February image (MS 53, f. 1v)

MS 53, f. 1v

The Peterborough Psalter was illuminated in East Anglia, c.1310-20, perhaps for Oliver de Wisset. By the mid-fourteenth century it was in the possession of the prior of Peterborough Abbey. The Calendar page for February includes the saints and feast days appropriate for that month, and little roundels showing a man seated by the fire cooking winter soup and the zodiac symbol of the two fish, Pisces, for  February-March.


Bonneville 1On Tuesday the 19th of January, the Parker Library was the surprise guest star in an upcoming short film from the University development office which will feature notable Corpus Old Member, actor Hugh Bonneville, perhaps best known for his work in Downton Abbey. A few lucky Cambridge students were also involved. Filming took place in other College locations as well, including Bonneville’s old room from his undergraduate days at Corpus.

Despite Bonneville’s experience playing Lord Grantham, the only upstairs/downstairs drama of the day was based on the frigid temperatures upstairs in the Parker Library Wilkins Room, where the filming was taking place. While we were pleased to provide an atmospheric backdrop to the film, the chilliness was perhaps a too authentic touch to the 19th century space.Bonneville 2

On Friday, January 15, 2016, the St Augustine Gospels- a 6th century gospel book that is reputed to have been sent with St Augustine on his mission from Pope Gregory the Great to convert the English people- was brought from Cambridge to Canterbury Cathedral for the day to serve as inspiration to the assembled Primates at an extraordinary meeting of the Anglican leadership. The goal was for the manuscript to serve as a physical reminder of the core principles of the church; based on long tradition, the words of the Gospels themselves, and the faith that unites all believers.

Portrait of St Luke (CCC MS 286, f. 129v)

Portrait of St Luke (CCC MS 286, f. 129v)



The visit was in conjunction with the loan of an ivory crozier which is venerated as a relic of Augustine’s mentor, St (formerly Pope) Gregory, from the monastery of San Gregorio al Celio in Rome. These two items were displayed together in the crypt of Canterbury Cathedral during the closing service of the meeting. Following the ceremony, Parker Library staff gave informative talks on the manuscript in the Cathedral library, which were attended by Cathedral staff and visitors. This was an extremely rare opportunity to see the 1,400 year old manuscript out from under glass, as it is typically only available to view in its case in the Parker Library exhibition on one day a month.

The gospel book, also known as CCCC MS 286, was initially kept at St. Augustine’s abbey in Canterbury and venerated as a relic of the saint. After the dissolution of the monasteries, it was brought to Canterbury Cathedral. Decades later, Matthew Parker, (then Archbishop of Canterbury), was given a mandate by Elizabeth I to collect ancient books and documents from the realm, with which to study the history of Christianity in England and shore up the tenets of the new Anglican church. He proceeded to collect a large number of manuscripts from Canterbury Cathedral, including the Gospels, a collection which now forms the core of the Parker Library, which has been the home of the gospel book since Matthew Parker bequeathed it to his old College in 1575.

Further details are available here.

Special thanks are due to the incredibly welcoming and efficient staff of Canterbury Cathedral, whose kindness to the Parker Library staff (all a bit tired from their 5AM start from Cambridge!) really made the visit a success.





January imageThe enormous two-volume Dover Bible was made in Canterbury, c.1160, for use at Dover Priory, where it was recorded in 1389. The initial here shows the prophet Isaiah, declaiming ‘Ve genti peccatritri’ (‘Woe to the sinful nation’, Isaiah 1:4). It is marked ‘lectio i’ in the margin. According to the preface at the beginning of the Dover Bible, this was the reading begun each year on 6 January. MS 3, folio 173v (detail).

MS 178, p. 173 (detail)

The homily for VIII kalendas Ianuarii, now known as 25 December

Ælfric of Eynsham (~955 – ~1010) was an abbot, scholar and translator, who composed two series of English homilies, which explained and expounded upon Biblical events in the Anglo-Saxon language. In a fitting example for the upcoming holiday, the homily for Christmas day describes the story of the birth of Jesus, and his subsequent laying in a manger, (or, a ‘binne’ as it is in Old English, which adds a layer of grunge for the modern reader). Ælfric then continues to discuss how Jesus could be both human and divine, and the implications for Christian believers.

The Parker Library holds a number of manuscripts that contain the homilies in whole or in part: MSS 367, 419, 421, 178, 162, 302, 188, 198, and 303. In the illustration above is the beginning of the Christmas homily from CCCC MS 178, which dates from the 11th century but was later annotated in the 13th c. by the famous ‘Worcester Tremulous Hand’. This characteristically shaky handwriting is found in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts that are known to have been at Worcester, where the monk with the increasingly trembling hand studied these older texts and added small glosses and translations into Latin or Middle English. Here, we can see him provide a translation for ‘acennednysse‘ as ‘nativitate‘, both meaning birth.

Matthew Parker’s interests in Biblical translation, the vernacular church, and Anglo-Saxon theological teachings are all present in Ælfric’s Homilies, which no doubt spurred Parker’s collection of the manuscripts. From the original scribe, through the monk of the Tremulous Hand, Parker himself, and on to our modern-day researchers, this interpretation of the Christmas story has been inspiring scholars for 1,000 years.

December ImageLike the picture for October, this is a Pontifical or bishop’s service-book. It was made in Canterbury by a known scribe of the mid-eleventh century, and it was clearly part of the personal treasure of Stigand, archbishop of Canterbury 1052-70, which he deposited at Ely Abbey after he was banished from office (it has the medieval Ely Cathedral Pressmark). As shown in the Bayeux Tapestry, Archbishop Stigand crowned both Harold and William the Conqueror. The illustration shows the text for the moment of crowning. William the conqueror was crowned in Westminster Abbey on Christmas Day, Monday 25 December 1066. [MS 44, page 290]

This is the autograph presentation copy of the life of Henry V given by the author, the Italian humanist Tito Livio Frulovisi, to Henry VI, king of England 1422-71. It shows the royal arms on the first page. Frulovisi came to England probably in 1436 in the household of Humphrey, duke of Gloucester, brother of Henry V and uncle of the boy king Henry VI. The reign was not a happy one. Henry VI succeeded as a small child to a kingdom in the last stages of the Hundred Years’ War, soon to be torn apart by the Wars of the Roses. He had been crowned first in France as a baby and secondly in Westminster Abbey on Sunday 6 November 1429. [MS 285, folio 4r]  November Image


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 103 other followers