Some can French and no Latin, 

That have used courts, and dwelled therein : 

And some can of Latin a party, 

That can French full febelly: 

And some understandeth English 

That neither can Latin nor French : 

But lerid and lewid, old and young 

All understanden English tongue^. 

Another translation from the Latin, — this time into prose, not 
verse, was made sometime before 1370, and became very popular 
later: the Speculum Peccatoris^. The translation is free and 
shortened; but, as in the other manuals, there is no advice 
about biblical study, or biblical translations. A less common 
prose manual, constructed on the usual method of expounding 
the creed, the seven deadly sins, penance, pater noster, ave, 
creed, etc., was the Memoriale Credentium*, and it has a similar 
preface, explaining its composition in English: 

Men and women that is in will for to flee sin and lead clean life, 
take heed to this treatise that is written in English tongue for lewid 
men that nought can understand Latin ne French, and is drawen out 
of holy writ, and of holy doctors before this time. 

It would have been possible for the writer to recommend the 
study of English gospels had they existed, — but the tract is 
silent, like all the others of the date. 

Nearly all these manuals of the pre-Wycliffite period, unless 
they adhered closely to the structure of some tenth or eleventh 
century Latin tract, were thus constructed on the same plan, 
and shew quite clearly what was considered the official teaching 

1 Wells, I. 36, p. 366. 2 Ff 4 g. 

* Wells, 458. As with all these translations, the MSS. sometimes have 
the title in Latin, sometimes translate it. For the original Latin, attributed 
to various patristic authors by mediaeval scribes, see PL, 40, vi. appendix, 
coll. 935-9 1 • * See pp. 141, 199. 

viii] Hilton's epistle 217 

for the laity. This took the form of a skeleton of theology and 
the moral virtues and vices, and certainly did not inculcate a 
personal appeal to the literary sources on which the system of 
theology and ethics was founded. These manuals all dealt with 
the same points which Peckham, Quivil and Thoresby had in- 
cluded in their official manuals, and which the laity were sup- 
posed to know by heart, — the creed, commandments. Lord's 
prayer, hail Mary, seven sacraments, etc. So general was the 
acceptance of this primary scheme of instruction for lay people, 
that when the Lollards tried to issue their own books of instruc- 
tion, they made use of exactly the same plan. Thus neither 
original didactic treatises, nor official summaries, nor unofficial 
expansions of the summaries, — some of them very detailed, — 
contain any reference to a possible acquaintance with the text 
of the Bible or gospels, either in the lists of virtues and vices, or 
in the summaries of sins of omission and commission grouped 
under the commandments. 

Nearly all these earlier manuals, both official and unofficial, 
were translations or paraphrases from the Latin, but at the very 
end of the period, during Wycliffe's own life-time, some original 
Enghsh works appeared. Two of these, both written for lay 
people, are of interest for the question of Bible reading, the 
anonymous Abbey of the Holy Ghost^, and Walter Hilton's 
Epistle on Mixed Life^, both dating from about 1370-80. Both 
are addressed to those who desire to live a life of special devotion 
while remaining in the world, and one has and one has not, 
advice to read the gospels, the difference being due to the 
spiritual outlook of the writer of the treatises. The Abbey of the 
Holy Ghost breathes the normal spirit of mediaeval piety ; it was 
» written for those prevented by some obstacle from entering a 
rehgious order, and advises them how they may lead a life of 
equal piety in the world. Their abbey shall be the abbey of the 
Holy Ghost, charity shall be its abbess, obedience the walls, and 
the other monastic virtues the site, pillars and rulers of the 
abbey. The form of the manual is thus quite original, but the 

1 Wells, 368; EETS, OS, 26, ir8. 

2 Wells, 461. Perry, G. G., printed the tract from the Thornton MS. in 
EETS, OS, 20, 1886, as De Vita Activaet Contemplativa; Horstmann, i. 264- 
92, prints both the Vernon and Thornton texts. 


pious practices prescribed are not : there is no mention of Bible 
reading among them. 

The Epistle on Mixed Life, on the other hand, was the work 
of the greatest contemporary Enghsh mystic, whose Scale of 
Perfection was the favourite Enghsh mystical work among re- 
ligious of the fifteenth century. The Epistle was the first English 
manual to recommend, almost indirectly, the reading of the 
gospels to lay people, and it is a curious parallel to the case in 
Germany, where the same causes produced the same effect. The 
Epistle, though not so common as the Scale, is still found in 
many manuscripts; it was written, according to the earliest, to 
"a worldly lord, to teach him how he should have him in his 
state in ordained love to God and to his evenchristians^," and 
it laid great emphasis on the extent to which prayer and con- 
templation could be practised in a worldly life. The book is the 
nearest English equivalent to the treatises of the contemporary 
Gottesfreunde, which were written b}' mystical teachers for the 
benefit of disciples still living in the world^. Hilton's tract ex- 
plained first the nature of the active, contemplative, and 
"medled" or "mingled" Christian lives, — the "medled" being 
that which sought to cultivate prayer beyond the extent to 
which it was practised by all good active Christians. 

And soothly, as me thinketh, this medled life accordeth most to 
thee. For sith our Lord hath ordained thee and set thee in the state 
of sovereignty over other men as much as it is, and lent thee abund- 
ance of worldly goods for to rule and sustain specially all those that 
are under thy governance, . . . and also therewithal after, thou hast 
received grace of the mercy of our Lord for to have somewhat know- 
ing of thyself, and ghostly desire and savour of his love : I hope that 
this life that is medled is best and most according to thee to travail 
in 2. 

Later in the treatise Hilton, like the Gottesfreunde^, proceeded 
to recommend the reading of the gospels as a preliminary to 

^ Horstmann, i. 264. The Vernon MS. throughout treats the tract as 
addressed to a single lord: later MSS. begin: "Brethren and sisters, bodily 
and ghostly," as in EETS, OS, 20, 19. The whole Epistle is often found in 
the MSS. in connexion with the Pore Caitiff, under the name, Of active and 
contemplative life; as in MSS. Ff. 6. 36, Rawlinson C. 69, Ashmole 1286, 
Douce 288, Bodl. 1843. ^ Horstmann, i. 271. 

^ Mr G. G. Coulton suggests that English mystics were actually influenced 
by the German mystics of the Rhine, see Christ, S. Francis and To-Day, 
p. 172; and Mr Summers in Our Lollard Ancestors, 71, suggests that 


meditation, and to kindle in the soul the fire of love through 
which it should proceed to higher acts of prayer. He recom- 
mended the reading of the Latin gospels, either because no 
English translations existed, or because his pupil could, as a 
matter of fact, read Latin. The recommendation is rather vague, 
but almost certainly refers to the reading of the Gospels. 

"A man that is lettered," he writes, "and has understanding in 
holy writ, if he have this fire of devotion in his heart, it is good to him 
forte gather him sticks of holy ensamples, and sayings of our Lord, 
by readings of holy writ, and nourish the fire (of love) with them. 
Another man unlettered may nought so readily have at his hand holy 
writ and doctor's saws, and forthi it needeth to him to do many good 
deeds outward to his evenchristians, and kindle the fire of love with 

Otto of Passau, the German Gottesfreund, actually advised 
the reading of the Bible in the mother tongue, and it would be 
interesting to know exactly why Hilton did not do so, though 
he was the first English religious to recommend the laity to 
read the Bible at all. If we knew exactly when the Epistle on 
Mixed Life was written, more light would be thrown on the 
question. Hilton died in 1395 : and the oldest existent manu- 
script of the Epistle seems to date from between 1370 and 1380 2, 
so that probably the simple reason why translations are not 
mentioned is because none were in existence, since the Wyclifhte 
were certainly not circulated before 1384. In any case, the lords 
and ladies who came to Hilton for advice were probably of higher 
social class than the penitents of the Gottesfreunde, since Hilton 
speaks of some of them as being "lettered" or "literate," i.e. 
able to read Latin. This is the only mention of Bible reading 

about 1424-30 the Norfolk Lollards had as leaders three travelling foreign 
priests. I hope to print shortly some notes on the possible connexion of 
English and continental mysticism: but at present I believe English four- 
teenth century mysticism to be an independent offshoot of Latin mysticism 
(like German mysticism itself). Later, there was undoubtedly some inter- 
connexion. Similarly, it would appear that Hilton's advice to study the 
gospels was an independent result of the same cause as Otto of Passau's 
advice to read biblical translations: desire to rise to what mystical writers 
called the "prayer of the affections" through a fresh and vivid realisation 
of the events of our Lord's life. The point in both cases is, that Bible study 
was not, at the date, one of the practices normally recommended to the 
devout, as all the other manuals shew positively : but only in the case of those 
aspiring to use certain kinds of prayer. 

^ Horstmann, i. 278. ^ Wells, 461. 


in the Epistle: but the passage is of great interest as shewing 
that the reasons which led the German mystics to recommend 
bibUcal translations for the use of the orthodox laity were 
tending to produce the same result in England. The nearness of 
the date^ of the Epistle to the circulation of the Wychffite trans- 
lations is of interest, as shewing either that Hilton knew of no 
translations of the gospels, or that he disapproved of translations 
in general. In any case, he had not behind him, like Otto of 
Passau, the Gottesfreunde tradition in favour of scriptural trans- 
lations. Hilton's Epistle is finally interesting as the conclusion 
of the series of pre-Wyclifhte manuals for lay people. Whereas 
none of the earlier manuals suggest Bible or gospel reading for 
the laity in any shape or form, his does implicitly recommend 
the reading of the Latin gospels to those who could. But his 
work was written within a year or two of Wycliffe's death, and 
was that of a teacher of mystical prayer ; not, like all the earlier 
works, an instruction for good catholic folk in general, who 
desired to lead lives of merely ordinary activity and devotion. 
§ 4. Judging by wills, and the ownership of surviving manu- 
scripts, very few of the laity possessed books of their own at all, 
before Wycliffe's day, except a few princes, great nobles, and 
noble ladies. The number of lay people who bequeathed books 
was very small compared with that of priests, because the latter 
possessed breviaries, and sometimes other service books. This 
is shewn clearly in the two largest printed collections of wills, 
those of London and York. The London wills are mainly those 
of lay people, merchants and others, and only roughly one will 
in a hundred bequeathed a book at all. The York wills are those 
of northern nobles and squires, with a very large proportion of 
cathedral dignitaries and canons: here, one will in every three 
or four bequeaths books, generally service books. Laymen 
seldom possessed Vulgates: only in five known instances: two 
givers of Vulgates to colleges or abbeys in the thirteenth century 
may possibly have been laymen 2; and two women, Isabella 
Elmley^ and Elizabeth de Burgh ^, lady of Clare, possessed 

1 One MS. of Hilton's tracts, Ff. 5. 40, f. 126, dissuades from friendship 
with heretics. 

2 Robert Aldsworth, 1263-84, see C.C.C. Descrip. Cat. 11. 439, and Nicho- 
las Thorn, c. 1283, Canterbury, Lxxi. ^ TE, i. 51, * TV, 58. 

VIII] LAY people's books 22i 

Vulgates in 1348 and 1360 respectively, as did John Worstede^, 
a London mercer, in 1368. Agnes, sister of Leonfrin, moneyer 
of Lincoln, left the monks of Bath her psalter, "or the value of 
the same at the fair of Boston." French Bibles are found in 
hardly greater numbers; Edward III possessed one, and Richard 
IP. A Yorkshire squire had a French one in 1345^; the earl of 
Warwick left French gospels, psalter and Apocalypse in 1359 s 
and a certain John Wells had a French Bible illuminated for 
himself and his wife in 1361^. These numbers are very small 
compared to the number of existing wills by which books were 
bequeathed: and it is even more significant that there is no 
single will which mentions an English Bible before Wycliffe's 
death at all: nor is there any reference to one in any other 
historical source. 

The references to French psalters and semi-biblical books are 
also few. A Lincoln lady left a "mattins of our Lady," possibly 
in French, in 1319^; the countess of Salisbury possessed the 
Bible Historiale which was taken from king John at Poitiers', 
and the earl of Devon in 1377^ left his three daughters one book 
each, a primer, a psalter, and "a French book," probably also of 
a devotional character. 

The only known owners of English psalters before Wycliffe's 
death were Robert Felsted^ a vintner of London, who left a 
psalter written in Latin and EngUsh, — probably Rolle's, — in 
1349. English and French devotional books are also very few. 
The small number of these biblical books explains why no 
manual which really preceded WycliiYe's day recommended 
reading of the scriptures at all, and the entire absence of 

^ London Wills, 11. 115; from about 1390 lay lords began to bequeath 
Vulgates more frequently; cf. also id. i. 636. 

* Sow. Med. Lib. 48. 

3 Robert Place, TE, i. 10. 

* Bibliom. 193. 

^ Med. England, Bateson, M., 321; cf. for French Bibles in the period 
immediately succeeding Wycliffe, William King, draper of London, 1393, 
London Wills, 11. 312; duchess of Gloucester, 1399, Royal Wills, 183; 
Edward Cheyne of Bristol, 1415, Bedfordshire Hist. Rec. Soc. 11. 33. 

' Early Line. Wills, 5. 

' CVD, xxviii. 

* Reg, Brantyngham, 381 ; for the succeeding period and French psalters, 
cf. TV, 148-9. Royal Wills, 181-3; TE, i. 179. 271, 

* London Wills, i. 636. 


reference to the English translation of any book of the Bible 
except the psalter is strong evidence of itself that none existed, 
or rather, that none was ever much copied. Taken in conjunction 
with the other evidence, it is conclusive against the existence of 
any such translation. 

§ 5. As is natural, there is little mediaeval evidence from 
contemporary sources other than wills as to the acquaintance 
of lay people with the Bible. Such as there is, shews that the 
devout laity who were wealthy enough sometimes possessed a 
Latin service book, a book of prayers, similar to the priests': 
they usually, however, said the hours of our Lady rather than 
those of the breviary. The Knight of the Tower tells a story of 
a lady of such great holiness, that "her psalter, her mattins or 
other books of devotion" came to her out of the air^; he also 
often prefaces a gospel story by the words "as ye have heard 
by the word of God in the Gospel," probably in allusion to 
sermons. Courtesy books, and books of meals and manners 
compiled in the second half of the fifteenth century, regard it 
as certain that every lord who was thus served by pages would 
have a book of prayers^: but this, though possibly true of the 
period from 1300 till 1400, was not certainly so. It is common 
for fifteenth century manuscripts to have hail Mary's, our 
Father's, and the commandments in English or French prose or 
verse inserted among their contents ^i and it is likely that, even 
between 1300 and 1400, the biblical knowledge of many lay 
nobles was confined to a knowledge of these in French or 
English, and that, while some possessed them in manuscripts, 
others did not. 

It is almost impossible to quote any instance of lay people 
who were acquainted with the Bible before Wycliffe's daj^s. The 
Knight of the Tower's Bible stories are very interesting: but he 

^ La Tour-Landry, 137. The "books of devotion" would naturally mean 
primers, or the like : these existed in Latin from the thirteenth century, but 
were very rare in English till about 1400, Old Eng. Service Books, Words- 
worth and Littlehales, London, 1904, 251. The editors of this work consider 
that many more primers remain than any other kind of service book, id. 252, 
apparently because primers were books for the laity, and there were more 
laity than priests: but evidence from wills shews that, on the contrary, 
there were many more breviaries, etc. than primers, because so very few 
lay people possessed the latter, certainly before 1400. 

2 See EETS, OS, 32. 179. » See Rel. Antiq. 


said expressly that they were found for him and read to him by 
his two priests and two clerks: 

And I said to them that I would make a book of ensamples, for to 
teach my daughters, that they might understand how they should 
govern them, and know good from evil. And so I made them extraie 
me ensamples of the Bible, and other books that I had, as the gestes 
of kings, the chronicles of France, Greece, of England, and many other 
strange lands. And I made them read me every book: and there I 
found a good ensample, I made extraie it out^. 

Even so, either the priests "extracted" very inexactly, or the 
knight edited the extracts very freely : for, though some of the 
Bible stories are right as regards their main point, all are very 
loosely told, and several differ from the Bible up to the point of 
having nothing in common with it except the names. The story 
of Ruth, as the knight tells it, is that Ruth so loved and honoured 
her husband, that when he died and his sons by another wife 
tried to deprive her of her lands, heritage and household furni- 
ture, the husband's friends protected her against the sons, be- 
cause she had so cherished her husband : a story that has nothing 
in common with the Bible narrative^. Similarly, in the story of 
Rahab, the men she saved were not spies, but "certain holy men 
come into the town for to teach and preach the people^"; and 
Samson and Samuel were confused, so that it is said that 
Samson's parents were holy and childless people, to whom the 
birth of a son was at length promised by an angel: both they 
and their child were to practise fasting and penance, "for the 
angel said unto them, 'excess and gormandise in eating and 
drinking warreth against the body and the soul.' " So "Samson 
the fort" grew up and did great battle against the pagans*. 
The knight gives Elizabeth, the mother of S. John Baptist, as 
an example of wifely meekness, and tells how if aught happened 
amiss in the household, "she would amend it, or keep it secret 
unto the time that it were amended, in such wise that her 
husband found never occasion of displeasure^." He tells also the 
story of S. Mary Magdalene from the gospel, adding that she 
lived twenty years afterwards in the desert, and was sent 
heavenly food by an angel of God^; and he goes on to tell the 

1 La Tour-Landry, 3. ^ Id. 119. ^ Id. 113. 

* Id. 115. * Id. 131. « Id. 132. 


Story of Martha and Mary Magdalene. "Mary had chosen the 
better service, for she sat at his feet and heard his doctrine and 
wept, and made sorrow for her sin, and cried him mercy with 
humble heart. As the good lord said, 'Truth, there is no service 
that God loveth so much as to cry him mercy, and to be repen- 
tant of misliving, and to forsake all sin^.' " 

Langland and Chaucer wrote at the very end of the pre- 
Wyclifhte period, Langland being probably a somewhat younger 
man than Wycliffe, and Chaucer younger still. Their works 
throw some light on the education and biblical knowledge of the 
day. Langland relates how his father and friends had "founden 
him to school 2," till he could understand the Latin of the Bible 
and service books. Like Gower^, he can scarcely have possessed 
a Vulgate himself. He quoted freely from the Bible and the 
Fathers, but like all mediaeval writers, seldom with exactness, 
since he quoted from memory*. In the account of Dowel, Dobet 
and Dobest, written about 1362, he referred to the translation 
of biblical passages in sermons : Dobet 

... is ronne into Religioun . and hath rendred the Bible 
And precheth to the poeple . seynt Poules words, 
Libenter suffertis insipientes^, etc. 

Chaucer, again, shews great familiarity with the Old and New 
Testaments and the Apocrypha, and with persons and passages 
in them. His interest however is that of the scholar, not the 
devout monk : and he is familiar with the Bible as he was with 
the Storial Mirror of Vincent of Beauvais, and the other great 
reference books of the age^. 

^ La Tour-Landry, 135. 

2 Piers Ploughman, C Text, vi. 36-7; cf. Wells, 252, for his schooling. 

3 See DNB, Gower's will; P. Plough, iv. 511-12. 

* L'Epopee mystique de William Langland, Jusserand, Paris, 1893. 

' B Text, VIII. 90; EETS, OS, 38, p. 129; the editor, iv. 739, explains 
"rendred" as "construe," "translate." The lines occur also in the A text 
of 1362, and the editor suggests a reference to metrical translations of the 
gospels ; but these were more common in the north, and A and B texts were 
southern ; cf . infra, chapter xii. 

* Lounsbury, 11. 389, 509. 


Wycliffe as the instigator of a vernacular Bible 

§ I. The value of an EngKsh Bible was not the foundation 
stone in John's Wycliffe's theory for the reform of Church and 
state, but the practical measure to which his theories led him, 
at the end of his life. He never included the need of an EngHsh 
Bible among the aims for which he openly and principally con- 
tended, but those for which he did contend led him almost in- 
evitably to produce such a Bible. The formal Hst of propositions 
for which he was condemned says nothing of the defence of 
vernacular Bibles, and the list of his works which were burnt at 
Oxford and Prague has no such item ; much less does it specify a 
translation of the Vulgate itself. Neither have the schedules of 
heresies and errors, for which his immediate followers were con- 
demned, any mention of the defence of translations of the scrip- 
tures: and the fighting treatises of Wychffe and the early 
Lollards contend for quite different points. But the heresies for 
which the Wycliffites were condemned, and the points for which 
they contended, could only be popularly understood by means 
of a translation of the Bible: and, actually, the connexion be- 
tween the Wycliffite theories and the production of an English 
Bible was closer still. 

The old fashioned, popular, idea of Wycliffe as an early John 

Wesley, primarily concerned to promote the evangelisation of 

the masses, gives a very false idea of his activities. Wycliffe was 

primarily a university professor, with far more affinities in 

character and abihty to Peter Abelard, than to John Wesley or 

Peter Waldo. The predominant powers in his personality were 

intellectual, not spiritual : and it is curious that one in whom the 

intellectual side so predominated, — one, for instance, who wrote 

a treatise on the true nature of prayer and made it consist solely 

in a completely moral life^, — should have kindled the genuine 

religious flame which burnt for a generation ^ in Lollard}^ It is 

^ Sel. Eng. Works, iii. 219. 

^ It was never quite extinguished before the Reformation. 

D.W. B. 



curious both that one who was so much a scholar and so Httle a 
saint should have inspired men willing to be burnt for their 
faith, and that his followers should have lost so soon and so com- 
pletely his guarded sense of intellectual balance. 
^' Wycliffe took his doctorate of theology in 1372^; his brilliancy 
had before this made him a power in the university of Oxford, 
and it led him very shortly into politics, and ultimately into the 
suspicion of heresy. The chief feature of home politics at the 
time was the struggle of John of Gaunt and the feudal party on 
the one side, against the clericals, headed by the Black Prince 
and William of Wykeham. The most disturbing feature of world 
politics was the captivity of the papacy at Avignon, which lasted 
jfrom 1308 till 1378, and scandalised Christendom only less than 
v,i^the papal schism which followed. The loss of prestige to the 
I spiritual power led naturally to attempts to increase that of the 
I temporal power, as^»a means to the reform and leadership of 
Christendom. Marsiglio of Padua, who died in 1328, had claimed 
the equality of the temporal and spiritual power in his Defensor 
Pacts : Wycliffe now looked to John of Gaunt and the knights to 
reform the Church. Whether Wycliffe's theories were influenced 
by those of Marsiglio is doubtful : but that they were confounded 
with them by the princes of the Church is assured. 

Wycliffe's characteristic theory, his main intellectual lever for 
the reform of the Church, was that of dominion by grace. 
Through this he became useful to John of Gaunt, and gained 
political as well as university eminence. The mediaeval theory 
of the papacy had assimilated the feudal conception of "do- 
minium" and mediate ownership: just as, in the state, all land 
belonged to the king, and through him to his tenants-in-chief, 
mesne tenants, and the peasants who cultivated it, so the 
papacy had become the final claimant of all spiritual dominion, 
— the head of the ladder of grace, which descended through 
archbishops and bishops to the parish priests. The novelty of 
Wycliffe's theory was that it discarded the idea of mediate 
dominion or ownership, and not merely with regard to spiritual 
powers, but temporal possessions. He taught that all dominion, 
power or ownership, came from God, and that every man was 

1 See DNB and Mr H. S. Cronin's John Wycliffe the Reformer, and 
Canterbury Hall, Oxford, RHT, viii. 55-76. 


His tenant-in-chief, owing no vassalage to any mesne tenant. 
Those who disregarded the laws of God were ipso facto dis- 
possessed of dominion, — temporal ownership or spiritual power. 
Wycliffe's enemies at once exclaimed that such a theory led to 
social anarchy, if put in practice: but Wycliffe himself pro- 
pounded it only in his academic Latin writings, and guarded 
himself from saying that it could at once become the basis for 
indiscriminate social reform. It was, nevertheless, to be the 
philosophical justification for some scheme of disendowment, on 
the ground that the higher clergy were not using the endow- 
ments according to the law of God; and it aroused practical 
hatred on that score. 

: It also led logically to the demand for a translated Bible. If 
all men were in immediate relationship to God, and owed Him a 
righteousness and obedience to His law for which they them- 
feelves were responsible, they needed to study His law personally, 
to satisfy themselves that they were keeping it: and to the 
Wycliffites, the Bible was preeminently and characteristically 
"Goddis Lawe^." Sooner or later Wycliffe and his followers 
were bound to see that the doctrine of dominion by grace in- 
volved the democratisation, or translation, of "Goddis Lawe." 
Herein lay one novelty of the Wyclilhte translations: their aim 
at publication. French bibUcal translations were in use at the 
time among the highest social classes, in both France and / 
England : the translation of Raoul de Presles was completed for 
Charles V in 1384, and raised no comment: Wycliffe himself 
quoted the right of English lords to use French Bibles, as a 
precedent for his own translations 2. Had WycUffe never lived, 
parts of the Bible would have been translated into Enghsh at 
about this time, and have found a place in the libraries of royal 
dukes and other noble bibliophiles. The essential novelty of the 
Wycliffite translations was that they were intended for a wider 
public, and a lower social class: the knights, in Wychffe's own 

^ For Wycliffe's conception of the Bible as the supreme law-giver, see 
R. L. Poole's Illustrations of the Hist, of Med. Thought, 1884, 297; for his 
use of le.v Dei absolutely as a term for the Bible, F. Wiegand's De Ecclesiae 
Notione quid Wiclif docuerit, Leipzig, 1891, 58; and for his conception of 
the necessity of a knowledge of the Bible for leading a good life, id. 

2 EETS, OS, 74, 530. 




day, rich merchants a httle later, and, finally, agricultural 
labourers. The latter could not own it for themselves ; but, like 
the early Waldensians, they were taught long passages from it 
■by heart, in Lollard "schools" or conventicles. Thus the need 
and usefulness of an English Bible was not the foundation stone 
of Wycliffe's teaching, or of that of his followers : but it was the 
necessary and inevitable corollary of his doctrine of dominion 
by grace, and the immediate responsibility of every Christian 
for following the life of Christ. 

§ 2. The weakness in Wychffe's theory of the immediate re- 
lationship of all men to God was soon challenged in its theo- 
logical as well as its social bearing. He taught, implicitly if not 
explicitly, that there was no authority for the decision of social 
and ecclesiastical questions save that of the individual con- 
science, seeking enlightenment in the Bible, and guided by the 
.early fathers of the Church. Since he disregarded the consensus 
of findings of individual consciences, as expressed in the visible 
and historic Church, he left himself open to the objection that 
the Bible can be very differently interpreted by individuals, and 
claimed as final authority for widely differing ecclesiastical and 
social systems. The orthodox recognised perfectly that the 
Lollards wished to study the Bible mainly to justify their own 
ideas of reform: Thorpe the Lollard reported archbishop 
Arundel as saying to him at his trial: "Lo, Sirs, this is the 
manner and business of this losell and such others, to pick out 
such sharp sentences of holy scriptures and of doctors to main- 
tain their sect and lore against the ordinance of holy Church ! 
And therefore, losell ! is it, that thou covetest to have again the 
psalter that I made to be taken from thee at Canterbury, to 
record sharp verses against us^ ! " But the early Wycliffites, who 
laid stress, not on particular verses of the scriptures, so much as 
on the whole picture of the simplicity of life of the first Chris- 
tians, never realised the extent to which the application of 
different texts could be made to cover widely different con- 
ceptions of the Christian life. 

The justification for Wycliffe's theories lay in the evident need 
for reform and reconstruction in Christendom, and the fact that 
his panacea, of individual appeal to the Bible for guidance in 

1 Pollard, 128. 


matters of conduct, had not been tried before, except among the 
Waldensian sects, of whom he probably knew httle. Ecclesias- 
jtical evils of the day were as apparent to devout Churchmen 
/throughout Europe as to Wycliffe: all deplored the evil of a 
/ captive papacy, and after 1378, of a divided allegiance in the 
/ Church. Churchmen acknowledged and lamented such evils as 
/ the non-residence of parish priests and the worldliness of the 
I clergy, without perceiving that it was due to absence of training: 
! ecclesiastics like Courtenay and Arundel lamented and reproved 
it equally fiercely. More, probably, than in any other century it 
seemed to saint, socialist and sinner that the visible Church had 
I failed, and that change and reorganisation were needed. The 
\ efforts of oecumenical councils from 1215 onwards — especially 
Lyons I and II, and Vienne — shew that it was not merely re- 
formers like Wycliffe who desired radical change, and who even 
largely identified the need of reform with the position and policy 
of the Curia. So far Wycliffe was justified by his contemporaries"? 
in his estimate of the evil tenor of his days : but he was original/ 
in the insistence of his appeal to gospel and apostolic Christianity 
as the standard for succeeding ages. With no perception of the 
need for differing organisations for a primitive and developed 
Christianity, or for increased complexity of organisation in a 
spiritual world power, he contrasted the worldliness, elaborate- 
ness, wealth and power of fourteenth century ecclesiastics with 
the "meek and poor and charitable living of Christ." He was 
novel in insisting that simplicity of life would never be practised f 
by the masses, till they personally understood the Christianity ; 
of the gospels and the Acts of the Apostles. Devout churchmen __ 
at the time objected to the translation of the scriptures because 
it involved their vulgarisation in several senses: a genuine 
reverence made them declare that the scriptures should only be 
handled by trained men, and not be made freely accessible to the 
careless and undevout crowd. With this view Wycliffe was 
essentially in opposition: all men needed to know "Goddis 
Lawe," all men needed to know the vocation to which they were 
called, to follow Christ in His meek and poor and charitable 
living, and therefore all men, as far as possible, should have 
access to the written story of that life. Probably neither 
Wycliffe nor his critics realised that a literal imitation of the 


lives of Christ and His apostles would not solve problems of 
fourteenth century ecclesiastical organisation. 

Wycliffe's demand for more Bible study was also justified as 
to a certain extent novel. The Lollards had some excuse, as has 
been shewn above, for regarding Bible reading as a new panacea 
for social and ecclesiastical ignorance: they were novel among 
Englishmen in asking for a widespread appeal to primitive 
Christian documents, whether their demand was advisable or 
inadvisable. The implications of scripture had always been 
preached by the Church ; and, the more devout the ecclesiastic, 
the more certainly he had always desired their recognition. But 
it had never been recognised that the mass of men would be 
better for comparing the teaching of the Church with her primi- 
tive documents themselves: the illiteracy of the masses was of 
course the chief reason why such a course had never been con- 
sidered. But, even in the case of the clergy, individual Bible 
study had never been regarded as a necessary duty. A saintly 
pastoral life was quite possible without it, and depended on the 
practice of spiritual and moral duties : certainly not on individual 
attempts to practise new forms of social piety, in supposed 
imitation of the apostles, regardless of the authority of those 
who were the apostles' successors and equals. Even to-day the 
old rule prevails, that no private soldier may read a copy of the 
king's regulations, if he is on trial for any military offence; an 
officer may bring the book to his cell and allow him to read, but 
not to copy, that paragraph of the code under which he is to be 
tried, and no other paragraph. If such a practice survives to-day, 
in the interests of disciphne, it is not wonderful that a similar 
one should have appealed to the higher clergy about 1400 as a 
reasonable measure with regard to "Goddis Lawe": it had not 
been explicitly necessary before, because "Goddis Lawe" had 
been practically inaccessible to the Christian "private," and 
many of the Christian "officers." 

Finally, the Wycliifite translations may be justified as a re- 
markable attempt to produce a scholarly and accurate trans- 
lation, without any partizan attempt to emphasise particular 
shades of meaning in certain verses or words by a novel trans- 
lation : in this it should be distinguished from the versions of the 
sixteenth century reformers. The translators were among the 


most learned scholars of the day, and their aim was simply to 
popularise the connected story of the "meek and poor and 
charitable living of Christ " and His apostles. They could obtain 
the picture of this state by a literal and faithful translation, and 
had no temptation to tamper with the text. The translations 
were made while LoUardy was still almost solely an Oxford 
movement, when Lollard literature consisted of little else than 
the guarded, academic, authority-laden Latin writings of 
Wycliffe himself; and not under the second generation of 
Lollards, led by Oldcastle. The accusation that the Lollards 
falsified the scriptures in their translations was not made by 
their contemporaries, even by archbishop Arundel when he 
interdicted their use in 1408; and it is almost entirely due to the 
addition of their own glosses among the glosses of Rolle's 
psalter. Even in this case, there were no controversial changes 
in the translation of the text of the psalter itself: and the very 
fact that Rolle's psalter was recognised as the only bibhcal 
translation which could be used by the orthodox explains the 
quickness of the Lollards to insert their own teaching among 
the glosses. The Wycliffite translation was faithful because its 
authors were scholars, with no special temptation to mistrans- 
late or modify the text. 

Thus the weakness of English Bible reading, as the Lollard 
instrument of Church reform, was that it was not likely to lead 
to unity among the reformers; while their expedient was justi- 
fiable from three points of view; first, the obvious need of some 
reform at the period; secondly, the novelty of urging a wide- 
spread acquaintance with the Bible ; and thirdly, the scholarship 
and accuracy of the translation they produced. 

§ 3. The Wychffite circle at Oxford between 1380 and 1384, 
the years when the translation of the Bible was conceived and 
partly or wholly carried out, included some of the most learned 
scholars of the universitv, and certainly did not account itself 
heretical. The chancellor of the university ^ and the other 

1 Gairdner, i. 21, Robert Rigge; also T. Brightwell, J. Aston, and T. 
Hilman were sufficiently keen Lollards to stand on trial for their opinions, 
in the year of Wyclifie's condemnation, id. 21-5: many of his admirers 
no doubt relapsed into passivity without a trial after the chancellor and 
Brightwell had been condemned by the archbishop for the favour they 
had shewn to the Wycliffites. Peter Pateshull, the Augustinian, and 


authorities were all on the side of Wycliffe: and on the only 
occasion when the clerical party had tried to bring him to trial 
for his opinions, in 1378, they had not been able to carry it 
through. Except for the friars, who had to be reckoned with as 
the normal lecturers on theology, the whole university was with 
Wycliffe, partly out of admiration for his intellectual powers, 
partly out of academic jealousy of episcopal interference. 
Wycliffe was openly the protege of John of Gaunt, who sheltered 
from his castle of Leicester the Wycliffite centre in that town. 
Leicester is almost due north of Oxford ; and fifteen miles south 
of it, on the Oxford road, was Wycliffe's rectory of Lutterworth, 
given him soon after his first service to John of Gaunt in 1374. 
Oxford was the centre of academic Lollardy, where Wycliffe 
spent most of his time: Leicester was the centre of popular 
Lollardy, and Lutterworth lay on the road between them. The 
great abbey of S. Mary of the Meadows at Leicester was infected 
by Lollardy ; for two of its canons, Nicholas Hereford and Philip 
Repingdon, were Wycliffe's most vehement supporters, and 
actually spent most of their time at Oxford. The continuator 
of Henry Knighton^ was also a canon of the abbey at the same 
time, and therefore likely to be well-informed as to Wychffe and 
his supporters. The hermit, Swinderby, was the leader in the 
Lollard "school" or conventicle held at the chapel of S. John 
the Baptist at Leicester, and his friends Walter Brute and 
Stephen Bell also preached there. Richard Waytestathe, 
chaplain of this chapel, was also a member of this Lollard school. 
Many Lollard treatises were copied here, by a "parchemyner," 
William Smith, who was later accused of Lollardy for so doing 2, 
Thus, while Wycliffe determined in the schools at Oxford on the 
sacrament of the altar or the truth of holy scripture, Leicester 
was the seat of his patron, John of Gaunt, and the centre of 
popular Lollardy. 

The two most stalwart followers of Wycliffe at Oxford were 
the Leicester canons, Hereford and Repingdon. Hereford was a 
regent master in theology and a vehement enthusiast, far less 

Peter Clark or Payne, or 'Peter the Clerk' (for whom see pp. 240, 291), 
were later prominent Oxford Lollards, as were David Gotray of Pakring, 
monk of Byland and master of theology; see Pollard, 119. 

1 See Knighton, and DNB, Knighton. 

3 Gairdner, i. 41. 


cautious than Wycliffe in his opinions and utterances. Walsing- 
ham called him "the most violent of John Wycliffe's followers, 
among whom were many notable men^," and Hereford went so 
far as to maintain in a sermon in 1382 that archbishop Sudbury 
had been righteously slain the year before, in the Peasants' 
Revolt. He fought very hard for his master's opinions after 
Wycliffe's condemnation, and only recanted under the pressure 
of imprisonment, and perhaps the threat of worse 2; but, when 
once he had recanted, he left his opinions absolutely and became 
firmly orthodox. " Since he forsook and revoked all the learning 
and opinions of the Lollards," a clerk heard him say, "he had 
had greater favour and more deUght to hold against them, than 
ever he had to hold with them, while he held with them." He 
shewed something of the same capability for enthusiasm when 
at the end of his life he entered a Carthusian monastery, after 
holding high ecclesiastical office. Philip Repingdon was a 
"great clerk" of somewhat similar type: he also made a con- 
siderable fight, and was excommunicated before recanting: and 
when he became orthodox again, became one of the most 
vehement persecutors of the Lollards. A man of a different 
type was John Purvey^, Wycliffe's special disciple and secretary. 
He had been ordained priest since 1377, and so was probably 
about twenty-eight or thirty in 1382, when Wycliffe was con- 
demned, and he went with him as his secretary to Lutterworth : 
as he is spoken of as "doctor" by his contemporaries, he must 
just have taken his doctor's degree. All his contemporaries, in- 
cluding the bitterest enemies of the Wyclififites, speak of him as 
a great scholar, in terms of special respect. The Carmelite friar 
Walden, who was "elected inquisitor general of the faith to 

1 See Wykeham's Register, 11. 338, ed. T. F. Kirby ior Hants. Rec. Soc. 1896. 

2 Pollard, 165: Thorpe the Lollard was threatened "thou shalt go 
thither where Nicholas Hereford and John Purvey were harboured, and 
I undertake, ere this day eight days, thou shalt be right glad for to do what 
thing that ever I bid thee do." This throws a rather sinister light on 
imprisonment in Saltwood Castle. 

3 FZ, 40on.; Wilkins prints "Purney" throughout. Thenameisapparenth' 
French (see p. 378 n.). Purvey does not seem to have been Wycliffe's "curate" 
at Lutterworth, as is sometimes stated. Leland, Collectanea, 1770, in. 409: 
" Haec quae sequuntur scripsit Thomas Gascoign, doctor theologiae, Oxon., 
A.D. 1444, edoctus a Johanne Horn octogenario, qui fuit parochiaJis sacerdos 
de Lutterworth quo tempore Wiclivus obiit, a.d. 1384 in die S. Sylvestri." 
Apparently John Horn was Wycliffe's curate. Purvey his secretary. 


punish the Wycliffites^" and wrote the famous "Bundle of 
Lollard heresies" and other learned works against them, speaks 
repeatedly of Purvey's learning, even expressly calling him 
"doctor." "John Purvey," he says, "was called the glossator 
and translator of Wycliffe, for he was the continual Achates of 
Wycliffe right down till his death, and drank in his most secret 
teaching 2." "Wy cliff e's glossator. Purvey 3," he says in another 
place, and in yet another simply, " Wycliffe's glossator*," while 
the context shews that he means Purvey. He calls him elsewhere 
"the Lollards' library s" and "the Lollards' librarian s," and 
"one of Wycliffe's followers, a man of great authority, and a 
most notable Doctor, by name, John Purvey'." Purvey's whole 
career, as well as contemporary references to him, shew that he 
was preeminently a scholar, of great breadth of view: while 
Hereford and Repingdon saw one side of a question at a time 
and saw it intensely. Purvey saw both, to his own undoing. 
"John Purvey," said Thorpe the Lollard of Purvey in later life, 
"sheweth himself to be neither hot nor cold^," and though the 
judgment was harsh on a man who recanted his opinions under 
threat of burning, and returned to them at great risk, neverthe- 
less Purvey's writings shew a tendency towards moderation and 
hair-splitting that partly justified it^. 

Knighton's continuator, the canon of S. Mary's, Leicester, 
emphasises the closeness of Purvey's relation to Wycliffe. 

The fourth heresiarch was the reverend John Purvey, a simple 
chaplain, grave in bearing and countenance, and affecting the ap- 
pearance of sanctity beyond his fellows. He was dressed and lived 
as a common man, and despising rest he gave all his energy to the 
work of travelling: and he gave unwearied efforts to lead the hearts 
of the people of his sect with deceitful sermons, and in whatever 
manner and way he could. And as he strove to be an example of life 
and manners to the remnant of his sect, so he imitated and con- 
formed himself to the teaching of his master, as an invincible disciple, 
and he boldly confirmed the teaching of his master, John Wycliffe, as 
a valiant executor in all matters; for he lived with his master while 

^ Doct. I. XV. 2 /^ J xxviii. ^ Id. iii. no. 

* Id. III. 127. 

^ bibliotheca Lollardorum, Hen. IV, i. 179. 

* librarius Lollardorum, Doct. in. 732. 

' Doct. I. 619: doctor eximius. * Pollard, 118. 

® See pp. 284-5 • 

IX] THE STORM IN I382 235 

he was still alive, and was thus watered with his treatises, and drank 
them the more copiously into his mind, and thus he toiled un- 
weariedly with him [Wycliffe] as his inseparable companion, and was 
his associate in his doctrines and teaching^. 

When the storm broke on the Wydiffites in 1382, Purvey 
seems to have acted simply as Wychffe's secretary, and taken 
no part in it. The immediate reason of the effort of the clericals 
to suppress Wycliffe was almost certainly his presentation of ^ 
seven propositions to parliament early in that year, urging the 
gradual confiscation of all clerical property by special taxation 2, 
and not any supposed connexion of Wycliffe with the Peasants' 
Revolt of the year before: the mob had actually been bitterly 
hostile to John of Gaunt, Wycliffe's patron, and sacked his 
palace of the Savoy. Archbishop Courtenay held a council at 
the Blackfriars' convent at Holborn, condemned twenty-four 
points of Wycliffe's teaching as heretical, and prohibited 
Wycliffite preaching. Wycliffe and Purvey retired to Lutter- 
worth : but the archbishop had still to reckon with the authorities 
of the university of Oxford. Nicholas Hereford preached violent 
sermons, and the Carmelite friar, Peter Stokes, tried to tie him 
down to a list of doctrinal errors, without success^. Friar Stokes 
received orders to publish the condemnation of Wycliffe's 
teaching just before Corpus Christi day, and the chancellor, 
Robert Rigge, was asked to assist him: but the chancellor re- 
fused. Not only that, but the Lollard Repingdon was appointed 
to preach the sermon before the university on Corpus Christi 
day: and the chancellor, and the mayor of Oxford, with armed 
forces, attended in state. Repingdon declared that the duke of 
Lancaster "had a mind to defend all the Lollards," and justified 
Wycliffe's teaching: but the archbishop summoned the chan- 
cellor and another Lollard to London, condemned him for con- 
tempt, and then, at the request of William of Wykeham, 
pardoned him. The chancellor signed the condemnation of 
Wycliffe's propositions, and was sent back to publish the con- 
demnation of Wycliffe, Hereford and Repingdon, — a highly un- 
popular act in the university^. Hereford, Aston 5, Alington, 

1 Knighton, 11. 178. - Gairdner, i. 18. ^ Id. 21. * Id. 23-5. 

^ Cf. Bernard, Cat. 197Q, § 14, De Jo. Aston (prob. Ashton) et Nicholas 
Hereford. There was a John Ashton, fellow of Merton, who wrote a tract 


Bedeman and other Lollards had already, on May 21, been 
prohibited by William of Wykeham from preaching in the parish 
church of Odiham, and elsewhere in the diocese of Winchester^, 
and by July i Aston had been imprisoned and had recanted, and 
Hereford, Repingdon, and Thomas Hilman had been excom- 
municated by Courtenay. Oxford was still in a ferment, and a 
disturbance was caused in the church of S. Mary the Virgin when 
an Irish Cistercian monk preached against the Wyclifhtes, de- 
nouncing them as Lollards. The university authorities suspended 
him, but the king's council protected him and friar Stokes from 
more extreme measures. 

Nicholas Hereford meanwhile had started for Rome, carrying 
an appeal which was to prove unsuccessful. When he returned 
at the end of the year, it was to find that the archbishop had 
succeeded in crushing LoUardy for the time being. The Leicester 
Lollards had been cowed by the imprisonment and recantation 
of Swinderby, the hermit, in July, and the Oxford ones dis- 
couraged by the recantation of Repingdon in October and Aston 
in November. Repingdon threw no backward glances to 
LoUardy: he became later abbot of S. Mary of the Meadows, 
chancellor of Oxford in 1397, in 1400 chaplain and confessor to 
Henry IV, and in 1404 bishop of Lincoln. Hereford was, 
later, imprisoned in Saltwood castle: and at length, he too 
was reconciled and taken back to favour. Another Lollard was 
warned later. 

For the pity of Christ, bethink thee how great clerks Philip 
Repingdon, Hereford and Purvey were, and yet are, and also 
B.[edeman], that is a well understanding man: which also have for- 
saken and revoked all the learning and opinions which thou and 
such other hold : wherefore, since each of them is mickle wiser than 
thou art, we counsel thee for the best, that by the example of these 
four clerks, thou follow them, submitting thee as they did 2. 

The archbishop had succeeded in reducing LoUardy to silence in 
Oxford: the leaders had recanted, and no doubt many who had 

on the conjunction of Saturn and Mars, in 1358, Ashmole 393, §§ 36, 37, 
and a friar John Ashton, who wrote Quaestiones super sentencias et super 
canonem missae, Bernard, Cat. Worcs. 877, probably neither of them the 
Wycliffite. C.C.C. Oxford 240 is late fourteenth century MS. of Bonaventura's 
Stimulus Amoris, written t)y John Ashton, to whom it belonged. 

1 Wykeham's Register, 11. 337. 

2 Pollard, 162. 


been attracted to their teaching abandoned it without risking a 
trial for their opinions. Of the Oxford circle, only Purvey re- 
mained with Wycliffe at Lutterworth : and various Lollards, hke 
Swinderby, Bell and Brute, continued their preaching at the risk 
of being burnt as relapsed heretics. 

Two causes account for the archbishop's success in this 
summer of 1382 : the real horrors of imprisonment and a shameful 
death, combined with the archbishop's skill in shewing favour 
and benignity to those who recanted: and the academic, 
scholarly characteristics of the first generation of Lollards at 
Oxford. Though the expedition and regularisation of the 
punishment of heresy by death by burning was not carried out 
till 1401, heresy had continuously been punished by burning on 
the continent, and this was legally possible in England : in fact 
the first burning of a Lollard was by common law, before the 
passage of the De Comburendo statute. King Richard II 
threatened sir Richard Stury with a shameful death in 1395, if 
he did not recant his Lollard opinions. But the conversion of 
the leading Lollards, the four great clerks, was not solely due to 
fear or bribery; all early Lollard writings are more guarded, 
more practical, and less extreme, than those of their followers 
later. As Purvey himself wrote of the points in dispute between 
the bishops and the Lollards: "Who that ever granteth all, 
granteth much falsehood, and who that ever denieth all, denieth 
many truths^." The early Lollards were not men to whom the 
reasonable or scholarly arguments of their opponents could 
make no appeal, or who were prepared to hold that their own 
opinions were right, if Christendom pronounced them wrong. 
Not only their personal fears or ambitions, but their education 
and training, was all against their continuing to lead a set of 
followers who were less learned and more unbalanced than 

Such was the turning point in the last four years in Wycliffe's 
life: the condemnation of some of his views, and those of his 
chief followers, in the summer of 1382. Before that time he had 
lived as the centre of a set of learned clerks at Oxford: after- 
wards, with his secretary, Purvey, at Lutterworth. It was 

1 See p. 463. 


between these years, of 1380 to 1384, that, as passages in his 
writings shew, he was turning to the idea of producing a ver- 
nacular Bible. 

§ 4. There is evidence that he did do so, both in the state- 
ments of his contemporary and hostile critics, and in his own 
writings. The man most hkely to be well informed on the subject 
of the biblical translations condemned in 1408 was archbishop 
Arundel. He was aware of the academic discussion at Oxford 
over the lawfulness of vernacular Bibles in the years 1400-1407, 
and he probably chose Oxford for the scene of the prohibition of 
English Bibles of set purpose. He wrote in 1412 to pope John 
XXII, relating his efforts to suppress the teaching and followers 
of "that wretched and pestilent fellow John Wycliffe, of dam- 
nable memory, that son of the old serpent, the very herald and 
child of antichrist," and lamenting that 

In these last times, alas, — and we lament it with no small bitterness 
of heart, — in the most fair garden of the glorious university of Oxford 
. . .there grow together poisoned herbs and infected plants, whose 
poisoned seeds, too long allowed to ripen in the aforesaid garden, are 
blown by the wind of pride and scattered abroad into the fair field of 
the kingdom of England. 

After describing Wycliffe's iniquity in seventeen vigorous Hues, 
he specified as the climax of his offences that "to fill up the 
measure of his malice, he devised the expedient of a new trans- 
lation of the scriptures into the mother tongue." Arundel was 
aware that old and unreadable Anglo-Saxon translations existed 
in abbeys in England, and his words " new translation " indicated 
the crown of the offence : that the translations were in a tongue 
comprehensible to all. There is no hint in the letter that the 
translation was a bad or false one, but the complaint was merely 
that such a translation had been made at all^. Wycliffe, then, 
"devised the expedient": his secretary, John Purvey, did the 
bulk of the work. 

1 The words " new translation " cannot be pressed further than I have here 
indicated. In face of the absolute MS. evidence that no complete Middle- 
English translation of the Bible, and almost certainly no partial ones, 
were made before c. 1380 (see chap. xiii. on contemporary partial English 
versions and their date), it cannot be held that Arundel knew of some 
other English version, made perhaps between 1 300-1 380, such as would 
be comprehensible to men of Wycliffe's generation, and that he was merely 
rebuking Wycliffe for making one of his own, when this already existed. 


The evidence of Arundel is valuable, because it is that of the 
very man who was chiefly responsible for the "stopping ot 
scripture" through the prohibitory canons of 1408: but the 
evidence of Henry Knighton's continuator is of even more value. 
He was a canon of S. Mary of the Meadows at the same time 
as Hereford and Repingdon, at the time also when Swinderby 
the hermit was sometimes the guest of the abbey: and he re- 
mained under the new regime, when the converted Repingdon 
returned as abbot. He might well have had Lollard sympathies 
before Wycliffe's condemnation: he does shew in his work that 
he was a partizan of John of Gaunt : but he wrote his account of 
the doings of the year 1382 later, when Wycliffe had been con- 
demned. His account was not only likely to be well informed, 
since he was in touch with Hereford and Repingdon, but because 
it must have been seen later by Repingdon his orthodox abbot. 

"In those days^," he wrote, of the year 1382, "flourished master \ 
John WycUffe, rector of the church of Lutterworth, in the county of 
Leicester, the most eminent doctor of theology of those times. In 
philosophy he was reckoned second to none, and in scholastic learning 
without rival. This man strove greatly to surpass the skill of other 
men by subtlety of knowledge and the greatness of his ability, and to 
traverse their opinions. . . .This master John Wycliffe translated into 
English, (not, alas, into the tongue of angels), the gospel which Christ 
gave to clerks and doctors of the Church, in order that they might 
sweetly minister it to laymen and weaker men, according to the 
message of the season and personal need, with the usury of their own 
minds : whence, through him, it [the gospel] is become more common 
and open to laymen, and women who are able to read, than it is wont 
to be even to lettered clerks of good intelligence. Thus the pearl of 
the gospel is scattered abroad and trodden under foot of swine, and 
what is wont to be the treasure both of clerks and laymen is now 
become the jest of both. The jewel of clerks is turned into the sport 
of the laity, so that that has become the 'commune aeternum-' of 
laymen, which heretofore was the heavenly talent of clerks and 
doctors of the Church." 

The canon is here exactly explaining the orthodox attitude to 
the Bible at the time. It ought not to be accessible to lay people, 
but priests should explain passages from the Sunday gospels and 
epistles in their sermons, not translating them, but telling the 

^ Knighton, 11. 151-2. 

^ A reference to the 'eternal gospel' of abbot Joachim of Flora: which 
taught that the era of the Father was past, that of the Son passing, that 
of the Holy Ghost about to be ushered in. 


story in their own words, with its moral inferences, " the usury 
of their own minds." Master John Wydiffe's fault is that he has 
translated the gospel into Enghsh at all, not that he has made 
an inaccurate or bad translation. Actually, the translations 
were due rather to Wycliffe's secretary than to Wycliffe, but the 
canon was justified in speaking of the work "instigated" by 
WycUffe as his own. 

Finally, the words of John Hus, though not those of a con- 
temporary, have great weight. The intercourse between Oxford 
and Prague was close; the Wychfhte Peter Payne, who debated 
with friar Walden at Oxford^, became the instructor of Jerome 
of Prague: the latter was at Oxford, transcribed copies of the 
Trialogus and Dialogus in 1401-2^, just when an eminent friar 
was determining against the lawfulness of vernacular Bibles 3, 
and took his copies back to Prague. Two other Bohemian 
Wychffites, Nicholas Faulfisch and George of Knychnicz were in 
Oxford in 1407, when the discussion over Enghsh Bibles was 
raging fiercely before its extinction by Arundel*, and they had 
copied and personally corrected Wycliffe's De Veriiate Sacrae 
Scripturae and two other treatises, and took them back to 
Prague. Oldcastle corresponded with Hus himself: and the 
tracts of a Lollard, Clement Folkhirde, were brought to Bohemia 
in 1410. More Wycliffite treatises exist in manuscript in Prague 
and Vienna than in England to-day: and all these points justify 
the acceptance of Hus's evidence as to what was popularly be- 
lieved by Englishmen of the day. "It is said by the English," 
says Hus, in a work written in 1411, "that he [Wycliffe] himself 
translated the whole Bible from Latin into Enghsh^," and the 
statement was substantially accurate. Englishmen of the day 
knew nothing as to whether the work was actually done by 
Wycliffe or his secretary: they said, naturally enough, that it 
was "Wycliffe's Bible." 

§ 5- Wycliffe's own attitude towards translations of the Bible 
can be traced from his Latin writings of undoubted authorship, 
and in one written during the last year of his life there are 

1 Doct. I. 9. 

* Intercourse between English and Bohemian Wycliffites in the Early 
Fifteenth Century, Poole, R. L., in EHR, vii. 306. ^ See p. 289. 

* See p. 294. * Hus, Htstoria et Monumenta, 1715, i. 136. 


distinct references to translations which he or his followers had 
made, which had roused opposition from ecclesiastical digni- 
taries^: there is nothing, however, in these works to shew that 
the whole Bible had been published, although the first trans- 
lation was almost certainly in course of production, and may 
have been completed. Wycliffe had from the first appealed to 
the records of primitive Christianity to support his social 
theories, and passages where he bases his theories on some 
biblical verse, or claims that the Bible is the final authority for 
Christian doctrine, would be far too numerous to quote. It is 
interesting, however, to trace in his works written between 1378 
and his death in 1384 his efforts expressly to defend the value of 
the Bible as the final authority'^; to shew that the people at large 
were ignorant of the gospel because of defective preaching; then, 
that it was necessary for all, even the simplest, to know the 
gospel, so that they might follow Christ in meekness of living; 
then, that the gospels ought to be translated into English, for 
this end ; and finally, that it was right that such translations had 
been made, though prelates raged against them. 

Wycliffe wrote his De Veritate Sacrae ScripUirae^ within the 
year 1378*, primarily to defend the "truth" of holy scripture, 

1 See F. D. yiaXthew's Authorship of the Wycliffite Bible in EHR, x. 91-99. 
This list of quotations dealing with translations, however, cannot be 
regarded as settling the question, because they are all drawn from English 
versions of Wycliffe's works, which may have been made by himself or 
by some disciple, and either within or after his life-time. Wycliffite and 
Lollard Latin tracts frequently have English counterparts, sufficiently 
close to shew the source of the English version throughout, but not word 
for word translations. The English tracts are, naturally, more popular 
and less measured in language : scholastic references are generally omitted, 
and the whole tone is generally more violent; additions, interjections, and 
omissions are frequent. It is often difficult to tell whether the greater 
violence of general tone, or of interpolated passages, was due (a) to the 
original author's relaxation of caution in addressing an unlettered audience, 
in translating his own tract, {b) to the greater temperamental violence, 
or less scholarship, of some contemporary who translated the Latin tract, 
or (c) to the fact that the English version was made some years later than 
the Latin, when the claims of both orthodox and Lollards had increased 
in bitterness and definiteness. The passages cited by Matthew from some 
of these English Wycliffite tracts cannot stand en bloc as coming from 
genuine Wycliffe tracts: see pp. 248-9. 

2 For a catena of Latin quotations from Wycliffe's works relative to 
the need of biblical knowledge for leading a good life, see Wiegand's De ecc. 
Hotione, 58-91. * De Verit. i. xlviii. 

* As I am informed by Mr Cronin, who will shortly publish a chronological 
list of his writings. The much shorter M.E. tract, The holy prophet David 

D.W.B. 16 


against those who attacked its apparent errors and inconsis- 
tencies, and who pointed out that the hteral following of all 
biblical precepts was impossible in practical life. In it he in- 
sisted again and again that all the faithful were bound to know 
the scriptures, to obtain salvation: that their meaning was 
apparent, not only to the learned, but to the simple, and that 
the first duty of a priest, and in a lesser degree, of all the faithful, 
was to preach the gospel. The work was learned and academic; 
in it he attacked those " modern doctors" who wished to qualify 
the authoritative value of the Bible, characterizing them as 
"Lollards^" or heretics themselves. Moreover, he defended the 
old fourfold interpretation of scripture, with the characteristic 
qualification that the three subordinate meanings were also 
literal and authoritative if "immediately" drawn from the 
Bible: but not if "mediately" or through some later commenta- 
tor 2. He called Lyra "a copious and ingenious commentator of 
scripture"," and like him regarded the literal meaning of scrip- 
ture as the basis and guarantee of all sound interpretation. He 
did not, however, in any way surpass Lyra in his estimate of the 
worth of this primary sense, but rather the reverse. "Holy 
scripture," he said, "is the preeminent authority for every 
Christian, and the rule of faith and of all human perfection"; 
all priests should have a good knowledge of the Bible, in order 
to carry out their pastoral office^, and all Christians, especially 

saith, printed pp. 445-56, takes up exactly the standpoint and arguments 
of the De Verit., and I beUeve it to be Wychffe's, or at any rate made 
between 1378-84. I do not however quote it in this connexion, as Wychffe's 
attitude can be as well illustrated by works indubitably his. For a certain 
friar Claxton. doctor of divinity, "who said that holy scripture was 
a false heresy," see Rawlinson, C. 411, p. i. 

1 De Verit. i. xxiii, xxiv: "moderni doctores lolium in universitatibus 
seminantes," a very old paraphrase for a heretic, see p. 42. The special argu- 
ment of Wychffe's opponents, which he takes most space in refuting, is 
that the Bible apparently contradicts itself in places, e.g. as regards the 
day of the crucifixion in S. John and the synoptists, etc., and is therefore 
untrustworthy; i. xxiv, 275. 

^ Id. I. 119-23. This introduction of the theory of feudal tenure is 
similar to that in his theory of "dominium by grace." Cf. Opus Evang. 
I. 397, for the "catholic" sense of holy scripture. 

' he Verit. i. 275, xxxv. 

* Id. II. 161-4; this might accord with mediaeval theory, but it had 
not been reached in mediaeval practice. Cf. 11. 147, "for it is further 
clear, that this knowledge is above all to be demanded of the faithful, and 
especially of priests " ; 11. 171, 136, 137, " all priests ought, even according to 
the canon law, to study the scriptures." 


priests and bishops, ought to know in the first place the whole 
law of scripture^. Christ is the power and wisdom of God, Whom 
no Christian can effectively know except through the scriptures, 
and therefore every Christian is bound to know them; to be 
ignorant of the scriptures is to be ignorant of Christ, since Christ 
is the scripture which we are bound to know, and the faith which 
we are bound to believe ^. 

" For clearly, although they [all Christians] be infants, although 
they be deaf, although through worldly pride they are ignorant of 
scripture, yet it behoves them to hear God speaking His law in these 
scriptures, if they are ever to be saved^." "The third fiction is," he 
continues, " that there is no need to preach, since the Christian faith 
is widely enough spread, since every old woman knows her creed and 
pater noster well enough, and this is sufficient for salvation: theo- 
logians, they say, are commonly heretics, and so it is prudent to be 
only 'wise unto sobriety*.'" "Therefore all Christians, especially 
secular lords, ought to know and defend the holy scriptures^." 

Wycliffe returned in his later works to those who, as he said, 
"attacked holy scripture": "the fathers," he says^ "studied 
the scriptures, for they dared not, like foolish modern heretics, 
call the gospel heretical and damnable," and there are heretics 
nowadays who try to prove that the faith of the gospel is im- 
practicable from certain sayings of Christ, Who bade a man 
pluck out his eye and cast it from him, not, however, using the 
words in the sense they thought'. 

These modern satraps shut up the kingdom of heaven, because they 
persecute in many ways the true meaning of holy scripture and its 
professors, so that they say in the schools that holy scripture is 
utterly false ^. 

Besides thus defending the value of holy scripture from its 
academic assailants, WycUffe often complained that the increase 
of popular preaching had tended to thrust the old fashioned 
sermon on the Sunday gospel into the background. He attacked 
the friars as being especial offenders in this respect : 

1 De Verit. 11. 137. « Id. 11. 170. * Id. 11. 138. 

* Id. II. 179. ^ Id. I. 136. * Op. Evang. i. 160. ' Id. i. 158. 

* Id. in. 38. Many academically subtle and minute arguments 
about the Bible, or its authority, were answered by Wycliffe, — e.g. he 
shews that the friars were not justified in saying their order had been 
founded by Christ because "many things Jesus did which are not written 
in this gospel," Sermones, 11., de Sanctis, 56; — but the real point at issue was 
that of the interpretation of scripture. 

i6 — 2 


"Do we believe that they who beg immediately after the sermon 
preach the word of God from a sincere heart, or that they speak, as 
a rule, from God who lay stress upon apocryphal poems, fables and 
lies, such as will please their hearers^?" "What harm results to 
the Church, when, as if bending the faith of scripture, they aim at 
rhymes, flatteries, detractions and lies ! For they say that, unless they 
add some novelties beyond the accustomed manner of preaching, 
there will appear no difference between theologians subtle in sowing 
the word of God, and country priests of small learning-." "And it 
is clear how blameworthy they are who hear more eagerly and dili- 
gently the deeds of Gentiles and fables of the poets than the gospel 
of Christ: but more blameworthy are they who preach apocryphal 
matter to the people 3. " 

The friars, he says, 

Like the scribes and Pharisees of the old law, tell fabulous stories 
to the people; and, when accused of silence about the gospel, they 
say that whatsoever truth is useful to the people is the gospel*. 

They pride themselves on having graduated at the university, 
and then preach flashy instead of simple discourses: 

For some by rhyming, and others by preaching poems and fables, 
adulterate in many ways the word of God ; . . . the poor priests preach 
purely and freely the word of God: but the friars preach feigned 
words and poems in rhyme, and therefore the friars' preaching is 
acceptable to the people*. 

Wycliffe often dealt with the objection that many of the laity 
were too simple to have the text of the gospel expounded to 
them, and asserted that this was necessary for all men, however 
simple. Sermons ought to be addressed to those "not guided 
by human praise, but whom experience has shewn to be capable 
and proficient in the word of God^." Every command of the 
pope should be in harmony with holy writ, "and this is one 
reason why every catholic ought to know the hol}^ scriptures'." 
True priests ought to reveal holy scripture to their people, and 
they should not plead the illiteracy of their flock as an excuse for 
not doing so, since that illiteracy is the result of their own short- 
comings : their material cannot be worse than that of the primi- 
tive Church, which attained such glorious triumphs : the apostles 

^ Polem. Works, i. 41. 

- Sermones, 1. xvii; iv. 266; this set of sermons was composed between 
1380-4: see I. xxvii-xxxiv. ^ jd m. 120. * Op. Evang. iii. xi, 7. 

* Expositio super Matthaei xxiii, in Opera Minora, Loserth, J., London, 
1913, 331. * Polem. Works, i. 310-11. ' De Ecclesia, vi. 


themselves were simple and illiterate : the knights of Christ now- 
adays should preach sharply against such sloths WycHffe dealt 
in another place with the classical argument of those who 
opposed the opening of the scriptures to the illiterate,— the 
Nolite sanctum dare canibus which had been used by Innocent III 
in his condemnation of the Waldensian translations at Metz, and 
was so often quoted by the opponents of the WycHffite trans- 
lations 2. He cited his favourite doctor, S. Augustine, as saying 
that any man, however conscious of infirmity and sin, may run 
to hear the words of Christ, Who said, Ask, and ye shall receive; 
gentiles and heathen and even gross sinners should all have the 
gospel proclaimed to them : the " dogs " of the text are those who 
tear and disfigure the teaching of Christ, and the "swine " before 
whom we should not cast the "pearls" are sensualists: but we 
should not refrain from preaching the gospel because some such 
men may be among our audience 3. The "dogs" and "swine" 
should not be interpreted as meaning the ilhterate faithful. 

Following on this contention, that the gospels should be ex- 
plained to the simple, WycHffe was led to argue that they ought 
to be translated for this purpose. Probably, at first, he had in 
mind only that lords and knights should be able to use such 
translations, and explain them to their households, or that the 
less lettered priests should use them; it was the followers of 
Wycliffe, and not Wycliffe himself, who went further, and desired 
that every man should be acquainted with the gospels, through 
learning them by heart. WycHffe was no half-lettered Peter 
Waldo, to spend his time teaching the gospels by heart in the 
vernacular, though he did once mention the practice with 
approval: he wished chiefly to place the EngHsh Bible as a 
weapon in the hands of the "knights." A certain person wrote 
to Wycliffe, asking him five questions about the love of God, and 
in particular, what state of Hfe was most fitting for a man who 
wished to love Him. Wycliffe answered that the man's state 
might be that of priest or knight or labourer: but all those who 
were thus in the heavenly way must 

carefully study the gospel in that tongue in which the meaning of 
the gospel was clearest to them: for all the faithful were bound to 
follow the Lord Jesus Christ, and the more closely they followed 

1 Sermones, i. 264-5. ■ Op. Evang. 11. 383-8. 3 See pp. 429, 432. 


Him, the more and the better did they love Him; and, since the 
deeds and teaching of Christ were more clearly expressed in the 
gospel than elsewhere, it was obvious how much the careful study 
of this book profited the faithfuP. 

Another reference to the need of translations of the Bible occurs 
in a tract written especially for knights and secular lords : 

Christ and His apostles converted much people by uncovering of 
scripture, and this in the tongue which was most known to them : . . . 
why then may not the modem disciples of Christ gather up the frag- 
ments of that same bread? The faith of Christ ought therefore to 
be recounted to the people in both languages^. 

When Wycliffe again insisted that there was 

no man so rude a scholar but that he might learn the words of the 
gospel according to his simplicity, . . . and that these considerations 
should move all the faithful to learn the gospel, 

he was obviously referring to the learning of some vernacular 
translation^. In another tract, he shews that his followers had 
been called to task by their opponents for translating consider- 
able portions of the gospels in their sermons*. Probably even 
before the translation of the Bible, or before its publication, 
Lollard sermons had tended, like those of the Waldensians^, to 
be preceded by the reading of long passages from the Bible in 
English; and from this practice, or alongside with it, arose the 
Wycliffite plan to issue an authoritative translation. About 
1381 ^ in any case, Wycliffe issued a Latin tract, De nova prae- 

1 Op. Minora, 9. The English translation, which is close, is in Sel. 
Eng. Works, in. 183-5. The Latin is the original, as can be seen by com- 
paring the concise, scholastic definition of love in 11. 11-13, with the halting 
and inexact treatment in English, p. 183 : as the translator says, "All these 
questions been hard to tell them truly in English." The English may have 
been Wycliffe's own work, or translated earlj', for it adds nothing to the 
Latin. "And thus it helpeth here to Christian men, to study the gospel 
in that tongue in which they know best Christ's sentence;. . .he that 
sueth Christ most nigh loveth him most, and is most loved of God," p. 184. 

^ Spec. saec. dom., cf. Op. Minora, xi, quoted Johann Wiclif und 
seine Zeit, Buddcnsieg, R., Gotha, 1885, p. i6g, from Vienna MS. 3929, 
cf. Sermones, i. ix. 

' Op. Evang. i. 92: quin verba evangelica possit addiscere, . . . istud 
moveret quemcumque fidelem ad evangelium addiscendum. The Op. 
Evang. was written in 1384: cf. i. v. 

* The translation of single verses would have been no novelty, and 
could not have aroused such an opposition. 

^ See p. 27: and for the translation of the whole text of the Sunday 
gospels in the course of Wycliffe's English sermons, see p. 317. 

* See Polem. Works, i. 112. 


varicatione Mandaioriim, in which he considered various opinions 
and deeds of his enemies as evasions of the ten commandments. 
He began by stating that certain men (probably himself and 
his followers), "considering that Christ and his apostles wrote 
the faith of scripture in different languages," have collected the 
teaching of the commandments in Latin and English, dividing 
them into sections, for the use of different men^. He then ex- 
plained briefly the contents and divisions of the decalogue, and 
in the body of the work shewed how various practices of his 
enemies fell under the heading of one or the other sins. The first 
practice that he attacked, as an evasion of the first and chief com- 
mandment, was the opposition of the friars to the translation of 
the gospel : either the translation of long passages in their sermons, 
or the proposal to prepare a Wycliffite translation at Oxford. 

"Our Pharisees and satraps say," he wrote, "that a man ought 
not to preach nor collect together the gospel in the vulgar tongue, 
lest perchance suspicion should be aroused from its translation into 
English: but [they say that] the seven mortal sins, and the com- 
mandments of the decalogue may be explained to the people in 
English.. . .And some say that this is the reason why they do not 
wish these rudiments of the faith from the gospel to be preached to 
the people in English : because, according to the faith, they ought to 
live as Christ did, and to follow His manner of life: and when Christ's 
manner of life should be disclosed, it would be clearer than daylight 
that they are opposed to Him in their lives, and not Christians de- 
serving commendation, but rather the chief disciples of antichrist. 
And therefore they oppose the turning of the gospels into the vulgar 
tongue, so as to hide their baseness^." 

It is quite possible that some rumour of the Wycliffite trans- 
lations had aroused this opposition to which Wycliffe referred, 
but there can be Httle doubt that a passage in a tract written in 
1383 speaks of the translation of the Wycliffite Bible, or part 
of it. Wycliffe argued that those things which are lawful accord- 
ing to God's law, the law of grace, are indeed lawful, though 
they may be contrary to the law of man : 

^ Polem. Works. 116. 

2 Id. I. 126. The "rudiments of the faith from the gospel" cannot 
refer to the usual skeleton of theology for lay people, — the command- 
ments, creeds. 7 sins, 7 deeds of mercy, etc., because these ahva^-s had 
been preached in English. The reference is to the disclosing (detegendum), 
of His manner of life: practically, the translation of long passages from 
the gospels. Buddensieg dates this tract as 1381. 


Whence is their folly clearly seen, who wish to condemn those 
writings as heretical for the reason that they are written in English, 
and acutely prick sins which disturb this realm 1. For it is lawful for 
the noble queen of England, the sister of the emperor, to have the 
gospel written in three languages, that is, in Czech and in German 
and in Latin : and it w-ould savour of the pride of Lucifer to call her 
a heretic for such a reason as this ! And since the Germans wish in 
this matter reasonably to defend their own tongue, so ought the 
English to defend theirs with reason. 

The whole passage shews that Wydiffe was not speaking of con- 
troversial tracts written in English, because he distinctly con- 
nects the wish of the Germans to defend their own tongue "in 
this matter," the translation of the Bible, with that of English- 
men. The English translation for which he was responsible was 
meant mainly for the upper classes, though for those of some- 
what lower rank than had possessed French Bibles, or the more 
frequent French Historia Scholasiica, before. The Church must 
be brought back, he argued elsewhere, to the position Christ 
wished her to occupy: this reformation could not be expected of 
the secular clergy, and secular lords could do most to secure it : 

Temporal lords can study the gospels in the tongue known to them, 
and bring back the Church to the order w-hich Christ instituted 2. 

Wycliffe referred to these translations twice more, in a tract 
written shortly before his death. 

"To-day it is considered very shocking that the gospel is translated 
into English, and preached to the people, as is manifest in the case 
of bishops, friars, and their accomplices^." "Those who preach the 
gospel in the form and language in which they are the better under- 
stood are brought low-: while friars, bishops, and their abettors are 
shocked that the gospel should become known in English*." 

While there is no doubt at all that Wycliffe encouraged the 
writing of scriptural and other works in English, for the in- 
struction of "lewid men," there is some difficulty in deciding 
whether any of the many popular English versions of his own 

^ De tyiplici vinculo amoris, in Polem. Works, i. 168. Wycliffe has 
declared already, see p. 247, that this was the reason for the opposition 
to translations. For Anne of Bohemia's different versions of the gospels, 
see also pp. 278-80. 

2 Expos, super Matt., Op. Minora, xliv. 

3 Op. Evang. iii. 36: hodie multum horretur quod evangelium anglicetur. 
* Id. 115: abhorrent quod evangelium in Anglico cognoscatur. 


works were by his own hand. Some of these contain references 
to the EngUsh translations and the opposition they were arous- 
ing, but they may have been made in WycUffe's hfe-time, or in 
the years immediately succeeding his death. Before Wychffe's 
withdrawal from Oxford in 1382 there was already a nucleus of 
less educated Lollards at Leicester, and elsewhere. From 1382 
Wychffe and Purvey lived only fifteen miles from Leicester, and 
it is more hkely that the English versions of WycUffe's works 
were due to Purvey or the Leicester Lollards, than to Wycliffe 
himself. WycUffe's English sermons, for instance, were most 
probably composed at this time from skeletons or notes; and 
these twice refer to the progress of the English translations: 

Epistles of apostles been gospels of Christ, for He spake all in 

them, and Christ may not err And this moveth some men to tell 

in English Paul's epistles, for some men may better wit hereby what 
God meaneth by Paul^. 

Another passage may very probably have been written about 
1387, when Purvey was writing his glosses on the English 
gospels, and was prohibited from preaching in the neighbourhood 
of Bristol: 

And hereto re one great bishop of England, as men say, is evil- 
apaid that God's law is written in English, to lewid men; and he 
pursueth a priest, for he writeth to men this English, and summoneth 
him and travailleth him, that it is hard to him to breathe. . . . But 
one comfort is of knights, that they savour much the gospel, and 
have will to read in English the gospel of Christ's life 2. 

§ 6. It will thus be seen that the evidence that the fourteenth 
century English Bible was really due to Wycliffe is cumulative. 

1 Epistolae dominicales, Sel. Eiig. Works, 11. 221; cf. r. 129: "God would 
that these lords. . .knew the truth of God's law in their motlier tongue"; 
III. 98: "And sith the truth of God standeth not in one language more 
than in another. . .why may we not write in English the gospel?. . .And 
so the kindred of Pharisees letteth the Gospel to be learned of the people. . . 
writing of the gospel in English, and of good lore accordmg thereto, is a 
subtlety and mean to the common people, to kunne it the better"; id. 100: 
"it is a rule to Christian men. . .to kunne. . .the Gospel and other points 
of holy writ needful to their souls, . . . whether it be told to them and 
written in Latin, or in English, or in French, or in Dutch, either in any 
other language, after that the people hath understanding." Cf. the Five 
Questions on Love, in. 184, more probably WycUffe's own work: "it helpeth 
to Christian men to study the gospel in that tongue in which they know- 
best Christ's sentence." 

- Sel. Ens:. Works, 1. 209. 


There are the references to EngHsh translations in his works: 
there are the words of Arundel, the archbishop who lived through 
the five-and-twenty years of controversy about the validity of 
English Bibles, and who finally condemned the Wyclifhte trans- 
lations: there are the words of Knighton's continuator and 
Walden: there is more contemporary evidence as to author- 
ship than any that could be found, for instance, to prove 
that Chaucer wrote the Canterbury Tales. Finally, there is the 
argument that none of the contemporaries who mention English 
biblical translations, or who give a list of them, know of the 
existence of any translations except Wycliffe's. They do not 
know of contemporary partial translations, which perhaps 
existed at the time only in a single manuscript : such ignorance 
is natural enough. But if, as has been suggested, the so-called 
Wycliffite Bible were really pre-Wyclifhte, it is incredible that 
those who were seeking for precedents to justify the use of 
English translations should have been completely ignorant of 
its existence : for these translations which we now call Wycliffite 
did not merely exist in scattered manuscripts, but in great 

Trevisa wrote his Dialogue between a Lord and a Clerk in 1387, 
and he clearly knew of no earlier biblical translations save Saxon 
ones. The absence of reference to the Wycliffite translations may 
shew merely that by 1387 they were not yet widely enough cir- 
culated to have reached Trevisa: but it is much more likely that 
the raising of the question of biblical translations in the Dialogue, 
was due to the fact that the lawfulness of the Wycliffite trans- 
lations was already in debate. In any case, Trevisa knew of no 
recognised Middle-English translations to instance. 

Purvey's tract in defence of English Bibles^ of 1405 could not 
allege any Middle-English translation of a biblical book as a 
precedent, though some precedents so wide of the mark as 
Gaytrik's catechism were made to do service. Two friars wrote 
against biblical translations between 1401 and 1408^, and they 
knew of no earlier precedents than the supposed one of Bede's 
translation: had the Wycliffite versions been (as has been 
suggested), really pre- Wycliffite and of recognised origin, they 
could not have omitted to mention them. Arundel's prohibition 
^ Printed pp. 439-45. ^ Prmted pp. 401-37. 



of 1408, again, mentioned no translation made in or since the 
days of John Wydiffe, as a subject of exemption; had any well- 
known translation existed besides that of Wycliffe, and had its 
use been regarded as lawful, some reference must have been 
made to it. Ecclesiastical writers who dealt with the subject of 
the Lollards, and the ecclesiastical historians of the time, such 
as Walden and Walsingham, knew nothing of the making of any 
other translation. The complete absence of contemporary refer- 
ence to any other version besides the Wyclififite one, when so 
much was being written at the time on the subject of the lawful- 
ness of biblical translations, renders it most unlikely on that 
score alone that any other translation ever got into circulation. 
The definite contemporary ascription of the origin of the trans- 
lation to Wycliffe and his circle, coupled with the complete 
absence of evidence that the translations were the work of any 
one else, is in complete accordance with all the other evidence 
on the subject. The making of such a work as the Wycliffite 
translation was a scholastic achievement on quite a different 
level from the one or two contemporary translations of separate 
biblical books which were made about 1380-1400, possibly by 
orthodox people : it is difficult to imagine that no evidence at all 
on the matter would have survived, if the " Wycliffite " version 
had been the work of a group of orthodox translators, other than 
the Wycliffites, at Oxford. In view of the evidence of Lollard 
authorship of these versions of the Bible, the possibility of 
authorship by some orthodox but unknown scholar is beside 
the point: but, even apart from this, there is too much evidence 
as to the work of secular or religious scholars at the date, for 
an achievement like the Wycliffite Bible to have passed un- 
noticed; yet no catalogue or existent manuscript has ever 
ascribed it to anj' such orthodox doctor. 


The two versions of the WycUffite Bible, and the 

evidence of the General Prologue as to the 

aiithorship of the second version 

§ I. The fourteenth century English Bible, as printed by 
Forshall and Madden in 1850, has two versions, the second 
closely dependent on the first ^. The first version is a careful, 
literal translation of the Vulgate text, in which the order of the 
English words follows almost exactly the order of the Latin, in 
the manner of RoUe's psalter, and consequently often gives a 
poor English translation. For "Dominum formidabunt adver- 
sarii eius": "The Lord his adversaries shall dread," is a close 
literal translation, which almost inverts the meaning. The 
second version, while clearly dependent on the first, translates 
more freely, without attempting to preserve the same order of 
words. The differences of construction follow certain rules, but 
the most noticeable difference is in the translation of the Latin 
participles. The first version retains them, while the second 
turns them into finite verbs; e.g. 

(A) And he sente Petre and John, seyinge. Ye goynge make redy 
pask to us. (B) And he sente Petre and Joon and seide, Go ye, and 
make ye redi to us the pask^. 

(A) And the breed takun, he dide thankingis. (B) And whanne 
he hadde take breed, he dide thankyngis^. 

One or other of these translations of the participles is followed 
constantly throughout each of the versions; and this alone is 
sufficient to distinguish them, apart from the other variations. 

We possess the original manuscript of the first part of the 
early version, the Old Testament as far as Baruch iii. 20, where 
it is suddenly broken off and left incomplete'*. We have also a 

^ Apart from small variants of the versions, of which Professor Craigie 
kindly informs me that Bodl. 277 and C.C.C. Camb. 147, represent the most 
important one. 

- FM, IV. 220. 3 Id. 220. 

* Bodl. 959. 


CH. x] NICHOLAS Hereford's version 253 

contemporary copy of it, which also breaks off at Baruch iii. 20, 
and at the end of which the scribe has written: " Here ends the 
translation of Nicholas Hereford'." The original manuscript is 
in five different hands'^, so that it was probably made by five 
different people, unless it was written down at dictation, each 
scribe using his own dialectal forms. The chief of such differ- 
ences is the difference in the present participle, where three out 
of the five used the southern or Kentish "ing," and two the 
midland " and " or " end " ; the first saying, for instance, " loving" 
and the second "lufand" or "luvend^." It seems so unhkely 
that a scribe writing at dictation should have consistently 
changed a participle to his own dialectal form, writing "lufand" 
every time "loving" was dictated to him, that it is on the whole 
safer to discard the dictation theory, and accept the original 
manuscript as having been the work of five different people. 
The last of these five was the same man who finished the second 
manuscript, the very one which ascribed the translation to 
Nicholas Hereford : so that his evidence can be trusted. Whether 
he meant to say that Hereford had been general!}' responsible 
for the translation so far, or had been one of the five people who 
had written it*, is not clear, but, taking the words at their face 
meaning, it was the former. From Genesis to Baruch iii. 20 the 
work was, he considered, the translation of Hereford, the most 
violent of the early Lollards, and the most prominent in the 
university after Wycliffe himself. Except for Purvey, Hereford 

^ Douce, 369, part i. Explicit translationem [sic] Nicholay de Herfoi-d. 
Most English surnames at the date were place-names, and nearly always 
used with de. At this date the names were actual surnames of families, 
and do not mean merely that a person of a given Christian name lived in 
the given town: though the presumption would be that the family came 
from the town originally. Hereford was of course a canon of Leicester. 
For a reference to Hereford as a translator in 1393, see pp. 286-8. 

- See FM, i. xlvii. 

' The scribes' dialects appear to be: (i) Gen.-Exod.. southern, yspoken 
andyng; (2) Levit.-Judges vii. 13 southern or Kentish, heo; (3) Judges vii. 
13-II Paral. midland, ande and ende; (4) Ecclesiasticusi.-xlviii., southern; 
(5) Ecclesiasticusxlviii. -Baruch iii. 20, midland, end. Forshall and Madden 
unfortunately did not print from this original MS., which is corrected 
throughout in another hand. 

* He could not have meant that the last portion alone in Bodl. 959 or 
Douce, 369, was Hereford's work, for these portions he had himself written; 
Hereford would scarcely have started copying another MS. if he had been 
at liberty to complete his own. 


persisted in his Lollardy the longest of the academic Lollards, 
not recanting till some time between 1387 and 1391; the break 
in the original manuscript must shew where his work was 
interrupted in the summer of 1382, when he fled to Rome. The 
second manuscript has a second part, where the Old Testament 
and most of the New is completed by contemporary hands, in 
the same method of translation. Thus the first version was the 
work of the Wycliffite circle at Oxford, Nicholas Hereford 
played a prominent part in its making, and some members of the 
Wycliffite circle finished it. It would seem probable, under the 
circumstances, that Wychffe's secretary, Purvey, should have 
been aware of the course of the work from the beginning, should 
have been one of the five subordinate translators of the early por- 
tion, and should have shared in the completion of the later. As a 
young man of about thirty in 1382, he might well have worked 
under Hereford, who was of higher standing in the university, 
and therefore more likely to be entrusted by Wychffe with the 
general responsibility of making the translation: but, when 
Hereford fled the country, it would seem likely that the re- 
sponsibility of completing the translation would have relapsed 
to the man who had instigated it, and to the young doctor who 
lived with him and "drank in his most secret teaching^." 

As regards the literalness of this early version of the Wycliffite 
Bible, prefaces to contemporary translations shew that it was 
not yet decided whether it was permissible to translate from the 
Latin in any other way, especially when such grave issues hung 
upon the translation of every word as in the case of holy scrip- 
ture. Rolle had translated in this way, and his work was the 
strongest precedent: and a contemporary but uncopied trans- 
lation of the gospels into north midland adopted the same style 
of translation. Moreover, there may have been an intention 
from the first to translate glosses as well as the text ; and, since 
glosses were made on every word, a Uteral translation would 
have to be made if such translated glosses were to be of any use. 
Most elaborate glosses were, as a matter of fact, translated in 

^ If the second part of Douce, 369, be found to represent the earhest form 
of the completion of the early version, there is no dialectal reason against 
its having been completed by Purvey, since the dialect is southern, and 
generally similar to that of the General Prologue and Purvey 's other tracts: 
see p. 275 n. 


connexion with the gospels of this version, and it is Hkely that 
the glossed gospels were at least contemplated when this early 
version was made, since this would have been so thoroughly in 
accordance with ordinary mediaeval sentiment on the matter. 
The fact that Rolle's, the only oiblical translation yet made, had 
been literal, and the probabihty that the issue of glosses was 
contemplated from the first, explains the literalness of the trans- 
lation of this version. 

§ 2. The second version of the Wycliffite Bible, like the 
earlier, has many short English prologues to the translations of 
the several books, most of which are merely translations of 
prologues in the Vulgate^, while others are the work of the 
English translator-, and summarise the contents of the book, or 
declare the aim and method of the translator. None of these 
short prologues are, however, heretical. It has also a long "pro- 
logue for all the books of the Bible of the Old Testament," called 
by Forshall and Madden, and frequently by later writers, the 
General Prologue ^. This is a long tract in fifteen chapters, which 
occupies sixty of the large quarto pages of Forshall and Madden's 
edition, and begins "Five and twenty books of the Old Testa- 
ment been books of faith, and fully books of holy writ." It is 
written to incite all men, princes, secular lords, justices and 
"men of simple wit" to the reading of "Goddis lawe" and the 
Old Testament in particular, and not to spare for any tribulation 
or persecution which their enemies may do to them on that 
account. The author points out again and again that reading 
the Old Testament is useful to all men^ (a new enough pro- 

^ Both S. Jerome's prologues, and the old Latin are;umenta which are 
thought to be earlier than S. Jerome. For an analysis and comparison of 
these prologues in the Wycliffite Bible with their Latin originals, see 
Test. Scots, notes on the pro'ogues of the N. Test. 

* FM, I. xxix. 

3 Printed FM, r. 1-60: described id. i. xxviii, xxxiv. It was printed as a 
separate tract in the sixteenth century, but not, like the Compendious 
Old Treatise, as a part of the propaganda for the spread of Tindale's New 
Testament in England (see p. 438). It was printed as the Door of holy 
Scripture, by J. Gough, in Lombard Street, 1540; and as The true copy of 
a prologue written about CC years ago by John Wycliffe,. . .the original 
whereof is found written in an old English Bible betwixt the old testament 
and the new, which Bible remaineth now within the king his majesty's Chamber. 
Robert Crowley, 1550. 

* " Simple men of wit may be edified much to heavenly living by reading 
and knowing of the Old Testament," FM, i. 3; the third book of Kings 



position in the fourteenth century) ; since it encourages them 
with the examples of those who were persecuted for righteous- 
ness' sake^. The General Prologue is not a translation, but is 
meant, apart from its propagandist aim, to supply an English 
equivalent to the famous Prologus Galeatus of the Vulgate, and 
other prologues of S. Jerome. It begins with a statement 
as to the canonical books of the Old Testament, passes on to 
a passage reassuring "men of simple wit" that the Bible 
is not too high and lofty a book for them to read, and gives 
at some length summaries of the contents of all the books 
of the Old Testament with the lessons to be drawn from them. 
It then passes to a long discussion of the old fourfold inter- 
pretation of scripture, and ends with a chapter justifying the 
translation of scripture, describing the riiethod followed in 
the author's own translation of the Bible, and ending with 
the familiar note of encouragement against persecution. The 
General Prologue was thus both a scholarly introduction, and 
a polemical Lollard pamphlet. 

The General Prologue was written probably somewhat later 

should "stir kings and lords to. . .take council of holy scripture and true 
prophets, and not to false prophets, be they never so many, and cry fast 
against one either few true men," 15; i and 11 Chronicles should "stir 
Christian kings and lords to... make God's law to be known and kept 
of their people," 29. 

1 The book of Tobias is singled out for special praise for this significant 
reason: "Though the book of Tobias is not of belief, it is a full devout 
story, and profitable to the simple people, to make them keep patience 
and God's hests, . . . therefore among all the books of the Old Testament, 
simple men of wit should read and hear oft this book of Tobias, to be 
true to God in prosperity and adversity, and. . .to be patient in tribulation; 
and go never away from the dread and love of God," id. 35. The Song of 
Songs (of all unlikely lessons), is "to teach men to set all their heart in 
the love of God and of their neighbours, and to do all their business to 
bring men to charity and salvation, by good example and true preaching, 
and wilful suffering of pain and death, if need be," 40. i\Jaccabees "should 
stir Christian men to hold God's law to life and death: and if knights 
should use the sword against any cursed men, they should use it against 
lords and priests principally, that will compel men, for dread of prison 
and death, to forsake the truth and freedom of Christ's gospel: but God 
of His great mercy give very repentance to them that thus pursue true 
men, and grant patience, meekness and charity to them that been thus 
pursued," 43. "For God's love, ye simple men. . .answer ye meekly and 
prudently to enemies of God's law. . .and hold ye steadfastly to life and 
death the truth and freedom of the holy gospel of Christ Jesus, and take 
ye meekly men's sayings and laws, only inasmuch as they accord with 
holy writ and good conscience, and no further, for life nor for death," 49. 


than the second version itself, or at least some years after it had 
first been taken in hand; and on the dating of the General Pro- 
logue hangs the main reason for deciding its authorship, and 
that of the second version. It has, among other less definite 
allusions to contemporary events 1, a reference to certain evil 
conditions resulting from the celibacy of the clergy, as made 
known at the "last parliament." The passage is so explicit ^ as 
to admit of no doubt that the reference is to the Twelve Con- 
clusions of the Lollards^, which were "presented to the assembled 
parliament of the kingdom of England" in the year 1395. This 
Lollard petition refers to this evil result of celibacy in its third 
"conclusion," and explains in its last one that the matters here 
mentioned are set forth at large in another English book; this 
"other book," which we also possess, refers to the same specific 
evil. The presentation of this Lollard petition was a turning 
point in their history ^ and roused the greatest anxiety, not only 
on the part of the clergy, but of Richard II himself. The refer- 
ence in the General Prologue is so explicit as to leave no reason 
for belief that any earlier or later attack of the Lollards, on the 
clergy in parliament can be referred to. The General Prologue 
was therefore written after the parliament of Jan.-Feb. 1395, 
and before the next one of Jan.-Feb. 1397. This is in accordance 

^ FM, I. 51: 'But alas, alas, alas, the most abomination that ever was 
heard among Christian clerks is now purposed in England,. . .in the chief 
university of our realm, as many true men tell with great wailing;. . .that 
no man shall learn divinity, neither holy writ, no but he that hath done 
his fourme in art ; . . . this would be nine year or ten before that he 
learn holy writ, after that he can commonly well his grammar." This 
reference to some intended effort to enforce an existing statute, as an 
anti-Lollard measure, is hardly precise Enough to date the tract exactly. 
For the difficulties over this same point in 13 10, and at other times, when 
the friars were anxious for dispensation from it, see p. 162; for an attempt 
to revive it in 1387, FM, i. xxiii. There is also a reference to some brawl 
at Oxford, "slaying of quick men," which has been interpreted as referring 
to a fight between northern and southern scholars in 1389, see ibid. But 
these references to unimportant events at Oxford, — the first of which was 
very probably a "purpose" of the anti-Lollard party there for several 
years, and the second of which might refer to any brawl, are not of the 
same value as the reference to the important and well known Lollard 
petition of 1395. 

^ FM, I. 51: "the second horrible sin is sodomy and strong maintenance 
thereof, as it is known to many persons of the realm, and at the last 
parliament," with more on the same subject. 

* See appendix. Twelve Conclusions, p. 37^. 

* Trevelyan, 329: "It was the high water mark of Lollardry." 

D. w.B. 17 


with the evidence as to the date of the second version of the 
Bible, with which the General Prologue is connected: no manu- 
script can be dated with certainty as before 1395, but one is 
dated as written in 1397, and others are of about that date^. 
It is not Hkely that the second version was the work of a single 
year, and it may have been the work of many years : but it was 
probably complete when the General Prologue was finished, be- 
tween Feb. 1395 and Feb. 1397. 

The last chapter of the General Prologue deals with the need 
of having the Bible in the vernacular for the use of simple men, 
and gives an account of the making of the second version, in a 
passage which throws some light also on the making of the early 
version, to which it incidentally refers. The writer begins the 
chapter by giving scriptural reasons for the spreading of the 
knowledge of holy writ among all people : 

For though covetous clerks be wooed by simony, heresy, and many 
other sins to dispise and stop holy writ, as much as they may: yet 
the lewid people crieth after holy writ, to con it and keep it, with 
great cost and peril of their life. 

For these reasons and other, with common charity to save all 
men in our realm, which God would have saved, a simple creature ^ 
hath translated the Bible out of Latin into English. First, this simple 
creature had much travail, with divers fellows and helpers, to gather 
many old Bibles, and other doctors, and common glosses, and to 
make one Latin Bible some deal true; and then to study it of the 
new, the text with the gloss, and other doctors, as he might get, and 
specially Lyra on the Old Testament, that helped full much in this 
work ; the third time to counsel with old grammarians and old divines, 
of hard words, and hard sentences, how they might best be under- 
stood, and translated; the fourth time to translate as clearly as he 
could to the sentence, and to have many good fellows and cunning 
at the correcting of the translation. First, it is to know, that the 
best translating is out of Latin into English, to translate after the 
sentence [meaning], and not only after the words, so that the sen- 
tence be as open, or opener, in English as in Latin, and go not far 
from the letter; and if the letter may not be sued in the translating, 
let the sentence ever be whole and open, for the words ought to 
serve to the intent and sentence, and else the words be superfluous 
or false.. . .At the beginning I purposed, with God's help, to make 
the sentence as true and open in English as it is in the Latin, or 
more true and more open than it is in the Latin; and I pray, for 
charity and for common profit of Christian souls, that if any wise 

* See p. 381. 2 gee p^ 276 for this pseudonymic phrase. 


man find any default of the truth of translation, let him set in the 
true sentence and open of holy writ, but look that he examine truly 
his Latin Bible, for no doubt he shall find full many Bibles in Latin 
full false, if he look, namely, many new; and the common Latin 
Bibles have more need to be corrected, as many as I have seen in 
my life, than hath the English Bible late translated. . . . And whether I 
have translated as openly or openlier in English as in Latin, let wise 
men deem, that know well both languages, and know well the sen- 
tence of holy scripture. And whether I have done this or nay, no 
doubt they that con well the scripture of holy writ and English 
together, and will travail, with God's grace, thereabouts, may make 
the Bible as true and open, yea and openlier in English than it is in 
Latin ^. 

The writer then goes on to explain at length the manner in 

which he prefers to translate Latin constructions, and the care 

necessary for the translation of "equivocal words," or those 

v/ith double meaning. He goes into these questions in great 

detail, and emphasises the need of the advice and help of " many 

fellows" in such a work, explaining that he had had such help 

at every stage in his translation. He mentions a little later in 

the chapter that it was common knowledge to his enemies that 

several others had helped in the translation: 

"Let the Church of England now approve," he said, "the transla- 
tion of simple men, that would for no good on earth, by their witting 
and power, put away the least truth, yea, the least letter or tittle 
of holy writ. ... If they know any default by the translators, or 
helpers of them, let them blame the default by charity and mercy. . . . 
Yet worldly clerks ask greatly, what spirit maketh idiots hardy to 
translate now the Bible into English, since the four great doctors 
durst never do this^?" 

Nevertheless, when he is relating the different processes of 
making the translation, the writer speaks in the singular through- 
out : a natural enough record of a piece of work done by a circle 
of translators, under the leadership of one man. The method 
was probably the same in the making of "the English Bible late 
translated," which could have been none other than the one this 
translator used in making his second version, the work of 
Nicholas Hereford. That too, to judge from the five hands of the 
original manuscript, seems to have been the work of "many 
good fellows and cunning." 

1 FM, I. 57-8. 

" FM, I. 59: idiots, of course, is here used in the common mediaeval 
sense of unlearned folk. 

17 — 2 


The emphasis the writer of the prologue lays upon the four 
stages in which he has made his translation, and particularly in 
the making of his Latin text, suggests whether his account 
is actually that of the making of both versions, including 
Nicholas Hereford's and his own: since such elaborate pre- 
parations seem uncalled for if the translator were actually going 
only to "make open" an existing English text. "The English 
Bible late translated" would be a possible reference to his own 
work^, if the General Prologue were written some time after the 
finishing of most of the translation. But the third stage of the 
translation, as described by the writer, seems to have been only 
a seeking of advice from old books and doctors about the trans- 
lation of difficult words, and not a literal translation of the whole 
Bible. The fourth stage is, of course, the making of a free trans- 
lation. Moreover, the second version shews that its translator 
had not merely relied upon the Latin text of his predecessor, 
but in places used a different one. There are, moreover, no 
manuscripts of the second version earlier than 1395, the date 
when the General Prologue was written : yet this might have been 
expected, had the second version been in existence some years 
earlier ("the English Bible late translated"). It seems then 
certain that the writer of the General Prologue refers only to the 
making of the second version, and that he made it, using the 
earlier one, with the express purpose of converting a "construe " 
of the Vulgate into intelligible English prose. 

§ 3. Two preliminary steps are necessary before determining 
the authorship of the second version of the Wyclifhte Bible. We 
must shew (i) the connexion of the General Prologue with the 
two versions (that is, that the Bible as printed by Forshall 
and Madden is the one referred to in the General Prologue) : and 
(2) that the General Prologue is the work of a single author, and 
not a glossed or conflate tract. 

The reasons for supposing that the General Prologue alludes to 
these particular translations are three. The first is that the 
General Prologue is found in connexion with these translations in 
the manuscripts, and not in connexion with any other work. 
The manuscripts of the General Prologue are much fewer than 

^ In which, in that case, Nicholas Hereford would have been a helper 
and fellow translator. 


those of the translations of the text: partly because the manu- 
scripts of English Bibles seldom contained the whole Bible, and 
the General Prologue was not necessary for completeness' sake*: 
partly because the General Prologue was frankly heretical, and 
would have involved the burning of the Bible if found upon a 
LoUard: and partly because some of the late fifteenth century 
manuscripts were no doubt written for orthodox people, prob- 
ably nuns, in which cases the scribe would not have copied the 
prologue. Forshall and Madden collated 170 manuscripts of the 
Wyclilhte Bible, and others have been discovered since: but 
they collated only ten manuscripts of the General Prologue. All 
these ten manuscripts have the General Prologue in connexion 
with the second Wyclifhte version, except in one case where the 
General Prologue itself forms the whole manuscript^. In three 
cases it is found with the complete Bible in the second version ^ 
in another this complete Bible contained it originally*; it is 
found once with the Old Testament only^ once with the New^ 
once with the Old Testament but split up in portions before the 
books it describes', once as a small paragraph only, prefixed to 
a psalter^, once as the first chapter only, in the manuscript made 
for Henry VP. Here the scribe completed the first chapter, 
which contains heretical matter at the end, but omitted the rest 
for obvious reasons. Certainly any manuscripts which may have 
been made originally for orthodox people in the fifteenth century 
would have omitted it also. Thus, though the manuscripts are 
few, their rarity is easily understandable, and there is no manu- 
script evidence at all for supposing that this prologue relates to 
any other translations than those printed by Forshall and 

' MSS. of the whole Bible are comparatively rare, because such books 
were so large and valuable. MSS. of the New Testament, or part of it, 
are very much more frequent than the Old Testament, to which the 
General Prologue belongs. 

^ Karl. 1666; in Univ. G. 3, also, it is found as a separate tract, though 
combined with certain tables, genealogies, and excerpts from the N. Test, 
in the later Wyclififite version. 

3 C.C.C. Camb. 147, Dublin A. i. 10, Acland MS. 

* Claudius E. 11. s Mm. 2. 15. « Kk. i. 8. 

' Line. Coll. Arch. 15: the scribe has arranged it in imitation of Jerome's 
separate prologues. 

* Addit. 10,046: copied from Dublin A. r. 10: other parts are in Wore, 
cath. F. 172. * Bodl. 277. 


The second reason for believing that the author of the General 
Prologue describes the making of the second version, as printed, 
and refers to the first version as "the Enghsh Bible late trans- 
lated," is that the second of these corresponds exactly to his 
aim, of a "translation according to the sentence"; and the first 
to one made "according to the letter." It is easily understand- 
able why a translation made in 1384, more or less according to 
orthodox precedent in its literal method of translation^, should 
have been found inadequate by the Lollard leaders within a f6w 
years. In 1382, when the first version was in the making, they 
had aimed at supplying a book for knights and lords, possibly 
in most cases with glosses: but, when their aim gradually became 
democratised, they desired that the most "simple and lewid" 
should learn their English gospels by heart: and for such a 
purpose the literal version was thoroughly unsuitable. Lollard 
preachers in the early days had generally made free translations 
of biblical verses in their sermons, and it was now seen to be 
desirable to have such an "open" translation in a written ver- 
sion. The translator says it was his special aim to produce such 
a version, referring to another existent one which apparently did 
not meet the case : and the two versions in Forshall and Madden 
exactly correspond to the situation thus indicated. 

The third reason for identifying them, is the close correspon- 
dence in the construction of the sentences of the later version 
with the method of translating described by the author of the 
General Prologue. That this was a matter of debate at Oxford 
at the time is seen by the treatises of two friars, who argued that 
the "figures," or grammatical constructions of Latin, could not 
be adequately rendered into English without violation of the 
sense, or vice versa. First and foremost, the author states that 
he does not mean to translate the present participle literally, 
but to turn it into a finite verb. Also, he inverts the order of the 
Latin words where the English construction demands it ; and he 
has taken especial care with words of double meaning, to give 
the sense of the original writer. This and some other details he 

* The literal construction is very similar also in the midland gloss on 
S. Matthew, particularly in the translation of the Latin present participle: 
li. 2.12, Haec eo cogitante, ecce angehis domini in soninis apparnit ei dicens, 
Joseph : Bot })ise })ings hym J)inkand : lo ane angel of Go<! apperid to him 
in sleep seyand, Joseph. 


explains with examples ^i and in all cases the second version is 
translated according to his methods, and his examples appear to 
be taken from it. These three reasons therefore, the conjunction 
of this version with the General Prologue in the manuscripts, the 
correspondence of the two versions to the two mentioned in the 
General Prologue, and the close correspondence between the 
methods of translation of the second and those described in the 
General Prologue, render it certain that the author of that work 
was the translator of the second version. 

It is thus clear that the translations printed by Forshall and 
Madden are those described by the author of the General Pro- 
logue: hut, since the description occurs in one chapter of the 
fifteen of the General Prologue, it might be questioned whether the 
prologue was originally written as it stands. The part describing 
the translation is obviously the work of a careful scholar, with 
a great zeal for accurate translation: is there any reason to 
suppose that the distinctively Lollard passages earher in the 
prologue are not his, but were inserted later, as for instance 
the Lollard passages in the version of Rolle's psalter? Internal 
evidence shews however that the prologue is not a glossed or 
conflate work^. The evidence of the manuscripts is against such 
a supposition: there is no different version of the General Pro- 
logue, the final chapter with the description of the translation 
does not occur separately, and the only part which does ever 
appear separately is the first chapter, in the manuscript pre- 
sented by Henry VI to the London Charterhouse^. Further, the 
thought and structure of the General Prologue is continuous and 
orderly, and the only digression is explained by the text itself. 
The General Prologue begins by explaining which biblical books 
are canonical, and in a single sentence it then passes from ex- 

1 FM, I. 57-60. 

2 The prologue to Rolle's psalter has been tacked on to the end of the 
Gen. Prol. in Trin. Dublin 2. i. 10: but there is no other evidence in the 
MSS. of any accretion to the original text. 

' FM, I. xlvii. The chapter ends by exhorting simple men to study 
the Old Testament, and stating that "pride and covetise of clerks is cause 
of their blindness and heresy, and depriveth them from very understanding 
of holy writ," — a sentiment of sufficiently Lollard flavour to make an 
orthodox scribe refrain from copying further. Another MS., Harl. 1666, 
ends imperfect'y in the final chapter, but as the end comes in the middle 
of a sentence, it seems to be merely an unfinished copy. 

V »-* 


plaining that all the books of the New Testament are canonical, 
and therefore to be studied by " Christian men and women, old 
and youngi," to explaining that they may study the dark parts 
of holy writ as well as the open, for the same meaning is in both. 
"Therefore no simple man of wit be afeared unmeasurably to 
study in the text of holy writ." There is no gap here between the 
technical and scholarly definition of the canonical books, and 
the exhortation for all classes to study all parts of the Bible, 
which is frankly Lollard: and the same is true throughout the 
prologue. It continues with a division of Old Testament matter 
into moral, legal and ceremonial, and continues with a short de- 
scription of the contents of each book of the Old Testament^ 
and Apocrypha, written with the idea of upholding certain 
Lollard doctrines, and exhorting to steadfastness under perse- 
cution. Thus, the book of Chronicles should be specially studied 
by Christian kings and princes, that they may learn by the 
example of evil princes and their punishment, and of good 
princes who "governed well the people in 'Goddis Lawe.'" 

But alas, alas, alas, where king Jozophat sent his princes and 
deacons and priests to each city of his realm with the book of God's 
law, to teach openly God's law to the people, some Christian lords 
send general letters to all their ministers and liegemen or tenants, 
that the pardons of the bishops of Rome, that been open leesings ... be 
preached generally in their realms and lordships, and if any wise man 
againsayeth the open errors of antichrist, ... he be prisoned, as a 
man out of Christian belief, and traitor of God and of Christian kings 
and lords. 

Hezekiah busied himself in cleansing the house of God : but some 
Christian lords now defile it, by supporting simonient clerks full 
of covetousness, heresy and hypocrisy, "to stop God's law, that 
it be not known and kept and freely preached." Similar morals 
against idolatry and simony are drawn from the stories of Ahab, 
Manasseh, etc., so that all this portion^ serves both as a summary 
of the contents of the books, and an application of the moral of 
the stories against the persecutors of the Lollards. 

"But it is to wit " (the writer continues without break, after 
finishing this description), "that holy scripture hath four 

1 FM, I. 2. 

2 Chapters in. to xi., inclusive, out of the fifteen of the whole work. 
'' FM, I. 3-43. 


understandings: literal, allegoric, moral and anagogic," and 
these he explains at length, quoting a sermon of S. Augus- 
tine and the seven rules of Ticonius^ for the understanding of 

"Austin writeth all this in the third book of Christian Teaching," 
he proceeds, " Isidore in the first book of Sovereign Good toucheth 
these rules shorther, but I have him not now; and Lyra, in the be- 
ginning of the Bible, toucheth more openly these rules, but I have 
him not now; and Armachan in the beginning of his book de Quaes- 
tionibus Armenorum giveth many good grounds to understand holy 
scripture to the letter, and ghostly understanding also: but I have 
him not now." 

This lack of books explains the digression which follows, which 
according to the purpose of the author is little more than pad- 
ding, but which enables us to fix the date at which the prologue 
was written. 

" Also, no thing may seem to be wiser, no thing of more eloquence, 
than is holy scripture," he continues; "...but for God's love, ye 
simple men, beware of pride, and vain jangling and chiding in words 
against proud clerks of school and vain religious, and answer ye 
meekly and prudently to enemies of God's law." 

Holy living, he says, is needful for the understanding of holy 
writ: but now no man may learn divinity at the university till 
he has been regent in arts for two years, or studied nine or ten 
years at the university beforehand^: and horrible practices are 
to be found among clerks at Oxford, "as is known to many 
persons of the realm, and at the last parliament^" These words 
refer to the petition the Lollards presented to parliament in 
1395*, which made a great stir. That this whole digression was 
due to lack of books, and was not a later gloss, is shewn by the 
sentence with which it was suddenly ended; 

Nathless, for Lyra came [of] late to me, see what he saith of the 
understanding of holy scripture: he writeth thus on the second pro- 
logue on the Bible^, 

1 FM, I. 46. 2 Id. I. 51. ' Id. I. 51; see infra, p. 374. 

* See pp. 375-6. 

5 The writer here translates a passage from Lyra's first prologue on the 
Bible and the whole of the second, as in the 1634, Antwerp, edition of 
Lyra's gloss. This long passage, from cap. xiii. p. 52, "John saith in the 
fifth chapter of the Apoc," to cap. xiv. p. 55, "Here Lyra rehearseth the 
sentence of S. Austin and of Isidore in these rules," is merely a translation 
of Lyra. 


and he proceeds to quote the whole of Lyra's long prologue. 
Having now summarised the contents of the biblical books and 
devoted much space to the explanation of the four under- 
standings of scripture, he finishes in the last chapter by asserting 
that it is lawful for the common people to have holy writ, gives 
the above-mentioned rules for translating different grammatical 
constructions, and ends on the familiar note of exhortation to 
patience under persecution. "God grant us all grace to kunne 
well and keep well holy writ, and suffer joyfully some pain for 
it at the last." 

The General Prologue is thus a whole, whose one digression is 
due to the writer's temporary lack of the books he wished to 
quote, and which he terminated immediately on receipt of those 
books ; there are no grounds from its internal structure for con- 
sidering it a glossed or conflate work. 

§ 4. It is thus clear that but one person wrote the General 
Prologue, and that he edited also the second version of the 
Wycliffite Bible. This person was Wycliffe's secretary and 
literary executor, the leader of the remnant of his sect, the 
"eximius doctor" John Purvey. For this, the comparison of the 
General Prologue with other documents and data affords sufficient 
evidence^. The General Prologue was written by a scholar of 
undoubted eminence: by a Lollard: and by a persecuted 
Lollard: and it was finished in 1395. Sufficient is known of all 
the Lollards to say with certainty that there was no other 
Lollard doctor or scholar holding out in 1395 except Purvey 
himself: they had all recanted earlier, and the date of their re- 
cantation is known. Moreover, the General Prologue is but one 
of a series of tracts ^ written in the years about 1387 by Purvey, 
and these tracts or prologues have a forerunner in a chapter 
dealing with translations, inserted by Purvey when he translated 
Wycliffe's De Officio Pastorali. There is also evidence that the 
Thirty Seven Conclusions is substantially the work of Purvey: 
and it has so many passages in common with the General Pro- 
logue that a common authorship is strongly suggested. There are 
other minor points : and the cumulative evidence leaves no room 

^ See appendix, p. 376, The identification of the author of the General 
Prologue with John Purvey. 
* See p. 270. 


for doubt of Purvey's authorship. Contemporaries who identified 
his secretary's work with Wydiffe's were justified in beUeving 
that "master John Wychffe" translated the whole Bible, as 
Hus said they did ; and the probability is that Arundel, when he 
prohibited the use of translations "made in the time of the late 
master John Wycliffe, or since," knew well enough that he was 
condemning the second version and the glossed gospels made by 
John Purvey^. 

^ For Arundel's examination of Purvey's glossed gospels, see p. 279; 
for his presence at Purvey's trial in 1401, see pp. 284-5 ; for his unsuccessful 
attempt to conciliate this eminent scholar by giving him a benefice, p. 289. 



The controversy about the English Bible 1384-1408, 
and the constitutions of 1408 

§ I. From 1378 when Wycliffe, writing the De Veritate, wa^ 
declaring that it was the duty of all Christians to be acquaintec 
with the bibhcal text, till 1408 when Arundel prohibited trans 
lations made in his days or later, controversy went on over the 
lawfulness of translating the text of the Vulgate into the mothei 
tongue. During the whole period the friars were the leaders ol 
the opposition ; and, since they were the recognised authorities on 
biblical study at the universities, and the only lecturers on the 
biblical text, their opposition carried much weight. The English 
version of Wycliffe's De Officio Pastorali, probably the work of 
Purvey^, complained that the friars were the chief enemies of 
English Bibles: and at the other end of the period we find them 
bringin? their campaign to a successful issue at Oxford. The 
use of bibhcal translations was not, hke some of the Lollard 
practices, heretical on the face of it: and it is quite possible that 
the attitude of the bishops may have been less antagonistic at 
first than that of the friars^ It was an eminent friar who claimed 
in 1401 that severer measures ought to be taken to enforce the 
existing custom by which "our enthroned bishops refuse the 
reading of the Bible to the simple ^" 

We possess an English tract which is the first in this contro- 
versy: from its contents, it must have been written about the 
same time as the De Veritate, and probably by W'yclifi'e himself. 
It begins The holy prophet Dmvid saith*, is written by a Lollard, 
and is a scholarly and somewhat academic tract, full of citations 
from the Bible and the fathers: the biblical texts quoted are not 
taken from either of the Lollard \-ersions. but are apparently 
translated at sight, as in the English N-ersions of Wycliffe s ser- 

* Cf. Arundel s • m t,xvJ4 but Wvcl.-e >:-i:-v. -.r. :'-;• .V Etrmmg. 
that bishops «is «-c-. ..- •-< "fnr hostile?. *<>? ti i:i ^:." 

• S<w jk 4v>S- • Print*cL pf»- 445-56^ 


mons^. The emphasis in the tract is on the combination of the 
study of the Bible with a poor and holy Ufe: it repeatedly 
exhorts the simple to acquaint themselves with God's law, and ' 
speaks of the opposition of proud clerks to their doing so. It is 
almost certainly Wychffe's own work^, because of the earhness 
of its date, and the similarity of its hterary style and contents 
to those of the De Veritate ; for the simplest person, it says, should 
be acquainted with the Bible, though it nowhere refers to biblical 
translations, — a fact which dates it as written c. 1378-80. The 
Bible, it says, should be studied: 

only to edifying of thyself or thy neighbour. Some men will con for 
that end only that they con, and it is foul curiosity. And some 
men will con that they be known, and it is a foul vanity; and some 
men wiU con, for to sell their cunning for money, or for honours, 
and it is foul winning. . . . Christian men wonder much on the way- 
wardness of divers clerks, that boasten that they have passingly the 
cunning of holy writ, ... for they feign to study, con and preach holy 
writ for pride of the word, for covetise of earthly goods, and for 
womb-joy, to live in deUces, bodily ease, and idleness. .. .Such is 
scripture to a man not willing to live after God : as if any man ex- 
pounded learning of battle to an earth-tiller, not having will for to 

The writer then gives a series of numbered steps, which it 
behoves all men to take: to pray devoutly for a true under- 
standing of the text of holy writ, to do penance that God should 
grant them this understanding, to beheve that His law is true, 
to enquire meekly of learned and well-hving men the true under- 
standing of holy writ, and finally to 

read busily the text of the New Testament, and take they en- 
sample of the holy life of Christ, and of His apostles, and trust they 
fully to the goodness of the Holy Ghost, which is special teacher of 

well-willed men They should see and study the true and open 

exposition of holy doctors, and other wise men, as they may easily 

» See pp. 249, 445. 

* It might be a translation of some Latin work of Wycliffe's, now lost: 
bat it is unlikely to be Purv-ey's translation, judging by a comparison of 
its literary- st>ie with that of Pur\-ey's other work, and his EngUsh gloss 
of the De Officio Pastorali ; and from the fact that Purvey did write a series 
of tracts in defence of translations, in which it is not included. 

» See p. 448. The passage which is closest to Wychffe's argument in 
the De Vent, (for which cf. supra), is that beginning: "These heretics 
say cursedly that God is false, and His law is false ... the true understanding 
thereof," p. 450. 



see as goodly come thereto. Let Christian men travail faithfully in 
these six ways, and be not too much af eared of objections of enemies, 
saying that "the letter slayeth." 

The writer then gives a long exposition of what the text, " the 
letter slayeth," actually means, answers two other objections to 
the reading of the text of God's law^, and concludes: 

Therefore, notwithstanding these lewid objections, as Christ 
stretched forth His arms and His hands to be nailed on the cross, . . . 
so all Christian people should stretch forth their arms and hands and 
all their members to embrace to themselves the law of God. 

The points in favour of Wycliffe's authorship, besides the 
earliness of the date and resemblance in literary style, are the 
similarity of outlook to that of the De Veritate, the fact that the 
writer deals at length with the argument that "holy scripture is 
false," which belongs to the quite early stage of the biblical con- 
troversy 2 but is not found later, and the improbability that it is 
a work of Purvey's, — the next most likely conjectural author. 
The main aim of the De Veritate is to disprove the assertion " that 
holy scripture is false," because it is discordant in parts, and 
this tract is largely taken up with the same point : but the effect 
of the De Veritate seems to have been so great that the objection 
was not brought forward later. The tract is found in the manu- 
script in the closest connexion with three other Lollard treatises, 
the work of Nicholas Hereford or one of the circle of translators 
of the first Lollard version^ 

Besides this early tract, and the chapter speaking of the law- 
fulness of the English translations inserted in the English De 
Officio Pastorali, we have a series of twelve English sermons or 
tracts* by Purvey, defending English Bibles. These must have 
been written between the years 1382 and 1395: for the first 
recommends the reading of epistles and gospels, "with ex- 
position," — an early Lollard demand, probably made before the 

1 First, "that lewid men should not intermit of holy writ," because 
God commanded that only Moses and Aaron should go up into the mount, 
which signifies holy writ; second, that "since Osa the deacon was slain 
for putting his hand to the ark, lewid men should not touch holy writ." 

2 See pp. 243-5. ^ See infra, p. 445. 

* li. 6. 26, flE. 1-158, and 2 other MSS. The tracts are written in a coarse 
upright hand, in a MS. 6" x 4^", which contains also the Lollard translation 
of the Elucidarium. Tract 11 is printed in FM, i. xiv-xv. The whole series, 
though very interesting, is too long to print in an appendix. 

XI] purvey's apologetics 271 

early version was complete; — and it is improbable that the 
tracts were written later than the General Prologue, which in- 
corporates one of them, and was a long and sufficient apologia 
for the time being. The tenth tract is in fact the greater part of 
Purvey's epilogue to his gloss on S. Matthew, copied without the 
special explanation of Purvey's authorities, and how he had 
dealt with Aquinas' gloss, in making his own English one^. 
There is some reason to date this gloss as earlier than 1387^: 
and if the twelve sermons were written in the order in which 
they were copied into this manuscript ^ and the tenth were 
written before 1387, this would date the whole series as probably 
written between 1382 and 1390. That is, the series would be 
roughly contemporary with Trevisa's passage on biblical trans- 
lations, written in 1387. The preoccupation with the defence of 

^ The original form of the tract is the epilogue on Matthew, printed 
p. 457. li. 6. 26, p. 98, begins: Adere God, lord of truth. . .fro J^e bigynnynge 
of pe world unto ))is tyme: printed pp. 460-1, with the variants from this MS., 
which are usually slight verbal expansions, see notes on p. 460. The 
scribe of li. 6. 26, writing c. 1400-1430, copied a MS. in which the arrange- 
ment was the same, with tract x following tract ix without break or 
rubrication. This tract (x) is so conspicuously similar in matter and style 
to the others of the series, that there are no grounds for supposing it a 
solitary work of Purvey's, inserted into an alien collection of sermons. 

^ The epilogue to the gloss on Luke was written in 1387 (see p. 275): 
that on Matthew perhaps earlier. 

^ This seems probable, because the references to English translations 
as made become successively more definite in the later tracts. An additional 
reason for attributing the series to Purvey, is that no one but a Lollard 
himself engaged on the work of translation over a number of years would 
have written so long a series of tracts on the same subject: the defence 
of English scriptures was certainly not one of the usual Lollard theses, 
specially before 1408. The biblical quotations are not those of either 
Lollard version: but the tracts were issued while Purvey was engaged on 
the glossed gospels, and probably before he had turned to the making of the 
second version, c. 1390-5. The early version was unsuitable for quotation 
in popular sermons: the translations here are often loose, and sometimes 
interrupted by the writer's own interpretations. For the mode of transla- 
tion, of. p. 43. 

li. 6. 26, p. 9. GoiK sei)) he, al aboute pe world, and preche \>e gospel 
to euery criature. 

EV ^e goynge in to al the world, preche the gospel to ech creature. 

LV Go 3e in to al the world and preche the gospel to eche creature. 

li. 6. 26, p. 18. :^euel) not pe holy gospel to houndis, ne castit> not your 
margarites a forn \>e swyn. 

EV Nyl 3e 3eue holy thing to houndis, nether sende 36 your margaritis 
before swyne. 

LV Nyle 3e 3yue hooli thing to houndis, nethir caste 30 30ure margaritis 
bifore swyne. 


translations is evidence that the writer was himself engaged in 
making them for several years: and, even without the connexion 
of one tract with Purvey, it would be difficult to ascribe them to 
any translator but him. Nicholas Hereford was still a Lollard 
at the period of their issue: but from 1382-87 he was either on 
the continent or imprisoned by the archbishop. 
The first tract begins: 

AU Christian people stand in three manner of folk. Some can read 
and understand, as good clerks and well lettered men : and for them 
be ordained books of Hebrew, of Greek, and of Latin. Some can 
neither read ne understand, as lewid people that kunnen no letter, . . . 
Some there be that kunnen read but little, or nought understand, 
and for them be ordained books of their mother tongue, to French 
men books of French, to Italians books of Latin corrupt, to Dutch 
men books Dutch, to Englishmen books of English: in which books 
they may read to kunne God and His law.. . .And that it is lawful 
to Christian people to read and kunnen holy scripture, ... it is open 
in many places of God's law, both old and new^. 

The comparative earliness of this tract is shewn by its recom- 
mendation only of the reading of the gospels and epistles, and 
even those with glosses. The author does not contend for the 
reading of the whole Bible, or the naked text, or the Old Testa- 
ment, which were later Lollard demands. 

But if the ten commandments, the creed, pater noster and ave, 
that all Christian people ought to kunne, common things of holy 
writ, gospels and epistles read in church, be well translated and 
truly, sentence for sentence, with good declaration [i.e. exposition], 
whoso read it, he shall the better understand it, both in Latin and 
English 2. 

In such a moderate demand as this. Purvey would have found 
support not only from the jurists of Cologne, who argued in 1398 
that the simple and open places in the Bible might be translated 
for the use of lay people, but also from all others who considered 
a glossed translation safer than an unglossed. In another tract 
also Purvey demanded the translation of gospel and epistle at 
mass itself^. Similarly, in Germany, the earliest orthodox 

^ li. 6. 26, pp. I, 2. 
' Id. p. 15. 

^ See infra; and li. 6. 26, p. 87: "those that contrarion the gospel and 
the epistle and would let it to be preached." 

XI] purvey's twelve tracts 273 

manual to recommend vernacular Bible reading after 1500, re- 
commended the use of German plenaries or Gospel books 1. 

All the tracts in this series deal with this subject of vernacular 
Bibles: the lawfulness of Bible translations in the abstract, the 
lawfulness of lords and gentles' possessing them, and the lawful- 
ness of simple people's possessing and learning them by 
heart. The second tract begins: "Our Lord Jesu Christ, very 
God and very man, saith in the gospel 2"; the third, "Our 
Lord Jesu Christ made the gospel. . . . Also Christian men must 
sue Christ in manner of living as Jesu saith in the gospel . . . but 
Christian men know not Christ's life but by gospel: then ought 
the gospel to be'preached that men may know Christ's [life] and 
follow them thereafter ^" The fourth begins: " Another sentence 
commending the gospel in our mother tongue"; the fifth, "An- 
other sentence shewing that the people may have holy writ in 
their mother tongue lawfully"; the sixth, "This that sueth 
sheweth that all those be in great peril that letten the testament 
of Christ to be known and kept of the people"; the seventh, 
" This treatise that foUoweth proveth that each nation may law- 
fully have holy writ in their mother tongue"; the eighth, "An- 
other chapter strengthening the sentences that go before"; the 
ninth, "These be the arms of Antichrist's disciples against true 
men: And the letter slayeth." The tenth is the above-mentioned 
epilogue, or lamentation that "Christ's law is laid asleep and 
little set by of Antichrist and of his false clerks." The eleventh 
is "A commendation of holy writ in our own language," and the 
twelfth "A dialogue of a wise man and a fool, denying the truth 
with fables." 

All the tracts seem to be sermons, addressed to such rustic 
audiences as Purvey might have met with in his pastoral journeys : 
not to an academic audience. The words "dear friends," "and 
now, dear friends^," occur frequently, and even the last dialogue 
has them occasionally, shewing that an audience was contem- 
plated. There is an interesting passage shewing that by this 
writer at least, the foreign word "Lollard" was connected with 
the English verb "loll." 

1 See p. 129. ■ li- 6. 26, p. 43. 

3 Id. pp. 49, 52, 56, 80, 82, 91, 93. 98, 102, 116. 
* Id. p. 108. 

D. W. B. 18 


The most blessed LoUer that ever was or ever shall be was our 
Lord Jesu Christ, for our sins lolling on the rood tree: and of his 
livery and suit were Peter and Andrew, and other more. These were 
blessed Lollers, lolling on the right hand of Jesu, with the repentant 
thief in God's mercy, to whom our Lord behight the bliss of paradise 
the same day. But good friends, what was the cause that Christ and 
His suers were lolled thus? Certes for their faithful speaking against 
the sins of the people, and specially for they spoken against the 
covetise and sins of untrue bishops, and of false feigned religious. . . . 
Now it were to speak of cursed Lollers and untrue,deceiving God . . . . ^ 

Elsewhere Purvey complained of the danger of professing 
Lollardy: a man, he says, may sin grievously, but if he "pay 
the summoner," he shall be called " a manful man, and profitable 
to holy Church." 

But if a man speak God's word and live thereafter, and faileth not 
for no persecution ne loss of worldly goods, anon he shall be cursed 
and put out of the Church, and if he may be caught he shall be burnt 
as an heretic^. 

The "dialogue between a wise man and a fool" seems to be 
rather between a faint hearted Lollard, most unwilling to "lose 
his goods" and adopt the Puritan strictness of the Lollards, and 
one of sterner metal, who complains of his faintheartedness and 
finally converts him: 

But some say, I pray thee, leave these speeches, and tell me a 
merry tale of Guy of Warwick, Bevis of Hampton, or of Robin Hood, 
or of some well faring man, of their conditions and manners.. . .Let 
us live as our fathers did, and then good enough ; for they were well 
loved of theaters, wrestlers, buckler-players, of dancers and singers: 
and they were well willed to have them to the ale: yea, and oft 
times on Sundays for good fellowship they would dine and drink by 
night, and go to church after, and so let us do nowadays, and we 
shall have the blessing of Saint Thomas of Canterbury. Yea, man, 
and if you have well drunk at home, thy stomach shall wax warm 
though it be cold weather, and the sweet savour of good ale shall 
rise into thy brain, and bring thee merry asleep, yea, and though the 
priest preach then never so false, it shall no more grieve thee than 
the sound of a mere harp. 

Thus the tract, The Holy Prophet David saith, and this series 
of Purvey's, give us the Lollard apologetic for vernacular 
scriptures down to the writing of the General Prologue in 1395. 

The history of Lollardy between the years 1382, when 

1 li. 6. 26, p. 116. ^ Id. p. 125. 


Wycliffe retired to Lutterworth, and 1408 when his translation 
was prohibited, was closely bound up with the fortune of Purvey, 
its leading scholar and probably also its political leader. And 
throughout that period Purvey gave his labour, to a far greater 
extent than Wycliffe his master had ever done, to the perfecting 
and defence of the English Bible. 

The first work to be taken in hand was the completion of 
Hereford's version, broken off at Baruch iii. 20, — that is, with 
two-thirds of the Bible-and-Apocrypha translated, and Ezekiel, 
Daniel, the minor prophets, Maccabees and the New Testament 
as the last third, still left to be done. There is much probability 
that Wycliffe's secretary was chiefly responsible for the finishing 
of this first version: and in any case, the Leicester parchemyner 
was copying the Lollard gospels and epistles by 1384^. This 
points to the completion of the New Testament in that year, or 
very soon after. 

§2. Purvey's next task was one which possibly had been 
foreseen by the makers of the first translation: the provision 
of "the doctors' " glosses on part at least of the Bible. Mediaeval 
opinion demanded it: and when mediaeval opinion was thus 
satisfied, it might be possible to obtain protection for the book by 
dedicating it to a royal personage. Purvey took perhaps a year 
to add a translation of patristic glosses, of portentous length, 
to each gospel-: for he seems to have written the epilogue to 
the gloss on S. Luke in 1387. If those on Matthew and Mark were 
written earlier, that on John may have been finished the year 
after. The epilogue to S. Luke begins: 

Therefore a poor caitiff [one of Purvey's usual pseudonyms], letted 
from preaching for a time for causes known of God, writeth the 
gospel of Luke in English, with a short exposition of old and holy 
doctors, to the poor men of his nation, which con little Latin or none, 
and be poor of wit and of worldly chattels, and nevertheless, rich of 
good will to please God^. 

1 See p. 232. Till Bodl. 959 is printed, with its dialectal differences, it 
is not possible to assign any part definitely to Purvey, or even Wycliffe: 
but the completion of the Bible in that MS., from Baruch iii. 20, has none 
of those midland or Kentish forms which would be inconsistent with 
Purvey's authorship. 

^ For the existent MSS. of these glosses, see pp. 256-7. 

* FM, I. ix. FM believed Wycliffe to have been the author of these 
glosses on the gospels: but he was never inhibited from preaching, and 




This seems to refer to an inhibition from preaching in the 
diocese of Worcester, which Purvey received in 1387 1. The 
bishop's mandate inhibited Nicholas Hereford, John Purvey, 
John Aston, John Parker and Wilham Swinderby, "who are 
united in a certain illegal association condemned by the law, by 
the name or in the rite of the Lollards." Purvey himself was not 
imprisoned at this time, but he lamented in the epilogue to 
S. Matthew that other Lollards, continually occupied in studying 
and teaching of holy writ, were "cursed and forprisoned." 

The glosses are founded mainly on the fullest contemporary 
catena of patristic glosses on the four gospels, the Catena Aurea 
of S. Thomas Aquinas. This is specially the case in the gloss on 
S. Matthew, where Purvey acknowledged his borrowings from 
Aquinas in the epilogue. Some of the prologues and epilogues 
merely discussed authorities, and others lamented the opposition 
to the spread of holy writ on the part of proud clerks. The glosses 
are given for almost every word of the text, and are more than 
ten times as long as the text itself. They are an extraordinary 
monument of patience and scholarship. 

In the epilogues and prologues, which are very similar in 
matter and style to the General Prologue, Purvey described him- 
self by a set of veiled titles, of which the "simple creature of 
God" of the General Prologue is an example. Describing his 
reasons for entering on the work he says: 

"For this cause a sinful caitiff having compassion on lewid men-," 
"this coward sinful caitiff allegeth Jerome on Matthew^," "this poor 
scribbler is not guilty in his conscience that he erred from truth of 
holy writ and very sentence of these doctors*," "this scribbler had 
travailed with many false books," "this is the desire of this poor 
scribbler," "therefore a sinful caitiff, letted fro preaching for a time 
for causes known of God^," "this poor caitiff setteth a full sentence 
of the text together," "therefore a simple creature of God, willing to 
bear in party the charges of simple poor men, well willing to God's 

never made use of the pseudonyms (simple creature, etc., see above), 
found in the prologues and epilogues to the glosses. That these are genuinely 
the work of the compiler of the glosses, is shewn by the closeness with 
which the discussion of authorities and method of translation fits the 
text of the glosses. 

1 For Lollardy in Bristol, see pp. 357; 379 n. for Wakefield's Reg. 

^ Laud Misc. 235, f. 2, col. i. ^ Id. f. 2, col. 2. 

* Id. i. 264 b, col. I ; see p. 457 for next two quotations. 

5 Bodl. 143, f. 3 b, col. 2. 

XI] purvey's glosses on the gospels 277 

cause, setteth a short gloss in English on the gospel of John^," 
" wherefore a simple creature expoundeth shortly the gloss of Matthew 
to lewid men in English tongue^." 

By the use of these "pseudonyms" Purvey had no serious in- 
tention of implying that he was himself unlearned, for he re- 
ferred continually to the "doctors" he had studied, and in one 
case even compared his scholastic equipment not unfavourably 
with that of S. Thomas Aquinas : 

Whatever doctor or gloss I allege, and tell not specially where, I 
take that allegeance^ of Aquinas on Matthew, for he had many more 
originals, both of Greeks and of Latins, than I have now, and I have 
many sharp doctors which he had not*. 

In all the prologues and epilogues^ Purvey set forth his in- 
tention, and lamented the opposition to it, in some such words 
as those in the epilogue on S. Matthew: 

The writer of this gloss purposed to God's honour, and help of 
Christian souls, for to tell truly holy writ, and shortly and plainly 
the most profitable sentence of these beforesaid doctors: and hitherto, 
blessed be God of His great gift and gracious, this poor scribbler is 
not guilty in his conscience that he erred from truth of holy writ and 
very sentence of these doctors. ... Alas good spouse of souls, Jesu 
Christ: why forsakest thou so much Thy people: that sinful men's 
ordinance be openly taught, and maintained by worldly priests and 
their fautours: and Thine ordinance, of Avilful poverty and great 
meekness of clerks, and continual occupation of them in studying 
and teaching holy writ, is despised and holden error, and they cursed 
and forprisoned that would bring again thy best ordinance*!" 

Of these prologues and epilogues, one was incorporated by 
Purvey or some follower into his set of tracts in defence of 
English scriptures, and another by himself into the General 
Prologue '. 

Meanwhile, under Purvey's leadership, Lollardy continued to 
have its representatives at court, among the knights, and among 
the poorer classes in the country reached by the travelling 
preachers. Personages who were suspected of favouring it, like 
Gaunt and to some extent Gloucester, and well-known pro- 

^ Bodl. 243, f. 115 b, col. 2. 

- Trin. Camb. 36, f. 7: of. Gen. Prol. cap. xv. 

* Quotation. * Trin. Camb. 36, f. 7. 

* See that printed pp. 456-61. • See p. 457. ' See pp. 281, 456. 


fessors of it, like the earl of Salisbury, and the knights Clifford, 
Stury, Pecche, Clanvowe, etc., were too powerful to be attacked 
by the bishops: but in the country districts certain Lollard 
preachers were tried and forced to recant. At Leicester, 
William Smith, Wycliffe and Purvey's "parchemyner," did 
penance in the market place in 1392, and handed over to the 
archbishop, under compulsion, "the solemn (or well written) 
books of the gospel and epistles, and other epistles, and doctors 
in the mother tongue, which he had written, and as he confessed, 
he had been studiously toiling to write them for eight years ^," — 
since 1384, in fact. Such "solemn" books may well have been 
the fine copies of the Wycliffite scriptures possessed by Glou- 
cester, and probably many of the Lollard knights. The reference 
to the "doctors" in connexion with the gospels and epistles 
shews that he had, among other books, copied Purvey's glossed 
gospels, — the surviving manuscripts of which, especially one 
which has the text rubricated and written very large, are cer- 
tainly "solemn" or imposing books. 

Through the instrumentality probably of some Lollard at 
court, these "doctors on the gospels" were presented to the 
queen. Richard II himself possessed a French Bible ^ according 
to contemporary custom: but to Anne of Bohemia, who before 
1384 read the gospels in Latin, Czech and German ^ French was 
probably less useful than the language of her adopted country. 
She was also supposed to be, to some extent, favourable to the 
Lollards, for her father had founded and encouraged the uni- 
versity of Prague, which gave so favourable a reception to 
Wycliffe's followers and teaching. Anne died in 1394, and 
Purvey wrote later ^: 

The bishop of Canterbury, Thomas Arundel, that now is^, said in 
a sermon at Westminster, there as were many hundred people, at 
the burying of queen Anne, of whose soul God have mercy: and in 
his commending of her, he said it was more joy of her than of any 
woman that ever he knew, for notwithstanding that she was an alien 

^ FM, I. xxxiii, from Knighton's continuator, the Leicester canon. 

^ Devon, in Issues of the Exchequer, 213, calls it a Bible written in the 
"Gaelic" language, misreading "inidiomate Gallico" (French). Probably it 
was a Bible Histoviale. 

' See p. 248. * See p. 445. 

' When Purvey wrote, c. 1405: he was archbishop of York in 1394. 




bom, she had on English all the four gospellers, wdth the doctors 
upon them. And he said she had sent them unto him, and he said 
they were good and true, and commended her in that she was so 
great a lady, and also an alien, and would so lowlily study in so 
virtuous books. 

The "four gospellers with the doctors upon them" were cer- 
tainly Purvey's glosses. There was at the time another set of 
Enghsh glossed gospels, written in the north midlands^, but the 
description does not fit them with anything of the exactitude it 
fits Purvey's. The north midland glosses are throughout a free 
comment on the text, in the author's own words: while Purvey's 
are exact translations from passages of the "doctors," and as 
such he frequently speaks of them in his prologues 2. Anne sent 
them to Arundel for approbation, according to mediaeval 
custom : and it is of interest that he thus publicly approved them. 
It is most unlikely the copies presented to her contained any 
Lollard prologue or epilogue, but it is almost certain that the 
gloss on Matthew contained one heretical passage^. This how- 
ever was embedded, without title or marking, in the middle of 

^ See p. 310. The translator in the prologue states that he is going to 
set forth the "saws of doctors" and not his own opinions, but no references 
or doctors' names are given in the text itself, as in the Lollard glosses. 

* The epilogue to Matthew begins : " Here endeth a short gloss on Matthew 
which [is] taken of holy doctors, Jerome, Austin, Ambrose, Gregory, 
Bernard, Chrysostom, Grosthead, Rabanus, and other more." The epilogue 
to John has: "Some suppose that Parisiensis made this treatise, but I 
am not certain thereof; nevertheless, whoever made it, it seemeth that he 
allegeth well holy scripture, reason and holy doctors, and this sufficeth 
enow to reasonable men"; Lord Dillon's MS. f. 59 fc, col. i. The prologue 
to Luke has "he setteth a full sentence of the text together, that it well 
may be known from the exposition, afterward he setteth a sentence of 
a doctor declaring the text, and in the end of the sentence he setteth the 
doctor's name, that men msLy know how far his sentence goeth. Only the 
text of holy writ, and sentence of old doctors and approved, been set in 
this exposition." See also p. 458. 

^ The gloss on Luke xvii. 19 has one long heretical digression, which 
appears to be original and not an insertion because (a) it arises out of the 
subject which is being glossed in the ordinary course, (ft) it occurs in all 
three of the MSS. in which we possess this gloss (see p. 456). After the 
glosses on the healing of the ten lepers, Luke xvii. 19, thy faith hath made 
thee safe, a long digression on the healing of the leper, and repentance 
through faith alone, without confession, is inserted without special marking 
or rubric, Kk. 2. 9, ff. 202 ft, col. 2 — 208 ft, col. 2. The passage occurs in 
Bodl. 143, as can be seen by the beginning, and the marginal references 
to authorities: but two folios of the heretical matter, ff. 159 ft and 160, 
have the text carefully erased with pumice stone. This MS. must have 
belonged to an orthodox fifteenth century owner, who wrote on the outside 


a very long and cumbrous book, or books, and it is very unlikely 
that either Anne or Arundel ever discovered it. There is nothing 
remarkable either in Arundel's praise of a work he probably 
knew to be Purvey's, for it was episcopal policy to try to win 
over the scholarly Lollards by argument and benignancy: 
Hereford had been so won over by 1393. Nor was it contrary 
to mediaeval consistency to praise a queen for reading the 
gospels in the vernacular, while two years earlier the scribe who 
probably wrote her very books was punished as a Lollard. A 
princess who read the Latin text could certainly, with license, 
read the English gospels, with the doctors' exposition on them: 
for a professional scribe, or middle class Lollard, to use the bare 
text at will was a different matter. 

Anne may have had the glossed gospels earlier than 1394, if 
Purvey finished them by about 1390^. Meanwhile, he had 
already begun another task 2, that described in the General 
Prologue as making the traiislation of the Bible "as open or 
openlier in English as it is in Latin." The need of producing a 
version which could be quoted to the unlearned, and memorised, 
was now obvious, and Purvey substantially completed it in 1395. 
Judging by the time needed for such a work, he probably began 
it when he finished the glosses, 1388-90: but he may, of course, 
have carried on the two works simultaneously. For the glosses 
he had used the first or hteral translation^: and the second 
version of the Bible which he nov/ made was founded closely 
upon the first. This he described in the General Prologue as 
"the English Bible late translated," naturally without going 

folio, now f. 222 b, "Opus fratris Thomae de Aquino a doctoribus diversis 
extractum et translatum in linguam maternam." Bodl. 243 has the 
heretical passage on ff. 82-84. 

1 FM, I. viii conjectures that the glossed gospels may have been produced 
earlier than the EV itself: this cannot be finally decided till the text of 
the EV is re-edited and compared with that of the glosses: but it is most 
unlikely, (i) because so large a compilation as the glossed gospels, which 
is not merely the translation of one Latin gloss, must have taken 4 or 5 
years, and this earlier than the making of the EV, which was c. 1380-4! 
The time-schedule of Wycliffe's Latin works has been so closely worked 
out by the Rev. H. S. Cronin for a forthcoming book, that it is seen to be 
practically impossible for Wycliffe or his secretary to have accomplished 
the glosses before 1380, and the references to Bible reading in Wycliffe's 
work do not support it. (2) The epilogue to the gloss on Luke strongly 
points to 1387 as the date of writing. 

2 See p. 258. 


more closely into its origin^. After he had completed the making 
of this second version, he wrote a very long prologue to the Old 
Testament, — the part he was perhaps latest in completing, — 
the General Prologtie which has been described elsewhere ^. Like 
his prologues and epilogues to the glossed gospels, it contained 
all the notes on authorities and method which as a scholar he 
wished to prefix to his work, and it was also the culmination of 
his series of sermons in defence of English scriptures. While 
Purvey was writing the tract, and when, after describing the 
contents of each book of the Old Testament, he was intending 
to quote from the fathers explanations of the interpretations of 
scripture, he found himself without the books he needed ^. He 
had by him his own prologue to the gloss on S. Matthew, which 
contained a series of quotations from the De Doctrina Christiana 
of S. Augustine, dealing with the interpretation of scripture. 
He therefore paraphrased his o^n translation of the De Docirina 
Christiana, keeping the order of the-passages exactly, but supply- 
ing sentences in between, so that nearly the whole of the long 
prologue* was finally embedded. 

§ 3. The unexpected death of Anne, for she was only twent}'- 
eight, was a blow to the political hopes of the Lollards: and 
probably the immunity of the greater Lollards, and the attacks 
upon the lower, inspired them in an atternpt they now made to 
place their case before parliament. Richard was desolate at the 
queen's loss, and at her funeral ^ quarrelled with archbishop 

^ The writer of the article on Versions of the Bible, English, in CE is 
thus right in dating the glosses as posterior to the EV, but his statement 
that "the style of the text of the commentary resembles that of the later 
version rather than the early version," is unjustified. The gospel text 
does not "resemble" either, but is that of the EV, from a comparison of 
al) the MSS. of the glossed gospels with the EV as printed in FM. If, as 
the writer implies, certain short biblical verses quoted in the gloss itself 
" resemble " the LV rather than the EV, that is probably because the editor 
was here translating at sight, without the need to construe: or quite 
possibly the making of the LV of the gospels was contemporary with that 
of the glosses, while the LV of the rest of the Bible was not finished till 
c. 1395. See appendix, date of LV, pp. 374, 381. 

2 pp. 258-66. ' See p. 265. 

* Laud Misc. 235, f. i: Saint Austin saith in the second book of Christian 
doctrine. . .abate soon antichrist's malice, hypocrisy and tyranny; in 
Harl. 6333, a fifteenth centurj- MS., the scribe has omitted the last, violently 
Lollard, paragraphs, and then copied the Lollard Ununt ex Quattuor, etc. 
See infra, p. 303. * 4 Aug. 1394. 


Arundel's brother; in December, i394\ he sailed for Ireland, 
and Purvey and the London Lollards thought the time favour- 
able for their attempt. They were sure of some support from 
the anti-clericals, who desired the confiscation of clerical 
revenues. Purvey and his friends, — perhaps the Lollard knights 
who came to London for the parliament, — used a Latin tract of 
Purvey's, setting forth the opinions of the Lollards under thirty- 
seven conclusions, and made an expanded and more violent 
English translation of it, for propaganda purposes 2. The duke 
of York presided over parliament, which sat from 27 Jan. till 
15 Feb., and in this parliament the Lollard knights, probably 
with Stury as their spokesman, read a violent document called 
the Twelve Conchtsions of the Lollards. This pamphlet recom- 
mended those who wished for further information, to seek it in 
the Thirty-Seven Conclusions, which set forth the matter more 
at large. The Lollards seemed so politically strong that great 
fear and indignation was aroused among the clerical party, and 
it was probably now, and in this parliament ^, that a counter- 
measure was taken: Purvey, whose tale there is no reason to 
doubt, says that: 

It is known to many men, that in the time of king Richard, whose 
soul may God assoil, into parhament was put a bill,. . .to annul the 
Bible that time translated into English, and also other books of the 
gospel translated into English; which when it was seen of lords and 
commons, the good duke of Lancaster, John, M^hose soul God assoil 
for His mercy, answered thereto sharpl}^ saying this sentence: "We 
will not be refuse of all men, for sithen other nations have God's 
law, which is law of our belief, in their own mother language, we 
will have ours in English, who that ever it begrudgeth." And this 
he affirmed with a great oath*. 

Probably the violent nature of the Lollard attack had oc- 
casioned the change in episcopal, or at least in Arundel's, opinion 
about the Enghsh Bible, and the "other books of the gospel 

^ Walsingham, RS, 11. 216. ^ See pp. 375, 379. 

' The lines following refer to Arundel as chancellor: he resigned the 
chancer}' in 1396. It is unlikely that this bill was introduced before 
Arundel's sermon at Anne's funeral, Aug. 1394: and the only parliament 
between that and Arundel's resignation of the chancery was this parliament 
of 1395- The next was Jan.-Feb. 1397; cf. p. 297, n 4. 

* See p. 444. For the parliament of 1395, see p. 374; for suppression 
of scripture-reading London Lollards in 1392, VCH, London, i. 218. 

XI] THE STORM IN I395 283 

translated into English," — probably the very glosses Arundel 
had approved in his sermon six months earlier. Neither the 
Lollard Twelve Conclusions, nor the bill against translations, re- 
ceived suihcient support from lords or commons to be redrafted 
by the royal lawyers, and enrolled on the parliament rolls, 
awaiting the royal assent^. But the agitation among the clericals 
was so great, that archbishop Arundel and the bishop of London 
sailed in haste to Ireland, taking with them the Twelve Con- 
clusions, and a long Latin answer to each, written by Roger 
Dymok, a monk 2. Richard relinquished his Irish campaign, and 
returned and lectured his Lollard courtiers, even taking an oath 
of sir Richard Stury the privy councillor to abjure his opinions, 
threatening him with a most shameful death if he refused. The 
greatest political effort of the Lollards had failed for the time 
being: and Purvey returned to the finishing off of the General 
Prologue, speaking in a digression of this "last parliament," and 
transcribing a passage of particular violence ^ from the Thirty- 
Seven Conclusions. The later version of the Bible had been 
practically* complete before: and we have a manuscript of 
this New Testament dated 1397 ^ 

§ 4. Between 1395 and 1401 nothing is known of Purvey, 
though he probably still made London his headquarters. Gaunt 
died in 1399, and the house of Lancaster succeeded Richard II, 
but with no favourable results to the Lollards. On May 12, 
1400, Henry IV sent a letter to the sheriffs of London, directing 
their enforcement of the law that no chaplain, or unbeneficed 
priest, should preach without the hcense of the diocesan: and 
certain secular priests of London sent a petition to the king 
against the aforesaid letter^. This year too saw the burning of 
Sawtre. the first Lollard martyr. It was probably on account 
of the increased vigilance in London against Lollard preachers, 
that Purvey himself was taken and imprisoned, pending trial, 
in Saltwood Castle; his trial in London indicates, in lack of 

^ See p. 297, n. 4. 

^ Printed EHR, xxii. 292 ; cf. id. xxvi. 738. 

^ See p. 257 n. 

* But for the translation of certain short prologues from the Vulgate, 
see p. 377. 

* See p. 381. 

« Digby MS. 98, f. 179 b. 


other evidence, that he was taken in that diocese^. He was cited 
for various heresies and errors in the chapter house of S. Paul's 
the last day of February, 1401, and he read a recantation of them 
at Paul's Cross on March 6th. Lollardy lost its most able 
champion. Thorpe the Lollard attributed the recantation to the 
horrors Purvey had undergone in Saltwood Castle 2, and the 
burning of Sawtre the year before had been enough to make 
him shrink. But there was probably another reason which made 
constancy like Sawtre's impossible for him : his scholarship and 
breadth of view. He belonged properly to the earlier generation 
of Lollards under Wychffe^, all of whom had submitted to 
clerical censure or withdrawn their opinions ; and, like Cranmer 
later, he was afflicted with a capacity for seeing both sides of 
the question. His recantation now, and indecision later, are 
illustrated in a tract written later, the Sixteen Points putten by 
bishops ordinarily upon men which they clepen Lollards^. The 
Lollards in 1388-9 had described in Latin and EngUsh tracts 
twenty-five articles falsely attributed to them : Purvey 's EngHsh 
tract ^ is a similar defence against misstatement and misrepre- 
sentation. The tract dealt with the Lollard attitude to the 
sacrament of the altar, penance, tithes, the pope, images, par- 
dons, etc., and in all of these matters Purvey pursued a via media, 
noticeable in contrast to the views of the leading Lollards after 
1400. After recounting the sixteen disputed points. Purvey says: 

Whoever shall say these sixteen points, be he well ware that in 
every of them is hid truth and falsehood, and who that ever granteth 
all, granteth much falsehood : and who that ever denieth all, denieth 
many truths True Christian men should answer advisedly, truly 

' There is no evidence for anj^ imprisonment of Purvey before this date : 
so prominent a Lollard would hardly have been kept in prison indefinitely 
without trial, and he was not tried as a lapsed heretic in 1401. The reputed 
imprisonment in 1396 (see FM, i. xxiv n. 4, and DNB) rests upon a 
mistaken marginal note of bishop Bale in his MS. of the FZ, where he 
dated Purvey's confession as 1396 (FZ, 407). Foxe used this MS., and 
perpetuated the error, stating that the MS. was itself dated 1396, whereas 
it was actually dated 1439 (FZ, ix n. i, Hen. IV. in. 312). 

2 Pollard, 165. 

3 The contrast between the character and views of the first and second 
generation of Lollards is well brought out by A. Dakin in Die Beziehungen 
John Wiclifs und der Lollarden zu den Betielmdnchen, Kingsgate Press, 
1911, 68. 

* Printed pp. 462-5, and see for evidence of authorship p. 461. 


and meekly to the points and articles that been put against them^ . . . 
Christian men should believe that the sacrament on the altar is verily 
Christ's body sacramentally and spiritually 2, and more other manners 
than any earthly man can tell among us; for Christ, that may not 
lie, said, she\ving the bread that He held in His hand: This is my 
body. . . . Also we grant that shrift of mouth is needful to all such 
that been counselled of God for to make it meekly. . . . We suppose 
there have been many hoh^ fathers popes sithen saint Peter's time, 
(though this name Pope be not said in God's law),... and so we 
grant that the pope of Rome should next follow Christ and saint 
Peter in manner of living, and if he do so, he is worthily Pope, and 
if he contran,' him most of all others, he is most antichrist. 

Simila^l3^ it is allowed that tithes are sometimes lawful, that 
pardons and indulgences grounded in holy writ may be granted, 
that laymen of good Hves are not priests of office, but only 
spiritually, that the pope may make laws, and bishops have 
temporal goods in reasonable measure. In the question whether 
the chief office of priests is to preach or to minister the sacra- 
ments, it is noticeable that Purvey 's dictum interjects a demand 
for the translation of the gospel and epistle at mass, or at least 
their explanation in a sermon. 

Also, we grant that priests were ordained of Christ to teach and 
preach the people, and not only that, but also to pray, and to minister 
the sacraments of God and live well. And of good ordinance of Holy 
Church they be ordained by men to say both mattins and masses, 
in which be contained both gospel and pistle, and other books of 
holy writ, for that end that they should after their reading declare 
it to the people in their mother tongue. 

This tract has been quoted as throwing light upon Purvey's 
recantation, orthodoxy, and subsequent relapse. This expression 
of his mind, not put forward upon pressure hke the articles he 
had to retract at Paul's Cross, explains Thorpe's cry: "John 
Purvey is neither hot nor cold," and Arundel's anger against 
him as a " false harlot : . . . but come he more for such cause before 
me, ere we depart, I shall know with whom he holdeth^." 

1 Cf. Purvey's adjuration to meekness, p. 265. 

2 Lewis (as he says in Rawl. C. 11, p. i), copied some of this tract from a 
MS. written, he thought, in Henry VI's reign. He did not copy Trin. 333: 
and he inverted this clause, putting it " The bread or the host. . .is not very 
God's body." 

» PoUard, 118. 


§ 5. A few other references to the Wychffite translations, not 
specially connected with Purvey's career, have come down to us 
for this period of 1382-1401. 

William Swinderby, the hermit of the Lollard school at the 
chapel of S. John Baptist, Leicester, after a trial for heresy at 
Leicester, was tried by bishop Trevenant at Hereford in June 
1389^. The prologue to the account of his trial mentions as the 
Lollards' greatest offence, their unlicensed preaching, and in- 
sistence on the literal interpretation of scripture: "they explain 
holy scripture to the people literally, in the new-fangled way, 
otherwise than as the Holy Spirit teaches." There is no reference 
to translations at his trial, but these words shew the value 
attached by the Lollards to the text of scripture, as do all other 
Lollard trials. 

That of Walter Brute (or, the Welshman) at Hereford is of 
great interest for the history of Nicholas Hereford and the early 
version of the Wycliffite Bible. Trevenant's register describes 
him as a "litterate layman ^" and the long written defence he 
submitted to the bishop shews a good deal of learning^. He 
finally made his submission on Oct. 3, 1393, and the masters of 
theology before whom he made it included his old leader, 
Nicholas Hereford*. This filled him with such bitterness that 
he wrote a tract to Hereford, upbraiding him as a traitor and 
a deserter -^ and making a pointed reference to Hereford's earlier 
share in the translation of the Bible. The tract begins by 
arguing that, since no man putting his hand to the plough and 
looking back is fit for the kingdom of God, and since by the 
kingdom of God is understood, the knowledge of holy scripture : 

1 Reg. Johannis Trefnant, ep. Herefordensis 1389-1404, Capes, W. W., 
CYS, XX. 231 fif. 

2 Id. 278. 

* Gairdner, i. 38. It is not impossible that he had some share in the 
translation of the E V : but there is no evidence for his residence at Oxford 
about 1382. 

* FM, I. xvii; for Hereford's fierce Lollardy, see Walsingham, 11. 159. 

' See Reg. 394-8. The name of the author of the tract is not given in the 
register, but it is copied in in connexion with the trials of Swinderby and 
Brute (together with another written in Nicholas Hereford's defence). 
The author of the tract is alluded to as the "master of the heretic Swinderb}', 
and of other Lollards," p. 398, and it is suggested that it is due to his per- 
suasions that Swinderby has relapsed after his recantation at Lincoln. This 
points to Brute as the author of the tract upbraiding Hereford. 


how can Nicholas Hereford be fit for the kingdom of God, since 
he has looked back after putting his hand to the plough, "that 
is, to the sowing of the word of God and holy scripture,. . .as 
well by preaching as by affording an example of good works: 
nay more, by making clear the knowledge of holy scripture^ "? 
The tract continues with a punning and bitter reference to 
Nicholas Hereford and the Nicolaitans, since Nicholas has 
"left the infallible knowledge of holy scripture," and no longer 
enters into the ground of truth by the exposition of the gospel: 
neither does he enter into that knowledge himself, nor suffer 
others to enter into it-. 

The tract is followed in the register by a defence of Hereford, 
in his name and person, by Thomas Palmer. This friar belonged 
to the Dominican house of Holborn, or Blackfriars, the scene of 
so many prominent Lollard trials. He wrote many theological^ 
works, and took part in the trial of Oldcastle in 1412*. Palmer 
began by stating that the Lollard's attack on Hereford has been 
sent on to him^, and that he will answer it in the person of 
Hereford, who has been accused of putting his hand to the 
plough, and looking back. 

The doctrine of S. Gregory'- shews that a man may lawfully and 
unlawfully look back after he has put his hand to the plough : . . . for 
I, after I had put my hand to the plough, looked back lawfully, by 
correcting the errors which I had committed by so ploughing. 

He then answered the four conclusions put forward by the 
Lollard, the first of which is significant in connexion with 
Hereford's share in making known the Uteral text of the Bible 
by a translation. The conclusion is that the words of the first 
four doctors expounding holy scripture according to the obvious 
meaning are without exception true: Palmer answered that the 

1 Reg. 394. The final sentence cannot refer merely to preaching, for that 
is mentioned earlier. 

- The tract is long and wrangling, and seems to embody arguments de- 
livered verbally between Brute and Hereford, at the trial of the former. 

8 Quoted by Bale, etc. Boston of Bury's list of Westminster MSS. in- 
cluded No 15, a determination of Thomas Palmer, friar preacher, "in 
materia scismatis," Westminster, 23; cf. p. 293. 

♦ AM. III. 334. Foxe wrongly calls him "warden of the Minors," in. 329. 
Foxe quotes the letter against Hereford, in. 190, but not Palmer's answer 
to it. 

5 Reg. 396. 


words of holy scripture are to be expounded "sometimes 
morally, sometimes allegorically, and sometimes anagogically, 
and not according to the literal meaning of the words, — as in 
the biblical poems, which in no case are to be interpreted as 
literally true." 

In 1397, again, there is another reference in Trevenant's 
register to the Lollard translation of the "bare text" of scrip- 
ture. King Richard, who had busied himself on his return from 
Ireland with the unorthodoxy of the Lollard knights, wrote to 
the bishop, enclosing to him a copy of renunciation of heretical 
opinions by John Croft, a Herefordshire squire, and all his 
family. Croft swore, apparently at the king's request, that he 
would never in future read or preach, publicly or secretly, any 
new doctrine contrary to the catholic faith, nor read or own 

English books extracted from holy scripture according to the bare 
text, with evil intent, by certain persons commonly called Lollards, 
who oppose the catholic faith and the doctrine of the Roman church. 
These men tr^' not only to infatuate our simplicity, but make per- 
verse people obstinately to transgress from the wholesome and true 
understanding of holy scripture and evangelical doctrine and the 
orthodox faith ^. 

This passage shews that Croft and his family had been using 
the unglossed Lollard Bible, or parts of it, and shews once more 
the orthodox objection to placing the "bare text" in the hands 
of laymen. It is noticeable, however, that while Smith at 
Leicester in 1392, and Croft at Hereford in 1397, were being 
forbidden the use of English scriptures, Thomas duke of Glou- 
cester died in 1397 possessing a copy of the early version of the 
Bible 2, and bequeathed it without remark. In 1394 also, John 
Hopton, a chantry priest of York, bequeathed to the chantry 
" a book of the gospels in English-," — most probably the Lollard 
gospels. It is just possible that the book was actually the 
northern temporale, or verse gospels and homilies, or the homilies 
known as the Mirrur, or again that it was the north midland 
glossed gospels described later. According to the custom of wills 

^ "Neque libros Anglicos secundum nudum textum de sacra scriptura 
sinistre extractos per quosdam LoUardos," etc., 148. 

2 Brit. Mus. Class. Cat. of MSS., English Bibles. 

3 TE, I. 196; he was chaplain of the chantry of S. Nicholas in the church 
of Holy Trinity, Gotheromgate. For partial biblical translations contem- 
porary with the Lollard versions, see pp. 298-318. 


of the period, however, the word "gloss" or "rhyme" would 
usually, in that case, have been inserted. Quite possibly it was 
a book of liturgical gospels ^, based on the Lollard text. The last 
case of the bequest of English scriptures before 1408^ is that of 
the Wykehamist, John Bount, burgess of Bristol, who in 1404 
bequeathed to John Canterbury a "book of the gospels in 
English, now in the keeping of William Stourton." John Bount 
seems to have been quite orthodox, judging from his will: yet 
his possession of English scriptures may not have been uncon- 
nected with the preaching of Lollardy in Bristol, which a con- 
temporary ranked with London as a "specially corrupt Lollard 

§ 6. To return to the last phase of Purvey's career, between 
1401 and 1408, after which he relapsed into obscurity. He re- 
canted in March 1401, and in August was inducted to the vicar- 
age of West Hythe, "not a mile," as Arundel said, "from Salt- 
wood Castle," where the archbishop could keep a watchful eye 
upon him. In 1403 he resigned the living, and seems for a time 
to have led a life which pleased neither the Lollards nor Arundel. 
Thorpe's interview with Arundel in 1407 shews that Pur^-ey was 
not then openly professing Lollardy: Arundel shews that his 
actions or mode of life was in some way highly displeasing to him. 
He seems to have spent his time between Oxford and London, 
making fresh efforts in the defence of EngUsh Bibles, and 
stirring up afresh the controversy which had so long raged, in 
which the friars had taken so large a part. 

In 140 1 William Butler, a regent (or officially lecturing) 
master of the Franciscans at Oxford, and later their warden ^ 
had read a long determination against the lawfulness of any 
translation of the Bible into the vernacular. The occasion of his 
action is obscure^: but it was in accordance with the consistent 

^ See pp. 39, 285. 

- Till 1 408 there was no obstacle to priests or substantial laymen owning 
English scriptures. Bount left bequests to both Winchester and his Oxford 
college: see Great Orphan Book, ed. Wadley, T. P., 1886, 73. 

^ Chron. Adae de Usk, ed. Maunde Thompson, 3; note also Purvey's 
preaching there, and the Bristol Carmelite Lavenham's familiarity with 
his errors; for pro-English-Bible agitation in London, 1401, see p. 297. 

* He was probably elected warden of the Oxford minorites in 1406, 
though his tenure of that office was reckoned from 1408, cf. Grey friars in 
Oxford, Little, A. G., 254. * See Bale. 1557, Script. Cat. p. 536. 

D.w. B. 19 


attitude of the English friars. His determination was opposed, 
not to the Wychffite translations in particular, but to the lawful- 
ness of any translation: its views are utterlj' opposed to those, 
for instance, of sir Thomas More later. He took his stand on the 
broad grounds of the difficulty of translation, and of securing the 
circulation of correct English texts, and the providential dis- 
pensation of the inferiority of the laity : it was no business of the 
lay folk to read the Bible, and the human intellect, unassisted 
by the grace of priesthood, was insufficient for it. The earthly 
hierarchy should be an image of the heavenly, where grace was 
mediated from the higher to the lower orders. The gospel was 
not at first given in writing, and the subtlety of the scripture 
was still too great for it to be read in translations. The deter- 
mination \Vas based on general principles, not on minor quibbles 
concerning the interpretation of biblical texts; and it shews 
great learning in the authorities cited. It is noticeable that friar 
Butler did not quote Innocent Ill's letter to Metz, though he 
quoted from one of Innocent II to S. Bernard on the subject of 
the heretics Abelard and Arnold of Brescia. Probably he was 
unaware of the Metz letter; for none of the three English deter- 
minations given at Oxford about this time made any use of it. 
The friars at Oxford had certainly been attacking the Wycliffites 
on the score of translations before this; but this tract of 140 1 is 
the first which has come down to us^. Butler read the deter- 
mination openly in the schools: but there is no evidence in this 
case that any other doctor "determined against him." 

Before the year 1405 a great debate on the lawfulness of 
vernacular Bibles was also held at Oxford, between a regent 
master with strong Lollard sympathies, and the before-men- 
tioned friar Thomas Palmer. There is much reason to believe 
that the Lollard doctor was Peter Payne, or Peter the Clerk, 
and that he was stirred up to engage in the debate by Purvey 
himself, who composed Latin and English records of the debate 
afterwards, adding arguments of his own. In the LLtin version 
of Purvey's tract De Versione Bihliorum he said that the subject 
debated was: 

^ Printed infra, pp. 401-18, from Merton 68, "Butler: contra transla- 
tionem Anglicanam." 

XI] purvey's de versione bibliorum 291 

^Vh ether, since it was lawful for S. Jerome to translate the sacred 
canon from Hebrew and Greek into Latin, it is in like manner lawful 
to translate it into other tongues, less principal and less beautiful? 
And though in the time of our forefathers this point was never in 
doubt, now indeed so great a dispute has arisen about it, that two 
weighty doctors of this university have been spending the whole 
time of their lectures upon this question. One of them contended 
by certain arguments for the negative answer to this question, and 
the other, after him, contended for the afhrmative answer, by I 
know not how many powerful arguments. Neither, however, disclosed 
to the school what he wished finally to define in the matter. First 
then I shall recite some arguments from the first doctor, and shall 
add some more of mv own in favour of a negative answer to the 
article. And thirdly, I shall according to my ability, answer the 
arguments which are made against the article^. 

The doctor to whom Purvey thus had recourse yto defend 

EngHsh Bibles in the schools must almost certainly have been 

Peter Payne, v/hom contemporaries mention as the only daring 

Oxford Lollard at the date 2, though even he could not openly 

profess his views. He was born about 1380, and introduced at 

Oxford to the doctrines of Wy cliff e, of whom he became a great 

admirer. He became a regent master of theology shortly before 

^ Long quotations from the De Ver. Bib. are given in Denis, i. i, col. 842, 
MS. ccxLiv, f. 195, sufficient to identify the tract with the English version. 
Against them that say that holy writ should not or may not be drawn into 
English, of Trin. Camb. 333, f. 26, printed infra. The reasons for identifying 
the author of the tract with Purvey are (i) his long anterior connexion with 
the defence of English Bibles, (2) his secret incitement of the debate would 
explain Arundel's and Thorpe's attitude to him in 1407, (3) the literary style, 
fondness of historical precedent, and dialect of the English version is alto- 
gether consistent with the same authorship as the Gen. Prol. and the epi- 
logues to the Lollard glosses, (4) the English version in the unique MS. 
immediately precedes the Sixteen Points, which there is independent reason 
for attributing to Purvey, (5) in the Latin version, which has a prologue not 
found in the English, the author is shewn to be a Lollard scholar (who calls 
the enemies of English Bibles "antichrist"), and he says he "is fighting 
alone for the defence of English Bibles." At the date, shewn by references 
in the Latin version to be between 1399 and 1405, the author could scarcely 
have been any other doctor than Purvey: his very ignoring of the doctor 
who actually debated for translations implies both that his own inspiration 
was behind, and that the debating doctor was not a man of greater status 
than himseiff — though a regent master. Purvey could not have debated 
himself, as he was not regularly lecturing at Oxford, as both disputants were. 
(6) The writer of the tract alleges a rarely quoted passage from Fitz Ralph's 
De Quaestionibus Armenorum, in favour of vernacular masses, which 
Purvey had already dwelt on in his defence of English scriptures. "Also 
Ardmakan in the Book of Questions saith that the sacrament may well be 
made in each common language: for so, he said, did the apostles," see 
supra, p. 142. * Doct. i. 8. 

19 — 2 


Oct. 5, 1406, and according to Gascoign, it was he who stole the 
university seal, and affixed it to the famous spurious letter of 
the university in praise of Wycliffe, of that date. He seems to 
have defended Wycliffe's teaching as far as he dared, and for a 
time avoided punishment, though not suspicion. Thorpe stated 
that this "Clerk of Oxford" preached a Lollard sermon at Paul's 
Cross in 1407, which a certain "clerk Alkerton" attacked in a 
sermon following, at which Thorpe himself was present. 

"His sermon was false," said one of Arundel's clerks, "and that 
he sheweth openly, since he dared not stand forth and defend his 
preaching, that he then preached there." "Sir," answered Thorpe, 
"I think that he purposeth to stand steadfastly therein, or else he 
slandereth foully himself and many others, that have great trust that 
he will stand by the truth of the gospel. For I wot well his sermon 
is written both in Latin and in English; and many men have it, and 
they set great price thereby. And Sir, if ye were present with the 
Archbishop at Lambeth, when this Clerk appeared, and were at his 
answer before the Archbishop: ye wot well that this Clerk denied 
not there his sermon; but two days he maintained it before the 
Archbishop and his Clerks." "That harlot" said Arundel, "shall be 
met with, for that sermon. For no man but he, and thou, and such 
other false harlots, praiseth any such preaching^." 

About this time also Peter Payne was incited by "a certain 
nobleman to debate at Oxford about pilgrimages, the Euchar- 
ist," etc., with the friars, Walden and Befusis, who claimed that 
" we came: we were there: but before we had even shaken hands, 
Peter the Clerk disappeared, overcome with fear 2," — probably 
of physical, not intellectual danger. This abortive debate was 
a parallel with that held with the Dominican Palmer, on what 
was, in 1405, a less dangerous subject. Peter Payne became 
principal of S. Edmund's Hall in 1410, and retained that office 
till 1414, during Oldcastle's rebellion: but in 1415 he was so 
vehemently suspected of heretical pravity, that he thought it 
advisable to flee to the Wycliffite university of Prague, where he 
was made M.A. and had a long and prominent career •**. The fact 
that he was a regent master at the date of the debate, and the 
circumstances of his career compared with what is known of 
Lollardy at the date, render it practically certain that it was he 
who thus championed English Bibles in the schools. 

1 Pollard. 159. 2 Doct. i. 8. 

* Hisfiightexplains the existence of the DeFer.Bii. in a unique ViennaMS. 


His adversary Palmer had, as has been seen, undertaken 
earher the defence of Nicholas Hereford. We have a record of 
the debate compiled from his side^, as well as those from the 
Lollards' : it is in Latin, and sets forward first the Lollard argu- 
ments, then at much greater length. Palmer's; then the re- 
joinder, and then Palmer's counter-rejoinder. Palmer set forth 
as firmly as Butler the unlawfulness of making any translation 
whatever of the Vulgate; but his arguments, though based 
chiefly on the inherent inferiority of the laity and their inability 
to profit by Bible reading, are much less imposing than Butler's. 
They are longer, more quibbhng, subtler, and often based on 
arbitrary interpretations of biblical texts. His favourites are 
*' Cast not pearls before swine " : " And it was said : Write it not," 
though he uses others much less familiar. The arguments of 
Palmer's opponent, as stated in his tract, do not coincide 
exactly with those brought forward by Purvey in the De Ver- 
sione Bihliortim: but, on the other hand, Purvey's tract does not 
profess to be, like Palmer's, an exact record of the debate : it is 
the compilation of a scholar who had listened to " I know not how 
many powerful arguments," and then composed his own treatise. 
In some cases the arguments in Palmer's and Purvey's tracts are 
the same. In both, the vernacular defender argued that the law 
of Moses was recited in the ears of the people (Deut. xxxi.) ; the 
apostles were unlettered men, but knew the scriptures; the gift 
of tongues was given at Pentecost that men of all nations might 
know the new law; S. Jerome translated the Vulgate; Bede 
translated the Vulgate into English ^. Purvey, however, alleged 
many more English historical precedents than his opponent 
answered in his treatise. It is so unlikely that two such pro- 
tracted debates took place, that Palmer was almost certainly 
Peter Payne's opponent: but each writer on the debate seems 
to have digested his opponent's arguments somewhat freely. 

Purvey's tract gives several points of historical interest. He 

1 See pp. 418-37. 

- There is, however, no exact correspondence in the arrangement of the 
points. The chief weight of Purvey's tract lay in the variety of precedent 
he brought forward: while Palmer's report of the Lollard arguments 
opposed to him makes it appear that they relied chiefly on a logical pro- 
position: if the faithful are bound to carry out God's law, they must be 
allowed to familiarise themselves with the book in which it is written. 


mentioned that a Fleming, James Merland, " translated the whole 
Bible into Flemish," referring of course to the version of Peter 
Comestor; that Anglo-Saxon scriptures "be in many abbeys of 
England," and that a London man had an English Bible '^'of 
northern speech, and it seemed two hundred years old," — a 
reference, no doubt, to some late Saxon manuscript of the 
gospels. He recounted Arundel's sermon at queen Anne's 
funeral, and the introduction of the bill against the English 
Bible into parliament. He also referred to another Dominican, 
who took part in the various heresy trials of the day, and 
became superior of Blackfriars in London, — friar John Tille. 

"But friar Tille," he says, "that said before the bishop of London, 
hearing an hundred men, that Jerome said he erred in translating 
of the Bible, — is like to Elymas, the which would have letted a 
bishop, or a judge, to hear of the belief, to whom Paul said: O thou 
full of all treachery, and of all false teaching, to turn the bishop from 
the belief." 

Friar John Tille, or Tylle^, must have preached a sermon against 
translations of the Bible at Paul's Cross: and the incident shews 
again the hostility of the friars, — in London, as in Zutphen, to 
biblical translations. 

The result of the wranglings of these two weighty doctors at 
Oxford was increased private debating on the subject. "The 
very cooks who sod the pottage made good their claim to read 
the Bible in Wycliffe's English 2," and the result was so offensive 
to Arundel, that he resolved to put a stop to it. 

§ 7. There was still feeling at Oxford against episcopal inter- 
ferences with the rights of the university : Wycliffe's books still 
existed in considerable numbers: heretics from Prague came to 

^ Archbishop Chichele wrote to Henry V, 16 Feb. 141 8, about the king's 
request for a confessor to be sent to him, and about whom he had asked his 
messenger to confer with Thomas Fishbourne (see p. 341) ; Fishbourne had 
recommended Thomas Dyss, a friar preacher of Cambridge, "a good man 
and sufficient therto, . . . and a spiritual, and plain to you without fantasy " : 
and Fishbourne and the archbishop had conferred with "friar John Tylle," 
the provincial of the friars preacher, and obtained his leave to send Thomas 
Dyss to the king; Oriq. Letters, EUis, H., 1824, Ser. i. i. 4. He had probably 
been provincial as early as 1400-1404: see Little, A. G., in EHR, xxxiii. 
497. Foxe, AM, III. 583, states that in 1423 John Tylle was one of the four 
friars who tried the Lollard, William Taylor; Ussher, xii. 353 calls him 
"quidem fraterculus Scilhus." See infra, p. 443. 

2 Hen. IV, III. 433. 


Oxford to study them^, and though a certain testimonial of the 
university sent to the archbishop on behalf of Wycliffe is now 
believed to be a forgery, reverence still existed for his intellectual 
greatness. Walden states that the Lollards still incited the faith- 
ful to read Wycliffe's works: " Oh," they say, "but he said many 
beautiful things, — many useful things. Not all of them were 
condemned." They asked how particular Lollards could be 
heretics: "O that man," they say, "how can he be a heretic? 
He preaches holily, he rebukes vices, he busies himself with holy 
scripture, he proclaims Christ 2." Above all, Arundel knew that 
discussion was proceeding at Oxford as to the Lollard tenets, 
and that laymen and the unlearned were beginning to be 
familiar with the idea that they could support their private 
opinions by an appeal to the text of holy scripture ; and that it 
was still contended in the schools that such an appeal was lawful. 
He therefore went to Oxford, and summoned a synod of clergy 
in November 1407, to settle particularly the question of English 
Bibles and English propagandist tracts. 

The provincial council of Oxford passed thirteen constitutions 
dealing with Lollardy ^. The first reiterated prohibitions against 
unhcensed preaching, "either in Latin or in the vulgar tongue," 
and, moreover, Hmited the subjects of the sermons of parish 
priests, and other licensed persons, to those enumerated in 
Peckham's constitution of 1281, the Ignorancia Sacerdotum. 

By constitution V, no master of arts, or grammar master, was 
in future to meddle with the sacraments, or any other theological 
matter when instructing boys or other persons: nor was he to 
explain holy scripture, except by explaining the text grammati- 
cally, according to the good and ancient custom. No one was to 
read " any tract of John Wychffe, or any other tract made in his 
time, or composed more recently, or any that shall be composed," 
unless it were examined by the university of Oxford or Cam- 

Constitution VII is headed : That no one shall translate texts 
of holy scripture into the English tongue. It is the passage which 
misled sir Thomas More in his theory of the existence of pre- 
Wyclifftte English bibles, and reads: 

^ Jerome of Prague, 1401-2; George of Knychnicz and Faulfisch in 1407, 
see p. 240. * Doct. i. 19, 20. ' Wilkins, in. 314-19. 


Also, since it is dangerous, as S. Jerome witnesses, to translate the 
text of holy scripture from one language into another, because in 
such translations the same meaning is not easily retained in all par- 
ticulars: even as 8. Jerome, although he was inspired, confessed that 
he had often erred in this matter: therefore we decree and ordain 
that no one shall in future translate on his own authority any text 
of holy scripture into the English tongue or into any other tongue, 
by way of book, booklet, or treatise. Nor shall any man read this 
kind of book, booklet or treatise, now recently composed in the time 
of the said John Wycliffe, or later, or any that shall be composed 
in future, in whole or part, publicly or secretly, under penalty of the 
greater excommunication, until that translation shall be recognised 
and approved by the diocesan of the place, or if the matter demand 
it, by a provincial council. Whoever disobeys this, let him be pun- 
ished after the same fashion [as has been indicated above] as an abettor 
of heresy and error ^. 

This clause, from the direct reference to WycHffe, was prob- 
ably directed expressly against the two versions of the Lollard 
Bible: but it rendered illegal also the few partial and contem- 
porary translations, undertaken probably under Wychffite in- 
fluence, and described later 2. The constitutions ended by 
lamenting that the university of Oxford had brought forth the 
wild grapes of LoUardy, of which the fathers had eaten, "deem- 
ing themselves skilled in God's law," and the children's teeth 
were set on edge, throughout the whole Church of England. The 
head of each college was therefore in future to inquire diligently 
whether any student or inhabitant of the college was infected 
by the poison of Lollardy. 

This measure sufficed both to crush the influence of Lollardy 
in Oxford, and put an end to Purvey's struggle to uphold the 
lawfulness of the use of biblical translations. Purvey's own 
history after the constitutions of Oxford in 1408 is uncertain. 

^ Wilkins, iii. 317. Lyndwood, Provinciate, Appendix, p. 66. The modern 
contention that textus cannot here apply to whole books of the Bible, or to 
the whole Bible, has already been dealt with on p. 3 above. Cardinal 
Gasquet's assertion that the mediaeval use of textus will not bear this sense 
is not only untenable on the face of it, but is explicitly contradicted by 
Lyndwood in his comments on this very constitution of Arundel. Lyndwood's 
summary, for instance, runs "Holy Scripture must not be transferred into 
the vulgar tongue, nor may such translations be interpreted until it has 
been duly examined, under pain of excommunication and stigma of heresy." 
And in his gloss, s.v. libii, he explicitly takes textus to refer to the whole 
Bible, or whole books of the Bible 'ed. 1679, p. 286). 

2 See pp. 302-18. 


The Lollard disendowment bill of 1410^ was partly, at least, his 
work, for it was quoted by Lavenham when enumerating Pur- 
vey's errors. The provision, inter alia, for " fifteen universities " to 
be founded from the funds raised by disendowment, is interesting 
as coming from him. His fate from now to his death is doubtful : 
what appear to be his monogram and notes appear in a manu- 
script belonging to a Lollard priest about 1427 2. That he suffered 
imprisonment at some time seems likely, for Walden, who 
collected the writings of Lavenham and others for the Fasciculus 
Zizaniorum, said of Purvey between 1420 and 1426 "I have in 
my hands now a book taken from John Purvey in prison^." He 
ended his days in imprisonment or hiding *. 

1 See p. 375. 2 See p. 378 

* Doct. I. 619. Walden had finished the first two vols, of the Doct. in 1426, 
the third in 1427. This was certainly a different book from the "libellum 
haereticum" from which Lavenham collected Purvey's errors, FZ, 383, 

* The DNB states that he was imprisoned by archbishop Chichele in 1421 , 
relying on Foxe's quotation from Walden in AM, iii, 285; cf. Doct. iii. 732. 
But the reference to Purvey's imprisonment under Chichele does not occur 
in Doct., or FZ. An entry in Tunstall's Reg., f. 456, shews that the Lollards, 
possibly incited by Purvey {Doct. i. xxviii), tried in London as well as 
Oxford to obtain some license for the use of English Bibles. The entry 
occurs after the mandate, dated 1526, for the handing over of the books 
of Tindale's New Test., and, according to a marginal note, was "extracted 
from a book now in the library of the friars preachers [Dominicans], of 
London." It runs: "There were certain Greeks who came to England with 
the emperor of Constantinople in the year 1401, which emperor stayed 
with the lord king Henry, the fourth after the Conquest, in the second year 
of his reign, and had with him bishops and priests. And when it was asked 
of them, whether the common people, and the ignorant, in their countrj', 
did indeed understand the scriptures, and the divine words [which they] 
recited together with the learned, they said: 'No: holy scripture is edited 
in a language totally unknown to the common people, and the common 
people have a Greek which is totally different from that Greek in which 
the divine word is retained.' And the king caused this to be preached at 
Paul's Cross, on the Sunday next before Septuagesima [23 Jan. 1401], by 
the master of the King's Hall in the university of Cambridge. This was 
because, a little while before the king returned from Scotland and Wales, 
many heretics had written various petitions to him, and even in the parlia- 
ment which followed the feast of S. Hilary [21 Jan. 1401, Hen. IV, i. 168], 
asking that it should be generally permitted to have the Law of God in 
their mother tongue." For the emperor Manuel H and his visit to Henry IV, 
Dec. 1400 — Feb. 1401, see Hen. IV, i. 161-3; for his daily mass according 
to the Greek rite, Eulogium, RS, in. 388; for the wonder aroused because 
knights as well as clerks took part in the Greek services, "because they 
were in the vulgar tongue," Chron. Adae de Usk, 56; for Richard Dereham, 
master of the King's Hall, chancellor of Cambridge, 1402, etc., Hen. IV, 
ni. 351- 


Biblical translations contemporary with the 
Lollard versions 

§ I. The last quarter of the fourteenth century would almost 
certainly have seen the production of some biblical translations 
in England, even if Wycliffe had not turned the attention of his 
followers to the popularisation of the biblical text. Continental 
translations were produced or revised during this period in par- 
ticular, though they were not scholastic undertakings on the 
same scale of completeness and thoroughness as the Wyclifhte 
Bible, and though they were not made for popular use. The 
translations made for Charles V of France and the emperor 
Wenzel, the revision represented by the Tepl manuscript, the 
Tuscan gospels, possible translations made by the school of 
Gerard Groot, all belong to the period of 1375-1400. None of 
them were quite unglossed "translations according to the naked 
text," nor was any effort made to popularise them; but their 
production at this time justifies the surmise that in England too 
some sort of translations would have appeared, probably glossed, 
and perhaps at the order of the court. 

This probability, together with the certainty that Wycliffite 
influence pervaded Oxford during the years when the best 
scholars of the period were being educated, renders it difficult 
to say whether certain contemporary translations were produced 
for expressly Wycliffite purposes or not. It was not yet forbidden 
in England to translate the Bible, though no readable English 
translations existed, and though the friars were declaiming 
against such a translation from 1380 onwards. But it is difficult 
to say whether, in the case of certain partial translations, ortho- 
dox zeal alone would have produced the work. In any case, the 
influence of the partial, contemporary, translations was negligible, 
compared with that of the Wycliffite versions, judging from the 
solitary or infrequent manuscripts which have survived to us, com- 
pared with the very large numbers of the Wycliffite manuscripts. 



Moreover, there is no evidence at all that contemporaries 
knew of the existence of these partial translations of the New 
Testament, or could have distinguished between them' and the 
WycHfiite versions. They were not made "before the days of 
the late master John Wychffe," and they were therefore on 
exactly the same footing of legahty as the Wychffite versions, 
so far as the constitutions of Oxford went; except in so far, as 
that Arundel dehberately meant to condemn the Wychffite 
versions. There is no reason to suppose that any Lollard who 
obtained a copy of the north midland glossed gospels would have 
suspected that it was not a Wychffite copy, or would have 
objected to it on that score; neither would he have objected to 
the glosses, as they were little more than alternative renderings 
of the text. Nor is there any evidence that the orthodox used 
these glosses in preference to a Lollard text, for apparently they 
never got into general circulation at all. Their chief interest is 
hnguistic: but the question of the probable authorship of each, 
by Lollard or orthodox, is of interest in its bearing on the 
question of the attitude of orthodoxy to vernacular scriptures. 

So much translation of classical Latin works was now being 
accomplished by professional "turners," — chaplains generally 
under royal or noble patronage — that the question arises whether 
any such ever attempted a biblical translation, and, in particular, 
whether John Trevisa ever did. His Dialogue between a Lord and 
a Clerk is of great interest as shewing the effect of Wychffite 
teaching on an Oxford student who did not become a Lollard; 
and for the theory to which it gave rise, that Trevisa himself 
produced a translation of the Bible ^. 

Lord Thomas of Berkeley is never mentioned by contempor- 
aries as one of the circle of Lollard knights, nor does any suspicion 
of unorthodoxy attach to Trevisa, his chaplain. The patron's 
interests seem to have been exclusively literary and scholarly, 
and although the words of the "lord" in the Dialogue between 
a Lord and a Clerk are actually those of Trevis^, they probably 
represented Berkeley's sentiments. The Dialogue was written in 
1387, when the controversy over English Bibles was already 

^ Cf . Wells, 206. Trevisa translated a certain Latin sermon of Fitz Ralph, 
archbishop of Armagh, against the friars, into English, which indicates no 
love for them. 


begun at Oxford, and Trevisa and his patron possibly took the 
view of the Wychfiite doctors on the matter, rather than that 
of the friars. The question of the lawfulness of translating the 
Bible is not raised directly in this dialogue; but the "lord," to 
convince the "clerk" that the translation of so learned a book 
as the Polychronicon was profitable, instanced the making of the 
Septuagint and Vulgate translations, and certain Anglo-Saxon 
ones. He also mentioned that the gospel and creed^ at mass 
ought to be taught and preached to the people in English: but 
he went no further than this. We do not find him saying that 
lay people ought to be allowed to use English gospel books; 
much less does he demand or refer to a complete EngHsh trans- 
lation of the Bible. 

There are no manuscript grounds for attributing any biblical 
translation to Trevisa 2; but a statement, almost certainly mis- 
taken, by Caxton, has been copied successively by many later 
authorities. Caxton, in his Prohemye to the Polychronicon, de- 
scribed the latter as 

after the composing and gathering of Dan Ranulph, monk of Chester, 
first author of this book, and afterwards Englished by one Trevisa. 
vicar of Berkeley, which at the request of one Sir Thomas Berkeley 
translated the said book, the Bible, and Bartholemew's De Pro- 
prietatibus Rerum out of Latin into English 3. 

Caxton wrote this in 1482 *, nearly a hundred years after Trevisa 
had EngUshed the Polychronicon, in 1387, and there are no 

1 "The gospel, prophecy, and right faith of holy church," Pollard, 206, 
is probably a loose expression for the hturgical gospels, epistles and Old 
Testament lessons, as they occurred at mass, together with the creed ; but 
the lord was apparently referring only to a loose translation in a sermon, for 
he says, " such English preaching is very translation." Cf . the contemporary 
homiUes described pp. 315-18. 

2 Cf.Mr A. W. Pollard's suggestionin Records of the English Bible, 1911, 2, 
that Trevisa perhaps finished Hereford's translation after Baruch iii. 20. 
But (i) there is no positive evidence of this. (2) It is most unlikely that, if 
Trevisa took no part in the translation up to Baruch iii. 20, he would 
attach himself to the Lollard scholars in the work after the attack on 
them in 1382; such a work would have been undertaken only by one 
thoroughly in sympathy with them. As to Trevisa's possible participation 
in the first part of the translation, under Hereford's general editorship, 
there is no evidence: but (a) it is doubtful whether he was in Oxford much 
after 1376 (see John de Trevisa, Wilkins, H. J., Longmans, 1915, 72); 
[b) there is no evidence that Trevisa was ever sufficiently in sympathy with 
the Wycliffites to have undertaken with them a rather risky task. 

3 Life and Typography of William Caxton, Blades, W., London, 1861, i. 
194. * Id. II. 122. 


earlier references to Trevisa's having made a translation of the 
Bible at all. Moreover, Caxton's assertion is accounted for by 
his loose reading of the passage in the Dialogue, which he was 
then printing^, referring to biblical translations: that he was 
capable of making such mistakes is shewn by his miscopying of 
the date in Trevisa's note, which described his finishing of his 
translation ^', thus misdating the work by thirty years. But, much 
more probably, Caxton was aware of the existence of Enghsh 
bibhcal manuscripts: hke sir Thomas More, thought that since 
they were good translations they could not be connected in any 
way with Wychffe : combined this knowledge with the reference 
to translations in the Dialogue : and offered here his own solution 
to the problem of the authorship of the Wychfhte Bible. But 
though the guess was sufficiently clever, it was made a hundred 
years after the event, and cannot be made to accord with the 
evidence that the versions which Caxton knew were undoubtedly 
the work of the Lollards. That he was acquainted with any ' 
biblical manuscript which ascribed its authorship to Trevisa is 
very unlikely, for if so it has disappeared completely, unknown 
to Trevisa's contemporaries, or to any subsequent librarian or 
scholar; moreover it would have been as unsafe for Trevisa to 
sign his name to a biblical translation as for a Lollard. Caxton 
knew that English Bibles were in existence, but he had no 
possible means of knowing that the manuscripts went back ' 
originally to a version coupled with the heretical General Pro- 
logue, and beyond that to one for which Nicholas Hereford was 
largely responsible. His ascription of a biblical translation to 
Trevisa seems to be merely an unlucky guess at the authorship 
of the WycHffite versions, and is unsupported by any earlier 

All the assertions of later writers rest upon this statement of 
Caxton. Bale and Pits followed him, Bale stating that Trevisa 
translated the whole Bible, or both Testaments, at the request of 
lord Berkeley, and even going as far as giving the incipit of this 
translation: but that incipit coincides exactly with the dedica- 

1 Caxton printed, see id. i. 191, his Prohemye, a table of contents, the 
Dialogue (incipit, Sith the time that the great — ), the Epistle of Sir John 
Trevisa, chaplain, unto Lord Thomas of Berkeley (an epistle dedicating the 
Polychronicon) , and the Polychronicon. * Id. 195. 


tory letter at the beginning of the Polychronicon^. The trans- 
lators of James I's Bible followed Caxton, as did later scholars, 
the only one who tried to collect evidence on the subject being 
Wanley'. The latter found a letter from "the prince" (the 
future James II?), thanking lord Berkeley for a "very precious 
book" of Trevisa's, which had been preserved at Berkeley Castle 
for "neare 400 year." Some writers have conjectured that this 
"precious book" was an English translation of the Bible, and 
have searched for it in the Vatican Hbrary, without success^. 

§ 2. Certain other translations, as well as the two versions 
and the glossed gospels, were also produced by the Lollards, 
notably a new edition of the English translation of the old Anglo- 
Norman Apocalypse, a translation of Clement of Llanthony's 
Unum ex Quattuor, and an edition of RoUe's psalter. 

Three Middle-Enghsh forms of the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse 
are found in fourteenth century manuscripts, the first dating 
from about 1340-70*, and thus preceding the WycUffite period. 
This seems however to have been unknown to the editors of the 
second and third versions: the second is founded on a different 
French text, and was used by the compilers of the third. This 
third version is the so-called Wycliffite Apocalypse, for the 

1 Bale, Script. Cat. 1557, p. 518. In Anglicum idioma, ad petitionem 
praedicti sui domini de Berkeley, transtulit totum Bibliorum opus, sive 
Utrumque Dei testamentum . Lib. 2. [Incipit] Ego, Johannis Trevisa, sacerdos. 
The dedicatory epistle begins: /, John Trevisa, your priest and bedesman, 
cf. Pollard, 209. Ussher, xii. 346, attributes a translation to Trevisa solely 
on Bale's authority. 

2 Dibdin's Topog. Antiq. 1810, i. 140, 141 n.; and John de Trevisa, 
Wilkins, 101-109. The CHEL, 11. 74, 77 is inclined to attribute an English 
Bible to Trevisa, partly on the grounds that when he translated isolated 
texts, he did not quote the Wycliffite versions. But almost all mediaeval 
writers quoted the Vulgate from memory, in Latin, or when translating 
short passages, and this general fact is without significance in Trevisa's 
particular case. The "precious book of Trevisa's" is on p. 77 stated to be 
"some part of the Bible" apparently through a loose reading of Notes and 
Queries, V Ser. x. 261-2. Cardinal Gasquet has stated that no English Bible 
is now to be found in the Vatican library. 

3 It is possible that Caxton's unconscious change of the dating of the 
Polychronicon, from 1387 back to 1357, may have made him the readier to 
believe that Trevisa had made his Bible earlier than "the days of the late 
master John Wycliffe." It is not unreasonable to suppose that Caxton, 
following Lyndwood like More, believed that there were mediaeval English 
versions anterior to Wycliffe. 

* Wells, 409; Panes, 1902, xxiv; FM, i. viii. Miss Panes is preparing an 
edition of the first version for the EETS. 


translation of the text in it follows the later Wychffite version. 
The commentary appears to be merely that of Gilbert de la 
Porree: but some connexion of this version with the Lollards 
seems to be shewn by Purvey's insertion of Gilbert de la Porree's 
prologue before his version of the text of the Apocalypse ^ 

The circle of early Lollards at Oxford seems also to have been 
responsible for the translation of Clement of Llanthony's Ununt 
ex Quattuor, of which some fourteenth and fifteenth century 
manuscripts survive 2. The text of the harmony, which is com- 
posed of fairly long passages from the Vulgate arranged chrono- 
logically, is said to be that of the early Lollard version : but the 
exact relation between them has not been worked out. The 
harmony is generally found with two prologues ^ probably 
written rather later than the text, both of which are the work 
of Purvey. One, beginning Saint Austin saith in the second hook 
of Christian doctrine ^, is part of the prologue to the Lollard gloss 
on S. Matthew^. The other. Our Lord Jesu Christ, very God and 
very man^, is the second of the series of tracts in defence of 
English scriptures mentioned earlier. Since the explicitness of 
the references to the English scriptures seems to increase pro- 
gressively in this series of tracts, it is likely that those which 
occur first in the manuscript were actually written first, so that 
the second is a fairly early one. This would agree with the 

^ Test. Scots. This prologue was printed in the Strassburg Bible of 1480, 
and some other early printed Bibles. 

2 FM, I. x; Wells, 407; and see p. 273. 

^ Apart from the translation of Clement of Llanthony's own prologue; 
e.g., Harl. 6333 has: flf. 18 fi. the two Purvej' prologues; then, f. 23 The 
prologue on a book made of four gospels. Clement, a priest of the church of 
Lantonie, etc., which is a translation of Clement's prologue. This MS. was 
copied from a Lollard original, since it includes the frankly Lollard second 
prologue. It provides an English version of the gospels, epistles, and pro- 
phecies, or "lessons" in church, since the places where these occur in the 
harmony are marked, and other gospels, etc., not found in the work are 
added; f. 298 "Because that certain gospels stand not in order, word by 
word, in this story of One of Four, that must be sought in divers places, 
wherefore hereafter [are] shown some of these gospels as they be read in the 
church." 31 gospels follow, taken from the Wyclifhte later version. This 
arrangement follows the directions in the Latin Unum ex Quattuor, which 
is also preceded by a table of lessons, and has the beginnings of the liturgical 
gospels marked; cf. Dd. i. 17, f. 614, for the Latin table, etc. 

* FM, I. viii; in Gen. Prol. FM, i. 44-49, from Had. 6333. 

* In Laud Misc. 235, and Trin. Camb. 36. 
^ Printed FM, i. xiv; see p. 273. 


evidence of the text, and date the translation as of approxi- 
mately the same date as the glosses on the gospels (certainly 
complete before 1394), and earlier than the completion of the 
later version. 

The Lollards also re-edited Rolle's glossed psalter^, making no 
doctrinal change in the text, but introducing their distinctive 
teaching and attacks on the clergy into the commentary. In one 
group of manuscripts the bulk and bitterness of the Lollard 
matter added are much greater than in the other, and this group 
is probably later in date. It is curious at first sight that the 
Lollards should have added these polemics to Rolle's work, 
while nothing of the kind is found in connexion with their own 
biblical translations: but there were in reality good reasons for 
their action. The Lollards advocated chiefly and distinctivelj^ 
the use of the unglossed text, and had the greatest reverence for 
its integrity: 

Let the church of England now approve the true and whole translation 
of simple men, that would for no good in earth by their witting and 
power, put away the least truth, yea the least letter either tittle of 
holy writ, that beareth substance or charge^. 

This seems to have prevented their combining their own trans- 
lations with any of their polemical writings, except by waj^ of 
prologue : for the glosses on the Lollard gospels are merely long 
translations from the fathers. But in the case of Rolle's psalter, 
the gloss was already there, and was not merely a close trans- 
lation of the sayings of old doctors^: it was therefore more per- 
missible to add to it. Not only this, but after 1408 Rolle's 
psalter was the one authorised biblical book, and insertions in 
that book were doubly desirable for purposes of propaganda. 
Therefore, in contrast to the fresh edition of the Apocalypse, and 
the translation of the Unum ex Quattuor, the Lollard edition of 
Rolle seems to have been made for the spread of polemic, and 
not merely for the increased popularisation of the biblical text. 
§ 3. The most interesting contemporary translations of the 
scriptures are those parts of the New Testament pubhshed by 
Miss A. C. Panes. This "biblical version" consisted originally of 
a "prologue," with the Pauline and catholic epistles, in a southern 

1 Wells, 402. 2 Gen. Prol. FM, i. 58. ^ See p. 145. 


or Kentish dialect : but by about 1400 this was combined in two 
manuscripts with a midland version of S. Matthew and the Acts. 
Only five manuscripts, containing all or part of this combination, 
have survived, so that the version was not widely spread; and 
there is nothing to shew that there was an original connexion 
between the two parts, the southern and the midland, thus com- 
bined in two out of the five manuscripts'^. Miss Panes also prints 
a second version of the catholic epistles, in a north midland 
dialect. The midland Acts-and-Matthew, and the north midland 
catholic epistles, would seem to be more probably connected 
with the north midland glossed gospels and epistles, mentioned 
later^. They had no connexion originally with the southern 
epistles, prefaced by their interesting prologue, as printed by 
Miss Panes, for had their writer known of the north midland 
version, he would scarcely have made a fresh translation of the 
catholic epistles. The two parts are found connected only in two 
manuscripts, one of which is a copy of the other; while in one 
out of the five manuscripts the southern epistles are found in 
connexion with the early Wycliffite version of the gospels. It 
may be taken as likely that any translator who set to work upon 
the epistles knew that the gospels were available in English : the 
Dutch translator of the epistles in 1408 stated in a prologue that 
there were men who admitted that the study of the simpler part 
of the New Testament, the gospels, might be useful, but who 
needed to be convinced in argument that any profit could come 
of translating the epistles^. It may be taken as axiomatic that 
any teacher anxious to instruct the "lewid" would start by 

^ Paues, 1904, xi-xv. Of the five MSS. used by Miss Paues, (i) dated 
1400, has the midland Acts-and-Matthew, and the southern prologue-and- 
episties, and (2) is a copy of it. (3) is the earhest MS., dating from before 
1400, and has the midland Acts, only. (4) has the midland Acts-and-Mat- 
thew, and a set of north midland catholic epistles, c. 1400. (5) written soon 
after 1400, has all the epistles, hke (i) and (2), and the four gospels in the 
early WycUffite version. It seems to be over-emphasising the connexion be- 
tween the midland Acts-and-Matthew, and the southern prologue-and- 
epistles, to term them a "bibhcal version," since they were merely combined 
in one manuscript which was then exactly copied. On similar reasoning, 
if (5) had been once copied, it would be as just to say that yet another 
bibhcal version existed, consisting of the early Wychffite gospels and these 
southern epistles. 

^ See p. 310. 

^ See p. 99. 

D.w. B. 20 


translating the gospels, unless they were already available. But 
there is no evidence that the original translator of these southern 
epistles intended to combine them with the midland Acts-and- 
Matthew, any more than with the Wycliffite gospels; if he knew 
of the existence of any English gospel, as is likely, it was more 
probably the early Wycliffite gospels that he knew of. 

The prologue^ to these southern epistles is interesting. It 
begins with a discourse on the Fall, and then proceeds: 

(A) Sith every man is holden by Christ's law of charity to love his 
brother as himself, ye, that have of God's grace more knowing than 
we have, that be lewid and unkunning, be holden to teach us things 
that be needful to the health of our souls, that is to say, what thing 
is pleasing to God, and what displeaseth Him also. And I pray you, 
pour charite, to teach us leA\'id men truly the sooth, after our asking. 

(B) Brother, I know well, that I am holden by Christ's law to 
perform thine asking; but natheless, we be now so far fallen away 
from Christ's law, that if I would answer to thine askings, I must 
in case underfonge^ the death. And thou wost well that a man is 
holden to keep his life as long as he may. And peradventure it is 
speedful to hold our peace a while forto that God voucheth safe that 
His will be known : for now the world is full of wickedness, and men 
have more desire to live in their fleshly lusts in sin than to please 
God in forsaking sin. And I say thus in certain, that the comonalty 
of the world hath forsaken God and His hests^ and herieth false 
gods. . . . 

(A) Lefe brother, I trow full well that the world liveth in much 
wickedness of sin. But I trow that manj'- men, if they knew how 
they might please their God, they ne would not spare for dread of 
no man, ne for love neither, to do thing that were to His pleasing. 
And I trow that our God be so good and so merciful, that if we 
acknowledge to Him our sins, and forthink our trespass, and be in 
full will to offend Him no more, than our hope is that He will forgive 
us our trespass, if we ask mercy. . .thou ne shouldest nought spare 
for dread of thy death to tell us a truth to bring us out of mischief 
of the death of our soul. . . . Our Lord God also put Himself in peril of 
death, and underfong the death, to bring us that were His servants 
out of mischief of sin, and if our Lord put His soul for His servants, 
it is skilful [reasonable] that one brother put his soul for his 

^ The word is retained as it is used in Miss Paues' editions : actually the 
tract occurs before the epistles in (i) and (2) (though absent in (5), the other 
MS. of the epistles), and has no reference to the translation of the epistles. 
The writer only gets as far as discoursing at length about Leviticus : but the 
tract is unfinished, and some reference to the epistles might originally have 
been intended. It is therefore only a "prologue " in so far as it occurs before 
the epistles in two MSS. without referring to the work itself. 

2 Undergo. 3 Commandments. 


brethren;. . .who that loveth his life in this world, he shall lose his 
life. . . . And brother, I pray thee for the love that thou shouldst have 
to God and to thy brethren, that thou answer truly to things that 
I wiU ask thee, to health of my soul and other men's souls that be 
lewider than thou art. And if thou wilt nought, our hope is that 
God will inform us by some other true servant of His. 

(B) Brother, thou hast aghast me somewhat with thine arguments. 
For though thou ne have not been among clerks at school, thy skills 
that thou makest be founded in love, that is above reason that clerks 
use in school: and therefore it is hard for me to againstand thine 
skills and thine askings 1. 

The learned "brother" then describes the giving of the old 
law on Mount Sinai, and in answer to the question of the in- 
quirer, now and henceforth addressed as "sister," discourses 
about the old law and the ten " hests " at greater length. He also 
describes the moral and ceremonial law, and breaks off abruptly 
in the middle of a sentence, without having mentioned the trans- 
lations of the epistles, which occur next in the manuscript. 

Certain points are clear from this prologue. The "brothers" 
learned and "lewid," who address each other in it, are literary 
characters, and do not at all imply that the author of the pro- 
logue was himself a monk. The change from "brother" to 
"sister" shews that the characters are a literary device to give 
liveliness to the dialogue; like the "John" and "Richard" in a 
contemporary dialogue concerning the friars-. It is much more 
probable, a priori, that if any one asked the translator to under- 
take this work, it was a "sister" of some sort; but this is no 
evidence that the writer was himself a monk, for secular priests 
were sometimes the directors of recluses or the smaller nunneries. 
The general tone of the tract does not bespeak a monastic origin : 
there is no apology on the grounds that translations would aid 
the understanding of the divine office, or the practice of con- 
templative prayer, much less the specific monastic virtues : while 
the words of the lewid brother, that if the learned one will not 
accede to his request, "our hope is that God will inform us by 
some other true servant of His" are hardly those of one trained 
in monastic obedience, whose duty would have been to accept 
unquestioningly the will of his "superior." As a matter of fact, 

^ Paues, 1904, 4-8. 
2 See Trin. 333, § 4. 

20 — 2 


the word "superior^" does not occur in the prologue, and the 
appUcation of such a term to the learned brother is unjustified. 
Thus the translations were quite possibly actually written at the 
request of a " sister," but from the general tone of the tract, more 
probably by some secular priest or Austin canon than a monk. 
The author, from the insistence on the danger of death he 
incurs by making a biblical translation, must have been writing 
when English Bibles were considered dangerously heretical, — 
that is, at a time when the Wycliffite versions were already in 
circulation, and had aroused fierce opposition from some of the 
orthodox, especially the friars. For actual heresy the writer 
might at any date have expected the death penalty, since this 
was the penalty at common law, and had been exacted even in 
England^. In the Netherlands and the Empire many of the 
Flemish Lollards, and other heretics, were being sent to the 
stake just at this time, as they had been throughout the four- 
teenth century. But it is hardly possible that the writer should 
have expected the death penalt}' of heresy for translating the 
Bible before the Lollards had fought the case for its popularisa- 
tion, and had been fighting it for some little time. The allusion 

1 Paues, 1904, xix, "brother superior" nowhere occurs in the text, and 
is a misleading term for the " learned brother " in the prologue. A "superior" 
has definite monastic meaning, but "brother superior" is not found at the 
date as a monastic term. The lewid brother would have said " father" had 
he owed the learned brother any sort of monastic obedience, as to a 
"superior." The term "brother " does probably shew that the writer meant 
his dialogue to take place between two members of some sort of a com- 
munit}' (but just as likely a Lollard "school" as an orthodox order), rather 
than between learned and lewid secular Christians. But this need not imply 
that the writer was himself a monk, much less a "superior." Hereford 
and Repingdon, it is true, were Austin canons, but there is no incongruity 
in supposing that the early type of scholarly Lollard, of very mild un- 
orthodoxy, should have thrown his dialogue into a form like that of this 

^ See Henry IV, iv. 314, appendix on the burning of heretics; for heretics 
in England anterior to Wycliffe, see Inq. 1. 113, and for a better and fuller 
account, Summers, 10-44; and for early cases of heresy in England, see 
also CPL, III. 1342-62, 138, 227, 231, 253, 432, 565; CPP. I. 115, 216; 
Kellaw, Reg. in RS, 62, i. 164; Hermits, 89. The editor of Wykeham's Reg. 
II. 77-9, considers the apostate Benedictine, Margery de Rye, to have been 
probably an early Lollard: but this is scarcely possible as early as 1369. 
The Lollard apology, or 25 Articles, in which they offered in 1388-9 to 
maintain certain theses to kings, lords and commons, refers to a possible 
death penalty: they will defend them " Yea, by death, if it be justly deemed 
lawful," Sel. Eng. Works, in. 457. 


to the extreme of persecution in connexion with a bibhcal trans- 
lation is exactly similar to the tone of some of Purvey's prefaces 
to the glossed gospels, and even to the lament for the persecution 
of Bible readers in the General Prologue^. This would date the 
tract as written perhaps between 1388 and 1400, but scarcely 
earher: this date accords also with the linguistic evidence, and 
would allow for the union of these southern epistles and the 
midland tracts in a manuscript of about 1400, Probably the 
period could be still further narrowed to the five years immedi- 
ately about 1388 : for the writer probably knew of the existence 
of English gospels, but not of Enghsh epistles, — which points 
to a date of about 1388, allowing for the writer to have left 
Oxford about 1380-5. 

The writer was not an extreme Lollard, and yet there are signs 
that he was in sympathy with Lollard teaching : perhaps through 
a previous education at Oxford. The translation or instruction 
in the Bible was to be for the use of the "lewid," — a very doubt- 
fully orthodox aim; it was a translation of the bare text, without 
glosses, which was considered particularly unsafe; the dwelling 
on the giving of "Goddis la we" on Sinai somewhat bespeaks 
Lollardy, as does the readiness to expound the details and mean- 
ing of the ceremonial law of Leviticus to the lewid; and the 
reference to obtaining forgiveness by confession of sins to God 
alone sounds suspiciously Lollard. But the writer was certainly 
not a convinced Lollard, of the Purvey type: possibly he had 
come in contact with VVycliffism at Oxford, for he certainly 
sympathised with the Lollard aim of "uncovering" the scrip- 
tures to the lewid, but he thinks at first that " peradventure 
it is speedful to hold our peace a while, forto that God voucheth 
safe that His will be known," though he yields to the lewid 
brother's request later. His first thought was, clearly, to wait 
and see whether the English Church should settle the matter of 
translations by condemning or approving them. 

If the writer were southern or Kentish, as the editor of the 
edition believes 2, it is much more likely that he should have 
been at Oxford, than at any midland or north midland cathedral 
theology school, for such schools were mainly attended by local 

^ FM, I. 30, 43, 57. * Paues, 1904, i n. i, xvii. 


students. One of the five hands in Nicholas Hereford's original 
manuscript appears to be Kentish, and, curiously enough, it is 
that of the portion Leviticus to Judges vii. 13^, which suggests 
that the writer may have been the same as that of the prologue. 
If such was the case, familiarity with this matter, the Jewish 
moral and ceremonial law, may have accounted for the long 
dissertation upon them to the lewid brother in the prologue, 
written later. This is conjecture: but the probability that the 
writer of the prologue was acquainted rather with the early 
Wycliffite gospels than with the rare north midland ones, is 
serious. As a general result, the examination of the prologue 
and the dialect of the epistles would seem to shew that the writer 
was a priest of the south country, verj' doubtfully a monk or 
canon regular, who had been influenced by Wycliffite views, 
but had remained substantially orthodox, and that he wrote his 
prologue about 1388-95. 

§ 4. Another group of translations, never widely copied, 
seems to have been contemporary with the early Wyclififite 
versions, and to have been due to a north midland author, or 
group of authors. One of these works has a prologue which 
seems to connect the translator with the Wycliffite circle at 
Oxford, but the others have no prologues, and therefore no 
evidence as to orthodox or heterodox origin, except in so far as 
they may be connected in the manuscripts with the one first 

The gospels of SS. Matthew, Mark and Luke exist in this 
north midland dialect, with a gloss translated mainly from, Peter 
Lombard^. A passage from the Latin text is given, then the 
translation, then the gloss, which is quite orthodox and un- 
original. The comment on S. Matthew has a prologue : 

Here begins the exposition of Saint Matthew. . . . This work some 
time I was stirred to begin of one that I suppose verily was God's 
servant, and oft times prayed me this work to begin, saying to me, 
that sithen the gospel is rule, by the which each Christian man 
ought to live^, and divers has drawn into Latin, the which tongue 

* Bodl. 959; FM, I xlvii. The prologue as it stands, incomplete, would be 
a far more suitable introduction to a translation of Leviticus, which it dis- 
cusses, than the epistles, which it never mentions. 

2 That on Matthew in two MSS. ; those on Mark and Luke together in a 
single one. The latter have no prologues. FM, i. x. 

' This is a typically Lollard phrase: cf. Wycliffe's argument, pp. 242-3. 



is not known to each man but only to the learned: and many lewid 
men are, that gladly would con the gospel, if it were drawn into 
English tongue, and so it should do great profit to man's soul, about 
the which profit each man that is in the grace of God, and to whom 
God has sent cunning, ought heartily to busy him. Wherefore I, 
that through the grace of God began this work, so stirred as I have 
said before, by such word, thought in my heart, that I was holden 
by charity this work to begin: and so this work I began at the 
suggestion of God's servant, and greatly in this doing I was com- 
forted of other God's servants divers, to such time that through the 
grace of God I brought this to an end. In the which drawing I 
suppose there is nothing set against the faith, against health of soul, 
or else against the worship of God.. . .Wherefore I beseech. . .tbem 
that this work read, that for me they pray the mercy of God, . . .and 
that he at whose suggestion I this work began, and they that this 
work read, and all Christian men with me, through doing of that 
which is written in this book, may come together to that bliss that 
never shall end^. 

The reference to " one that I suppose verily was God's servant" 
points strongly to Wycliffe, and to the translator's having been 
for a time one of the Wycliffite circle at Oxford, probably at the 
time when Wychffe was writing the De Veritate, about 1378, or 
earher, and before the actual Wycliffite versions had been taken 
in hand. Arundel says that Wycliffe "filled up the measure of 
his malice by instigating a new translation of the scriptures," 
and this sentence in the prologue reads as if he had "instigated" 
its translator among others. His Latin works for seven or eight 
years before his death all demanded a popular knowledge of the 
Bible that led inevitably to the "instigating" of a translation. 
The phrase "one that I suppose verily was God's servant" 
suggests that all might not hold him so, and is just one that 
might have been expected of a scholar who knew that certain 
teachings of his master had lately been condemned, and who 
did not therefore wish to prejudice his own work by openly 
naming the man who had inspired it. It is curious that this man 
speaks of his inspirer and other helpers as "servants of God," 
and that the lewid brother in the above mentioned prologue used 
the same phrase for one who should be willing to translate the 
scripture for him : " and if thou wilt nought, our hope is that God 
will inform us by some other true servant of His." The phrase^ 

1 FM, I. X. ^ AM, IV. 227. 


was thus used by the Lollards, one of whom hoped that a 
certain bishop would not "trouble the servants of God, but 
will let them be in quiet." Moreover, the reason put forward 
by the "servant of God" who urged the making of the trans- 
lation is exactly Wycliffe's teaching, which he reiterated in all 
his later works. "The gospel is rule by which each Christian man 
Qught to live" compares exactly with Wycliffe's advice to all 

to study carefully the gospel in that tongue in which the meaning 
of the gospel was clearest to them: for all the faithful are bound to 
follow the Lord Jesus Christ,. . .and since the deeds and teaching of 
Christ are more clearly expressed in the gospel than elsewhere, it is 
obvious how much the careful study of this book profits the faithful i. 

" The gospel is the rule by which all Christians ought to live " is 
a typical Lollard proposition, often found in Purvey's writings. 
Nevertheless, there is no evidence in the prologue that the north 
midland translator had become a Lollard of an advanced type : 
he probably took up work at a distance from Oxford, completed 
his translation there, and lost touch with the Wycliffite circle. 

Besides these glossed gospels, a north midland version of the 
Pauline epistles^ has survived in a single manuscript. Here the 
Latin is given in single sentences, followed by a very literal and 
stiff translation, followed then by occasional short glosses that 
are not much more than alternative renderings of the word, or 
explanations of it. There was also the north midland unglossed 
version of Acts and part of S. Matthew, mentioned earlier, found 
combined about 1400 with the southern epistles; the editor does 
not mention that the portion of S. Matthew was connected with, 
or drawn from, the north midland glossed S. Matthew, and it 
seems to be a freer rendering than the text of that gloss. There 
was also a set of north midland catholic epistles, unglossed^, and 
found in a single manuscript combined with the portion of 
Matthew and Acts. It is not at all certain that all these works 
were connected in origin, though they are in the same dialect, 
but such may have been the case. In any case, the glossed 
gospels appear to be the work of one man : the glossed Pauline 

1 See p. 245. 

2 Paul. Ep. 1-274. 

^ Printed as an appendix, Panes, 1904. 


epistles are perhaps connected with him, for they occur only in 
the manuscript of the glosses on SS. Mark and Luke: and the 
unglossed Matthew, Acts and cathoUc epistles appear to have 
been part of another version, or a revision of the text of the 

The modern editor^ of the glossed Pauline epistles does not 
enter into the question as to whether the translator was the 
same as the compiler of the glossed gospels: she considers it 
likely that the work was made as an aid to preaching, or for 
teaching in some divinity school. But we have no reason to 
assume that between 1380 and 1400 lectures in cathedral 
divinity schools were given in English : in absence of evidence, 
it is much more likely that, like those at the university, they were 
in Latin. Moreover, the lectures at such schools do not seem to 
have been upon the biblical text. They seem to have formed a 
course of elementary theology, based on Peter Lombard : though 
later the council of Constance ordered that the lecturer in theo- 
logy should expound the Sunday epistles and gospels, for the 
improvement of the sermons of those, mainly ordinands, to 
whom he was lecturing^. The Lollard Purvey demanded that 
scholars at grammar schools should learn to construe the biblical 
text, and if a teacher from Oxford chose himself to introduce 
such an innovation, in a theology school, such a book as these 
Pauline epistles would have been exactly what he required: the 
book is practically a construing of the Latin text into English. 
There is no need to assume that the hypothetical teacher taught 
LoUardy in a divinity school, or that he actually used his glosses 
in delivering his divinity lectures. But he may have had his 
students in mind in preparing them. The similarity of the north 
midland dialect in this group of translations rather suggests a 
common local origin: and the newness of the departure, and 
scholarship of the glossed gospels, rather suggest an important 
local divinity school as the place of origin. Putting these infer- 
ences together, and till further evidence is collected, the cathedral 
school of Lincoln might be suggested as the place of origin ; the 
dialect is not northern enough for York. But such preoccu- 
pation with the biblical text would have been "advanced" 

^ Miss M. J. Powell. * See p. 104. 


for the day, and due very probabty to the influence of lecturers 
who had come under the influence of WjxUfiite ideals during 
their studies at Oxford. 

The teaching of Wycliffe for the five years or so before his 
condemnation in 1382, as embodied in the De Veritate and some 
of his other tracts, cannot have been without influence on 
students who were at Oxford only for a time. Wycliffe's teaching 
remained strong in his own university for years after his con- 
demnation, but it must have passed out also with students who 
left Oxford and obtained a prebend in some cathedral, or 
actually lectured in its school. They would, without becoming 
active Lollards, remember Wycliffe as "holden of full many men 
the greatest clerk that they knew then living : and therewith . . . 
a passing ruely man, and an innocent in his living," and his 
followers as " the most godly wise men that I heard of or knew^." 
Of such a type was certainly the author of the north midland 
glossed gospels: and of such a type was quite probably the 
author of the southern prologue and epistles, who faced such 
risk in the making of his translation. In not a single case is there 
any evidence that any of these translations were made before, 
or apart from, the influence of Wycliffe: the fact that they con- 
tain nothing unorthodox in the text or glosses proves nothing, 
for the Wyclifiite versions themselves contained nothing un- 
orthodox. The north midland glossed gospels are almost cer- 
tainly the earliest of the group, for the translation was literal 
and the gloss considerable: but this was made, judging from the 
prologue, under Wycliffite inspiration. It is not in the least 
likely that the much freer and unglossed north midland trans- 
lations of parts of the New Testament preceded the others, in 
lack of direct evidence to that effect: for this would be an in- 
version of the usual order in which translations were made at the 
date. Nor does the earliest manuscript containing part of it 
appear to date from earlier than 1380-1400^. So that the 
reasons for believing that any biblical version, or part of it^, 
substantially preceded the Wycliffite ones, are small: the north 

^ Pollard, 119. 
^ Paues., 1904 xiii. 

' Apart from the translation of the Anglo-Norman Apocalypse, which 
dates from 1340—70, see p. 302. 


midland glossed gospels are almost certainly the earliest, and 
though it is quite possible that they actually antedate the so- 
called early Wycliffite one by a year or two, they were written 
through Wycliffite inspiration. 

But in any case, these contemporary translations are chiefly of 
Hnguistic interest, for they were so rarely copied that they were 
unknown to contemporaries. They would come under the ban 
of the council of Oxford in 1408 as having been made in the days 
of the late master John Wycliffe, or since, without having re- 
ceived any general approbation from a bishop. 

§ 5. It will be remembered that Anglo-French and Middle- 
English verse paraphrases of the Sunday gospels had been made 
in England between 1250 and 1350. These had been originally 
accompanied by homihes or expositions, and in the later manu- 
scripts the translation of the text itself was dropped. There are 
three interesting sets of prose translations of the Sunday gospels, 
with English homilies upon them, all of which belong to the last 
quarter of the fourteenth century: that is, were contemporary 
with Wycliffe's teaching, or were made shortly after his death. 
There is no manuscript or other evidence for dating any of them 
earlier than c. 1380, and the set which was probably the earliest 
seems to date from about that time. The three sets, all of which 
contain translations of the biblical text differing from both the 
early and the late Wycliffite versions, are the prose translation of 
Robert of Greatham's Mirror, the Lollard sermons on the Sunday 
gospels connected more or less closely in origin with Wycliffe 
himself, and a contemporary set of sermons apparently uncon- 
nected with the Lollards. The manuscripts of the Wycliffite 
sermons are fairly frequent^: but of the other sets only four and 
two respectively are known: so that neither set had anything 
like the popularity or influence of the Wycliffite versions. The 
translation of the text of the gospels was probably made in each 
case at sight from the missal or Vulgate, and is an independent 

The prose translation and homilies which are modelled upon 

Robert of Greatham's Mirror contain, apparently, no Lollard 

teaching or phraseology, and are found in four manuscripts'-, 

^ Wells, 469, mentions 19. 

* Harl. 5085, Magdalen Coll. Camb. 2498, and C.C.C. Camb. 282, all late 


all dating from the end of the fourteenth century, or the begin- 
ning of the next. The translator made a fairly close translation 
of Robert's prologue^ and made use of the subject matter of his 
homilies, but he apparently made his own translation of the 
gospel text, no doubt with Robert's verse translation before 
him^. The version is not literal, like the early Wycliffite version, 
but much freer, and suitable for recitation in the pulpit: the 
translation of the whole Sunday gospel precedes the homily. In 
translating the prologue the Middle-English editor omitted such 
of the French lines as would not apply to his English treatise^, 
so that his version was not a mere English copy of the French 
prologue: but he chose to retain the hues (quoted above ^), 
where opposition was anticipated, and to render them somewhat 
stronger. This would seem to indicate that he personally ex- 
pected censure from some quarters, and was writing some time 
soon after 1382-4, when the controversy over Enghsh scriptures 
had begun. 

My name ne will I nought name, for the enemies that might hear 
it, and might draw your hearts from good, that had will to hear it. 
For it is the manner of the enemies for to be grudging and annoyous, 
and will blithely coniect^ the words of holy writ, and will tell it on 
their manner, and ne let nought for to blame other; the wicked 
ween for to amend it, for to blame the good, and coniect them®.. . , 
For this werk I do sooth for me and for all men. For all ne have 
nought all holy writ. Such hear the gospel and read it, that ne 
understandeth nought it, what it saith. And for to do all men for 
to understand it, in God I dare take this work in hand, that all men 
may understand openly what the gospel teacheth them. 

It would appear therefore that this translation and homilies 
were made about the time of the beginning of the translation 

fourteenth century, and Holkham Hall MS. early fifteenth century. See 
H. E. Allen in Modern PJiilology, xiii. April 1916; 741, Paues, 1904, xiv; 
and extracts from the prologue, with a specimen of the translation of the 
biblical text, in FM, i. xx. The MSS. quoted may go back to an earlier 
original, but the language does not suggest it, cf. also Parker Coll. 52, 


^ See passages compared in Mod. PJnl. xiii. 742: in the whole prologue 
the resemblance is close. 

^ A comparison of the gospel text as printed in FM, i xx with Greatham's 
Mirror in Gg. i. i shews no special resemblance in the biblical passages. 

3 Rom. XV. 298, 11. 1-6, 68-70, 199-200. * See p. 150. 

^ Cast down, for deprimer. See NED, coniect. 

* FM, I. XX ; the last lines are not a translation of Greatham's lines in 
Rom. XV. 300, 11. 137 S. ; for the first, see 11. 129 ff., for the last. 11. 275 S. 


controversy, by a scholar who made no departure from orthodoxy 
in his teaching, but was somewhat apprehensive as to the re- 
ception of his work ; he does not seem to have been acquainted 
with the northern Enghsh verse homihes, founded on his own 
model. The Franciscan Butler, and the Dominicans Palmer and 
Tylle, would doubtless have condemned his work. 

The Sunday sermons printed as Wy cliff e's^ are not preceded 
by translations of the Sunday gospel, but the complete trans- 
lation of the gospel is given in the course of each homily, which 
explains a few verses at a time. The text here also is indepen- 
dent, and if the sermons are Wycliffe's own, is his first essay in 
the translation of the gospel. To have quoted from the early 
literal Wyclififite version would have been impossible in a 
passage meant for recitation in the pulpit, and there are no 
grounds for believing that the second version was begun before 
his death. But there are serious grounds for doubting whether 
these English sermons are in Wycliffe's own words, whether they 
are more than his followers' version of his sermon notes ^ com- 
piled for the benefit of his itinerant preachers. The matter of 
the sermons, however, follows closely Wycliffe's teaching in his 
authentic Latin polemical works. Probably the text of the 
gospels was translated, if not in the original sermon notes by 
Wycliffe, by Purvey or some Wycliffite before the second 
Wycliffite version was made. In one case, two sermons are given 
on the gospel beginning Egressus Jesus de Templo^, and the text 
of the gospel is twice translated, — each time differently: which 
confirms the general probability that throughout the translation 
was made at sight, and not from any earlier translation. 

The third set of homilies, apparently orthodox in matter'', has 
yet another English text for the gospels themselves. This is 

^ Sel. E)2g. Works, i. 

- A priori, Wycliffe is unlikely to have spent his time writing out ver- 
nacular sermons; and the references to persecution in some of the sermons 
seem to point to their being edited at a time later than Wycliffe's death : 
of. the references to the death penalty for heresy, Sel. Eitg. Works, i. ix; 
also the reference to a number of translators in id. 11. 393, "some men would 
say it [the gospel] in their mother language, as they kunnen." 

3 Sel. Eiig. Works, 1. 235; 11. 393. 

* FM, I. XX ; MSS. Kk. 6. 2, Kk 6. 28. The Camb. Univ. Lib. Cat. states 
that Kk. 6. 2 is the work of a Wycliffite, but on what grounds is not appar- 
ent: a general examination of the MS. does not suggest it. Both MSS. date 
from about 1400. 


given continuously at the beginning of each gospel, but only in 
one of the two manuscripts. The text is closer to that in the 
Wycliffite sermons than to either of the Wycliffite biblical ver- 
sions: but the resemblance is due probably only to the com- 
parative freedom of which the translator felt justified in making 
use, in a work meant for the pulpit, and not textual study. 

Thus of the three late fourteenth century English "plen- 
aries," or gospels and homilies, one is certainly Wycliffite, if not 
Wycliffe's, and the other two are of apparently independent 
origin, though the type of sermon approximated to that which 
the Lollards desired. The Wycliffite work was copied fairly 
widely: but the other two sets of homilies, judging from the 
surviving manuscripts, had little influence. The compilation of 
such a work would have been unlawful in the fifteenth century 
without episcopal license: and there is no evidence that such 
was ever given. 


Bihle reading by the orthodox, 1408-1526 

§ I. The provision of the synod of Oxford in 1408 that no one 
was to translate, or use the translation of, any text of holy scrip- 
ture, until the translation should have been approved by the 
diocesan bishop or the provincial council, seems to imply as 
possible in future, either the issue of some authorised biblical 
translation, or the approbation of some private individual's 
work. If this really floated before the minds of Arundel and his 
clergy, such a measure was never taken, — to the surprise of 
sir Thomas More a century later^. Friar Butler roundly asserted 
that the whole hierarchy together had no power to grant a general 
license for lay people to read a particular translation, and the 
council of Trent so far endorsed his opinion that lay people were 
only allowed to use translations by the individual license of their 
confessors. But it is unlikely that Arundel had any definite 
intention of taking the lead in such a matter, when no previous 
English or continental bishop had ever issued an approved trans- 
lation, and when such an action would have clashed with the 
conception of the clergy as the teaching branch of the Church. 
No bishop actually took such a course before the Reformation. 
The clause may have been intended merely to sanction the old 
custom of indi\ddual license by the confessor: or to placate 
liberal feeling within the Church: or to shew a scholarly recog- 
nition that translations were not, in themselves, wrong. Which- 
ever was intended, no breach in ancient custom ensued: no 
translation received official sanction-, but kings and nobles were 
allowed to possess English Bibles as they had earlier been 
allowed to possess Bibles Historiales. For the first half of the 
century however there is not only no evidence for lay ownership, 

1 See p. 8. 

* Gairdner's note, i 109 " Wycliffite Bibles authorised by bishops" is ex- 
ceedingly misleading, as implying a general license. There is no single known 
case even of an individual obtaining episcopal license to use one, much less 
of a general license to use a particular version. See p. 7 n. 


but some evidence that English scriptures were too closely con- 
nected with heresy for even the greatest to wish to possess them ; 
and it is probable that such manuscripts as were written for use 
by the orthodox at this time were used by nuns rather than lay 
people. But when fifty years or so had passed after 1408, and 
seventy from the death of Wycliffe, confessors and doctors had 
no means of identifying the actually Lollard versions submitted 
to them. There was no reason why they should not have ap- 
proved each manuscript merely on the grounds of its accuracy 
as a translation : as they probably did, in a few cases. They had 
not the linguistic skill to know whether the manuscript had been 
made before the days of Wycliffe or not, even if they knew the 
exact provisions of the synod of Oxford. Broadly speaking, it 
is likely that nuns were the most numerous orthodox users of 
English Bibles between 1408 and 1526, but that between about 
1450 and 1526 exalted lay people sometimes possessed them, in 
complete ignorance that they were Wycliffite. Devotional teach- 
ing never laid any stress on their use by lay people in England, 
and there was certainly no general emphasis on their use even 
by nuns, though certain nunnery chaplains advised or allowed 
it. Not only was Bible reading never advised by the hierarchy 
as a duty, but there is evidence that it was generally regarded as 
forbidden^. The attitude of sir Thomas More's "Messenger" 
shews that this was so in the sixteenth century, and More would 
probably have caused quite as much surprise in the fifteenth by 
stating, on the authority of the synod of 1408, that Bible- 
reading in general was not forbidden. 

Enghsh versions of the psalms, however, seem to have been, 
from the first, an exception to the rule against the unlicensed use 
of biblical translations. A certain number of people possessed 
English primers in the fifteenth century, and these books usually 
included certain psalms^. Two partial verse translations of the 
psalms were being made just at the time of the synod of Oxford : 
those of Lydgate^, the B-^nedictine of Bury, and Brampton*, a 
Franciscan recluse in the west of England. Lydgate could 

^ See pp. 326-9. 

^ See p. 338 n. Addit. 36683 combines the primer with the Wychffite 

' Psalm 51 and others: see Ashmole, 50, § 39; 48, § 58. 

* Trin. Coll. Descrip. Cat. 11. 80; Wells, 404, misdates as 1414. 


hardly have been unaware of the prohibition, though Brampton, 
who wrote in 1413, might well have been: but neither seems to 
have obtained episcopal license for his poems. Probably the 
exemption of Rolle's psalter in 1408^ led to the toleration of all 
prose texts of the psalter, while for loose verse translations no 
license was ever regarded as necessary. ' 

§ 2. There is indeed a piece of evidence that Arundel was, in 
1408, seriously considering the provision of some English book 
in which the faithful might study the life of Christ, with due 
guidance from the doctors. He seems to have decided that an 
actual translation of the biblical text, however well accompanied 
by glosses, was impossible, because it afforded the heretics 
grounds for argument, and for the appeal to isolated texts ^. He 
therefore fell back upon a translation of the most popular gospel 
harmony of the middle ages, the Mediiationes Vitae Christi then 
ascribed to S. Bonaventura. The parts dealing with the passion 
had been used in English verse and prose in the fourteenth 
century^, and the whole work was translated into several ver- 
nacular tongues at about this date. Arundel in 1410 authorised 
for general use an English prose translation ; and this date, to- 
gether with a sentence in his authorisation stating that he did it 
"to the confuting of all false Lollards and heretics," suggests a 
counter-move to the Lollard efforts to publish the gospels in 
Enghsh. The commonness of fifteenth century manuscripts, and 
references to this work in catalogues and wills*, shew that it 
became the orthodox reading-book of the devout laity, as 
Arundel probably intended. In any case, his authorisation of 
the book shews that the licensing, for instance, of a translation 
of the gospels, would have been a perfectly possible event at the 
date, and it is significant to note what book he did, in fact, 
authorise for general use instead. 

Nearly all the manuscripts of this book copy a Latin memoran- 
dum of Arundel's license, and have notes about the translator 
and his methods. j 

1 The author of the Sion Myroure thought it superfluous to translate 
verses of the psalms when the nuns could use Hampole, see p. 339. Ashmole, 
61, has another poem, like Brampton's, on the penitential psalms, by a 
certain Rate, c. 1 475-1 500. 

- See his words to Thorpe, p 354. * See pp. 152, 174. 

* See p. 342. 

D. w. B. 21 


About 1 4 10 the original copy of this book, the Mirror of the Life 
of Christ, in English, was presented in London by its compiler, to 
the most reverend father in Christ, and lord, the lord Thomas 
Arundel, archbishop of Canterbury, for inspection and due examina- 
tion, before it was made public^. And he, when he had inspected it 
for some days, handed this book back to its aforesaid author, and 
with his own voice commended and approved it in detail, and by 
his authority as metropolitan, he decreed and commanded that it 
should be made public as catholic, to the edification of the faithful, 
and the confutation of all false heretics or Lollards^. 

The author was the Carthusian Nicholas Love, prior of Mount 
Grace, at Ingleby, Yorkshire, as is explained by other notes in 
^ the manuscript, and one manuscript actually possesses the trans- 
lator's monogram^. The Carthusians of the fifteenth century 
were active in the spread of religious literature, and regarded this 
as a duty which they owed to the laity, whom they could not, in 
their strict seclusion, serve by other active works*. Nicholas 
Love's book was not a close translation of the whole of the 
Meditationes Vitae Christi, but a free translation of such parts 
as he considered specially suitable for meditation by simple lay 
people, with additions and explanations of his own. He marked 
with the initial B those passages which were translated from 
pseudo-Bonaventura, and with the initial N the passages he had 
added himself^, and he followed his original in distinguishing 
whether the passage narrated was biblical, or founded only on 
the opinions of the doctors: 

S. John said that all the things that Jesu did are not written in 
the gospel. Wherefore we may, to stirring of devotion, imagine and 
think divers words of Him, and other that we find not written, so 
that it be not against the belief: (as S. Gregory and other doctors 
say that holy writ may be expounded and understanden in divers 
manners, and to divers purposes, so that it be not against the belief, 
or good manners). And so what time or in what place in this book 
is written, that thus did or thus spake our Lord Jesu, or other that 
are spoken of, and it may not be proved of holy writ, or grounded 
in express saying of holy doctors, it shall be taken none otherwise 
than a devout meditation that it might be so spoken or done^. 

^ Libera communicata : of. p. 215, Spec. Vit.; p. 325, Fruit of Redemption. 
^ C.C.C. Camb. 142, f. 2a, etc.; Love's Mirrour, preface. 

* Brasenose, e. 9. For an article confusing this work with Deguilleville's 
pilgrimages, see Trans. Bibliog. Sac. vii. 163 ff. 

■* See Chartreux, travaux de, V, 11. 605. 

^ Love's Mirrour, 6; C.C.C. Camb. 142, f. 2a. 

* Love's Mirrour, 9; cf. Bonav. Op. 1609, 533. 



The original Meditaiiones from which Nicholas Love trans- 
lated contain, on the whole, far more meditation and non- 
biblical matter than actual gospel narrative, — and a much more 
detailed account of the nativity, epiphany, fasting and tempta- 
tions, passion, resurrection and ascension of our Lord than of 
His teaching or ministry^ Nicholas Love followed the same 
method, though he sometimes omitted long meditations applic- 
able only to a religious, and added others o^his own. The general 
result of his translation was to add meditations of his own on the 
early and final events of our Lord's hfe, and still further to 
abridge the ministry and parables. When he had completed the 
narrative and meditations down to the temptations, he preface"d 
his abridgement of his original with the remark : 

But for alsomuch as it were a long work, and peradventure tedious 
both to the readers and the hearers hereof, if all the process here of 
the blessed life of Jesu should be written in English so fully by 
meditations as it is yet hitherto, after the process of the book before 
named of Bonaventura in Latin: therefore hereafter many chapters 
and long process that seemeth little edification in as to the manner 
of simple folk, that this book is specially written to, shall be left, 
until it draw unto the passion, which with the grace of Jesu shall 
be more plainly contained, as the matter that is most needful and 
most edifying 2. 

Nicholas Love's own passages are generally of much beauty 
and devotion, and though the work which he produced was far 
indeed from being a literal harmony of the gospels, its popu- 
larity among the orthodox in the fifteenth century can be well 
understood. In a long prologue he met the Lollards on their 
own ground by recommending the study of the life of Christ : 

^ The chapters are headed according to the order of events in the narra- 
tive, and there is no trace that the order of the Sunday gospels was in any 
way followed. 

^ Love's Mirrour, loo. Many of the chapters omitted from the Medita- 
iiones form a treatise on the active and contemplative life, following on the 
discourse on Martha and Mary where it occurs in the narrative. Medit. pp. 
368-78, or chapters 45-58, are thus omitted by Love: but he actually shps 
into admonitions of his own to religious, though he states elsewhere that 
he is writing expressly for lay people; cf. especially, Mirrour, 98, his account 
of Carthusian meals; and 165, Of silence, "and other virtuous exercise that 
longeth to contemplative living and specially to a recluse, .. .whoso will 
more plainly be informed and taught in English tongue, let him look the 
treatise that the worthy clerk and holy liver Walter Hilton, the canon of 
Thurgarton, wrote in English by grace and high discretion." 

21 — 2 


For there is no pride but it may be healed through the meekness 
of God's son: there is no covetise but that it may be healed through 
His poverty, nor wrath but that it may be healed through His 
patience : nor malice, but that it may be healed by His charity. . . . 
And for this hope and to this intent, with holy writ also are written 
divers T^ooks and treatises of devout men: nor only to clerks in 
Latin, but also in English to lewid men and women and them that 
be of simple understanding. Among the which are written devout 
meditations of Christ's life, more plain in certain parts than is ex- 
pressed in the gospel of the four evangelists^. And as it is said, the 
devout man and worthy clerk, Bonaventura, wrote them to a religious 
woman in Latin. The which scripture and writing, for the fructuous 
matter thereof stirring especially to the love of Jesu, and also to the 
plain sentence to common understanding, seemeth among other 
sovereignly edifying to simple creatures: the which, as children, 
have need to be fed with milk of light doctrine, and not with sad 
meat of great clergy and of high contemplation. Wlierefore, at the 
instance and the prayer of some devout souls, to edification of such 
men or women is this drawing out of the foresaid book of Christ's 
life written in English, with more put to in certain parts, and also 
Avith drawing of divers authorities and matters, as it seemeth to the 
writer hereof most speedful and edifying to them that are of simple 

The Mirrour was not only written to supersede the Lollard 
translations of the gospels, but it also refers in places to the 
Lollard errors. The loosing of Lazarus from the grave-clothes is 
compared to that of the sinner, "dead and bounden by the grave- 
clothes of sin," by confession and absolution: and the scribe 
emphasised the point by writing in the margin: "Nota de con- 
fessione et absolutione, contra Lollardos." Again, in narrating 
the institution of the Lord's Supper, Love wrote: 

These terms I touch here so specially because of the lewid Lollards, 
that meddlen them against the faith falsely. And moreover the faith 
of this excellent sacrament ... is conf ermed by many manner of 
miracles, as we read in holy books, and hear all day preached and 
taught. But here laugheth the Lollard, and scometh holy Church 
alleging of such miracles 2. 

* Love's Mirrour, 8. Besides the biblical narrative, the pseudo-Bona- 
ventura devotes chapters 11. and iii. to tbe strife in heaven between Mercy 
and Justice, Truth and Peace (much exploited in later miracle-plays and 
Piers Plowman), and the life of our Lady and her seven petitions, "known 
from her revelations of it to S. Elizabeth." The other non-biblical details 
at the visitation to S. Elizabeth, the Nativity, etc , are only such as might 
be supplied by a devout mind picturing the scenes shortly described in the 
gospels. * Love's Mirrour, pp. 180, 208. 


Not only did Love deal with the matter in this passage, but he 
added a separate tract on "the highest and most worthy sacra- 
ment of Christ's blessed body " at the end of his Mirrour, to the 
special confutation of the Lollards on this point 1. On the other 
hand, the fact that the manuscript purported to be a life of 
Christ in English seems to have induced some Lollards to possess 
themselves of it, for in one manuscript the section about the 
sacrament of the altar is scratched through, and a marginal note 
says: "Do not beleue thys foleshnes^." 

Orthodox approval of Bom.veninTdi'sMeditationes as a reading- 
book for the devout is confirmed, not only by the Spanish trans- 
lation made at this time, but by a French one. Jean Gallopes, 
dean of the collegiate church of Saussaye in Normandy, trans- 
lated what he called the "golden book of the life of our Lord 
Jesus Christ according to Bonaventura," and dedicated it to 
Henry V, and his uncle the duke of Exeter, regent of France at 
the time, as well as presenting a copy to Henry V^. 

Though Love's Mirrour of the blessed life of Jesu was much the 
commonest in the fifteenth century, two other English lives were 
composed. Fairly early in the century a Carthusian of Sheen 
composed an English Vita Christi'^, and apologised in the preface 
for his work as partly unnecessary, since "a man of our order of 
Charterhouse" had turned Bonaventura's Vita Christi into 
English; he mentioned also the existence of an English "School 
Story," or Historia Scholastica, and said that his two chief 
authorities were Comestor and Lyra. His narrative keeps closer 
to the words and order of the gospels than Love's Mirrour. The 
other English life was composed at the end of the century, "for 
your ghostly comfort that know no Latin °" by Simon, the 
anker of London Wall, who was enclosed in the city church of • 
All Hallows. It was approved as orthodox by Fitzjames, bishop 

^ Cf. especially Mirrour, 321, for his criticism of Wyc'iffe and his "great 
clergy" and doctrine of the sacrament. 

2 Camb. Trin. 367, f. 128. There are, apparently, Lollard notes in 
Univ. 123, since Coxe in Cat. Cod. Oxon. attributes the work to "quendam 

* Parker Coll. 43, C.C.C. Camb. Descrip. Cat. i. 510. 

* The Speculum Devotorum, written for a nun, Gg. i. 6, owned in 1517 by 
John and Margaret Farmer. 

* Published by Wynkyn de Worde in 15 14 as The Fruit of Redemption, 
Hermits, 180. 


of London, in 1506, before it was " made public," and was printed 
four years later by Wynkyn de Worde. Lollard or protestant 
heresy was just then increasing again in numbers and import- 
ance, and this license of a second book deahng with the hfe of 
Christ is a curious parallel with that of Love's Mirrour. 

It is very strong evidence, again, of the attitude of authority 
in England to vernacular scriptures, in these early days of 
*. printing, that several editio(fis both of Love's and Simon the 
Anker's meditations on the life of Christ should have been 
printed^, while no printer ventured to produce any EngHsh 
bibhcal books, or even a set of glossed Sunday gospels. Manu- 
scripts were there to print from, as easily accessible as Love's 
Mirrour. If the difficulty were the authorisation of the text, for 
instance, of the Sunday gospels, it would have been possible for 
Fitzjames to read and approve one, as he did Simon the 
Anker's work; if licenses to read English scriptures had been at 
all freely obtainable by the devout, such a book would certainly 
have been printed. The non-printing of such books goes to 
corroborate More's Dialogue, since it shews that the constitutions 
of Oxford were generally understood to forbid the reading of 
English scriptures by the laity. 

§ 3. The strongest evidence for this is contained in the ac- 
counts of various Lollard trials, where the witnesses frequently 
deposed that they had heard the accused reading in a book of 
the gospels in English, or some other biblical book, and therefore 
knew he was a heretic^. But there is also other confirmatory 
evidence, which emphasises the exceptional character of those 
cases where exalted lay people obtained licenses to have Enghsh 

Dives and Pauper is a long tract of moral exhortation in 
English, written by an author who did not allow his name to 
appear, though his views were quite orthodox and untainted by 
LoUardy. He was engaged on the work as early as 1405, though 
he possibly did not complete it till 1409^, when Arundel's con- 

^ Love's by Caxton c. 1488, Pynson 1495, Wynkyn de Worde 1517 and 
1525; Simon's by Wynkyn de Worde in 15 14, 1530, 1532; see Hermits, 182. 

2 See pp. 353, 366. 

3 Dialogue of Dives and Pauper, Pynson, London, 1493; also 1536 ed. 
For date of the tract, see Richardson, H. G. in Notes and Queries, nth Ser. 
IV. 321. 


stitutions of Oxford had been published. WTien discoursing on 
the ten commandments he remarks — not altogether approvingly 
— that "now men say that no lewid folk should meddle with 
God's law, or the gospel, or holy writ, and that men are forbidden 
to have God's law in their mother tongue^," — a sentence shewing 
the general impression, and therefore the practical effect, of the 
Oxford constitutions. Just as Innocent III did not completely 
prohibit vernacular translations in his letter to Metz in 1199^ 
but referred later to this letter as haxing forbidden them, so the 
wording of the Oxford constitutions, however guarded in strict 
law, was naturally taken to mean that Bible reading was for- 
bidden to the masses, especially in \dew of the actual practice 
of the hierarchy. 

Not merely that, but the mere possession of EngHsh books of 
piety without a Ucense was sometimes alleged as forbidden by 
the 1408 constitutions, — an exact parallel to the suppression of 
aU German books of devotion by the imperial edict of 1369, for 
fear of the connexion of German books with heretical errors. The 
abbot of S. Albans governed a great monastic pecuhar, and ruled 
the vicars of the monastic parishes in place of the bishop. In 
1426-7 he held a synod for these vicars, to put forth ordinances 
for the prevention of the spread of Lollard}', and in the account 
of the synod, the mere possession of Enghsh books is mentioned 
as a symptom of heresy:, the ordinances were expresslj' passed 
" against all false preachers and possessors of books in the vulgar 

Since the occasion and cause of no small part of this injury' is the 
possession and reading of books which are written in our vernacular 
tongue: we command and enjoin. . .that all whom ye shall in future 
know to frequent the reading of books in the vernacular, as to have 
any such books at home, and especially those which might furnish 
material or occasion for erroneous and malicious opinions, ye shall 
be solicitous to the utmost of your power to take away these books 
from such their possessors: and, if your powers seem to you in- 
sufficient to procure the final casting out of these books, then ye 
shall expressly signify concerning the said books to him who has 
fuller or more final authority in the matter*. 

^ See Richardson, Parish Clergy of the Thirteenth and Fourteenth Centuries, 
in RHT, 3rd Ser. vi. loi, 322. 

* See. p. 33. * Aniundesham, RS, 28, i. 223. 

* Id. 225. 


The books aimed at were no doubt chiefly Lollard treatises: 
but the books which above all furnished the Lollards with 
"material for erroneous and mahcious opinions" were English 
translations of parts of the Bible, and the constitutions were so 
worded as to include these books. One heretic who recanted 
confessed to the unlicensed possession of an English theological 
or devotional book as one of his chief faults: 

I, William Redhead, maltman, of Barnet, . . .confess that I had in 
my possession a certain book in the vulgar tongue, in which book 
are inserted many errors ; . . . I confess that I have gravely offended 
God and the Church in that I have kept such a book in the vulgar 
tongue without the previous license and examination of the ordinary^. 

A mandate of bishop Stafford of Wells is more significant still 
of the usual interpretation of the Oxford constitutions. On 
August 24, 1431, he issued from Dogmersfield a general mandate 
to his diocese, which made no mention of Lollard writings, or 
the spread of any Lollard movement in the diocese, and did not, 
in fact, expressly deal with Lollardy at all. Yet in one clause he 

forbade that any one should presume in any manner to translate 
holy scripture, or any part of it, into the English tongue, which is 
well-known to be our vulgar tongue, nor to [possess] books of scripture 
translated into the English tongue 2, 

without any reference to the possibility of obtaining a special 
license to do so. Thus in the diocese of Bath and Wells at least, 
the possession of English translations of the Bible or any part 
of it, was expressly forbidden by the bishop^, without his 
apparently perceiving that he was going beyond the strict letter 
of the synod of Oxford. This could hardly have been the case if 
licenses to read English Bibles had been at all frequently granted 
by other bishops, even to the nobility. Not only this, but 

1 A mundesham, 1.228. Cf . the charge against certain Colchester possessors 
of English books in 1414, EHR, xxix. 102. 

^ The register is unprinted, but the late canon Scott Holmes kindly sent 
me the following extract, with other information: "Ne quisquam sua 
temeritate sacram Scripturam seu aliquam eius partem in linguam Angli- 
canam, quae nostra vulgaris esse dinoscitur, ullo modo transferat, neque 
libros Scripturae in ydioma Anglicum translatos possideat, per octo dies a 
tempore monitionis et inhibitionis continue numerandos. . .." 

^ Capes, 128 "when John Stafford in 1431 threatened with excommuni- 
cation any who translated the scriptures or copied such, he made no reserve 
in favour of any accepted version." 


Stafford succeeded Chichele as archbishop of Canterbury in 1443, 
so that his view of the matter became that of the primate of 
England. His mandate seems in fact to confirm the hypothesis 
that for forty or fifty years after 1408 the possession of EngUsh 
Bibles by the great was much less frequent than their possession 
of French Bibles Historiales had been in the fourteenth century. 

The biblical Chester plays, moreover, lapsed in the first half of 
the fifteenth century, and were solemnly revived and played again 
in 1447^: it is possible that the omission in the interval was due 
to the suspicion roused by the Lollards against all biblical narra- 
tives in Enghsh. The verse "banns" to the play, which were 
written later but which were possibly founded on some earlier 
prologue or banns 2, expressed the belief that the "stories of the 
Testament at this time [were] in a common English tongue never 
read nor heard," and the author wonders that a monk should 
have composed them. 

Finally, coming nearer to sir Thomas More's own day, an 
account of the condemnation of a Lollard, written by a cleric, 
states it as a matter of course that the translation of the Bible 
is forbidden by the Church. Richard Hun was condemned in 
1511, and the scribe who took down the articles of his condemna- 
tion wrote under article XHI: 

He defendeth the translation of the Bible in English, and the holy 
scripture into the Enghsh tongue, which is prohibited by the laws of 
our mother, holy Church^. 

More was actually present at part, at least, of Hun's examina- 
tion, and the words of the article bear out the contention of the 
Messenger in the Dialogue, that the laity at large regarded the 
reading of English Bibles as forbidden by the Church. 

§ 4. There is no evidence that English Bibles were used, 
except in very rare cases, by the clergy in the fifteenth and early 
sixteenth centuries, or that parish priests were now universally 
competent to study the Vulgate, and instruct their parishioners 
out of it. Inventories and wills shew that books were relatively 

^ Chester Plays, 2-9. 
■ - The strong approval of the monk, Randall Hignet, and monk-like 
practices (banns, 11. 20, 21) suggest the -fifteenth century rather than 1592, 
the earliest MS. of the banns: while the dialectal forms of the banns appear 
sometimes earlier than 1592. 

3 AM, IV. 186. 


much commoner and cheaper in 1450 than in 1350 : whereas in 
' 1350 a cathedral dignitary might own perhaps a dozen books, all 
of which he would mention in his will, in 1450 he might not 
mention his books separately at all, because he had as many as 
twenty or thirty. The educational system was the same, at the 
schools and universities. It is true that grammar schools were 
becoming more frequent, and apparently cathedral schools were 
now regularly equipped with separate grammar and theology 
masters; again, a new educational instrument was being con- 
structed in the chantry schools and colleges^; but there is still no 
evidence of the use of biblical translations in any kind of school. 
The organisation of abc and grammar schools remained 
roughly the same^; the provost and three chaplains of Jesus 
College, Rotherham, founded in 1480, said daily masses and 
taught grammar and theology to any scholars who came to 
them, but no mention is made of any teaching on the biblical 
text^. The universities still laid comparatively little stress on 
the study of that text, though William of Wykeham laid down 
in the statutes of New College in 1400 that one of the first aims 
of the foundation was to be the study of theology^. The candi- 
dates for admission into monasteries seem not to have received 
much education before admission, and to have been taught no 
more afterwards than in the thirteenth century: consequently, 
when the educational leyel of seculars slightly rose, monastic 
ignorance was considered the more reprehensible. The abbot of 
S. Albans appointed a grammar master from outside c. 1430 to 
teach the young monks Latin : but S. Albans was a great abbey 
and still numbered eminent scholars among its monks ^. But 
other abbeys were less careful of learning, or less able to pay a 

^ Research Ed. 17, 42. The earliest cases of chantry priests engaged in 
teaching printed by Mr Leach are those of two chaplains at Saffron Walden 
in 1423, and one at Southwell 1475-84: in both these cases the chaplains 
taught for fees, at their own discretion, and not as one of the duties imposed 
by the founder of the chantry. For the latter, see Jesus College, Rotherham, 
For chantry priests who had been doing teaching in 1538 see Chapels, 
Chantries and Gilds in Suffolk, Redstone, V. B., Suffolk Instil, of Archaeol. 
XII. pp. 31, 34, 35, 36: and note the number of chantry priests described as 
"of small" or "of very small" learning, also VCH, passim. 

^ Cf. Ipswich in 1477, Educ. Char. 423. 

3 Id. 425-9; Research Ed. 21. For a biblical student of S. Bartholomew's 
hospital, Smithfield, see J. Stow's Survey of London, 1842, 139. 

* Educ. Char. 351. ^ Amundesham, i. no, 11. 305. 


grammar master, and archbishop Warham commented severely 
in his visitation of 15 11 on the ignorance of the Canterbury 
monks : 

Also, a skilled teacher of grammar shall be provided to teach the 
novices and other youths grammar. For in default of suc^ instruction 
it happens that most of the monks celebrating mass and performing 
other divine service are wholly ignorant of what they read, to the 
great scandal and disgrace both of religion in general and of the 
monastery in particular^. 

In face of such evidence it will be obvious that English Bibles 
might have been useful, not only for lay brothers, but many of 
the monks : but it is curious that, though monastic catalogues 
compiled between 1408 and 1526 are quite numerous^, there is 
not a single case where a catalogue included any English biblical 
book, — except, of course, RoUe's psalter. We do indeed find 
that the Charterhouse at Sheen possessed a Wycliffite Bible, 
presented by Henry VP, and that the Dominicans at Cambridge 
possessed one at the Dissolution*: but these are the only known 
instances. The only English Bibles which monastic libraries 
possessed, were, according to the catalogues, Anglo-Saxon 
gospel books or homilies on the gospels: there is not a single 
instance of an English biblical book, which does not, on investi- 
gation, turn out to be a Saxon book, like the gospels at Durham, 
or the two manuscripts of parts of the Old Testament mentioned 
in an inventory of S. Paul's cathedral in 1402^. This shews that 
sir Thomas More, when he spoke of "English Bibles fair and 
old" as possessed by "many old abbeys," was thinking mainly 
of Anglo-Saxon books, or those of the communities of women ^ 
Beyond his apologetic assertion, which does not of course refer 
exclusively to the libraries of monks, there is a striking lack of 

^ Educ. Char. 445. 2 gee appendix, Old Eng. Lib., Savage, E. A. 

^ FM, I. xlvii; Bodl. 277, see p. jn. 

* Leland found a "biblia in lingua vernacula" there in 1539; Collectanea, 
III. 16, 51; Bibliom. 261. 

* One Bible, as far as the prophet Zechariah, one ending with the book of 
Job, described as " veteris Anglicae littexdLe, " Archaeol. i 451 ; these go back 
to the 1295 inventory, id. 496; and see references, supra, pp. 137-8. 

* Like Sion, Barking, etc. For nunneries possessing English books, see 
p. 336; among men's houses, Leicester in 1492 had a French Comestor and 
Passio Christi, five secular French books, and no English ones; Canterbury 
c. 1480 a few French and one English book, Monk Bretton an English 
Legenda Aurea and a Scale of Perfection. 


evidence that English as distinguished from Anglo-Saxon biblical 
books were to be found in monks' libraries. Thus neither in the 
schools or libraries of the monasteries, nor in those for the 
training of secular priests, is there any evidence for the use of 
English translations of the Bible. 

From the wills of the fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries it 
may fairly be presumed that all bishops and most cathedral 
dignitaries now possessed a Vulgate, as the nucleus of a small 
library; so also did many fellows of Oxford and Cambridge 
colleges. There are also more recorded cases of the possession 
of Vulgates by parish priests: but these were rare as compared 
with those who possessed service books only. It may be worth 
while here to recapitulate that some 7578 wills dating from be- 
fore 1526 have been examined^, and that of these, 338 wills 
bequeathed service books, and no Vulgates. Between 1384, 
the death of Wycliffe, and 1526, 69 of the testators bequeathed 
Vulgates : of these, 24 were lay people, generally of noble birth, 
23 were bishops or cathedral clergy, 6 were connected with the 
universities, and 16 only are described as rector, vicar, or 
chaplain. Neither the higher nor the lower clergy had ever 
possessed French Bibles, save very rarely, before the Wycliffite 
period; for such books, never very numerous in England, had 
been the property of the well born laity. It is not surprising 
again that there should be no evidence that the clergy possessed 
such in the fifteenth century, when French had generally ceased 
to be used, except in nunneries and monasteries. 

Clerical or monastic Bible study still frequently took the form 
of compihng skeletons and lists. Henry Hawkins, of Great 
Dunmow, compiled a history of the Old Testament from Adam 
to Ptolemy Philopator, chiefly from Comestor and Josephus, 
about 1450^; and a little later an anonymous scribe, "consider- 
ing the length and hardness of holy scripture, and namely of the 
ground of the letter historical, the negligence also of some that 
might labour and will not," compiled a list of kings, descending 
from Adam through patriarchs, judges, kings and prophets to 
Edward IV of England^. A good deal of translation from Latin 
and French works was also accomplished in this century, but 

1 See appendix, p. 391; for a French Bible, VCH London, i. 225. 

2 Trin. Oxford, 29. ^ c.C.C. Oxford, 207. 



rather of patristic and mystical works than those dealing with 
the biblical text. Books called Examples of holy scripture, con- 
sisting of short paragraphs, generally arranged alphabetically, 
of different personages, virtues, etc., mentioned in holy writ, were 
relatively common^. About eleven cases have been found where 
the secular clergy owned or bequeathed English devotional 
books, — like those of Rolle, Hilton, or Nicholas Love's Mirrour^: 
one of them was ' ' an English book of the exposition of the gospels. " 
§ 5. There are five known cases after 1408 when orthodox 
priests possessed English translations of the Bible, two of which 
are known to be Wychfiite texts. The first is a Dominican friar 
and hermit of Newcastle-on-Tyne, John Lacy, who possessed an 
early version of the Wycliifite New Testament, written about 
1400, without any prologue or heretical matter in it^: he may 
have obtained it before 1408, or have obtained license to use it. 
He bequeathed also in 1420 an English hours of our Lady*. The 
second is that of Roger Lyne, chantry priest in the church of 
S. Swithun, London Stone, who owned a collection of the Sunday 
epistles and gospels, unglossed, in the early Wycliifite text, 
either before or after 1408^. The third is that of William 
Revetour, a chaplain of York, and for his day, a great collector 
of English books. He bequeathed in 1446 an English book of 
miracle plays, and English legendary, the Prick of Conscience, a 
book on the pater noster, and "a certain book treating of the 
Bible, in English^." If this is an expression for a complete 
English Bible, it would have been an exceptionally valuable 
book for a simple chaplain to possess: but the possession of a 
book of miracle plays is so unusual as to suggest that William 
was personally connected with their production at York, and 
needed an EngHsh Bible for the instruction of the players. The 
fourth case is that of Roger Walton, a priest who owned part 

1 Cf. Bernard, Cat. Nos. 2087, 2502. 

2 TE, II. 34, 151, 219; III. 91, 199, 165 n.; iv. 280; Pembroke Descrip. Cat. 
xxviii; Trans. Essex Archaeol. Soc. v. 293; TV, in. 444; Trin. Camb. 352, 
f. 134. 

3 Rawl. C. 258, in FM, i. xlix. 

* S. John's, Oxford, 94. * Had. 1710. 

* TE, II. 117, "quendam librum tractatum [sic: perhaps scribal or 
copyist's error for tractantem] de Biblia in Anghco." The book was left, 
apparently, to a layman: and it appears doubtful whether either Revetour 
or the legatee had any other license to use it beyond that of their confessors. 



of the later Wycliffite New Testament in Henry VIIFs reign^; 
and the fifth, Stephen Tomson, a notary pubhc, who possessed 
an Old Testament with the General Prologue in 1519^. 

[a) There is no doubt that between 1408 and 1526 certain 
lay people, of rank eminent enough to be the "friends" of sir 
Thomas More, possessed EngUsh translations of the Bible. They 
were allowed to do so, as earlier nobles had been allowed to 
possess French Bibles : though there is no evidence whatever that 
the Church " encouraged " them to do so. The practical certainty 
that no complete translation existed except the Wycliffite, and 
the knowledge that non-Wyclifhte partial translations were 
very rare, renders it likely that, in the majority of cases, those 
who possessed English biblical books possessed them in the 
Wyclifhte versions, though without the tract known as the 
General Prologue. The Wycliffite text itself was not heretical, 
and not signed by any author's name: any "doctor" who was 
willing to Ucense his penitent to use an English Bible at all, 
would have licensed a Wycliffite manuscript at almost any time 
after 1408, in complete uncertainty that it was Wycliffite. In 
four cases we have evidence that the owners of Wycliffite manu- 
scripts had suspicions as to the lawfulness of retaining them, and 
deliberately sought to disguise their provenance in order to pro- 
tect their valuable books: one is a manuscript where the scribe 
has dated his work as being finished in 1408, and a contemporary 
hand has altered the date to i3o8'^: another, one of the Lollard 
glosses on the gospels, to which a contemporary hand has added 
as title: "the work of Thomas Aquinas, extracted from divers 
doctors, and translated into the mother tongue^." 

Some of the manuscripts written after 1408, and still preserved 
to us, must have been written for Lollard use, as the evidence of 
Lollard trials shews. The facts that they have no name, and no 
Lollard comments, do not disprove their Lollard ownership, for 

^ FM, I. xlix: a MS. written apparently after 1500. 

2 Id. I. liv. 

" FM, I. xlviii, Fairfax, 2. The change of date must have been done 
purposely, to safeguard the MS. from the provisions of 1408, "in the days of 
the late master John Wycliffe, or since." 

* Bodl. 143, f. 222 b: the MS. which has the Lollard passage, interpolated 
among the glosses of the doctors, carefully erased (ff. 159 b, 160). See for two 
other ante-dated MSS., C.C.C. Oxford 20, and Rylands Cat., Guppy, H., 
1907, ID. 



to write such name or marginal comment in the manuscript was 
dangerous. Many of the epistle and gospel books belonged prob- 
ably to Lollards, for Purvey argued in one of his tracts that men 
ought to have the epistles and gospels translated for them: in 
fact, he took up here exactly the attitude which certain German 
orthodox teachers took up a century later^. The Lollards went to 
mass, however unorthodox might be their theory of the sacra- 
ment: Purvey wrote that "the sacrament on the altar is verily 
Christ's body sacramentally and spiritually, and more other 
manners than any earthly man can tell," and he was shocked at 
the suggestion of Richard of Armagh that the sacrament might 
lawfully be made in English. The Lollards never devised a new 
sacrament of their own, like the consolameniwn of the Walden- 
sians ; and the evidence that they ever had celebrations of the 
Holy Communion, conducted by unconsecrated priests, is scanty. 
Their midnight gatherings were always, apparently, for Bible 
reading and exposition, and there is no suggestion in Lollard 
literature that they repudiated the obligation to hear mass on 
Sundays and holy days-. There is no incongruity, but much 
probability, in the idea of Lollards possessing gospel and epistle 
books in English : and among those mentioned by Forshall and 
Madden which have no distinctive mark of ownership, either by 
Lollard or orthodox, there is no antecedent probability that 
they were owned by orthodox lay people. The probabiUty rather 
is, that they were owned bj^ Lollards, or by nuns. 

There is no recorded will of a lay person between 1408 and 
1526 which bequeathes an English Bible, — though there were 
two before, — the Lollard sympathiser, Thomas duke of Glouces- 
ter in 1397, and a Bristol merchant in 1404^. Two existent 
manuscripts, however, once belonged to English kings: Henry 
VI *, who presented one to the Carthusians of Sheen, and Henry 
VH''. The first was copied from a Lollard manuscript with the 
heretical General Prologue: but the scribe copied only the first 
chapter; the second was without it. It is significant that in the 
days of real Lollard danger neither Henry IV, nor that pious 
king, Henry V, possessed an English Bible: though Henry V 

^ Cf. p. 129. ^ Apart from their general repudiation of canon law. 

* See pp. 288-9, TE, i. 271, and appendix, p. 398. 

* FM, I. xlvii. * Id. I. xxxix. 


used Lydgate's poems on the psalms in his private prayers, and 
had them sung in Windsor chapel at evensong when he was 
present^. One other manuscript belonged to a lay woman: it is 
the only known case of non-royal lay ownership after 1408, and 
it is the only case where some sort of a license appears to have 
been granted. It is a later version of the New Testament, and 
on the fly-leaf is a note to the effect that the owner's mother 
bought it, and that it was "overseen and read" — not by a 
bishop — but by two doctors, whose names are almost erased 2. 

Thus of the known cases of ownership of English Bibles after 
1408, five were priests, and three lay people, — two of them kings. 
This is a very small number compared to the remaining wills, or 
to the cases of Lollard ownership, which, even in the trials 
already printed, are mentioned more than eleven times^. 

{b) The evidence that nuns were sometimes licensed to use 
EngUsh Bibles is more explicit. It is still scanty, for it is found 
only in connexion with two houses, Sion and Barking, at about 
1430 and 1400 respectively, and these cannot be taken as alto- 
gether typical of the majority of English nunneries at the date. 
Both were large and importa.nt houses, the nuns of Sion especi- 
ally being drawn from the noblest and best educated classes, 
while there was at the date of the foundation of Sion some con- 
nexion of personnel between the two, for a Barking nun became 
the first Sion abbess. The majority of English nunneries were 
smaller, and the nuns less well educated, than at Sion. But 
though the direct evidence of Enghsh Bible reading is small, it 
is supported by continental analogies. The Bible was pre- 
eminently regarded as a book of meditation for the devout, and 
the Dominican Gottesfreunde had been the first orthodox to 
advise the use of translations: while two German fifteenth cen- 
tury nunnery catalogues mentioned them *. 

In England Walter Hilton had suggested that lay people aim- 
ing at the mixed life, and practising contemplation, should read 

^ Annates of John Stow, London, 1631, 342; Trin. Coll. Descrip. Cat. 11 
80, MS. 600. 

'^ FM, I. Ixiii, Ashburnham, 3. The note appears to read: "A lytel boke 
of. . . viii. 1. vi. s. viii. d. and hit. . .a holy man. . .was over seyne, and redd 
be Doctor Thomas Ebb. . .al and Doctor Ryve. . .my modir bought hit." 

3 See pp. 356-70. MSS. mentioned by FM and containing the Gen. Prol, 
were also probably Lollard. * Seep. 11 1. 


the sayings and examples of our Lord, presumably from the 
Latin gospels: so that it is probable that in the fifteenth century 
English Bibles were used to some extent in the largest and best 
instructed English nunneries. It was not the case that the best 
instructed nuns used Latin Bibles, and the most ignorant, 
English ones : but that the best instructed nuns were allowed to 
use English translations, perhaps by themselves, perhaps to help 
in the understanding of the Vulgate, while the smaller nunneries 
and least instructed nuns almost certainly did not have them at 
all. Large and flourishing nunneries, where the nims were drawn 
from the highest social classes, had the most learned and en- 
lightened directors and confessors, who in some cases obtained 
licenses for their use of English Bibles ; but the directors of small 
nunneries were often parish priests, or friars who were not 
eminent scholars in their order, and there is no evidence at all 
that they encouraged these houses in the use of biblical" trans- 
lations. It is significant, at any rate, that the scanty evidence 
for the use of biblical translations in nunneries comes to us almost 
entirely from Sion, the most splendid foundation of the fifteenth 
century, though possibly also from Barking, another very impor- 
tant house. 

One treatise written for nuns comes from the period when the 
discussion over the lawfulness of biblical translations was in pro- 
gress, and echoes one of the common arguments about the diffi- 
culty of translating without much circumlocution, — afterwards 
developed at great length by friar Palmer. The author of the 
Chastising of God's Children possibly wrote it for a nun of 
Barking, since the earhest reference to the book (which dates 
it as written previously to 1401), is in a Penitential'^ of Sibylla 
Felton, abbess of that house from 1394-1419. The author stated 
that "some now in these days," as if the custom were modern, 
"use to say on English their psalter and mattins of our Lady, 
and the seven psalms, and the litany 2,"— use, that is, an Enghsh 
primer : for the Uttle office of our Lady, the penitential psalms 
and the htany formed the invariable minimum part of such 
books, — English manuscripts of which actually begin to be found 

^ Madan, Sinn. Cat. v. no. 27701; for the reference, f. 145 b. The Chas- 
tising was printed c. 1492, see Ricci, S , Census of Caxlons, no. 
" Panes, 1904, xxviii. 

D.w. B. 22 


from this date, and not earlier^. He did not state that reading of 
EngHsh gospels was actually practised at the date, but mentioned 
that it was a disputed subject, — as indeed, in 1401, it was. 

Many men reproveth to have the psalter, or mattins, or the gospel 
in English, or the Bible, because they may not be translated into no 
vulgar word by the word as it standeth, without great circumlocution, 
after the feeling of the first writers, which translated that into Latin 
by the teaching of the Holy Ghost. Nevertheless I will not reprove 
such translations, ne I reprove not to have them on English, ne to 
read on them where they may stir you to more devotion, and to the 
love of God. But utterly to use them in English and leave the Latin, 
I hold it not commendable, and namely in them that been bounden 
to say their psalter, or mattins of our Lady. 

The rest of the passage shews that the writer was mainly con- 
cerned to point out to those bound to the recitation of the httle 
office, that it was not fulfilled by the recitation of the translation 
from the primer, any more than psalms given in penance could 
be recited in English; but the passage probably covered an 
approval of the use of English Bibles for meditation. In con- 
nexion with the slight indication that the Chastising of God's 
Children was written for a nun of Barking, it is interesting to 
find that a Wycliffite manuscript belonged in the fifteenth cen- 
tury to a Barking nun, and probably two Barking nuns in 
succession. Sister Mary Hastings of Barking possessed a book 
of English religious treatises, and among them the texts of the 
apocryphal books of Tobias and Susanna ^i and its earlier owner 
wrote her name in it as Matilda Hayle, of Barking. Probably 
she also was a nun of the same house. The book must have been 

1 Some writers (as Mr Manning in the People's Faith in the Age of Wyclif, 
1916, pp. 10, 46), appear not to realise that the earliest primers, or books of 
hours, were in Latin. Prymer, EETS, p. xxxix, gives the invariable minimum 
of primers, both Latin and English, as the Hours of the B.V.M., the peni- 
tential and gradual psalms, the litany, office for the dead, and the com- 
mendations: other prayers and tracts were sometimes added. Emmanuel 
246 is a late fourteenth century English primer, as were those described by 
Carleton Brown, i. 24, 512; and there are no MSS. of English primers earlier 
than c. 1380. D. 11. 82 is a Sarum primer of about 1430 : cf . those mentioned 
in Maskell's Mon. Rit. Eccles. Ang.; Prymer, EETS, OS, 105. For owners of 
primers in Latin, see VCH, Sussex, 11. 20. 

2 FM, I. xUv, Addit. 10596, which has f. 82, Sister Mary Hastings, 
unnoticed by the editors. 


the sister's private property, and not a library book, though it 
probably became one at sister Mary Hastings's death. 

The first evidence for the period after 1408 is that of the 
Myroure of our Ladye, from Sion abbey. This was a community 
of monks and nuns, founded by Henry V in 1415, but not 
properly estabhshed till the consecration of the second abbess in 
1420, at Twickenham^. In the meantime, the community con- 
sisted of postulants for the Brigittine order, many of whom were 
already professed monks or nuns from other less strict English 
orders ; the abbess for the first year was a Benedictine nun from 
Barking, and the mixed communit}' was being trained by 
Swedish sisters, from the parent house of the Brigittine order. 
S. Bridget, their foundress, is credited with having made some 
biblical translation ^ herself, and the order in Sweden encouraged 
the use of Swedish books of devotion, as it did the study of 
letters generally: the new community at Sion was therefore 
likely to be open-minded as regards the use of biblical translations 
into English. With the neighbouring community of Carthusians 
of Sheen, it represented the great work of reparation of Henry V 
for the murder of Richard II: it was very splendidly endowed, 
and entered by ladies of the highest rank. The brothers at Sion, 
much fewer in number, included some of the most eminent 
scholars of the fifteenth century, so that the Sion nuns were 
looked after b\' a much abler staff of chaplains than those of any 
other nunnery in England. The Myroure was written between 
1421 and 1450: it is a translation of the Brigittine office used by 
the nuns, together with instructions to aid their understanding 
and devotion in the recitation of the Latin office. The author 
referred twice in it to the constitutions of 1408: 

And forasmuch as it is forbidden under pain of cursing that no 
man should have nor draw any text of holy scripture into English 
without license of the bishop diocesan: and in divers places of your 
service are such texts of holy scripture : therefore I have asked and have 
license of our bishop to draw such things into English to your ghostly 
comfort and profit, so that both our conscience in the drawing, and 
yours in the having, may be the more sure and clear. ... Of psalms 
I have dra\vn but a few, for ye may have them of Richard Hampole's 
drawing, and out of English Bibles, if ye have license thereto^. 

^ Incendium Amoris, Deanesly, M., pp. 109-29. 
2 V, SuMoises [Versions], v. 1876. 
* Myroure, p. 71, p. 3. 


The brothers and sisters had separate libraries at vSion, and it 
would have been of great interest to see whether the sisters' 
library contained any English biblical translations. Unfor- 
tunately, only the brothers' catalogue has survived: and this 
shews that the brothers possessed no English Bibles when the 
catalogue was compiled^. In 15 17, however, an early version of 
the Wycliffite New Testament was presented to "the master 
confessor and brethren of Sion" (not to the sisters), by dame 
Alice Dan vers ^ so that henceforward the brothers could have 
lent the sisters a copy. 

The author of the Myroure has been conjectured to be doctor 
Thomas Gascoign^, chancellor of Oxford, and a great benefactor 
to Sion: he bequeathed his own library to the brethren. His "if 
ye have license thereto " is not positive evidence that the sisters 
did use English Bibles, and it is significant that he says nothing 
about Bible reading, English or otherwise, in a long section de- 
voted to the " devout reading of holy books ^" He described the 
different kinds of books, but even when describing those which 
"stir up the affections of the soul," he did not, as might have 
been expected, mention the gospels. The passage is exactly parallel 
to one of Hilton's, where such a reference is made. He referred 
to following the lessons, or legend, at mattins, in English, while the 
Latin was being read: but these lessons were not biblical, and 
he was obviously referring to the translation and comment on 
them which he had himself made as part of the Myroure^. 

^ See Syon, 171, for a partial interlinear gloss; cf. infra, p. 418. 

2 FM, I. Ixii, no. 156: without the Gen. Prol. or any evidence of heresy. 

^ Myroure, ix. Gascoign was no doubt much interested in Sion: but it 
seems a little doubtful whether one of the brothers, perhaps the liturgio- 
logist, Clement Maidstone, is not a more probable compiler of so detailed a 
commentary on the Brigittine office: especially as he alludes to having 
obtained a license from "our bishop." French was still used in some 
nunneries in the fifteenth century for directions and rules which the nuns 
were not expected to be able to read in Latin: but English was used for 
this purpose at Sion from the first, probably because the Swedish sisters 
had already one language to learn beside their mother tongue. The Addi- 
tions to the rule of S. Bridget, or local constitutions for the English Brigit- 
tines, were drawn up in English, as was the Martilogimn, or obit book. 
A Sion diiirnale, or book of hours, Magd. Camb. 11, has the rubrics in 
English; and Magd. Camb. 13 is a book of the Latin and English verses 
and prayers of Jasper Fyloll, apparently a Dominican who in 1518 had 
passed on to Sion. * Myroure, 65-71. 

^ Id. 71 : the services for the seven days of the week, including mattins. 


A fifteenth century English translation of the penitential 
psalms is also connected with Sion abbey. The second confessor 
general, to whom the establishment of the house was really due, 
who drew up the local rule for the house, and ruled the community 
till his death in 1428, was Thomas Fishbourn, who had himself 
in earlier hfe lived in a hermitage at S. Albans 1. During this 
period he had attracted the king's notice through his acquaint- 
ance with Eleanor Hull, Elizabeth Beauchamp and other court 
ladies, who probably resorted to him tor spiritual direction. 
Eleanor Hull, or Hill, did not become a Brigittine nun- when 
Fishbourn was made confessor general at Sion, but one of her 
pious exercises seems to have been the translation of a long com- 
mentary or exposition on the seven penitential psalms, from 
French into English. The work is very long and laborious ^ and 
is followed by meditations on the seven days of the week, and 
certain prayers, all attributed in the manuscript to Eleanor Hull. 

Unfortunately we have no English nunnery catalogues to com- 
pare with those of Nuremberg and Delft*: and their non-exist- 
ence says little for the size or value of the nuns' libraries at the 
date. Though it would probably be true to say that nuns used 
English Bibles more frequently than lay people, — because they 
needed them for meditation, because of the evidence of the Sion 

are translated, pp. 72-276. The lessons at mattins were not those of the 
breviary, but were gone through in the course of one week, and consisted 
mainly of patristic passages selected in honour of our Lady. 
^ Amundesham, RS, i. 27; Incendium, 114. 

2 She is not called sister, laut Dame Alyanore Hull in Kk. i. 6, a fifteenth 
century MS. of this commentary on the psalms, and meditations. 

3 In Kk.i. 6, the commentary occupies ff. 1-148. It begins: f. 2, "Domine, 
ne in furore tuo arguas me : This title is said in the end of the psalms of 
David. Ye shall understand and know what title meaneth. Title is as much 
as to say as a king, for to open the understanding of the letter of the psalms, 
and the spiritual significance. For right as we openeth the door of the house 
wherein we would enter, right so it behoveth by convenable expositions of 
the title for to enter into the understanding of the psalm of which the title 
goeth before. And now it is fitting that ye know what psalm is to mean: 
psalm, as the scripture saith, is hymn," etc. Kk. i. 6 is not the original 
MS , the note on f. 179 b, Alyanore Hull drew out of French all this before 
written in this little book is copied, since Kk. i 6 is a large folio; the scribe's 
name is given on f. 179 6 as a certain Walter. 

* See pp. Ill, 113. Cf. King's Descrip. Cat. MS. 18, for a list of books be- 
queathed (after c. 1380, since a Pupilla Oculi is mentioned) by Peter, the 
vicar of Swine, to the small Cistercian nunnery of Swine: this has two Latin, 
but no English biblical books. Cf. Monast. in. 424, for Kilburn nunnery, 
which in 1536 had two English MSS. of the Legenda Aurea. 


Myroure, and because the German and Dutch analogies suggest 
it, — it is almost certainly an overstatement to say that English 
biblical versions were at all frequently used in nunneries. There 
is no single known case where a nunnery library possessed one : 
John Busch and the Brethren of the Common Life had to fight 
hard for the right of the sisters' communities to use German or 
Dutch books, and we hear of no such orthodox champions of 
vernacular Bibles in England. While the evidence is so slight, 
it is unsafe to generalise: but it is highly improbable that a 
majority of the nunneries possessed even an English gospel 
and epistle book, much less an English Bible. 

§ 6. Catalogues of libraries, the wills of private individuals, 
and owners' names in existent manuscripts, give a fairly safe 
index to the relative popularity of the English books used by 
the devout in this period^. The mentions of English devotional 
books in wills are much fewer than those of Latin service-books, 
but a good many wills between 1408 and 1526 bequeathed either 
a single English book, or a small collection of them. In lay 
people's wills, the works of Richard Rolle were perhaps the 
commonest, and were mentioned at least fourteen times. Nicholas 
Love's Mirrour was bequeathed five times by clergy, and five 
times by lay people, besides belonging to the canons of Osney 
and the Sion nuns; probably also this book was sometimes re- 
ferred to under the vague title of "English meditations on the 
life of Christ," which occurs fairly frequently. Hilton's works 
were bequeathed at least nine times, and other English books 
less frequently mentioned were the Pore Caitiff, the second 
Deguilleville Pilgrimage, known in English as Grace Dieu, English 
primers (four times), the Chastising of God's Children, an English 
book of the Pater Nosier, the Revelations of S. Bridget, Dives and 
Pauper, the Knight of the Tower, the Legenda Aurea in English 
prose or verse, Suso's Eternal Wisdom, and poems like the Gospel 
of Nicodemus, John Awdley's Concilium Conscientiae, the South 
English Legendary, and several saints' lives. Books of "vices 
and virtues" were also fairly common. The wills thus shew the 
nature of the English devotional books used in the fifteenth and 
early sixteenth centuries, especially by lay people: and the 

^ See appendix, wills, p 391, and for books bequeathed by clergy, p. 333. 
It is hoped to print lists of the English books found in wills, shortly. 


relative infrequency of English biblical books is striking. Had 
the use of the latter been generally encouraged by the Church, or 
had their possession even been regarded as legitimate for the 
laity in general, some case, or cases, of the bequest of Enghsh 
Bibles by the laity would almost certainly have been found. 
Enghsh Bibles, or English bibhcal books, were usually far longer 
and more costly books than tracts of Rolle or Hilton, or Nicholas 
Love's Mirrour, and there would be the more reason to mention 
them in the testator's will: yet they are not found. There is no 
reason to suspect that any of these testators who bequeathed 
English books possessed English Bibles in their little collections, 
though some, like Cecily, duchess of York, who died in 1495, 
were of exalted rank and rich enough to do so. The inference is, 
that the possession of English Bibles was rare, even among the 

§ 7. Among the frequent manuals for parish priests used 
during the period, none have been found to recommend the 
translation of the Sunday gospel as part of the sermon, the use 
of an English Bible or English gospels in preparing sermons, or 
the exhortation of parishioners to study the scriptures. No 
passage has been found which suggests either that priests and 
chaplains used translations themselves, or advised their use by 

The Latin manuals mentioned above continued to be the 
most popular in the fifteenth century, though a few more were 
written^. John Mirk, prior about 1403 of the house of Austin 
canons in Lilleshall, Shropshire, wrote a Manuale SacerdoHim, 
which he sent with a dedicatory letter to a certain parish priest, 
saying that he hoped he would soon turn it into English -. 

English manuals now began, however, to be written expressly 
for parish priests. Mirk translated the greater part of the Pars 
Oculi Sacerdotis^ into English verse, and into this book of In- 
structions for Parish Priests* he put manifold directions for the 
priest's own life, the direction of his flock, the administration of 

1 Cf. the Speculum Curatorum, Mm. i. 20, Balliol. 77; the Stella Cleri- 
corum, Laud Misc. 206, New Coll. ccciv. f. 94; the Manipulus Cura- 
torum, Nor. and Norwich Archaeol. Soc. iv. 338, Line. Cath. Stats, ed. 1897, 
847; early printed manuals, Trans. Bibliog. Soc. vii. 163 flf. 

2 DNB, Mirk. ^ See p. 202. 

* Ed. Peacock, EETS, OS, 31, 1868; cf. Wells, 361. 


the sacraments, etc., but we find no mention of the study of the 
Vulgate or its translations. The book is not merely a close trans- 
lation of the Pars Oculi; it may fairly be said to portray the ideal 
parish priest of about 1400 ; yei there is no mention of his having 
any books besides office-books. Mirk, in his zeal for clerical 
education, wrote also a collection of sermons for the greater 
festivals, and this Liher Festivalis'^ became widely spread in 
manuscripts and early printed editions. In his prologue. Mirk 
stated that through his "own simple understanding" he under- 
stood well the difficulty in preparing sermons of those who had 
charge of souls, and "for that many excuse them for default of 
books and also by simpleness of conning," he had translated 
this treatise, mainly from the Legenda Aiirea, for their help. 
The sermons are sometimes homilies upon texts, sometimes 
legends of the saints, or sometimes begin with a Bible story: 
but there is no indication that the gospel was ever to be itself 
translated at the beginning of the sermon. 

An early fifteenth century manuscript^ has a typical set of 
sermons for the aid of the parish priest. The text, drawn always 
from the Sunday gospel, is given in Latin, and the moral impli- 
cations of the Sunday gospel are then expounded, without any 
translation of the gospel itself, or even, in this manuscript, of 
separate verses. Such sermons, or skeletons for sermons, are 
fairly common: but none of them preface the sermon with a 
translation of the gospel. 

The writers of manuals for the laity generally professed that 
they aimed at the instruction of the "lewid" or simple: but 
those who could have owned and read the manuals could have 
read biblical translations, so that references to these might have 
been expected, if their use was encouraged. English manuals 
were not written for the use of agricultural labourers, but for 
well-born ladies and substantial burgesses; yet even for these, 
there was no hint of exhortation to study the gospels. There 
was no reference, as in a few early sixteenth century books in 
Germany, to their acquainting themselves with the gospels, by 
means either of attending sermons where the Sunday gospel 

^ Wells, 301. 

2 Trin. Camb. 333. This is the MS. which contains the Against them that 
say that holy writ, printed p. 439, but these sermons appear quite orthodox. 


was closely translated, or of getting some better educated 
neighbour to read from some vernacular plenary or gospel book. 
So far as manuals for the conduct of clergy and laity give evi- 
dence, the movement which affected German orthodoxy through 
the Brethren of the Common Life and their pupils, and which 
finally recommended the acquaintance of the laity with the 
vernacular gospels, never touched England at all. 

The early fifteenth century manual. Dives and Pauper, men- 
tioned earlier^, remarked almost regretfully that "now men 
say that no lewid men should meddle with God's law, or the 
gospel, or holy writ," but in its long discourses on the command- 
ments, creed, etc., said nothing to recommend such meddling. 
Nor did another manual written about 1400, which discoursed 
similarly on the commandments, etc., and lamented the general 

Here ginnen the ten commandments of God. WTiere is any man 
nowadays that asketh, how I should love God and mine even- 
Christian ? how I shall flee sin and serve God trulj'^ as a true Christian 
man should ? What man is that, that will learn the true law of God, 
which He biddeth every Christian man to keep upon pain of damna- 
tion in hell without end? Who knoweth the seven deadly sins and 
their branches, the seven deeds of mercy bodily and ghostly, and his 
five wits? as who saith, but few. Unnethe is there any lewid man or 
lewid woman that can right well say his pater noster, his ave Maria 
and his creed, and sown the words out readily as they should. But 
when they play Christmas games about the fire, therein will they 
not fail. 

There were several other fifteenth century manuals for the 
laity which were simply expositions of the usual skeleton of 

^ See p. 326. The writer translated some verses of the gospels himself. 

2 Laud Misc. 23, § i, ff. 3-7; 210, ff. 20-93 ^i cf. Bernard, Cat. no. 2315. 
The tract is addressed primarily to his mother, and "wit ye well that I 
desire every man and woman and child to be my mother, for Christ saith: 
he that doth His Father's will, is His brother, sister, and mother," Laud 
Misc. 23, f. 20. The author was not a Lollard, but had a grudge against the 
religious orders, cf . f. 67 6 : "Better it were to leave such ordinances of men : 
therefore His (Christ's) religion is most general, for all men be bound to 
hold it upon pain of damnation : and most free, for Christ with His convent 
asketh not twenty marks, as thou wouldest some time have given for me 
to have been a canon, and they would not receive me for less than twenty 
pounds. Blessed be Christ with His free convent, that it so ordamed, for 
He loveth no simony, ne asketh of none that will come to His religion pecis 
(cups), mazers, ne silver spoons, ne whether he be bond nor free, or come of 
great lords to maintain their possessions." Extracts printed in Rel. Antiq. 


theology and ethics, — creed, commandments, the deadly sins, 
the works of mercy, etc. Sometimes expositions on the five wits, 
the four counsels of perfection, the eight beatitudes, the principal 
joys of Paradise, the principal pains of hell, etc., were added, the 
whole forming a long list of short homilies 1. The commonest of 
these manuals constructed on the official plan, was the Speculum 
Chrisiiani^ of John Watton, which did for the south of England 
and the fifteenth century what Gaytrik's treatise had done for 
the north of England and the fourteenth. Gaytrik's work had 
been in rhyme, this exposition was in prose, " a treatise in English 
containing the archbishop's order as to what parsons and vicars 
ought to teach their parishioners ^ ' ' with the usual syllabus follow- 
ing. Another very common one was the collection of homiUes on 
the creed, commandments, pater noster, etc., known as the Pore 
Caitiff^, the authorship of which is of special interest, as it has 
been mistakenly attributed to the Lollards, and even Wycliffe. 
This was due to the similarity of the way in which the author 
alludes to himself, to that of Purvey in his prologues to the 
LoUard comments on the gospel: 

"This treatise*," he says, "compiled of a poor caitiff and needy of 
ghostly help of God, shall teach simple men and women of good will 
the right way to heaven, if they will busy them to have it in mind 
and work thereafter, without multiplication of many books: and as 
a child, willing to be a clerk, beginneth at the ground, that is, his 
A. B. C., so he thus desiring to speed the better, beginneth at the 
ground of health, that is, Christian man's belief; . . . but, for the belief's 
self is not sufficient to man's salvation, withouten good works of 
charity, as Christ saith by His apostle Saint James, therefore he 

^ As in Addit. 10106, fif. 39 6-47, where 20 such headings are discussed. 

^ See pp. 196-200. 

^ Sidney Sussex, 55, f. 41; Jesus, 51; Pembroke, 285, f. 51 b, which be- 
longed in fourteenth century to Ralph Maynard; Laud Misc. 104; Bernard, 
Cat. no. 1886. 

* Wells, 482 ; extracts printed in Vaughan's Life of Wycliffe {British Re- 
formers), 1852, pp. 382 S. 

^ Ff. 6. 34, f. I, early fifteenth century. See Wells, 482. The authorship 
of this tract has been confused by the supposition that Pecock alluded 
to its author as "3. certain friar," who wrote it "pro suo defensorio" (see 
FZ, xiii. n. 3), a description which obviously cannot apply to the contents 
of this treatise. Pecock much more probably alluded to the friar Peckham's 
Liber Pauperis contra insipientem novellarum haeresium confectorem, i.e. 
William de St- Amour; or possibly to the Protectorium Pauperis of the 
Carmelite, Richard Maidstone, which Walden copied in his MS. of the FZ; 
cf. FZ, Ixxiv. 


purposeth with God's help, suyngly to tell the commandments of 
God, in which the charitable works be contained, that belong to the 
belief. And, for it is hard to purchase aught of God in prayer till a man 
verily believe and live after His behests, as He Himself saith in the 
gospel: Whereto say ye me. Lord, Lord, and do not thilke things that 
I say? therefore, following after the behests, he thinketh with the 
help of God to shew shortly the prayer that Jesu Christ taught to 
His disciples, that is, the pater noster; and after these, some short 
sentences exciting men to heavenly desire, for thus it behoveth to 
stigh^ up as by a ladder of divers rungs, fro the ground of belief unto 
the keeping of God's hests, and so up fro virtue to virtue till he see 
God of Sion reigning in everlasting bliss." 

After this prologue come homilies on the creed, command- 
ments, pater noster, the counsels of perfection, and a few short 
tracts, some of which may have been original, while others were 
certainly extracted or copied from- various religious writers, in- 
cluding Rolle and Hilton I There is nothing at all to shew that 
the author sympathised with Lollardy, and the mystical pieces 
selected by him as "exciting to heavenly desire" are from the 
stock authors of mediaeval mysticism. The collection dates from 
about 1400, or perhaps a few years earlier: but though as far as 
the date goes the work might be Purvey's, it is unlikely for 
dialectal and other reasons ^ In any case, the first tracts on the 
creed, commandments, etc., follow the normal form, and contain 
no advice to study the gospels. 

^ Climb or rise. 

^ These short tracts, corresponding to the "short sentences exciting men 
to heavenly desire" of the prologue differ in number and order in diflferent 
MSS., which have not yet been collated for the establishment of the text. 
Fl. 6. 34 has, after that on the counsels, Si quis vult venire post me, tracts 
known as Patience, Temptation, Charter of Pardon, the Soul and the Flesh, 
De Nomine Jesu (which incorporates passages from Rolle's Form of perfect 
living, cf. f. 87 b and Horstmann, i. 37-8), Meekness, Active and Contem- 
plative Life (apparently. Hilton's Epistle on Mixed Life), Chastity. These 
tracts are found, with some others, in Rawlinson, C. 69, C. 699, C. 75 1 , C. 882 ; 
Ashmole, 1286, Douce, 21587, 288; Bernard, Cat. nos. 1843, 2322, 3054; 
Exeter, 49; Magd. Oxford, 93; Ff. 6. 34; Ff. 6. 55. 

^ (i) The conventionality of the teaching suggests a very early work of 
Purvey if it were his at all, and the MSS. of the Pore Caitiff all appear 
sUghtly too late in date for this. (2) Purvey's dialect was of the com- 
paratively uninflected type usual with Oxford scholars at the date, while 
the original pieces of the P.C. are more distinctly southern. (3) Purvey was 
uninterested in mysticism, and would scarcely have added so many mystical 
extracts to his collection. Thus the selection of "poor caitiff" as a pseudo- 
nym by the author must have been merely a coincidence with Purvey's 


§ 8. It will thus be seen that there is no pre-Reformation 
evidence whatever for the positive encouragement of English 
Bible reading by the Church, though nuns and lay-women were 
sometimes given individual licenses to use them. On the other 
hand, the abundant evidence on fifteenth century Church cus- 
toms leaves no room for doubt that the gospel was never 
normally translated at mass. It is interesting, finally, to com- 
pare these historical results, and sir Thomas More's scheme in 
1528 for the presentation of English Bibles to the orthodox 
devout of the upper classes^, with the earhest sets of episcopal 
injunctions which dealt with the matter in the English Reforma- 
tion, and which date from the year 1538. Different editions of 
the English scriptures had been issued between Tindale's New 
Testament, in 1526, and Coverdale's revised Bible, known as the 
Great Bible, whose issue was expected in 1538, although it was 
actually delayed till 1539. The lesser monasteries had fallen, 
and the Enghsh Reformation had begun its course, when in 1538 
Cromwell sent to archbishop Cranmer the Royal Injunctions 
which ordered that a copy of the Great Bible was to be set in 
a convenient place in every parish church, for parishioners to 
read. The bishops issued their own injunctions for the carrying 
out of these Royal Injunctions in their own dioceses, and three 
of those issued in 1538, — those of archbishop Lee of York, 
Shaxton of Salisbury, and Voysey of Exeter — are of particular 
interest with regard to the provisions made for the use of these 
English Bibles. 

They provided for the reading of the gospel and epistle from 
the Enghsh Bible at mass, in the pulpit, with a sermon thereon 
if possible: 

All curates [parish priests] . . . shall every holy-day read the gospel 
and epistle of that day out of the English Bible, plainly and dis- 
tinctly 2. 

All. . .having cures [are commanded to] every Sunday and holy- 
day continually recite, and sincerely declare in the pulpit, at the 

use of similar ones. Cf. Madan, Sum. Cat. iv, no. 21947 ^o^ John Burton's 
translation of the Legenda Aurea, "dra\vn out of French into English by a 
sinful wretch"; E. Underhill's Mirror of Simple Souls, 5, " I most unworthy- 
creature and outcast of all other"; index of Holder Egger's Chron. Salim- 
bene, for Petrus Peccator, Pietro Peccadore. 

1 See Workes, Dialogue, 245. ^ Lee. of York: Frere, Visi!-. 11. 46.. 


high mass time, in the Enghsh tongue, both the epistle and gospel 
of the same day (if there be time thereto), or else the one of them 
at the least ^. 

All such of the said clergy, having cure of souls within my diocese, 
[are commanded to] every Sunday declare sinterely in time and 
place accustomed, in the English tongue, or in the Coi-nish tongue 
where the English tongue is not used, all or part of the epistle or 
gospel of that day^. 

References to the setting up of the Enghsh Bible in the church 

occur in several of the episcopal injunctions of the date^: and 

also sentences which shew that opposition to the reading of the 

English Bible by the laity was expected from some at least of 

the clergy, — a confirmation of the assertion of the Messenger in 

sir Thomas More's Dialogue. Bishop Rowland Lee, of Coventry, 

had even before the Royal Injunctions of 1538 ordered each 

parish priest to place a Bible in Latin and English in his church, 

for any man to read: 

And [ye] shall not discourage, but earnestly ... admonish every 
man to read the Bible in Latin or English : . . . always gently and 
charitably exhorting them to use a sober and modest behaviour in 
the reading and inquisition of the true sense*. 

And that ye shall discourage no man privily or apertly from the 
reading or hearing of the said Bible 5. 

That they shall (according to the king's highness' Injunctions) in 
nowise discourage any man to read in the English Bible, . . . but shall 
comfort them therein : nevertheless exhorting them to enter into the 
reading thereof with a spirit of meekness, etc.® 

That none of you discourage any lay person from reading of holy 
scripture, but rather animate and encourage them thereto, so that it 
be done of them without bragging or arrogancy^. 

That ye, nor none of you, shall discourage any layman from the 

1 Shaxton, of Salisbury, Frere, Visit. 11. 54. 

2 Voysey, of Exeter, id. 11. 61. For Edward VI's Injunctions to the same 
effect in 1547, see id. 11. 123; for Royal Injunctions to Lincoln minster, 1548, 
id. II. 168; for Cranmer's articles for Canterbury diocese, 1548, id. Ii. 180; 
and cf. references given under Gospel, id. i. 274. 

3 See under Bible. Frere, Visit, i. 224. 

« In 1537, id. II. 20. All these injunctions of 1537-8 enjoining Enghsh 
Bible reading are coupled with clauses for the declaration of the king's 
Supreme Headship under Christ of the Church of England, the withstanding 
of the usurpations of the bishop of Rome, etc. This lends no support to any 
theory that the Bible-reading clauses were merely the recognition of an 
earher custom. They were in fact as novel as the other clauses. 

^ Id. II. 36, Royal Injunction of 1538. 

6 Id. II. 46, York, 1538 ' Shaxton, 1538, id. 11. 56. 


reading of the Bible in Latin or English, but encourage them that 
they so read it. . .and that they be not bold nor presumptuous in 
judging of matters afore they have perfect knowledge^. 

These episcopal injunctions of 1538 imitated earlier Lollard 
practice in two other points, — the enjoining of the learning of 
parts of the Bible by heart, and the use of vernacular prayers. 
Earlier Waldensians and Lollards had learned the sacred text 
by heart through the impossibiUty of providing Bibles for any 
but the affluent: parish priests were now enjoined to learn long 
portions of the New Testament by heart for the admonition or 
comfort of their parishioners. 

That every one having cure of souls ... do perfectly con without 
the book the two whole gospels of Matthew and John, and the 
epistles of Paul to the Romans, Corinthians, Galatians, and other 
as they stand, with the Acts of the Apostles, and the canonical 
epistles, after the rate: to con every fortnight one chapter without 
the book, and the same to keep still in memory 2. 

Bonner in 1542 ordered all priests of the diocese of London to 
learn the whole New Testament by heart ^, and many episcopal 
injunctions about 1538 made elaborate arrangements for parish 
priests to read or study one chapter a day, or "confer the 
English with the Latin*." Vernacular prayers had never been 
explicitly condemned as unorthodox, but the suspicion they 
aroused in the fifteenth century through their use by the 
Lollards had been very great ^: it was now in 1538 ordered in 
several dioceses that all parish priests were to place in their 
churches a book comprising the pater noster, ave Maria, creed 
and commandments in EngHsh, for their parishioners to learn ^; 
that parish and chantry priests were to teach children to read 
English, that they might the better learn how to pray"'; and 
"from henceforth" not discourage any lay person from the 
reading of any good books in Latin or English. How real the 
suspicion of the use of English for books of prayers had become 
can be seen from the records of some of the Lollard trials^ 

1 Qranmer, 1538, Frere, Visit. 11. 65. For the royal articles of 1547, in- 
quiring what priests had discouraged the people from hearing and reading of 
the scriptures in English, see id. 11. 107, and for later references, id. 224. 

2 Shaxton, 1538, id. 11. 55. * id. 11. 83. 

* See under Bible, id. i. 225. ^ See pp. 62, 87. 

® Frere, Visit. 11. 21, 36, 45, 46, 56, 61, 63, 66. 
^ 1537, id. II. 17. 8 See p. 366. 


The Lollards and English Bible reading 

§ I. In 1526 Tindale despatched to England the first printed 
copies of his New Testament, and the old manuscripts of the 
Wycliffite Bible became no longer text-books for ecclesiastical 
reformers, but literary curiosities. Lollardy was a continuous, 
though not an equally powerful movement in the preceding 
period. It gained in strength till the suppression of Oldcastle's 
revolt in 1416, when any chance of its political success was 
-crushed. The humbler Lollards were then systematically at- 
tacked by the bishops till about 1431, from which time forward 
there were few Lollard trials till the middle of the century. In 
1457 bishop Pecock's orthodox apologetic was itself condemned 
as Lollardy, after which the embers smouldered for about thirty 
years. From 1494 onward the movement took a new birth, 
partly due to a parallel reform movement in Germany, but con- 
sciously associated by its professors with the teaching of Wycliffe. 
Till the beginning of Tindale's activities the Lollards were con- 
sidered a danger to the Church, and were tried in large numbers. 
Throughout all the period the records of Lollard trials associate 
the use of English biblical books with heresy. 

It is here proposed to follow the history of the Lollards only in 
so far as it touches that of the use of English Bibles, — a con- 
nexion which has been challenged as non-existent, — and for the 
sake of comparison between the use of EngHsh Bibles by the 
Lollards and the orthodox, especially in the fifteenth century. 
Some general considerations must be dealt with as affecting the 
evidence, which will then be given in its chronological order. 
' First, since the mere making of an English Bible was not de- 
clared unlawful before 1408, no formal mention of their use or 
possession could be expected in heresy trials earlier. 

Secondly, the evidence as to the connexion of Lollardy with 
the use of EngHsh Bibles does not rest solely on those definite 


instances when Lollards are proved to have owned some biblical 
book: though, even on this point alone, the evidence is very 
much more plentiful for them than in the case of the orthodox. 
Thus, though there were many Lollard trials where the question 
of English Bibles was not directly raised at all, there was not one 
in which it was not implied, since the chief question at issue was 
always the testing of some doctrine by an appeal to the letter 
of the New Testament. If there were no proven case where a 
Lollard possessed an Enghsh Bible, it would still be impossible 
to read the records of Lollard trials without recognising that the 
whole of LoUardy rested upon the popularisation of the New 

Thirdly, there is evidence that, like the early Waldensians, the 
Lollards practised the teaching and learning by heart of the 
biblical translations. Manuscripts were relatively commoner in 
the fifteenth century than in the twelfth and thirteenth, and could 
be owned by less wealthy people: but there are many cases to 
shew that Lollard schools were meetings to hear or learn the 
bibUcal text. The evidence for the use of English Bibles rests 
not only on cases of Lollard ownership, but also on the records 
of these meetings. 

Fourthly, there is considerable lack of explicitness in the 
records, as between ownership of biblical translations, or of 
books of Lollard doctrine, "Lollard books," "books of their 
' lore," etc. Unlicensed possession of English books deahng with 
theology had been as definitely prohibited in 1408 as Enghsh 
Bibles, and therefore the mere possession of English books was 
often cited as suspicious evidence of heresy. In some cases where 
the possession of "English books" is thus mentioned, they were 
no doubt Lollard polemical tracts, but in others, from the funda- 
mental nature of Lollardy, they were probably English books of 
epistles or gospels, or some such biblical translation. 

Finally, it is clear that, though the possession of Enghsh 
biblical books was not classed as heresy in itself, it was very 
often the first sign by which suspicion of heresy was aroused. 
Witnesses often deposed that they suspected the accused to be a 
Lollard, because he or she knew certain prayers in Enghsh, or the 
words of the gospels ^, or possessed some English biblical book. 

1 VCH, Essex, 11. 21. 


As one Lollard who destroyed some valuable books out of fear 
"that they would incriminate him remarked, "he had rather 
burn his books, than that his books should burn him^." The 
willingness to recite verses from the English Bible to a neighbour 
was often quoted as a sign of heresy. The records of heresy trials 
justify the assertion in an early fifteenth century Lollard tract : 
"The third assault of Antichrist is Inquisition, as the prophet 
saith, . . . that is to say, Antichrist seeketh and hearkeneth where 
he may find any man or woman that writeth, readeth, learneth 
or studieth God's law in their mother tongue 2." 

Thus to some extent it is fair to say that the existence of 
Lollardy was in itself evidence of the use of English biblical 
books. Since its existence throughout the fifteenth century is 
'now known to have been continuous in many centres, as the 
Victoria County History shews, some mention will now be made 
of these centres, apart from explicit proof of Bible reading 
carried on in them. 

§ 2. The Lollard William Thorpe, who was tried b}^ Arundel 
in 1407, has been mentioned earlier for his account of Purvey: 
but his history of his own trial brings out also the insistence of 
all Lollards on the bibhcal text. Thorpe was a priest ^ who had 
belonged to the Wyclifhte circle at Oxford from 1377 onwards, 
and travelled about as a Lollard preacher, especially in the north 
midlands, from 1387. He protested to Arundel: 

I believe that all the Old Law and the New Law, given and or- 
dained by the counsel of these three Persons in the Trinity, were 
given and ordained to the salvation of mankind : and I believe that 
these Laws are sufficient for man's salvation, 

— a typical Lollard assertion as to the sufficiency of the Old and 
New Testaments. "I submit mc," he added, not "to holy 
Church," but "to be reconciled to be buxom and obedient unto 
these Laws of God, and to every Article of them*." In accord- 
ance with this declaration, he alleged against the archbishop the 
letter of the New Testament on every disputed point ; he would 
not submit and give information as to other Lollards, " for I find 
in no place in holy scripture this office that ye would now 

^ See p. 367. * Lanterne. a tract written before 1415. see p. 15. 

» Pollard, 107: "sir William" is a translation of "dominus," meaning 
merely our "reverend." Arundel's threat of degradation, id. 114, shews 
that Thorpe was a priest, cf. id. 132. * Id. iii. 

D. w B. 23 


enfeoff me with." He defended his having preached without 
episcopal license, 

for by authority of God's Law. . .1 am learned to deem that it is 
every priest's ofi&ce and duty for to preach busily, freely and truly the 
Word of God: for no doubt every priest should purpose first in his 
soul and covet to take the order of priesthood chiefly for to make 
known to the people the Word of God, 

the novelty of which doctrine at the date is explained by the 
extent to which lay people were ignorant of the biblical text. 
Thorpe then quoted a text from Samuel in support of his argu- 
ment, and Arundel retorted. 

All these allegings that thou bringest forth are nought else but 
proud presumptuousness, . . . that thou and such others are so just 
that ye ought not to obey to Prelates, 

to which Thorpe answered by more "allegings," and Arundel, 
losing patience, cried to the three clerks that stood about him : 

Lo, Sirs, this is the manner and business of this losell and such 
others, to pick out such sharp sentences of Holy Scripture and of 
Doctors, to maintain their sect and lore against the ordinance of 
Holy Church ! And therefore, losell, is it, that thou covetest to have 
again the psalter that I made to be taken from thee at Canterbury, 
to record sharp verses against us ! But thou shalt never have that 
psalter, nor none other book, till that I know that thy heart and 
thy mouth accord fully to be governed by Holy Church^. 

The lively form of the answer may be due to Thorpe himself, 
but all Lollard defences render the truthfulness of the answer 
likely: whether Thorpe's psalter were Latin or English, the 
Lollards needed biblical texts, and the less lettered ones, trans- 
lations, for the maintenance of their doctrine, and their attacks 
on the lives of prelates. Arundel did not object to the psalter as 
a heretical book, but he objected to the Lollard's use of it. His 
outburst to Thorpe was justified again and again afterwards 
throughout the interview, when on the subjects of transub- 
stantiation, images 2, pilgrimages ^ music in churches, and 

1 Pollard, 128. 

^ Id. 135, where Arundel recounts the devout practices of those who 
make images of the saints, and Thorpe answers: "Sir, I doubt not if these 
painters that ye speak of, or any other painters, understood truly the text 
of Moses, of David, of the Wise Man, and of other Saints and Doctors, these 
painters should be moved to shrive them to God, with full inward sorrow 
of heart." 

3 Where, id. 139, Thorpe asserts that "examine whoso will, twenty of 


tithes^, Thorpe alleged more scriptural passages, to the prejudice 
of the existent ecclesiastical organisation. 

"Why losell," said the archbishop, "wilt not thou, and others that 
are confederated with thee, seek out of Holy Scripture and of the 
sentence of Doctors, all sharp authorities against Lords and Knights 
and Squires, and against other secular men, as thou dost against 

Thorpe's defence of his LoUardy has been here quoted as 
typical. He was tried before 1408, so that the question of his 
possession of English books or Bibles did not expressly arise; 
but the whole tenor of his defence lay in the citation of biblical 
passages, and it shews how essential the literal text, in Latin or 
English, was to Lollardy. 

After the failure of Purvey's leadership of Lollardy, as shewn 
by the constitutions of 1408 and the collapse of the Lollard dis- 
endowment scheme of 1410, Oldcastle became the avowed 
leader of the Lollards. His marriage with an heiress had given 
him large and scattered estates, so that he became of great use 
locally to the Hereford, Kentish, Norfolk and London Lollards '^ 
as well as to the party as a whole. An anti-Lollard poem men- 
tions his familiarity with the Bible in the lines : 

It is unkindly for a knight, 

That should the kinges castle keep. 
To babble the Bible day and night 

In resting time when he should sleep^. 

He was tried in 1414, after a political revolt, at Blackfriars, 
London, and among his judges was friar Thomas Palmer, the 
old opponent of English Bibles. Palmer asked him concerning 
his faith in images, and whether he would worship the cross 
Christ died upon, to which Oldcastle returned the usual Lollard 
answer. He was finally executed as a heretic and traitor in 1417. 
■ Meanwhile, Lollards of his political standing were tried in 
London in considerable numbers, still for "alleging" authorities 

these pilgrims, and he shall not find three men or women that know surely 
a Commandment of God, nor can say their Pater noster and Ave Maria, 
nor their Credo, readily, in any manner of language." 

1 Id. 143, "I know not where this sentence of cursing is authorised now 
in the Bible." 

2 See W. T. Waugh's Oldcastle, EHR. xx. 434, 637. 
* Polit. Songs, RS, 11. 244. 

23 — 2 



from the Bible in support of new-fangled doctrine. In 1408 
John Badby was burned^; and in 1415 John Claydon^, a parche- 
myner, was apprehended and confessed to the possession of 
English books, including the Lanterne of Light: the canonist, 
Lyndwood, examined them, and they were declared rankly 
Lollard. The next year a Lincolnshire heretic was accused of 
having "a certain book which he, contrary to the former decree 
of the bishops, did conceal and not exhibit to them^." Acts of 
parliament had a lread y made the possession of Lollard books 
dangerous, but in 1416 archbishop Chichele. in a letter to the 
bishop of London, required all bishops and archdeacons to make 
diligent inquiry, at least twice a yea r, in every deanery and 
parish, touching persons suspected of heresy, or "possessing 
books written in English*." The preparation, however, of 
Lollard books and English gos pels still continued, for that same 
year two priests were accused in London on both counts, — and 
it is the first case after 1408 when English Bibles are expressly 
recorded as having figured in a charge of heresy. Ralph Mungin 
was accused of circulating in the city of London certain books 
of Wycliffe and Peter the Clerk, especially "the book Trialogus 
and the gospels of John Wycliffe^"; he denied the charge of 
heresy, and was committed to prison. The entry in Chichele's 
register supports Hus's contention that all Englishmen believed 
Wycliffe to have translated the Bible: for a copy of the gospels 
would not have had the heretical General Prologue, or any 
scribal ascription to Wycliffe. The other priest, who had an 
English New Testament, was also condemned^. Lollar d y. even 
at this date, was not dependent on the ministrations of laymen, 
as the trials of several priests shew '. Lollard books seem to have 
been still mostly rn pied in Lon don, for in 1424 Richard Baxter 

1 Kingsford, 68. 

^ AM, III. 531; Kingsford, 69; Mem. of London, Riley, 617. For Richard 
Baker, burnt about the same time, see Kingsford, 69, 297: and for a 
Nottinghamshire heretic, 141 3, Gairdner, i. 70. 

^ AM, III. 537. * Gairdner, i. 93. 

* AM, III. 539, from Chichele's register; of. Ussher, xii. 359, and DNB 
for Mungin's connexion with Peter the Clerk, or Payne. 

* AM, III. 538; for William Hervey, accused in 1416 of owning suspected 
books, see id. ; for two false accusations of London men, Mem. of London, 
658, 666. 

' E.g. William Taylor, Kingsford, 128, Summers, 75; the vicar of Thaxted, 
Kingsford, 134, 308; Thomas Baggely; and the parish priest of Chedingfold. 


was accused of "keeping a school of Lollardy in the English 
tongue," and of having all the books of that doctrine brought 
to him from London^. 

In S6 mersetshi re2;;:^he record of Lollardy was continuous, 
though not striking, throughout the century, and seems to have 
origina t ed with Pu rvev's B reaching in the suburbs of Bristo l ^ 
about 1387; a Bristol burgess also was in 1404 one of the few 
known possessors of an English Bible at the date. No Somerset- 
shire Lollards were burned, but several abjured. I n 1413 John 
Devenish^ was accused of LoUardy, and of having placed "a 
scandalous book of the Lollards" in a vicar's stall. Thomas 
Smith of Bristol was accused in 1422 ^ and in 1429 William 
Curayn, of Bristol, was cited for heresy for the fifth time, and, 
imprisoned by the bishop, he confessed that he had held that 
" every priest was bound to preach the Word of God openly, and 
that Oldcastle and Wycliffe were holy martyrs." In 1 449 John 
Young , an old and infirm chaplain of S. Cross, abjured similar 
errors, and agreed to surrender all his heretical books. In 1455 
bishop Becking ton complained to the duke of Somerset that the 
duke's ten ants at Langport neither "dreaded God nor lived by 
Holy Church"; they mini stere d the sacraments and buried the 
d^ad^ themselves, and even alleged the duke's support for so 
doing, though the bishop refused to believe that this could be 
true. In 1459 Thomas Cole, a baker, abjured, and in 1475 there 
were still many he retics in the diocese. 

Between 1424 a nd 1430 more than a hundred persons were 
arraigned for Lollardy in the diocese of NorwicK^. In 1429 John 
Baker was convicted of having a book of the pater noster and 
other prayers in English ^, which looks as if Eng lish prim pl-s had 
fallen nnHpr prpnpral g^igpirinn, as bcing English a nd therefore 
L ollard . Margery Backster, the wife of a carpenter at Martham 
in Norfolk, was accused of heresy before the bishop of Norwich 

1 AM, III. 585. 2 See VCH, Gloucs. 11. 21. 

3 For all these Somerset Lollards, see id. 21-4; DH, Bath and Wells, 
142, 3, 5, 6; for Bristol Lollards in 1457, Summers, 80-3. 

* Gairdner, i. 128. 

' Summers, 71. Lollardy had started early in the eastern counties: 
Sawtre, the first Lollard to be burned, was a chaplain of S. Osyth's. 
Walbrook, id. 57. 

« AM, III. 594. 


in 1428^: another woman deposed against her that Margery had 
made various attempts to enlighten her as to Lollard doctrines, 
and said that she "secretly desired her, that she and Joan her 
maid would come secretly, in the night, to her chamber, and 
there she should hear her husband read the law of Christ unto 
them, which law was written in a book that her husband was 
wont to read to her by night." The "l aw of Christ," and " G oddis 
l a we " were still the ordinary Lol lard__terins for the New Testa- 
ment and the Bible ^. In two cases there was even suspicion of 
Lollardy in connexion with a religious: in 1427 Isab ella Hermit, 
the prioress of Ridingfield, confessed to certain scandalouTcrimes, 
but vehemently denied_the_additional charge of Lollardy ; while 
Parthol^mpw of F^T-gham^ accused of Lolla rdy in 14 28, seems 
to have been a monk^ In 1429 many more proceedings were 
taken against N^rioljc^ollards : Nicholas Belward, a relation 
presumably of the Richard who kept a Lollard school, had a 
"New Testament which he bought at London for four marks 
and forty pence," out of which he taught others*. It was 
alleged against Richard Fletcher, a member of the same Lollard 
group, that he had an Enghsh book; and against the "daughter 
of Thomas Moon," "that she was partly of the same sect, and 
could read English " ; William Bate also and his wife " could read 
English very well, and were of the same sect^." John Pert "was 
of the same sect and could read well " ; and Hugh Pie bequeathed 
to another Lollard "a New Testament which they then called a 
book of the new law^." In the d iocese of Canterb ury too, two 
men were detected for LoUards in 143 1 through their attendance 
at a reading of "reprobated books'," and in that of Lincoln 
heresy was to be found. Robert Flemi ng, bishop of Lin coln, 
founded Lincol n College in 1427, "with a view to thp. pytprmina- 
tion-and destruction of the sects_ofJieretics, who are growing 
more than is wont ^." 

After these crusades, particularl}^ those of the ^ishops^^of 
Norwich_and_L.Qiidfin between 1429 and 1431, the Lollards were 
for a time very little he ardjof. The wars of the Roses in the 

^ AM, III. 595. The register from which Foxe transcribed these Norfolk 
heresy trials is not published. The spelling of surnames from AM is not 
modernised. ^ Cf. "book of the new law," AM, iii. 538. 

3 DH, Norwich, 147-9. * AM, in. 597. * Id. 597. « Id. 597. 

' RS, Liter ae Cantuar. in. 156. ^ DH, Lincoln, 185. 


middle of the century tended to distract attention from them: 
but although nothing like the same numbers were accused by 
the bishops between 1430 and 1480 as before and after those 
dates, nevertheless, records of oc casional Lollard tri als shew 
that the mo vement di d not die out. It had travelle d to Scotla nd, 
and certainly had a continuous existence there through the 
fifteenth and early sixteenth centuries : John Resly, a Wycliffite 
from England, was burned in Scotland in 1407^, and Gerson 
complained of the influence of Wycliffism there about 1415, in 
his work on the literal interpretation of holy scripture -. " There 
is opposition to the truth in England, in Scotland, in the uni- 
versity of Prague, and in Germany, . . . they claim that their 
sayings are founded on holy scripture, and on its hteral sense, 
and they say that they follow and recognise scripture only, . . . 
such heretics are present in England, have destroyed the uni- 
versity of Prague, and have even reached Scotland." A 
Bohemian Wyclifhte, Paul_Cl§w» ^^s bu rned in Scotl and in 
1 43 1 ^. Lollardy was again prevalent in 1494, when a_raid jwas 
made upon the_Lollards of Kyle, and in consequence thirty 
persons were summoned by the archbishop of Glasgow before 
the king and privy council*. A certain Murdoch Nisbet joined 
this sect about 1500, and when he fled to Germany in 15 13 
obtained access to Purvey's version of the New Testament. This 
he carefully copied in his own dialect, between 15 13 and 1522, 
as well as the Hturgical lessons from the Old Testament : but his 
Scots version was made so soon before the appearance of 
Tindale's New Testament, that it remained in a solitary manu- 
script. Among other Scottish Lollards, the Gordons of Earlstown 
had a New Testament in the vulgar tongue ^ Lollardy persisted, 
however, elsewhere than in Scotland. John Gardiner was burned 
in 1438, and Richard Wyche was burned on Tower Hill in 1440. 
Five Lollards abjured i n Surrey in 144 1, and there were Lollards 
at Bristol betwe en 1454 and 145 7; two Somersetshire heretics 

- 1 Summers, 57. Scottish Hist. Rev. i. 260-73. 

* De sensu litterali sacrae scripturae, et de causis errantium, in Opera, 
Antwerp, 1706, Du Pin, i. 2. 

3 Summers, 72. For intercourse of English and Bohemian Wycliffites at 
the period, of. the subsequent career of Peter the Clerk, supra, p. 240, who 
was present at the council of Bale in 1432. 

« Test. Scots, xii. * Id. xxxii. 


recanted in 1459^. In the diocese of Lichfield, John Woodward 
of Tamworth abjured _Lollard h eresies in 1454^. The records of 
the trials of these heretics still remain unpublished in the 
episcopal registers, so that there is an absence of detail as to their 
possession of biblical translations or Lollard books : but the record 
of this in the case of the earlier Lollards is so precise, and the 
character of Lollardy continued so essentially unchanged, that 
it is hardly possible to doubt that they too possessed biblical 
manuscripts. Though a certain proportion of the manuscripts 
of the Wycliffite versions, written in the fifteenth century and 
still existent, bear no trace of either Lollard or orthodox owner- 
ship, it would not be safe to assume that they were written 
originally for, or used exclusively by, either part)'^ Some of 
them have calendars to shew the appointed portions for the 
Sunday epistles and gospels, — but it was the Lollard Purvey 
who, unlike any orthodox writer, advocated translations of these 
portions of the mass, and such manuscripts may well have be- 
longed to Lollards. The evidence for Lollard use of English 
Bibles is strong where it is almost non-existent for their use by 
orthodox lay people; and it is very much stronger than for their 
use in convents. 

§ 3. Though Lollardy had been thus dormant fo i-lwentv 

years, the tp ndpnry to rritirjsp prrlpci^ctiral — insi-ifntinng and 

tparhing in th<^ light r>f thp Ipftpr of fbp N^w Testament still 
pressed-^eavily^aiBo n some min ds ; for the most conspicuous and 
o riginal of Eng lish fifteenth century theologians was drawn 
to gr apple with it by new m ethods, which ended fina lly in his 
own undoing. Although bishop Pecock wrote his most notable 
book in defence of orthodoxy against the Lollards, he was in two 
senses the descendant oi Wycliffe and Purvey. He claimed that 
r eason itself must be the guide in the interpretation of the scrip- 
tures, — thus facing the crucial problem of interpretation more 
directly than the Lollards had done — and he did more than any 

^ For all this intermediate period, 1430-80, passed over by Foxe, who 
was presumably without reference to the local episcopal registers, see 
Summers, 72-87, and VCH. ^ j)]-i, Lichfield. 169. 

* The MSS. which contain the Gen. Prol. (except the non-heretical first 
chapter) would presumably have been written for Lollards. Cf. Bodley, 277, 
written for Henry VI, where the scribe desisted after copying the first 


other man towards making the English tongue a vehicle for 
theologicaUtreatises. The Lollards had written their reasoned 
theological treatises in Latin, and had been original only in their 
attempt to issue EngUsh paraphrases of them for the instruction 
of the lewid ; Pecock went further, and was the first t heologian 
to write hjs-xeasoned. treatises in English. ^ 

Pecock's career and writings are sufficient in themselves to 
shew that in the mid-fifteenth century LoU ard y was still a 
force^still claimed the Bible as the sole final aut hority, and was 
still a ni ovement in favour of English scriptur es. Pecock was 
ordained in 1422, and in 1431, a period of great acti\dty against 
the Lollards, was appointed to the mas tership of Whittington 
College^. From this time he interested hnnsel£chiefly in seeking 
to conY Jnce indiv idual Lollards by argument, and in writing 
English theological treatises to that end. He sought to prove 
to them that reason or the "moral law of kind" was the fina l 
authority_iQi_the interpretation of the Bible, and that reason 
was qn__the_si_de of the catholic apologetic, — a theory which 
commended itself neither to the orthodox nor the Lollards. 

"A syllogism well ruled," said Pecock, "is so strong and so 
mighty in all kinds of matters, that though all the angels of heaven 
would say that his conclusion were not true, yet we should leave 
the angels' sa5dng, . . . and trust more to the proof of thilke syllo- 
gism 2.. . .Certes this inward book. . .or scripture or law of kind is 
more necessary to Christian men, and is more worthy, than is the 
outward Bible and the kunning thereof, as far as they both treat of 
the more part of God's law to man^." 

Pecock's personal acquaintance with the Lollards is known 
from his own words: and his evidence about the prevalence and 
nature of Lollardy is therefore valuable. 

I have spoke oft time, and by long leisure, with the wittiest and 
kunniugest men of thilke said sort, contrary to the Church, and 
which have been held as dukes among them, and which have loved 
me for that I would patiently hear their evidences, and their motives, 
without reprobation. And verily none of them could make any 
motive for their party as strong as I myself could have made 
thereto-.. . .Two things be the principal causes of heresy in the lay 
people which be cleped Lollards, . . . the first is this, overmuch leaning 

^ Repressor oj Over Much Blaming of the Clergy, ed. Babington, C; RS, 
1S60, I. xii. 2 Book of Faith, 43. * Repressor, 52. 


to scripture, and in such manner wise as it long[eth] not to holy 
scripture to receive^.. . .Who that will walk among the people now 
living in England, far and near, and will attend, hearken, hear and 
see how diversely divers persons been in their conceits set, he shall, 
among all the diversities, hear and know that many of the lay people 
which cleave and attend over unrulily to the Bible . . . protest and 
acknowledge that they a ^I not fetch and learn their faith at the 
clergy of God's whole Church in earth; neither they as for learning 
and kunning of their faith will obev JLo the cle rgy or to the church: 
but they will fetch and learn their faith at the Bible of holy scripture, 
in the manner as it shall hap them to understand it^. 

He stated elsewhere also that the Lollards were chiefly in error 
about holy scripture, believing that no ordinan ce was to be held 
a law of God unless it w ere grounded on theJBible, and that every 
meek and humble Christian could not fail to understand truly 
and duly holy scripture ^ He objected to the Lollards that the 
Bible gave no information on their cherished tenet of the lawful- 
ness of English translations of the Bible: 

Also thou shalt not find expressly in holy scripture, that the New 
Testament should be written in English tongue to laj^men, or in 
Latin tongue to clerks, neither that the Old Testament should be 
written in English tongue to laymen or in Latin tongue to clerks: 
and yet each of these governances thou wilt hold to be lawful*. 

He o bjected also to the Lollardslemp hasis o n the practice of 
Bible. reading; they think, he said. 

They need nothing unto the school of God's law and service save 
holy scripture alone, and that thereto holy scripture sufhceth. . . . 
They ween themselves for to kun at full and substantially and 
pithily holy scripture, for that they kunnen by heart the texts of 
holy scripture, and kunnen lush them out thick at feasts, and at 
ale-drinking, and upon their high benches sitting^. 

He argued with them that it was reasoaahlp. to., leave the 
i nterp ret ation of the. Bihlp- to-the clergy as specialists: just as 
men who wished to understand charters would appeal, not to 
laymen, but to "justices or sergeants or famous kunning appren- 
tices of the king's law ^" : and men who had a ship on hand would 
trust to the wits of carpenters, not to their own: so a "right and 

1 Book of Faith, 114. ^ Id. log. ^ j^ 3^ 5. 

* Id. 119. s Repressor, i. 129. ® Book of Faith, 228. 


due understanding of the high and hard writing of our belief in 
the Bible" ought to be sought from those trained in divinity. 

Pecock had become bishop of S. Asaph in 1444, and of 
Chichester in 1450: but his L ancastrian sympath ies and the 
dangerous nature of his a nti-Loll ard ap^tingp^ir brought him 
into unpopularity , and finally into sjispidoiL-QiJifimsy. He was 
cited to appear at Lambeth in 1457, and forced to recant his 
doctrines at Paul's Cross in that year. Finally he resigned his 
bishopric, and died in captivity in Thorney Abbey. 

Although Pecock had no great following among the laity, 
certain admirers of his books, or possibly Lollards, w^ere pro- 
ceeded against at about this time. An inquiry was made in 1457 
in the diocese of Ely for the possessors of Pecock's writin gs, and 
in consequence Robert Sparke of Reach, John Crowd of Cam- 
bridge and John Baile of Chesterton were f orced to re cant their 
errors as_iollards^. In the same year William and Richard 
Sparke, of Somersham, Huntingdonshire, also recanted-. 

Lo Uardy in'sLinc oln'^ at this period was vigorous, but probably 
unconnected with the teaching or tenets of Pecock. James 
Wyllys confessed that he had read through the epistles of S. Paul, 
the Apocalypse, and the gospel of S. Luke in English, and that 
he had bought the manuscripts from a man of Bristol; and 
Geoffrey Symeon afterwards acknowledged that he possessed 
an EngHsh book of the holy gospels, which he had of the said 
James*. William Ayleward confessed that he had often "talked 
of the gospels and holy scriptures, declaring in English the 
gospel of Nicodemus in judgment, according to the letter^." 
Henry Smith confessed that he had heard Ayleward speak of 
possessing a copy of the gospel of S. John «. John Baron gave a 
full account of the English books, for the possession of which he 
was suspected: he had "one of the life of our Lady, of Adam and 
Eve, and of other sermons, the mirror of sinners, and the mirror 
of matrimony; the second book of the tales of Canterbury, and 
the third book of a play of saint Dionise'." Geoffrey Simeon, 

1 Gray's Register, Ely, f. 130 b; cf. EDR, 1907, 42. 

" Chedworth' s Regis er, Lincoln, f. 12 b. 

* Chedworth' s Register, 1452-71. is not quoted by Foxe, and is unpublished. 
I am indebted for the following references to Miss C. B. F'rth; cf. VCH, 
Lines, II. 41, 46. * Chedworth' s Reg. I. 62. ^ Id. f. 61. 

« Id. i. 62. ' Id. f. 62 b. 


again, confessed that he had allowed John Goose to read through 
the English gospel which was in his keeping, and the same John 
also borrowed a book belonging to a man called Baron. In the 
latter, Goose acknowledged, was written a confession in English, 
which had lately been found erroneous by the bishop of Lincoln^. 
§ 4. After the repression of Pecock and his followers, the 
r ecords of the ex istence of T-nllarrly a re ff^w for the npvt twenty 
years : nevertheless, heresy was to be found in Lincol nshire, 
Amersham and Henley on Thames in 1462, and a LoUard was 
burnt in 1466 2. In Somersetshire L ollardy still piersisied, and 
in 1475 Stillington's register declared that there were still many 
heretics in the diocese^. In London the record of Lollardy is 
continuous, for in i^S^tJ^tephen Swallow, a layman of the parish 
of Wylie, abjured his heresies in the presence of the archbishop 
of Canterbury and four bishops. His heresies were of the 
ordinary later Lollard type, and he said he had held and taught 
them for over thirty years ^ — a period extending back to the 
agitation against Pecock. A Lollard was burnt in 1485 . and 
nincof them abjured their errors at Coventry in i486 ^ In 1491 
John Russell, bishop of Lincoln, "wearied this year 1491 at 
Oxford with many heretics," copied out with his own hands long 
extracts from Walden's book on the sacraments, "against the 
Wyclifhtes, whose most insane doctrines have infected many of 
the common people of our English rehgion." He ordered there- 
fore that these extracts should remain in the registers of his 
successors, so that they and their assistants might be more pre- 
pared for inquisitions into heretical pravity^. In 14Q4 Jo an 
Boughton was burned, openly declaring herself a follower of 
Wycliffe ' ; she was over eighty, and must have been well to do, 
for she is described as the " mother of the lady Young," who also 
held Lollard opinions. In the early months of ^496 five Lo llards 
stood at Paul's Cr os^ ^^^ Vipr^;'^ and in October five stood there 

^ Chedworth's Reg. S. 62, 62 b. ^ Summers. 86-7. 

3 DH, Bath and Wells, 146. 

* RS, Literae Cantuar. iii. 312-14. ^ Summers, 87. 

® Univ. 156. The extracts themselves are in a fifteenth century hand, 
though the copy of the bishop's note is in one of the seventeenth century'. 
Foxe states that many Lollards abjured, and some were burned, in the 
diocese of Lincoln under the next bishop, William Smith, 1495-1514, and 
still more under bishop Longland, 1520-47, AM, iv. 219. 

7 AM, IV. 7. 


together, "with the books of their lore hanging about them, 
which books were at the time of the sermon there burnt, with 
- the faggots that the said Lollards bore^" The next year a heretic 
was burnt at Canterbury 2, and in 1499 fourteen did open penance 
at Paul's Cross, and an old man was burnt at Smithfield ^, while 
in 1506 the prior of S. Osyth's and five other heretics did penance 
at Paul's Cross ^. In 1506 too William Tylsworth, of the diocese 
of Lincoln, was burned, and other burnings occurred at Missen- 
den and Amersham ^. From this time onwards heretics were tried 
in much greater numbers, and the records of their trials are 
accessible, so that their use of English Bibles can be studied with 
some certainty. For these intermediate heretics, however, be- 
tween about 1430 and 1509, we have only the bare mention of 
their abjurations or burnings, and no account of their trials. The 
eaili^^ T n11arH<; hnwpvpr, bef ore 1 43 1, uscd English Bibles and 
learned passages from them by heart, and the l ater on es, after 
1511, u sed the m_much more frequently, because books were 
relatively cheaper. Since there was no change in the character 
of Lollardy during the intermediate period, it would be rash to 
infer without evidence that their practice in the intermediate 
period was not the same. It is thus probable that a certain number 
of LqUards at any time throughout the century may have been 
pos sessors of English B ibles, or single biblical boo ks, for they 
certainly set store by them. It is unsafe also to argue that there 
were no Lollards rich enough to own English Bibles ; for, apart 
from the evidence that they gave relatively large sums for them, 
we possess one or two existent manuscripts of Bibles which 
almost certainly belonged to Lollards. One of the later versions, 
for instance, written about 1430, has the whole Bible and the 
whole General Prologue, which would scarcely have been copied 
by or for any orthodox user; and there is a note in the scribe's 
hand against a verse in Exodus mentioning the bondage of the 
children of Israel to Pharaoh, which says: "Thus the peple 
farith now, for fere of the prelatis more and lesse^." Abuse of 
the t yranny of "prelates '^ was constant among the Lollards, and 

1 Kingsford, 208-11. ^ Id. 222, 327. 

=> Id. 226, 229, 232. * Id. 261. 

* AM, IV. 123. For the Buckinghamshire heretics in 1506 and 151 1, see 
also DH, Oxford, 258. 

« FM. I. Ivi, CC.C. Camb. 147. 


this note and the presence of the General Prologue together 
render the Lollard provenance of the manuscript reasonably 
certain. Again, the manuscript containing " Pervie's " notes and 
monogram, written in about 1427, belonged to a Lollard, for 
besides containing the General Prologue, it has a long Latin 
letter of the parish priest of "Chedingfold," written to cardinal 
Beaufort in answer to charges of Lollardy^. 

After 1508-9, the references to Lollard ownership of English 
Bibles are precise and frequent. In 1509 Richard Hillman of 
Coventry confessed that he had the Lord's prayer and the 
salutation of the angel, and the creed in English, and "another 
book he did see and had, which contained the epistles and 
gospels in English 2"; and between 1509 and 1519 Christopher 
the Shoemaker was accused of Lollardy, inter alia, because "he 
read to John Say out of a little book the words which Christ 
spake to his disciples 3." Between 1511 and 1521 a long list of 
abjurations occurred, and it is specially noticeable that the 
witnesses against the accused always mentioned the possession 
of English biblical books, or the recitation of English prayers, or 
even abihty to read English, as the principal sign of Lollardy. 

James Brewster, who was burned in 15 11, confessed to a list 
of errors which included " having a certain little book of scripture 
in English, of an old writing almost worn for age," and in the 
same year William Sweeting was accused of "having much con- 
ference with one William Man, of Boxted, in a book which was 
called Matthew^." John Higgs was charged with having in his 
custody a book of the four evangelists in English, and about 
15 17 John South wick was accused of having the book of the 
four evangehsts, a book of the epistles of Paul and Peter, the 
epistle of S. James, a book of the Apocalypse, and of Antichrist, 
of the Ten Commandments, Wychffe's Wicket, etc., in Enghsh^. 
Once when "old Durdant," his wife, his son Nicholas Durdant 

1 FM, I. Ixi, Dubl. A. i. 10. 

2 AM, IV. 135. For his use of English prayers, cf. the accusation against 
John Smith, 1509, that he held that a man was bound to know the pater 
noster, etc., in Enghsh, id. 7; and for the detection of certain Lollards be- 
cause they had learned the creed, pater and ave, etc., in English, id. 225. 

3 Id. IV. 217: from Longland's Reg. 

* Id. IV. 215, 6. For the Coventry martyrs of 1511, see DH, Lichfield, 177. 
5 AM, IV. 178, 207. 


and his son's wife, David Durdant and Robert Carver were at 
dinner with the witness's children and their wives, he bade a boy 
there standing to depart out of the house, that he should not 
hear and tell, and did recite unto them certain places out of the 
epistles of S. Paul, and of the gospels^. It was deposed further 
that Robert Pope had certain English books, and that John 
Phips read the gospels in English; moreover, the latter had 
suddenly burned his books, and when the witness told him "he 
was foul to blame, for they were worth a hundred marks," John 
had answered that he "had rather burn his books than that his 
books should burn him-." Nicholas Durdant, it was said, used 
to read to others parts of the epistles of S. Paul, and the gospels: 
and he had desired those assembled not to tell that he had any 
such English books in his house ^, lest he should be burned for 
the same. John Butler^ was accused of reading to his brother in 
a certain book of the scriptures; while Richard Butler ^ pre- 
sumably the brother, was elsewhere accused of having at divers 
times "erroneously and damnably read (aloud) in a great book 
of heresy of Robert Durdant's certain chapters of the Evange- 
lists in English, containing in them divers erroneous and damn- 
able opinions and conclusions of heresy." There can be small 
doubt that the book from which he read aloud the chapters of 
the gospels in English was a copy of the later version of the 
Wyclifiite Bible, and that the "damnable opinions and con- 
clusions of heresy" occurred not in the gospels themselves, but 
in the General Prologue. 

John and Joan Barret, and John Scrivener, again, were 
accused of possessing, reciting and lending the gospels of SS. 
Matthew and Mark, and the epistle of S. James, and others were 
accused of listening to the reading of a certain epistle of S. Paul. 
John Newman was present at a reading of the scriptures, and 
others were accused of learning the pater noster, etc., in English. 
Alice Brown and John Tracher were accused of teaching and 

* Id. 226, 230. - Id. 226, 237, from Longland's Reg. 

* He was the son of "old Durdant," the leader of a Lollard school, and 
owner of Iver Court at Staines. It was deposed against old Durdant, that 
three Lollards had sat up all night in his house, reading in a book of scrip- 
ture, and that Joan Cocks had desired Durdant her master "that he, being 
a 'known man,' would teach her some knowledge of God's law." 

•^ AM, IV. 227 ^ Id. 178. 


learning the beatitudes in English. John Butler and Thomas 
Geffrey had a scripture book in English, which the bishop took 
from them: they had also taught and learned from the same. 
Thomas Man was accused of reading from Genesis, Richard 
Ashford and others of reading in "a certain little book," whilst 
Ralph Carpenter had "certain books of the Apocalypse in 
English, and divers such books." Robert and Jenkin Butler 
were suspected for "reading two hours together in a certain 
book of the Acts of the Apostles in English, at Chesham," while 
the wife of Robert Pope had certain books in English, including 
an English primer. John Morden and Richard Ashford were 
accused of having in the house a book of the gospels, and other 
chapters in English, and Ahce Sanders of giving I2d. to buy a 
certain book in English, and attempting to buy English books 
at other times. " Geldner the elder " and others had been present 
at a reading of the epistle of S. James in English, while Thomas 
Tykill had lent a book of the gospels in English. Joan Gun had 
instructed another in the epistle of S. James, and Thomas Africh 
had "held conference in the gospel of S. Matthew^." Richard 
Collins had "a book of Luke and one of Paul," and elsewhere it 
was stated that he had quite an English library, including 
several books of the Bible, the hours of our Lady, and the Prick 
of Conscience ; his wife Alice CoUins was a famous reciter of the 
scriptures at meetings ^. Thomas Scrivener had a book of epistles 
in English, and Bennett Ward and others had the gospels of 
Matthew and Mark. Edward Pope had the gospel of S. Matthew 
in English, William Halliday the Acts of the Apostles, Thomas 
Philip and others had been reading in English biblical books, and 
John Harris's wife had been "talking of the Apocalypse" and 
other biblical books. John Edmunds and "many others" had 
possessed English biblical books, and Robert Collins had been 
" reading a certain thick book of scripture in English." The wife 
of Thomas Widemere was accused of reading the Bible in English, 
and yet another Collins, John, and his wife, "for bujdng a Bible 
of Stacey for 20 shillings." John Baker and John Hakker were 
accused for reading English scriptures, and Thomas Vincent for 
giving Hakker a book of S. Matthew in English. John Heron 

1 AM, IV. 226-34. ^ ^^' 234, 6, 5, 8, 9. 


had a "book of the exposition of the gospels fairly writ in 
English^," and Robert Bartlet had read to his brother "a parcel 
of scripture beginning thus: James, the servant of God, to the 
twelve kinds." John Jennings was detected because he had 
carried about certain books in English: and Thomas Chase be- 
cause he had been heard to recite words from the gospels and 
epistles. Agnes Ashford also had taught the words of the gospel, 
the beatitudes, etc., by heart to James Morden. 

These cases of Lollardy were nearly all collected from episcopal 
registers by Foxe, bishop of Hereford, for his Acts and Monu- 
ments. The later registers have not yet been published: but 
there is no reason to doubt that when Foxe states that he is 
quoting an episcopal register, his extracts are accurate copies 
in the sense that, though he may omit matters inconvenient for 
his case, he does not insert spurious stuff. This may be verified 
from the earlier Hereford registers, which have now been pub- 
lished in full 2, and from the Lincoln registers, which have been 
published in extract^. The most interesting case of a Lollard 
Bible reader related by Foxe from the register of the bishop of 
London* is that of Richard Hun, for sir Thomas More was 
present at his trial, and inspected his English Bible, — gathering 
his ideas of the heresy of the Wycliffite versions from the General 
Prologue, which it contained^. Hun, a Merchant Taylor of London, 
was committed to the Lollards' Tower for suspected heresy, and 
tried on 2 December, 15 14. He was accused of various heretical 
beliefs, and of having in his keeping divers English books pro- 
hibited by law, including the Apocalypse in Enghsh, the epistles 
and gospels in Enghsh ^ Wycliffe's damnable works, and other 
erroneous books. After this preliminary examination he was 
sent back to the Lollards' Tower, where he was found strangled 

^ AM, IV. 234-40. The record of Agnes Ashford's trial gives the exact 
passage from S. Matthew, v., which she taught Morden, and which he went 
five times to her house to learn; and twice he went to her to learn the 
beatitudes. Agnes was bidden recite these passages before the bishop, and 
commanded to teach them no more to any man, and especially not to her 

- CYS, Gilbert, 1375-89; Trevenant, 1389-1404. Cf. VCH, Bucks, i. 302. 

3 DH, Lincoln, Venables, E., and Perry, G.; and see Chedworth's register, 
P- 363; VCH, Bucks. I. 202-3. 

* Fitz James, see AM, iv. 173. 

* See pp. 7, 14. « AM, iv. 184. 

D.w. B. 24 


next morning: the bishop of London declared he had hanged 
himself, but the jury, after going into the case with the thorough- 
ness of amateur detectives, gave a verdict of murder. At this 
inquest, further evidence of Hun's heretical views had been 
collected by Dr Hed from the prologue of his English Bible, 
which the bishop kept; and the thirteen articles under which 
his heresy was tabulated are largely taken from the General Pro- 
logue^, which contains plenty of passages which, as sir Thomas 
More said, "good Christian men did much abhor to hear." The 
last of these thirteen articles ran: 

He defendeth the translation of the Bible and the holy scriptures 
into the English tongue, which is prohibited by the laws of our 
mother, holy Church-. 

The bishop of London then had the articles of heresy of which 
Hun was first accused, and the thirteen articles put forward at 
the inquest, published at Paul's Cross, and offered to let any man 
who doubted whether the points were "contained in this book 
or not" come to him, and examine Hun's English Bible, with 
its General Prologue, for himself, — an offer of which sir Thomas 
More must have availed himself. Hun was then formally con- 
demned of heresy, and his corpse burned at Smithfield, sixteen 
days after his death. Foxe expresses his surprise that so early a 
martyr for the protestant cause should have been in the habit 
of going to daily mass, and have had his beads in prison with 
him: but his objection shews lack of historical perspective. Like 
the early Wyclifhtes, Hun probably considered himself no heretic, 
but a devout and enlightened catholic. 

Thus the history of English Lollardy between the death of 
Wycliffe and the introduction of Tindale's New Testament offers 
ample evidence of its connexion with the use of English Bibles. 
The historical evidence shews that the Lollards made the English 
translation of the Bible and consistently practised its use, while 
no orthodox person or manual ever suggested its use by lay 
people. Certain noble personages and certain nuns probably 
had license to read it: but the evidence is much less strong for 
these than for the Lollards. 

S^5. In the light of the evidence now discussed it is easy to 
understand sir Thomas More's statement about vernacular 
1 AM, IV. 1 86. 2 Id. 1 86. 


Bibles, together with Cranmer's misapprehension, and the refer- 
ence to EngHsh Bibles in the preface to the English Bible of 
1609. Caxton, with his special knowledge, had been aware that 
manuscripts of English Bibles existed: More, of more exalted 
rank, had seen them in the houses of the great, and knew that 
they or Saxon manuscripts existed in many old abbeys of 
England. Perhaps his generalisation was made from the 
Wyclifhte Bible at the Carthusian house at Sheen, for More had 
friends among the London Carthusians; perhaps he had seen 
the copy at Sion. He had to reconcile this fact with the con- 
stitutions of Oxford of 1408, and to do so, he had but to accept 
Lyndwood's exposition of them. Bibles made before the days of 
the late master John Wycliffe were exempted from the pro- 
hibition: therefore More jumped to the conclusion that those he 
had seen must have been copies of such Bibles. Like Innocent 
III in his letter to Metz, like the Cologne jurists of 1398, like 
Purvey in his determination, and like master John Wycliffe him- 
self, More would not admit that translations of the Bible could 
be heretical per se; therefore he fell back on the supposition (to 
which much colour was lent by Tindale's work) that Wycliffe's 
Bible must have been prohibited because the translation itself 
contained heretical matter. He was quite without the oppor- 
tunity of knowing that the only Bibles which Arundel actually 
excepted in his prohibition in 1408 were unreadable Anglo-Saxon 
ones, or that the Wycliffite translation apart from its heretical 
prologue was itself an excellent and scholarly version. He did 
not even know that, before Wycliffe's day, the only classes in 
England who could often have afforded to buy biblical manu- 
scripts were French-speaking. Much less could he have known 
that the psalter and Apocalypse were the only books to be turned 
into English prose before Wycliffe, and that not fifty years before. 
Thus in the history of the Wyclifhte Bible two misappre- 
hensions have been successively held by certain scholars. These 
have assumed first, that there were mediaeval English Bibles 
before Wycliffe, and secondly, that the late fifteenth century 
manuscripts of the English Bible were copies of these, and not 
of the Wycliffite version. The prohibitions of 1408 started the 
first theory, by exempting Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and Rolle's 
psalter : Lyndwood made the theory more definite : Caxton went 

24 — 2 


further and attributed the pre-WycHffite mediaeval Bible to 
Trevisa: More followed Lyndwood: Cranmer, anxious to find 
precedents for translations, followed him and Lyndwood: and 
the preface to the English Bible of 1609 followed them all. Not 
one of these writers shews evidence of independent and critical 
research. They could not have guessed a priori, nor had they 
discovered by historical study, that both in Italy and in Germany 
orthodox nobles and convents of sisters sometimes possessed 
vernacular Bibles derived ultimately from Waldensian trans- 
lations, without the slightest knowledge of their heretical origin ; 
or that the use of Wycliffite texts by the orthodox in England 
was merely a parallel occurrence. 

The attitude of the mediaeval Church t o biblirq i frQTic]9tfr.pc 
has thus been seen to have been one of tolpratinn in pHnriplp 
and distrust in practic e. Latin Christianity was founded on S. 
Jerome's translation of the Vulgate, and could not well forget it. 
The eastern Church preserved the primitive attitude in the 
matter, and did not interfere in the making of Russian or Bul- 
garian translations. The first hostile pronouncement of the 
western Church to translations was that of Gregory VII, and 
for two important motives. First, he wished to keep Latin as 
the speech of all debatable territories between the eastern and 
western Churches, and thus to retain those lands for the western 
obedience. Secondly, he did more than any other pope to separ- 
ate the clergy from the laity, and also make them worthy of 
forming the teaching branch of the Church. From his time 
onwards the orthodox prejudice against lay knowledge of the 
biblical text hardened, except in the case of the most exalted 
personages, who were always allowed to possess them if they 
wished ; but popular "Rihip readingr and the learning of the trans- 
lations by heart, were found to lead inevitably to their exposition 
by lay. people, and gYentually Jo heresy. For this reason, the 
popularisation of such translations was forbidden in France by 
the synod of Toulouse in 1229, and a little later in Spain and the 
Empire. Innocent Ill's letter to Metz, capable of opposite inter- 
pretations, was embodied in the Decretals. When_iii±hodox, or 
semi-orthodox, teachers began to teac h lay people the p ractice 
nf r nntpTn p lativp praypr thpy were the first orthodox religious 
leaders to recommend the reading of the scriptures to lay people. 



This began in Germany, in 1386 : here the teachers recommended 
translations; in England it began ab out 1380, by teachers who 
used the Vulgate, Certain scholars, like the lawyers of Cologne, and 
the Lollard doctors at Oxford and Prague, contended that biblical 
translations were lawful: but the far more in fluential Gerson and 
the fajt hers of Constanc e th ought otherwise, and these ca rried 
ortho dox opinion with th em. Only from about 1509, and only 
in Germany, was there an orthodox movement for the populari- 
sation of the scriptures by means of translating the gospel at 
mass, and allowing ordinary lay people the use of German gospel 
and epistle books, — generally glossed, that they might not be 
exposed to the danger of misinterpreting the bare text. There 
was no contemporary and similar movement in England: for, 
while the chief fifteenth century agents of it in Germany, — the 
Brethren of the Common Life, — were orthodox, the parallel 
movement of English Lollardy was heretical. Germany was the 
only country in Europe where orthodoxy allowed the study of 
biblical translations to lay people before the Reformation, and 
this only from about 1509 onwards, when the principles of the 
Renaissance were already bearing fruit, in a soil specially pre- 
pared by the earlier efforts of the Waldensians, Beghards, 
Gottesfreunde, and Brethren of the Common Life. In England, 
as in the rest of Europe, the great majority of those familiar 
with the text of the Bible in English were Lollards, and sir 
Thomas More recognised the general state of affairs when he 
made his Messenger complain that "the Bible is in so few folks' 


I, The Twelve Conclusions of the Lollards, 1395, and the 
dating of the General Prologue to the Old Testament. 

The passage from the General Prologue referring to the "last 
parliament" (quoted partly supra, p. 257), is a close allusion to 
the third of the Twelve Conclusions, and a verbal copy of part 
of the Thirty Seven Conclusions, an expanded treatise to the 
same effect (see pp. 282-3), issued at the same time. The 
Twelve Conclusions were written in English for presentation to 
parliament in 1395, and begin: "We poor men, treasurers of 
Christ and His apostles, denounce to the lords and commons of 
the parliament certain conclusions and truths for the reformation 
of Holy Church of England." These twelve conclusions, without 
the prologue mentioning parliament (Gairdner, i. 43), were also 
written in Latin and nailed to the door of Westminster abbey 
and S. Paul's cathedral (a usual mediaeval manner of pub- 
lishing an academic thesis, cf. the similar action of the Lollard 
Pateshull in 1387; Trevelyan, 327). The original English form 
is printed in EHR, xxii. 2g2, from the MS. of Roger Dymok 
(see p. 283). The Latin form was copied by Walden ; see FZ, 361, 
and retranslated by Foxe into EHzabethan English, in AM. The 
third of the conclusions is that referred to in the Gen. Prol. (see 
supra, p. 257) : "The thirdde conclusiun, sorwful to here, is that 
the lawe of continence annexyd to presthod, that in preiudys 
of wimmen was first ordeynid, induceth sodomie in al holy 
chirche," etc., "quod lex continentiae injuncta sacerdotio, quae 
in praejudicium mulierum prius fuit ordinata, inducit sodomiam 
in totam sanctam ecclesiam," FZ, 361. 

The question has been raised whether the petition was actually 
read in parliament, or only circulated among individual lords 
and commons in London, since the Conclusions are not found on 
the parliament roll. There is however no reason to doubt 
Walden's statement: "Sequuntur conclusiones LoDardorum. . . 
porrectae pleno parliamento regni Angliae, regnante illus- 
trissimo principe Ricardo secundo, anno eius circiter xvii." 
FZ, 360, Summers, 52, state that sir Thomas Latimer and sir 
Richard Stury presented the conclusions in parliament, as do 
Trevelyan, 329, and Gairdner, i. 43. Stubbs, Constit. Hist. 11. 
512 has no doubt that the petition was actually presented in 
parliament: cf. Polit. Hist, of England, iv. 128, and for the parlia- 


ment of 1395, Rot. Pari. iii. 330. At the date, parliamentary 
procedure was, of course, much less formal than later: petitions 
presented to the king in parliament were redrafted by the royal 
lawyers before enrolment on the parliament roll as bills, whether 
the petition received the royal assent or not. The Twelve Con- 
clusions were no doubt considered too scandalous for redrafting 
and enrolment : but this does not disprove the apparent meaning 
of the words " porrectae . . . pleno parliamento," "addressed to 
parhament in session," as inferring an actual reading of the text. 
Lollard tracts of a nature as offensive to the orthodox had been 
circulated vigorously since 1384, and there is no reason to think 
the mere circulation of these conclusions as a pamphlet would 
have sent an archbishop and a bishop in hot haste to Ireland, 
recalled Richard from his campaign, drawn down his wrath on 
the Lollard knights, particularly Stury, and occasioned even a 
warning letter from the pope to the king. Boniface IX wrote 
also to the two EngHsh archbishops in Oct. 1395, exhorting them 
to greater zeal against the Lollards, and quoting the Twelve 
Conclusions, not from the Latin form nailed to vS. Paul's, but 
from the English form addressed to the lords and commons of 
parliament: the Lollards, he says, "call themselves poor men of 
the treasure of Christ and His disciples" (CPL, iv. 515), thus 
quoting the prologue, not found in the Latin form. 

The Lollard disendowment bill of 1410 (see Gairdner, i. 64, 
Walsingham, 11. 282-3, Kingsford, 65, 295, xxxvii) is an exactly 
similar case of a bill, stated by contemporaries to have been pre- 
sented in parliament, and not found enrolled in the parliament 
rolls, see Rot. Pari. iii. 623; here also no doubt