Attributed to the MacDurnan Gospels Binder

[New Testament in Middle English]. Manuscript on vellum.
[England: possibly London, c. 1400–1425]. (Prothro B-281)

One of Bridwell Library's great treasures, this Wycliffite manuscript was donated by Elizabeth Perkins Prothro in 1996. The high esteem given to the book by its late sixteenth-century owner is attested by its fine gilt calfskin binding. The ornate centerpiece block, dotted background, elegant cornerpieces, and the leafy hatched tool that extends out of the centerpiece indicate that it may be the work of the still-unidentified “MacDurnan Gospels Binder” (named after a famous binding at Lambeth Palace). Active from the 1560s to the late 1580s, this binder was favored by the wealthiest of English patrons, including Elizabeth I.

Dr. Stephen Shepherd, formerly Associate Professor of English at SMU, has suggested an identification for the owner whose initials “HS” appear on the upper cover: the English scholar Sir Henry Spelman (c. 1564–1641), noted for his large collection of medieval texts and his expertise in the languages and ecclesiastical laws of pre-Reformation England. The key to this identification is the contemporary signature of “Worm,” written within the manuscript. Spelman corresponded regularly with Dr. Olë Worm (1588–1654), Professor of Latin, Greek, Physics, and Medicine at the University of Copenhagen, who often advised Spelman on Anglo-Saxon etymologies and interpretations. Letters from Worm to Spelman also show that they often sent each other books as gifts. It is therefore possible that this Wycliffite manuscript was a gift from Spelman to Worm, from one Protestant antiquarian to another.

<a href="/items/browse?advanced%5B0%5D%5Belement_id%5D=50&advanced%5B0%5D%5Btype%5D=is+exactly&advanced%5B0%5D%5Bterms%5D=Prothro+B-281">Prothro B-281</a>
The Sixteenth Century
"MacDurnan Gospels Binder"