Mirror of the Life of Christ

Archive Collection
  • This material is held at
  • Reference
      GB 133 Eng MS 98
  • Dates of Creation
      Mid 15th century
  • Name of Creator
  • Language of Material
      Middle English
  • Physical Description
      1 volume. ii + 140 + ii folios, foliated 1-140 (modern foliation). Dimensions: 300 x 200 mm. Collation: 18 lacking 1 and 2, 2-118, 128 lacking 5 after f. 90, 13-168, 178 lacking 2 after f. 126, 188 (leaf 8 was a pastedown). Quires are signed in the usual late medieval way. Two leaves are missing after, f. 90 and after f. 126. Condition: f. 1r is affected by damp-staining. Medium: vellum; paper flyleaves. Binding: full brown calf, rebacked in brown morocco, ?17th century.
  • Location
      Collection available at the John Rylands Library, Deansgate.
  • Direct Link

Scope and Content

A fine illuminated manuscript of the Myrrour of the Blessed Lyf of Jesu Christ, a translation by Nicholas Love of Pseudo-Bonaventura's Meditationes vitae Christi.

Contents: Myrrour of the Blessed Lyf of Jesu Christ, a translation by Nicholas Love of the Meditationes vitae Christi. Edition of Lawrence F. Powell, (1908): see Bibliography below. The text begins imperfectly 'and euery age an euery dignite' (Powell, p. 8 line 5) and ends on f. 136v, 'with outen endinge amen' (as Powell), after which it continues on f. 137 with two paragraphs, 'And for als moche as þat blessid and worthy feste of þe precious sacrament... of alle false lollardes. Thus endith the contemplacion... nowe and euere wt outen ende Amen', and on f. 137r and v in red ink, 'Memorandum quod circa annum... (as in MS. 94, f. 2) Explicit speculum vite cristi conplete'. In the second of the two paragraphs on f. 137 the reader is advised to pick and choose as suits him rather than keep to the Monday-Sunday divisions of the text.

A leaf is missing after f. 90v, which ends 'grace inwardly' (Powell, p. 214 line 7); f. 91 begins 'the fairest the wisest' (p. 216 line 28). A further leaf is missing after f. 126v, which ends 'of þe holy' (p. 299 line 5); f. 127 begins 'haue mynde of' (p. 302 line 13). ff. 138-140v were left blank.

Script: Gothic cursive anglicana formata. Written space: 188 x 130 mm. 2 columns, 35 lines.

Secundo folio: n/a (the first quire is lacking the first and second leaves).

Decoration: There are good 5-line initials in blue and pink with white penwork on a burnished gold ground with elaborate floral infill and elaborate foliate border extensions terminating in acanthus, ivy and holly leaves and bezants, at the beginning of the sections for Tuesday (f. 26r), Wednesday (f. 37v) and Thursday (f. 56r). Numerous 3-line gilded initials on blue and pink grounds with foliate extensions.

Other features: In the blank spaces on ff. 137v-138 are recorded the births of the children of Thomas Roberts of Willesden, Middlesex (d. 1 January 1542); Alan Horde of Ewell, Surrey (d. 16 August 1553); and Edmund Horde; 16th-century legal hands.

Description derived from N.R. Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 416. By permission of Oxford University Press.

Administrative / Biographical History

The Meditationes vitae Christi, or Meditation on the Life of Christ, was believed to have been written by the famous 13th-century Franciscan John Bonaventura but more recent scholarship has now attributed it to a little-known 14th-century Italian Franciscan, Johannes de Caulibus. A devotional life of Christ, intended to be used for meditation, the original work was immensely popular all over Europe and was rendered into the vernacular of most European countries. The text emphasises Christ's human nature, and the author frequently appeals to the reader's immediate experience to make the Biblical narrative more directly present. The overall structure of the work sets the meditation over the seven days of the week and apportioned at canonical hours of the day. The translation by Nicholas Love, Myrrour of the Blessed Lyf of Jesu Christ, saw some alteration of the Latin text for his early 15th-century audience, with his introduction making it clear that he was writing for a secular readership. He retained the structure but rearranged and abridged much of the material. He includes a paraphrase of Paul's Epistle to clarify his motives, and possibly protect himself from confusion with Lollard demands for access to Holy Scriptures without priestly control.

Little is know of Love himself, though it appears that he was the prior of Mount Grace, a Carthusian monastery in Yorkshire, as a 'Dom Nicholas Love' is recorded in 1410. Nonetheless his precise dates are unknown with only a suggestion of a 1427 death.

Conditions Governing Access

The manuscript is available for consultation by any accredited reader.

Acquisition Information

Purchased by the John Rylands Library in 1905 from the London booksellers Bull & Auvache for £25; invoice dated 12 July 1905. Accession no. R12144.

Custodial History

(1) Roberts family of Willesden, Middlesex, and Horde family of Ewell, Surrey: see above.

(2) Annotated 'Brindley' in a 16th-century hand of f. 61r, with the forename 'John' added in a 17th-century hand.

(3) Robert Knyvett. Inscription 'Robert Knyuett oweth this booke' on f. 138v, 17th century. A Robert Knyvett of Westminster gent. is recorded in 1611 (Norfolk Record Office, KNY 473 372 x 1). Sir Robert Knyvett bart of Buckenham, Norfolk, died in 1699 (Burke's extinct and dormant baronetcies (1841), p. 295: see Bibliography below).

(4) Thomas William Evans. Armorial bookplate inside the back cover, 19th century.

Related Material

The JRUL holds other manuscripts of the Mirror of the Life of Christ: see English MS 94 and English MS 413.

Bibliography

W.N.M. Beckett, 'Love, Nicholas (d. 1423/4)', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004): http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/ref:odnb/53111.

John Burke, A genealogical and heraldic history of the extinct and dormant baronetcies of England, 2nd edition (London: printed for Scott, Webster and Geary, 1841).

Carl Horstmann (ed.), Yorkshire writers: Richard Rolle of Hampole and his followers (London and New York: 1896).

N.R. (Neil Ripley) Ker, Medieval manuscripts in British libraries, vol. III, Lampeter-Oxford (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1983), p. 416.

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. 36-7.

Lawrence F. Powell (ed.), The Mirrour of the blessed lyf of Jesu Christ: a translation of the Latin work entitled Meditationes Vitae Christi (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1908).