Collections’ Highlights

The Rosebery Richard Rolle: The Psalms and Canticles in Latin with Pre-Wycliffite Middle English Translation and Commentary

Collection ID





ca. late 1300s–early 1400s




Latin and Middle English


Ink on Parchment


193 folios;12 1/8 × 8 3/8 × 3 1/4 in. (30.8 × 21.3 × 8.3 cm)

Exhibit Location

On View in The History of the Bible, Translating the Bible

The English mystic Richard Rolle (d. 1349) translated the Psalms and canticles into Middle English. This copy of his work was probably made at a convent in Yorkshire, England about fifty years after his death. Rolle broke up each psalm into short Latin passages that are not the same as modern verses. Next, he translated each passage. Rolle added commentary in Middle English, perhaps to guide the hermit Margaret Kirkby. This manuscript begins with the end of his commentary on Psalm 7 and is almost complete. One quire is missing. The manuscript once belonged to the family of the Earl of Rosebery.

Created around 1380 in Yorkshire, England. Probably utilized by preachers for community readings in the 15th and 16th centuries. [1] Acquired by Adam Clarke (1762–1832), Methodist minister, until 1832; Purchased at auction in 1832 by Thomas Thorpe (1791–1851) until 1836; Privately purchased in 1836 by Sir Thomas Phillipps (1792–1872) until 1872; [2] Purchased at auction in 1897 by Bernard Quaritch. Acquired by John Scott of Halkshill, Largs (Ayrshire); Purchased at auction in 1923 by Archibald P. Primrose, 5th Earl of Rosebery and Prime Minister (1847–1929), until 1929; [3] By descent in the Primrose family; Purchased at auction in 2009 by Green Collection, Oklahoma City, Oklahoma; [4] Donated in 2012 to Museum of the Bible, Washington, DC.

Notes: [1] The presence of female autographs in the margins (see “Elizabeth” in fol.177r.) suggests that this manuscript was likely copied by nuns for devotional use in a convent in the area of Yorkshire around 1380. It was subsequently marked with distinctions of the type commonly used by preachers, indicating its use for public readings. [2] Sotheby’s, June 20, 1836, Lot 30. This was one of 1,600 manuscripts acquired by Phillipps this year. See Seymour de Ricci, English Collectors of Books & Manuscripts (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1930), p. 122 and Thomas Thorpe, Catalogue of Upwards of Fourteen Hundred Manuscripts (London: Thomas Thorpe, 1836), no. 526. [3] Sotheby’s May 17, 1897, Lot 623 and Sotheby’s, March 27, 1905, Lot 1923. [4] Sotheby’s, December 8, 2009, Lot 48.

Selected References:

Steve Green, Jackie Green, and Bill High, This Dangerous Book (Harper Collins, 2017).

Sarah Elizabeth Gross. “'Sed Rudibus et Indoctis": Women, Orthodoxy, and the Rosebery Rolle Manuscript." Master’s Thesis, Baylor University. 2012.

Museum of the Bible Publications:

Roland S. Werner, Unser Buch: Die Geschichte der Bibel von Mose bis zum Mond (Our Book: The Story of the Bible from Moses to the Moon). (Vandenhoek & Ruprecht GmbH & Co. KG and Museum of the Bible, 2017), 75.

Jerry A. Pattengale, ed., Museum of the Bible Curriculum (Museum of the Bible and Compedia Software & Hardware Ltd., 2016-2017).

Jennifer Atwood and Stacey Douglas, eds. Passages: Exploring the Bible in Four Movements. An Exhibition Guide. (Museum of the Bible, 2015), 70.

David Trobisch, Jennifer Atwood, Jonathan Kirkpatrick, and Rory P. Crowley, Verbum Domini II: God’s Word Goes Out to the Nations. (Museum of the Bible and Abilene Christian University Press, 2012), 114-115.

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