Calligraphic Manuscript of The Breastplate of Saint Patrick

Archive Collection

Scope and Content

Calligraphic manuscript of the hymn and prayer 'The Breastplate of St Patrick', written on vellum and illuminated in the insular style by Edith A. Ibbs in 1910.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Breastplate (or Lorica) of St Patrick, the prayer popularly attributed to the patron saint of Ireland, is found in many versions, in both Latin and Gaelic, from the eight century onwards. Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895), the Irish hymn-writer and poet, composed a metrical version in English in 1889. The words were set to music by Sir Charles Villiers Stanford in 1902, and the hymn was published in the English Hymnal of 1906, edited by Ralph Vaughan Williams. The hymn proved to be an immediate success and it has never lost its popularity. The opening lines are: "I bind unto myself today | The strong Name of the Trinity, | By invocation of the same | The Three in One and One in Three."

Little has been published on Edith Annie Ibbs, but the following information has been derived from the online 1881, 1891 and 1901 Censuses. She was born in Fetcham, Surrey, in 1863, the daughter of Robert Giles Ibbs, schoolmaster, and his wife Martha Eliza; she had one sister, Alice Eva. In 1881 the family was living in Selborne Place in Littlehampton, Sussex. Ten years later Martha was a widow, and Edith, then aged twenty-eight, was an art student, still residing in Selborne Place. By 1901 Edith had moved to the parish of Christ Church, Southwalk, and described herself as an artist.

Edith Ibbs was clearly an accomplished and highly regarded calligrapher, in an era when the art was enjoying a remarkable revival under the leadership of Edward Johnston. She is known to have illustrated two books for the London publishers Seeley & Co.: The sacred seasons: readings for the Sundays and Holy Days of the Christian year from the writings of the Right Reverend Handley C.G. Moule, selected by 'F.M.Y.' (1907), and The confessions of Saint Augustine (1909), with miniatures and illuminated borders adapted by Miss Ibbs from manuscripts in the British Museum and the Bibliotheque Nationale. She also illuminated two books for Constable & Co.: Songs from the plays of Shakespeare with illuminated initials and borders, and Sonnets by Shakespeare, with illuminated initials and borders by Edith Ibbs, both published in 1913.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library from the Manchester booksellers Sherratt & Hughes for £10 10s in February 1916.

Note

Description compiled by Henry Sullivan, project archivist, and John Hodgson, Keeper of Manuscripts and Archives.

Other Finding Aids

Catalogued in the Hand-List of the Collection of English Manuscripts in the John Rylands Library, 1928 (English MS 126).

Subjects