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Tragedies: MS McClean 161

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Object information

Current Location: In storage




Author: Seneca




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).


History note: 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.

Acquisition and important dates

Method of acquisition: Bequeathed (1904) by McClean, Frank


14th Century, second half
Circa 1350 CE - Circa 1399 CE

People, subjects and objects depicted


  • Cambridge Illuminated

Materials used in production


Components of the work

Support composed of parchment

Techniques used in production


Inscription or legends present

  • Text: Iraque nostra fruitur. In laudes suas
  • Location: Fol. 3r
  • Type: Secundo folio

References and bibliographic entries

Identification numbers

Accession number: MS McClean 161
Primary reference Number: 176586
Project ID: 474
Stable URI

Audit data

Created: Saturday 6 August 2011 Updated: Monday 24 August 2020 Last processed: Thursday 3 August 2023

Associated departments & institutions

Owner or interested party: The Fitzwilliam Museum
Associated department: Manuscripts and Printed Books

Citation for print

This record can be cited in the Harvard Bibliographic style using the text below:

The Fitzwilliam Museum (2023) "Tragedies" Web page available at: Accessed: 2023-11-29 20:27:49

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{{cite web|url= |title=Tragedies |author=The Fitzwilliam Museum|accessdate=2023-11-29 20:27:49|publisher=The University of Cambridge}}

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