Fortune-telling tracts

The drawing of Plato and Socrates in this manuscript of fortune-telling texts is curious in that the artist has reversed their roles: Socrates, who famously wrote nothing, is shown holding a pen; while Plato, whose beautifully written dialogues are the primary source for Socrates’ life and thought, seems to be dictating to him. The similarity the drawing bears to the engraving in Bocchi’s Symbolicarum Quaestionum is superficial but nevertheless striking. In the latter Socrates’s daimon provides artistic inspiration; here, Socrates is an intermediary between divine fortune and the textual prophecies contained in the manuscript.


In the hand of Matthew Paris (d. 1259); miniatures, also by Paris

In Latin, on parchment; seventy-two leaves (some leaves missing), 172 x 128 mm

Nineteenth-century English binding for the Bodleian: half brown calfskin over marbled boards