– notes, frequently asked questions and useful links from the archivist and curator of manuscripts at Balliol College, University of Oxford. Opinions expressed are the author's own.

Annual Record – MS 116

Balliol MS 116 f68r (detail)

Further details about the illustration in the Archivist’s report, Annual Record 2017:

The manuscript of which this illuminated initial is part is Balliol MS 116, a 13th century copy of Eustratius’ In Ethica, a Greek commentary on Aristotle’s Nichomachean Ethics whose translation into Latin was an important later work of  Robert Grosseteste (c.1170–1253), the prominent and prolific scientist, theologian, and bishop of Lincoln. While teaching at Oxford 1225-1231, Grosseteste became rector of the parish of Abbotsley in Huntingdonshire (now in Cambridgeshire). A century later, the young Balliol College acquired the advowson of this parish, which it still holds.

In this illustration on folio 68 recto (detail) showing unusual relevance to the adjacent text, two tiny winged grotesques converse inside a foliate initial D at the beginning of Book IV, ‘Dicamus autem deinceps de liberalitate’ (‘Moreover, let us speak next of generosity.’) The illumination measures 30 x 30 mm (just over an inch square) as enclosed by the blue square border. More images of this manuscript can be viewed online.

The original will be on display during the Michaelmas exhibition of Balliol’s medieval manuscripts at St Cross.

MS116-f068raBalliol MS 116 f.68r, full page, measuring 225 x 340 mm, close to the modern A4 (210 by 297 mm) or North American 8 1/2 x 11″.

More about each of Balliol’s medieval manuscript books

RAB Mynors’ catalogue of the manuscripts

Explore images from across Balliol’s archives and manuscript collections

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