Sherbrooke Missal

Reference: NLW MS 15536E

This beautiful Missal made from parchment dates back to c. 1310 - c. 1320 and originates from East Anglia. It is considered a very important manuscript as it is one of the earliest examples of a Missal of an English source. This is also the first medieval musical manuscript to be placed on The National Library’s 'Digital Mirror' as this section was known.

The manuscript’s contents

Sarum Missals were books produced by the Church during the Middle Ages for celebrating Mass throughout the year. According to William Marx it is thought that the Sherbrooke Missal is one of the earliest examples of a Missal of an English source, as there are only two others which pre-date this manuscript. This manuscript differs from other Missals of the same period as it includes many images which represent the text. The manuscript has attracted a lot of attention recently as its decoration and the style of its pictures and figures are very similar to the ones found in the Queen Mary Psalter manuscript which is now held in The British Library. The Queen Mary Psalter is a remarkable manuscript from the beginning of the 14th century which was given to Queen Mary during her reign as Queen of England (1553-1558). Just like the Queen Mary Psalter, the Sherbrooke Missal is exceptional due to the vast and unusual amount of colourful and beautiful miniatures which can be found in the manuscript.

The manuscript’s background

This manuscript belonged to the library of the Sherbrooke family in Oxton, Nottinghamshire from the 16th century through to the 19th century, and it is from here that its name derives. From there it came to be a part of the library of the designer, author and socialist William Morris (1834-1896). In December 1898 the manuscript, as well as over a thousand other items from Morris’s home at  Kelmscott Manor, Gloucestershire, were sold at auction by Sotheby’s. The manuscript was bought by Henry Yates Thompson (1838-1928), possibly the greatest collector of manuscripts of his day, and it was part of his collection until it was sold at Sotheby’s in March 1920. It was bought by Miss Gwendoline E. Davies (1882-1951), humanitarian and a great patron of the arts in Wales. She became famous with her sister, Miss Margaret S. Davies (1884-1963), for promoting the arts from their home at Gregynog mansion, near Newtown. Margaret Davies presented the manuscript to The National Library of Wales in 1951.

Further reading

  • Marx, William, ‘Iconography and meaning in the Sherbrooke Missal’, in Edwards, A.S.G., (ed.), Decoration and Illustration in Medieval English Manuscripts, English Manuscript Studies 1100-1700, volume 10, (London: The British Library, 2002)

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