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Seneca; author
; production


Frank McClean


illuminated manuscript


other; type of text


circa 1350 circa 1399
with fifteenth-century additions


fourteenth century, second half


PHYSICAL DESCRIPTION: Parchment, i modern paper flyleaf + i lifted parchment pastedown + i parchment flyleaf (foliated 1) + 217 fols. (foliated 2-218) + i lifted parchment pastedown + i modern paper flyleaf, 270 x 185-190 mm (185 x 90 mm, 240 x 160 mm on heavily glossed pages), one column of 28 lines, ruled in hard point and plummet, running headers, leaf signatures

BINDING: Sixteenth century?, red leather over wooden boards with two metal clasps on leather straps and small metal bosses at the centre and each corner of the upper and lower boards; modern spine repair.

fol. 1r Notes on the name Hercules and on the genre of tragedy
fols. 2r-218r Lucius Annaeus Seneca, Tragedies with argumenta and commentary in the text hand, and further glossing

DECORATION: Six scenes taken from the Tragedies, drawn in brown ink over erased ornamental initials: fol. 2r Hercules furens, Hercules shoots arrow at Megaera and child; fol. 26v Thyestes, Tantalus reaches for fruit; fol. 47r Thebais, Oedipus; fol. 60r Phedra, Phaedra stabs herself; fol. 82v argumentum to Oedipus, Jocasta; fol. 82v Oedipus, Jocasta with sword; fol. 102r Troades, Aegisthus; ink drawings of heads and a king (?) on parchment flyleaves.

ORNAMENTATION: Ten ornamental initials [8-10 ll.] (fols. 2r, 26v, 47v, 60r, 82v, 102r, 124v, 144r, 163r, 181r), at the start of each play and eight ornamental initials [4-8 ll.] (fols. 2r, 26r, 47r, 59v, 82v, 102r, 124r, 143v) for argumenta to the plays, both extending into short acanthus borders painted with thin washes of either magenta, purple and orange, or green, brown and orange, through which under-drawing is still clearly visible; alternate red or blue initials [2 ll.], not executed after fol. 200r, for lesser divisions in the text, guide letters visible; one-line red or blue initials for lesser divisions in the gloss; alternate red and blue paraph marks signalling the change of speaker in text and gloss; marginalia, closely associated with a contemporary glossing hand, notably on fol. 4v (a protruding tongue acts as a pointer to the text), fol. 11r (human and boar heads), fol. 13r (head of Hercules wearing lion-skin), fol. 58r (dancer).

Place (legacy):

Italy, production, region


illumination; whole


parchment; support
gold; medium




bequeathed; 1904; McClean, Frank


Ownership inscription in a fourteenth-century hand, T[]cor Johanni, followed by note of purchase (fol. 1v); motto TE FORTUNA SEQUOR added in a fifteenth-century hand (fol. 1v); note in Hebrew (upper margin, fol. 218r); in the hands of a Spanish reader in the sixteenth century (fol. 5v, marginal note in Spanish); Ambroise Firmin Didot (1790-1876), his 1850 bookplate on verso of upper pastedown; his sale, Paris, June 1878, lot 23; Frank McClean (1837-1904); his bequest, 1904.


McClean, Frank; previous owner
Didot, Ambroise Firmin; previous owner


secundo folio; fol. 3r; Iraque nostra fruitur. In laudes suas


Saxl, F.. Meier, Hans-Rudolph. 1953. Catalogue of Astrological and Mythological Illuminated Manuscripts of the Latin Middle Ages.London:
III. i, 440-41 and III. ii, pl. XXXV, abb. 91 and 92 (fols. 2r and 60r)

James, Montague Rhodes, Dr. 1912. A descriptive catalogue of the McClean Collection of Manuscripts in the Fitzwilliam Museum.Cambridge (Cambs.): Cambridge University Pressp. 310

Morgan, Nigel. Panayotova, Stella. Reynolds, Suzanne. 2011. A Catalogue of Western Book Illumination in the Fitzwilliam Museum and the Cambridge Colleges. Part Two. Vols. 1-2: Italy and the Iberian Peninsula.London: Harvey Miller Publishers
cat. no. 350

MacGregor, A. P.. Temporini, H.. Haase, W.. 1985. The Manuscripts of Seneca's Tragedies: A Handlist.Berlin:
Source Title: Aufstieg und Niedergang der Romischen Welt(1985)
p. 1169


Object Number: MS McClean 161
(Manuscripts and Printed Books)
(record id: 176586; input: 2010-04-25; modified: 2017-04-25)


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