Saturday, 26 January 2019

The Walsingham Bible Revisited

One of my very first blog posts, in December 2010, concerned the 12th-century Walsingham Bible at the Chester Beatty Library, Dublin. Back then, very few images had been published, and I was not allowed to take photos, but the whole manuscript has now been digitized and made available on the Library website.

The main evidence that the Bible was at Walsingham Priory from an early date is a rental -- a list of rents owed to the Abbey -- on the second leaf:
which begins "Hii sunt redditus ecclesie sancte Marie de Walsingham ...":

The main point of the 2010 blog post was to discuss the presence and relevance of an inscription on a back flyleaf (of which I then had no image):
naming Henry Burnham:
"Domine dominus [noster] qua(m) admirabile est
nomen tuu(m) i(n) univ(er)sa terra [i.e. Psalm 8:2] Henric(us)
The facing flyleaf (fol. 136r):
also has a series of inscriptions and pen-trials in Latin and English, including:
"obmutescere faciatis imprudentiam hominum [I Peter 2:15]
wendyn awey fro folke"
"D(omi)n(u)s recard(us) brunh(a)m [sic] custos [erasure]"
Men named Richard Burnham are recorded as Canons of Walsingham in the late 14th century:
and between 1437 and 1474:

Overleaf (fol. 136v)
there is a sketch of a Cross, surmounted by the letters "INRI" and surrounded by Christograms of the Name of Jesus, "IHC", within an architectural cross-section of a chapel, surrounded by the letters "C H A" to the left and "P E L" to the right, all above the words "Sancte Crucis":
This is is perhaps a reference to the nearby pilgrimage site at Bromholm(e) Priory which had a relic of the True Cross and was, with Walsingham, one of the main pilgrimage sites in Norfolk:

None of the above observations confirm where the Bible was written and illuminated, but they do provide evidence for its presence at Walsingham in the later Middle Ages.

The first known post-medieval owner was the antiquary Sir Henry Spelman (d.1641) [Wikipedia], who wrote his name at the top of the first page of the main text:

Spelman was born at Congham (near King's Lynn, Norfolk); educated at Walsingham Grammar School, and Trinity College, Cambridge; and later returned to north Norfolk, to live at Hunstanton. He was thus well-placed to acquire the Bible at some point after the Priory was dissolved in the 1530s.

Spelman's library was sold in 1709, and Humfrey Wanley (d. 1726) [Wikipedia] took notes of the manuscripts (more detailed and accurate than the published auction catalogue), now in BL, Harley MS 7055:
"Catalogue of the MSS. in the Library of Sir Henry
Spelman, sold by Auction by John Harding who bought
them, December 20, 21, & 22 A.D. 1709."
The Walsingham Bible is the very first item described, in the folio section:
[click to enlarge]
"fol. 1.  Bibliorum volumen primum, scilicet Octateuchus. cui praefigitur Redditus Ecclesie de Walsingham"

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