Fifteenth-Century Sermons Collection

  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 109
  • Dates of Creation
      1st half 15th century [1432?]
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English  and Latin
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. vi + 123 + ii folios, foliated (i-iii), 1-126, (127-8) (modern foliation). A now damaged foliation in the hand of item 4, ff. 1-143, repeats two numbers, 23 or 24 and 27 or 28, and takes account of fourteen of the leaves missing from item 3; it was made when items 1 and 2 were in their present state, when the first leaf of item 3 was out of place and the second leaf missing and when the gap after f. 101 already existed (Ker). Dimensions: 283 x 205 mm. Collation of ff. 4-126 and Norwich ff. 1-8: 120 lacking 1 and 16-20 (16-20 were probably blank), 2 nineteen (ff. 18-36), 312 lacking 2 and 12 (ff. 54, 37-45), 412 lacking 7 and 11 (ff. 46-51; Norwich ff. 5-7; f. 52), 512 lacking 2 and 3 after f. 53 and 7-9 after f. 57 (ff. 53, 56-60), 612 lacking 7-9 after f. 66, 712 lacking 10-12 (ff. 70-4; Norwich ff. 1-4), 8 four (ff. 75-8), 914 (ff. 79-92), 1012 lacking 5-7 after f. 96, 1116 (ff. 102-17), 1210 (ff. 118-22; Norwich f. 8; ff. 123-6). Condition: ff. 59-60 are torn, with significant loss of text towards the foredges; generally the manuscript is damp-affected, with some staining and abrasion to the edges of leaves. Medium: paper, except ff. 75-8 which are vellum. Binding: blind-tooled calf binding, 19th century.

Scope and Content

A composite manuscript containing a collection of sermons in English called the Mirror, and two other collections of sermons, one in English, the other Latin, together with a table of contents for the entire volume, added in the early 16th century. Eight leaves have been separated from this manuscript and now form Norwich Cathedral MS 5, deposited in the Norfolk Record Office (see below). These leaves follow ff. 51, 74 and 122 in the Rylands manuscript.

Contents: (1) ff. 4-17r (1-14 in the old foliation): Eight sermons of the temporal in English. The first, 'In omni tempore benedic deum', begins imperfectly on f. 4v: 'hert when þu kepes it clene fro syne and so þu schalt se god almighty'. f. 17v, left blank, contains seventeen lines in two mid-15th century hands, 'yo might \and yo through/ of ye fader almighte of heuen... is madde of noȝt'.

(2) ff. 18v-36v (15-31 in the old foliation, wrongly): Seven sermons of the temporal in Latin, for the first four Sundays in Advent, Christmas Eve, Septuagesima and Sexagesima. 'Dominica prima aduentus domini. Cum appropinquasset... Appropinquacio cristi versus hierusalem significat... in altitudine multipli-' (ending imperfectly).

(3) Rylands ff. 54, 37-51; Norwich ff. 5-7; Rylands ff. 52-53, 55-74; Norwich ff. 1-4; Rylands ff. 75-122; Norwich f. 8; Rylands ff. 123-6: A collection of sermons in English called the Mirror, a translation of the Miroir of Robert de Gretham. This and five other copies are noted by T.G. Duncan, p. 204 (see Bibliography below). f. 54r is headed 'Assit principio sancta maria meo'. 'M[any more ther ben that] haue will' to here rede romance and iestes... ne eigh of wordely man se. Amen. Explicit iste liber'. The text within square brackets was supplied by Ker from Magdalene College, Cambridge, Pepys 2498. About twenty leaves are missing and ff. 59-60 are damaged. The text is a series of temporal sermons from Advent to the 24th Sunday after Pentecost, preceded by a preface and followed as in Bodleian Library, Holkham misc. 40, etc. by a miscellaneous tail (ff. 102-126v: cf. James, Catalogue, p. 306). The first scribe finished his work on f. 78v, 'but þei lost non fisshe and þt' at the foot of the first column, and left the second column blank. The second scribe began f. 79 with the same seven words, 'bot þei loste no fysshe. And þt'. f. 101v ends 'ne for \no/ noþer letting' and f. 102 begins a new sermon 'Missus est gabriel...'. In Bodleian, Holkham misc. 40, these words come on f. 103v at lines 8 and 28 respectively, so the leaf which is presumably missing after f. 101 may have been mostly blank.

The eight leaves now in Norwich contain the sermons for Septuagesima, Sexagesima, and Quinquagesima (ff. 5-7), for Trinity and the two Sundays after Trinity (ff. 1-4) and on the Creed and Pater Noster (f. 8). The Quinquagesima, Trinity and Pater Noster sermons are now divided between Norwich and Rylands (Norwich f. 7, Rylands ff. 52-3; Rylands ff. 73-4, Norwich f. 1; Norwich f. 8, Rylands f. 123).

(4) ff. 1-2v, A table of items 1-3 in an early 16th-century hand, with leaf numbers running from 1 to 144. It begins 'In omni tempore Benedic deum. fo 1'. f. 3r-v blank.

Script: Gothic current anglicana; items 1 and 2 are in different hands, and item 3 is in two further hands, changing at f. 79. Written space: c.215 x 155 mm at first, increasing to 232 x 175 mm on f. 126. 40-54 long lines (40 lines throughout quires 3-8).

Secundo folio: hert when þu (f. 4r).

Decoration: Numerous crudely drawn 2-line initials in red ink.

Other features: In item 1 the scribe wrote a catchword on each verso and on some rectos. Ruling with a hard point in quires 3-7: frame ruling in ink in quires 9-12. Manicules on ff. 29v, 32r, 32v, 33v, 34v, 35v, 36v, 37v.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 418-20. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Administrative / Biographical History

See Manuscript Description below.

Access Information

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1910 from the London bookseller Bernard Quaritch for £35; invoice dated 24 March 1910. Accession no. R21638.

Other Finding Aids

Described (as Latin MS 179) in M.R. James, A descriptive catalogue of the Latin manuscripts in the John Rylands University Library, revised edition (München: Kraus Reprint, 1980), pp. 305-6.

Separated Material

Eight leaves were removed from this manuscript at some date between 1836 and 1859, and now form Norwich Cathedral MS 5, deposited in the Norfolk Record Office (reference DCL 5). These leaves follow the present manuscript's f. 51 (Norwich ff. 5-7), f. 74 (Norwich ff. 1-4), and f. 122 (Norwich f. 8). For further information see Ker.

Custodial History

(1) Welbeck Abbey, Nottinghamshire. Inscription on f. 126v 'Iste liber constat A[...] de W[...] \domino Roberto Prestwold/. Si quis hunc librum a predict' [...] alienauerit anatema sit. amen. Et scriptus erat Anno domini Millesimo CCCCmo xxxmo secundo' may apply to item 3 only, but the table of contents in item 4 shows that the manuscript was together by the early 16th century. M.R. James read the third and fourth letters of the erased placename as 'lb' and Ker agrees with him in identifying it as the Premonstratensian abbey at Welbeck, north Nottinghamshire. Traces suggest that the other two missing words are 'Abbathie' and 'Abbathia'. Professor Angus Macintosh advised Ker that a north Nottinghamshire origin for this manuscript would suit the linguistic evidence. 'The list of contents (art. 4) and the foliation are in a distinctive current mixed anglicana-secretary which seems to be the same as the hand in lists of contents, foliations, etc., in manuscripts now at Gray's Inn, London (see MMBL i. 50-1) and at Shrewsbury School, most of which come from Cheshire, but one probably from Staffordshire and one from Derbyshire, not very distant from Welbeck, whence the manuscript had been alienated, it seems, before s. xvi' (Ker).

(2) Robert Prestwold. See the amendment to the Welbeck inscription above.

(3) John Voudon? Inscribed 'Iste liber pertinet bear this in mind ad me Iohannem Voudon (?) both' on f. 78v, 16th century. Ker points out that 'courteous and kind' is the conventional ending of this form of ex-libris.

(4) Thomas Gibbon. Inscribed 'Tho. Gibbon' on f. i recto, 17th century.

(5) John Henley (1692-1756), dissenting minister and eccentric. Lot 215 in the Henley sale on 12 June 1759.

(6) Thomas Thorpe (1791-1851), bookseller. No. 1157 in Thorpe's catalogue for 1836 at £1 11s 6d; the relevant cutting from the catalogue (inside the cover of the fragment in Norwich) evidently refers to both the Rylands manuscript and the Norwich fragment, since it gives the date as 1432.

(7) Charles Clark (1806-1880) of Totham Hall, Essex, farmer and private printer. Bookplate inside the front cover, containing twenty lines of verse, entitled 'A pleader to the needer when a reader' (all caps), dated 1859 in pencil. Clark privately printed the sermon on 'The rich man and Lazarus' in a book called The style of preaching four hundred years ago (1837). Lot 1688 in a sale at Sotheby's, 28 November 1861.


James Bettley, 'Clark, Charles (1806-1880)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004):

Alan Brignull, Charles Clark: the bard of Totham (Loughborough: Hedgehog Press, 1990).

Charles Clark, Style of preaching four hundred years ago: exhibited in a sermon on 'The rich man and Lazarus'. Now first printed (verbatim) from the original manuscript, of the date of 1432 (Great Totham, Essex: privately printed by Charles Clark, 1837).

T.G. (Thomas Gibson) Duncan, 'Notes on the language of the Hunterian Ms. of the Mirror', Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, vol. 69 (1968), pp. 204-8.

Thomas G. (Thomas Gibson) Duncan, The Middle English Mirror: sermons from Advent to Sexagesima edited from Glasgow University Library, Hunter 250... (Heidelberg: Universitåtsverlag Winter, c.2003).

M.R. (Montague Rhodes) James, A descriptive catalogue of the Latin manuscripts in the John Rylands University Library, comprising a reprint of M.R. James's 1921 Catalogue with introduction and additional notes by Frank Taylor (München: Kraus Reprint, 1980).

N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), pp. 418-20.

G.A. (Godfrey Allen) Lester, The index of Middle English prose. Handlist 2, a handlist of manuscripts containing Middle English prose in the John Rylands University Library of Manchester and Chetham's Library, Manchester (Cambridge: Brewer, 1985), pp. 40-9.

Graham Midgley, 'Henley, John (1692-1756)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004):

Samuel Paterson, A catalogue of the original manuscripts, and manuscript collections, of the late... John Henley... which will be sold by auction, by S. Paterson, 21th [really 12th] June 1759 (London: 1759).

Thomas Thorpe, Catalogue of an unrivalled collection of rare, curious, and useful books, in various languages and every department of literature... (London: Thomas Thorpe, 1836).