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Digby Manuscripts


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Manuscripts collected by Digby, including manuscripts relating to Roger Bacon, astrology, astronomy, the Bible, medicine and theology.


  • Creation: 9th-17th century


26.29 Linear metres (234 boxes, 5 rolls)

Language of Materials

  • Latin
  • English

Preferred Citation

Oxford, Bodleian Libraries [followed by shelfmark and folio or page reference, e.g. MSS. Digby 1].

Please see our help page for further guidance on citing archives and manuscripts.

Full range of shelfmarks:

MSS. Digby 1-233, 234a-c, 235-236; Digby Rolls 1-5

Collection ID (for staff)

CMD ID 12838


Digby Manuscripts

Biographical / Historical

Sir Kenelm Digby was the younger son of Sir Everard Digby, who was executed in 1605 for complicity in the Gunpowder Plot. He was born in 1603 and entered Gloucester Hall at Oxford in 1618, but left in 1620 and never took a degree. Until 1629 he was chiefly engaged in foreign travel, or as a naval commander. He lived a wandering life till he died on 11 June 1665.


The Digby MSS. were at first arranged in the order recorded in the three early Catalogues and the Benefactor's Register, but in 1641 they were moved to the Selden End, and arranged in the present order, until about 1790, when 19 volumes were placed apart as B. N. Digby 1-19, implying a selection placed in a separate position in the B(ibliotheca N(ova) as of special value.

Other Finding Aids

Falconer Madan, et al., A summary catalogue of western manuscripts in the Bodleian Library at Oxford which have not hitherto been catalogued in the Quarto series (7 vols. in 8 [vol. II in 2 parts], Oxford, 1895-1953; reprinted, with corrections in vols. I and VII, Munich, 1980), vol. II, nos. 1602-1839, vol. V, nos. 28191-28192, 30450-30451, vol. VI, no. 33551.

Full descriptions, in Latin, are in William D. Macray, Catalogi codicum manuscriptorum Bibliothecae Bodleianae pars nona codices a viro clarissimo Kenelm Digby, Eq. Aur., anno 1634 donatos, complectens: adiecto indice nominum et rerum (Oxford, 1883, reprinted with corrigenda and very extensive addenda by R.W. Hunt and A.G. Watson, Oxford, 1999).

The illuminated manuscripts in this collection are briefly described in O. P├Ącht and J.J.G. Alexander, Illuminated Manuscripts in the Bodleian Library, Oxford, 3 vols. (Oxford, 1966-73); with an unpublished supplement containing a concordance of shelfmarks and addenda (1974). Our best descriptions for medieval items in this collection are in Medieval Manuscripts in Oxford Libraries under MSS. Digby.

Custodial History

In 1632 Digby received by bequest from his College Tutor, the well-known Thomas Allen, the whole of the latter's collection of scientific and historical manuscripts, including several valuable volumes of Roger Bacon's works.

Immediate Source of Acquisition

The bulk of the manuscripts were given to the Bodleian by Digby, with Laud;s persuasion, between 1634-1639. As received at the Library on Dec. 30, 1634, they were contained in 5 chests, and consisted of 233 volumes, 5 rolls, and a bound catalogue of the collection (no. 234a). MS. Digby 237 was given to the Library in 1905.

In 1639 he had sent to Laud 36 oriental MSS. for the Bodleian, but they became mixed with the Laudian gift of 1640 and were registered by accident as of Laud's gift. No less than 138 are known to have been Allen's in whole or in part, representing 192 out of 250 MSS. which Allen possessed.

Related Materials

The following 36 items, listed on pp. 76-77 of the printed Summary Catalogue, are the previously mentioned Oriental MSS. Kenelm Digby sent to Laud in 1639 for a which a handlist was compiled:

  1. Nonnulla Alcorani capita, cum precatiunculis Turcice explicatis
  2. Alcoranus
  3. Borhaneddin ben Alsaathi. Compendium juridicum
  4. Revelationum Meccan. Pars
  5. Abu-Maashar. De revolutionibus annorum nativitatum
  6. Abuzied Abdalrahman, &c
  7. Shamseddinus Mohammed Alkermani Commentarii in Albokharii syntagma dict. Stellre fulgentes, vol. 1
  8. Alkermani comment. in Bokbarium tom. 3
  9. Ejusdem tom. 4
  10. Ejusdem tom. 5
  11. Althograi Lamiat alagiam cum Comment. Saphadii
  12. Gazzali. Scientiarum ad religionem spectantium praxis; pars I
  13. Ejusdem pars 2
  14. Albuni. Scientiarum sol
  15. Dhahabii Historiae pars I
  16. Ibn Arabshah. Vita Timuri
  17. Khedher ben Alkhatthab. Medicina regritudinum et remedium morborum
  18. Beidhavii in Alcoranum comment
  19. Historia pseudoprophetae. Abu Ali Omar ben Ibrahim. Arab
  20. Quadraginta Arab. de religione
  21. Albokhari. Verae et genuinre traditiones, tom. I
  22. Ejusdem tom. 2
  23. Ali Ben Abbas. Camel alsenaat. Arab
  24. Ibn Alarabi Alhatemi. Revelationes Meccanae, tom. I
  25. Ejusdem tom. 2
  26. Ejusdem tom. 3
  27. Serageddin Alsekaki. Scientiarum clavis, pars 3; cum comment. Arab
  28. Ibrahim ben Moh. ben Docmak. Margarita pretiosa
  29. Abubekr Moh. ben Alvalid. Lucema regum
  30. Algeldeki. Arcanorum demonstrationes
  31. Gazzali. Praxis scientiarum ad religionem pertinentium, tom. 3
  32. Pentateuchus, Hebr.
  33. Ejusdem tom. 3, Prophetae, &c
  34. Quinque Megilloth
  35. Comment. in tractatum Talmudicum 'De die expiationis'
  36. Ibn Sinae libri priores tres
Digby Manuscripts
Collection Level Description by Emily Tarrant; EAD version 2020 by Alice Whichelow
EAD version 2020
Language of description
Script of description

Repository Details

Part of the Bodleian Libraries Repository

Weston Library
Broad Street
Oxford OX1 3BG United Kingdom