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MS 41: Book of Hours (Use of Sarum), 15th century

Identifier: MS 41

Scope and Contents

Book of Hours in Latin from the 15th century following the Use of Sarum.

Kalendar with Astronomical Tables: the months of the Kalendar start on f. 1r and always appear on the recto, the tables start on f. 1v and always appear on the verso.

Additions to the Kalendar are all by one 15th century hand and show a connection with Yorkshire in this period. They are: 8 April Matrimonium factum fuit inter Johannem filium Briani Rouclyff et Margaretam filiam Willelmi filii Plomptoun militis apud Colthorpe anno domini MCCCCLXIIIIto et Regis E. iiiiti quarto, littera dominicalis G. ('Marriage celebrated between John, son of Brian Roucliffe, and Margaret, daughter of William, son of the soldier William Pomptoun, at Cowthorpe in the year 1464 in the reign of Edward IV, Sunday letter G'); 8 June Sancti Willelmi Eboraci Archiepiscopi ('Saint William, archbishop of York'); 17 June Sancti Botulphi abbatis. Eclipsis universalis A.D. 1433 ('Saint Botulph, abbot. Universal eclipse in the year 1433'); 17 October Sanctae Etheldredae Virginis non Martyris ('Saint Etheldreda Virgin, not Martyr'); 19 October Sanctae Frideswidae Virginis non Martyris ('Saint Frideswide Virgin, not Martyr').

Hours of the Virgin: start on f. 14r (ff. 13, 23, 28 and 31 are missing; these correspond to the beginning and end of Matins, the beginning of Lauds, the beginning of Prime, one folio of Vespers, the beginning of Compline). With this section, the prayer to Saint Thomas of Canterbury has been crossed out (f. 21r): the cult of Thomas of Canterbury was a particular target of the Reformation; Henry VIII proclaimed him a traitor rather than a martyr and ordered the suppressions of all his images in 1538.

Penitential Psalms: start on f. 33v. These seven Psalms (6, 31, 37, 50, 101, 129, and 142) are particularly connected to King David, who allegedly composed them as an atonement for his sins (David therefore is normally represented at the beginning, as in this case).

Litany: starts on f. 40r. It consists in the hypnotic invocation of a list of saints; each invocation is followed by the answer Ora pro nobis (with the plural variation Orate when more than one saint is invoked). The list begins with Kyrie eleison, Christe eleison, Kyrie eleison ('Lord have mercy, Christ have mercy, Lord have mercy'). It is followed by prayers.

Office of the Dead: starts on f. 46r (f. 45 is missing together with ff. 59 and 60). This office was intended as an intercession on behalf of the dead, in order to help them to reduce their term in Purgatory. A series of readings for this office are taken from the Book of Job and the sufferings of Job became an allegory for the trials endured by the penitent souls in Purgatory.

Commendations of Souls: starts on f 64v.

Fiteen Os: start on f. 72v. These fifteen prayers often appear in late Medieval Books of Hours. They all begin with the exclamation O (hence their name) and are attributed to Saint Bridget of Sweden, although almost certainly they were not written by her. They are introduced by the rubricated words and begin with . After each prayer a Pater Noster and Ave Maria would be recited.

Psalms of the Passion: start on f. 77r.

Psalter of Saint Jerome: starts on f. 80v. A collection of verses from the Psalms, allegedly put together by Saint Jerome, mostly with a penitential character. It is introduced by a long rubric beginning with Beatus vero ieronimus hoc modo disposuit breviter hoc psalterium ubi angelus domini docuit eum per spiritum sanctum. The dedicatory prayer in this manuscript (Suscipere dignare domine deus hoc psalterium consecratum quod ego indignus) displays the masculine form.

Prayer of Bede on the Seven Words: starts on f. 89r. Prayer composed by the Venerable Bede on the seven last words of Christ. It is introduced by a rubric beginning with the words Oratio de venerabilis bede presbiteri de septem verbis domini nostri Ihesu Christi in cruce pendentis. They parayer begins with the words Domine Ihesu Christe qui septem verba die ultima vite tue in cruce pendens.

O intemerata: starts on f. 90r. This is a special prayer dedicated to the Virgin Mary, beginning with the words O intemerata ('Oh immaculate Virgin'). It is normally present in Book of Hours. It is introduced by the rubricated words Oratio devotissima ad sanctam virginem mariam et sanctum iohannem evangelistam.

Prayers: start on f. 91v. A series of prayers to Angels and Archangels, Apostles, Martyrs, Confessors, Virgins. Some of the rubrics are illegible. The bottom of ff. 91v and 92r are badly ruined.


The script is Gothic of a fair type.


The ornamentation consists of the usual blue and red penwork initials, larger initials in burnished gold on blue and lake grounds, and complete or partial borders consisting of two bands of gold and colour surrounded by feathery branch work. Many of these are missing.


  • Creation: 15th century

Language of Materials


Conditions Governing Access

The collection is open to all. The manuscripts can be consulted in the Centre for Research Collections, Edinburgh University Main Library.


1 bound MS volume

Custodial History

Originally this seems to have been a regular Book of Hours written for a masculine owner. Neither Kalendar nor Litany are really distinctive, but additions to the Kalendar prove that it went to Yorkshire very early, and the entry on 8 April of the marriage of John, son of Sir Brian Roucliffe of Cowthorp, Yorks, and Margaret, granddaughter of Sir William Plomptoun, shows that it probably belonged to the Roucliffe family.

Apart from the additions in the Kalendar, there is further evidence of a connection with Yorkshire on f. 54 in the name Richard Banke of Whixlye Yorke (16th century). On the fly-leaf is a long, almost illegible, inscription and two names, Thomas Hall and Ralp Hall, referring apparently to later owners. Further, the erasure of a prayer to Saint Thomas of Canterbury (f. 21r) shows that the manuscript was in England in the 16th century, as the cult of Thomas of Canterbury was a particular target of the Reformation: Henry VIII proclaimed him a traitor rather than a martyr and ordered the suppressions of all his images in 1538.

An inscription has been added at the bottom of f. 1r: Filius err? colitur brevis ats globs? excipietur dura [--]suis breviter sustavit /suflavit\ filius ex [---] Dum benedictatus a grossis sex m[---]. Other additions, all by the same hand, appear at the bottom of ff. 2r, 4r and 10r.

The acquisition of the volume by W. H. Black, Antiquary and Assistant Keeper of the Record Office, is noted by the inscription on the fly-leaf Codicibus suis addidit W. H. Black, 4 September 1830, ('W. H. Black added it to his manuscripts'). David Laing enters the record of its purchase by himself at Mr. Black's sale, London, July 1873, n. 279. Other illegible marks and inscriptions appear on both sides of the fly-leaf. The manuscript is described in the Sale Catalogue pf W. H. Black (see Sale Catalogue of W. H. Black. Sotheby, London July 1873. No. 279, B.M. S.-C.S. 691 [2]), and noted as having been bought by 'Saunders' (for Laing) for £2.

Previous reference

Laing 23

Physical Facet

Material: Vellum

Binding: Modern, stamped D. L. (David Laing). Lettered Horae Virginis in Usum Sarum MS. Saec. XIV ('Hours of the Virgin according to the Use of Sarum, Manuscript, XIV century').

Collation: a12, b5 (wants 1, 3, 4), c7 (wants 5), d6, e10, f7 (wants 1), g6 (wants 7 and 8), h8-l8 = 85.


20 cm x 13.65 cm


Secundo folio: text [de]licta quis.

Foliation and number of lines to a page: ff. 85, 22 lines to a page. Since 7 ff. are missing, the original foliation would have been 92 ff. There is a double foliation in the margins of the manuscript: an older one, up to 85, and a more recent one, up to 92 (the second takes into account the missing folios and is the one referred to in this record).

Repository Details

Part of the University of Edinburgh Library Heritage Collections Repository

Centre for Research Collections
University of Edinburgh Main Library
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