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St. Birgitta of Sweden's Revelationes (1492) in York Minster Library.

The seven hundred revelations of St. Birgitta of Sweden were first printed in Lubeck in 1492 at the press of Bartholomaeus Ghotan in an edition that was commissioned by the mother-house of the Birgittine order at Vadstena in Sweden. According to the colophon, two men, a brother named Petrus Ingemari (later confessor general at Vadstena, d. 1526), and a lay brother named Gerhardus (a German by birth, d. 1515, who was described in the Diarium Vadstenense as a "bonus pictor"), went to Lubeck on September 27, 1491, to oversee the printing. Both brethren returned to Vadstena on November 25, 1492, taking with them several unbound copies. (1) The edition opens with the Epistola domini Johannis Cardinalis de Turrecremata, an abbreviated version of the defense by the Spanish Dominican Cardinal Juan de Torquemada (1388-1468) in response to the controversy surrounding the Revelationes at the Council of Basel in the 1430s. (2) Then follows the defense by Birgitta's Swedish confessor, Master Matthias of Linkoping, which is widely known from its incipit as the Stupor et mirabilia, and constitutes a prologue to the seven Books of Revelationes. The main part of the volume is taken up with Books I-VII which are followed by certain additional materials: the Epistola solitarii ad reges (an endorsement of the saint by her later confessor and general editor, Alphonso of Jaen), Book VIII (a collection of political revelations), the Regula s. Salvatoris (the Birgittine Rule), Sermo Angelicus (the liturgy for the Birgittine nuns), Quattuor orationes (four prayers in praise of Christ and the Virgin), and Revelationes Extravagantes (various additional materials that were not incorporated into the canonization edition). At the end is the Vita abbreviata sanctae Birgittae, an extensive alphabetical index, and a prayer addressed to St. Birgitta. (3)

The Ghotan printing marks the end of a long and complex process of textual transmission that began in the 1340s with Birgitta writing down her visions in her native tongue. (4) Her Swedish text was then translated into Latin, and after her death in 1373 a revision was carried out by Alphonso of Jaen to meet the requirements of the canonization committees appointed by the papacy. None of the earliest drafts in Swedish or Latin survives, except for two fragments in Birgitta's own hand that are now housed in the National Library in Stockholm. (5) From the late fourteenth century until the early sixteenth century, hundreds of copies in Latin were made. The estimated 180 manuscripts that survive today fall into four main groupings that are broadly associated with centers or regions of Birgittine influence, in particular, Naples, Prague, Vadstena, England and Germany. During this period the text was augmented with supplementary and explanatory materials, and the ordering of the Books of Revelations was subject to rearrangement. In fact, it was not until Ghotan's first printed edition that the Birgittine corpus became properly defined for the first time. (6) This printing had a run of eight hundred copies on paper and sixteen deluxe copies on parchment. Today, about fifty copies of the 800 volumes printed on paper survive in libraries throughout the world, and just four copies of those printed on parchment are extant. (7)

York Minster Library possesses a paper copy of Ghotan's edition (Library Class mark XII. J.9). The volume is first mentioned in the catalogue of the Minster Library, which was compiled in 1638, and entered as "Turra Cremata de Revelacionibus S. Birgittae," referring to the opening text, Torquemada's Epistola. (8) This catalogue was compiled as a consequence of the substantial donation of more than three thousand books to the library in 1628 by the widow of Archbishop Tobie Matthew, who was born in Bristol in 1546 and spent the years from 1559 to 1583 in Oxford before becoming bishop of Durham 1583 and archbishop of York in 1606. (9) Although it is quite likely that the Birgittine volume was part of Matthew's library, there is no evidence that it was, for it bears none of his hallmark signatures, initials or motto as bishop of Durham or archbishop of York. However, he was a learned bibliophile with a broad interest in theology and was a collector of books from foreign printing presses, so this is the sort of book in which he might well have been interested. (10) It is unlikely that it was already in the Minster library at the date of the Matthew donation, for books before this time were chained, as suggested by an inventory record from 1624 for the purchase of eight dozen chains, and there are no chain marks on the Ghotan edition. (11)

Equally possible is that the volume found its way into York Minster Library from another library, perhaps from a local monastic community or a recusant group in Yorkshire that had been closed at the Reformation. There is a record, for instance, from an inventory made in 1558 of the library of the Cluniac Priory of St Mary Magdalene at Monk Bretton--a house that had a particular interest in printed books--which lists a volume of the Revelations of "Birgitte virginis," together with thirty other volumes that the Cluniac monks were attempting to keep intact after the dissolution; this record expresses a wish to return the collection to the priory if it were ever restored. (12)

St. Birgitta had a strong following in Yorkshire even within a few years of her canonization in 1391. Henry Fitzhugh, lord of Ravensworth and nephew of the martyred Archbishop Richard Scrope, went to Sweden in 1406 with Henry IV's daughter, Philippa, for her marriage to the Scandinavian ruler, Erik of Pomerania. Fitzhugh later donated his estate at Cherry Hinton, near Cambridge, as the economic foundation for a Birgittine establishment. Even before he went to Sweden, he appears to have had an interest in mystical writings, and his family was connected with Richard Rolle's immediate circle. Between 1408 and 1415 he maintained two Vadstena brethren in England at his own expense. Henry IV petitioned the pope for permission to found a Birgittine abbey in York, possibly at St. Nicholas's or St. Leonard's hospital. (13) In the event, none of these plans ever came to fruition, and instead it was Henry V who established the new royal foundation of Syon at Isleworth on the Thames, within easy reach of London.

Many of the Syon brethren were scholars who had taken their degrees at Oxford or Cambridge before entering Syon, where they became authors and translators of spiritual works. One such person was Clement Maydestone (d. 1456), originally a Trinitarian of Hounslow, who wrote a history of the death in 1405 of Archbishop Scrope. (14) Thomas Gascoigne, the chancellor of Oxford University, was a staunch defender of Birgitta and translator of her Vita into English; as a young chaplain he had taken part in the visit to Vadstena with Henry Fitzhugh to arrange for the royal marriage between the houses of England and Sweden, mentioned above. He annotated several manuscripts to do with Birgittine texts, and his Liber veritatum, written between 1433 and 1457, makes mention of the preeminent Syon manuscript, London, British Library MS Harley 612. Thomas also fostered the cult of Richard Scrope, after giving a speech on the five wounds of Christ and using typically Birgittine iconography (seen most notably in the nuns' black headdress that has a white crown and cross and a red spot at each intersection of the cross). (15)

Copies of the Revelations were clearly in circulation in Yorkshire at an early date. A priest named Peter donated a collection of twelve books to the Cistercian house of Swine in the late fourteenth or early fifteenth century, including a volume of the revelations, wrongly attributed to Birgitta as "regine." (16) Lord Henry Scrope (d. 1415) is alleged to have bought a copy of the Revelations from a bookseller in Beverley. (17) Archbishop Richard Scrope and St Birgitta occur together as devotional figures in the Bolton hours manuscript in York Minster Library (MS add. 2 fol.). The pretty miniature of St Birgitta in this book of hours contrasts with the harsh-faced woman of the Neapolitan manuscripts of the 1390s and the heavy-featured representations of her in Sweden by northern German artists. (18) The Bolton hours, which may even predate the foundation of Syon, illustrates how quickly the Birgittine cult had spread after the canonization and seemingly penetrated into the English mercantile class, an indication of the growing popularity of a saint who otherwise appears so closely associated with royalty and the aristocratic class. (19)

Description of the York volume

The York volume of Ghotan's printed edition is complete, with no leaves at all missing. (20) It is in its original calfskin binding, with original boards, although the fore-edge is in nineteenth- century leather. The total binding measurement is 35 cm by 25 cm. The very fine-quality binding is from the workshop that had the monogram WG-IG, a large commercial stationers operating in Cambridge and perhaps later in London between 1478 and 1533. (21) It has a lattice-shaped design set diagonally on both the upper and the lower boards, and inside the lozenges are a fleur-de-lys, a rose in a circle, a griffin in a flat-topped lozenge, and shield with the double WG-IG monogram. A floral stamp in a rectangular frame forms the border. Traces of five round metal bosses can be seen on the upper and lower boards. On the lower board there is also the mark of a plate for a shelfmark label measuring 6 cm by 3 cm, with four nail holes along the top and four along the bottom. The label itself is lost but the mark is clearly apparent. On the fore-edge are indexing tabs at each subsection of the book, made of parchment strips measuring approximately 6 cm by 2 cm and pasted down to either side of the leaf where they sit. They are well-worn, and most of them are still in situ. Books II and III still have legible tab titles ("secundus liber," "tercius liber") written in a fine Gothic hand. (22)

Inside the volume, the initials and rubrics are colored in red and yellow with both colors used in particular at the beginning of the book. The colored capital letters finish at chapter 42 of Book I. Titles and paragraph signs are decoratively underlined in red with many capitals in yellow. In Book IV, chapters 8 and 9, there is a page using silver coloring in two revelations spoken by the Angel.

The full-page woodcut of the crucifixion at Book IV, chapter 70, contains several colors: green for the plants and the crown of thorns, brown for the skull, pink for faces, and red for Christ's body, which is also sprinkled with drops of blood. The style and character of this coloring suggest that it was done locally and not in a professional workshop. At this page opening the book is slightly worn in appearance, indicating perhaps that it was left open for the contemplation of the image. Some of the other full-page illustrations, which total fourteen in all, also have some light shading in color. (23)

The front endpaper contains an epigram in a cartouche in a contemporary English hand. It contains the name of "Frye" in the right margin. The text appears to be an extract from a sermon and contains a criticism of those who wish to take vengeance for injuries inflicted upon them, quoting Deuteronomy and Proverbs, and afterwards referring to a sermon by St Augustine:
   Duo sunt que Christus sibi retinuit eL quasi desponsauit sibi
   scilicet vindictam et gloriam. Vindictam sibi retinuit, vnde ipse
   dicit deuteronomij tricesimo secundo. Michi vindicta et ego
   retribuam. Certe stultissimus est qui vindictam vult accipere
   de iniuriis sibi illatis, quando ipse vult suum vulnum de alio
   vulnere sanare. Ipse querit sanitatem in aliena infirmitate et
   in alieno malo bonum suum. Ipse est similis illi qui querit
   ignem in aqua, in felle dulcedinerm, in spinis et tribulis ficus.
   Vnde Augustinus Qui de aliena querit medicamentum, ipse
   adquerit sibi grande tormentum. Ideo nullus debet vindictam
   sibi querere, sed illa disposicioni diuine dimittere. Et ideo
   dicit Salomon Prouerbiorum vicesimo secundo. Ne dicat
   Malum reddam sed expecta Dominum cui est vindictam
   reddere. (24)

After a space, halfway down the page, is an unidentified two-line epithet:
   Quando bonum faris et in corde malum meditataris,
   Oscula que Iudas Domino dedit hec tu michi das. (25)

The volume also contains some contemporary bookmarks in situ. (26) One is a pentrial of minims on parchment, and a second, which points to a possible provenance within a monastic environment, refers to "reverentissime pater" in the vocative case. It looks like part of a letter containing just two lines on each side of the paper. Another bookmark, written on both sides, contains only a smattering of words and may be a piece of text rather than a letter.


The most distinctive feature of this volume is that it is annotated throughout with markings of some kind on almost every page. There are also signs that the book was closed quickly before the ink was allowed to dry. The hands of between one and five scribes are present in every Book of Revelations, with some overlap between scribes in the different Books. Books II and III, on the knights and clergy of Sweden, have fewer marginalia than elsewhere, while Book V, the Liber Quaestionum, has several different hands. Most notably, the Vita has no marginalia. All the hands are contemporary, from the late fifteenth or early sixteenth century, with the exception of a gloss from the later sixteenth century that gives a definition of the Latin verb "refollicare" in the Regula, chapter 3: "refuseth to refresh, to strengthen and make lustie again." The presence of this later gloss is an indication that the volume (or at least the Birgittine Rule) was being carefully read well into the sixteenth century. Another sixteenth-century hand occurs on the final page, giving the name of one John Johnson.

Some of the marginal marks are written in red ink in the same hand, and these appear to relate primarily to the passages that concern the Virgin Mary. At least one of them is written in brown plummet first and overwritten in red ink. Throughout the volume there are frequent marginal indexes in the shape of a pointing finger in a clawlike hand. There are also many fine undulating vertical lines in ink down the margins against specific sections of text, and a distinctive circular lozenge nota sign recurs. Occasionally, there is a correction to a mistake in the Latin text (for example, Book VI chapter 52, "bonis et bonis" is changed to "bonis et malis"), and grammatical or orthographical errors are adjusted. The phrase "optima lectio" occurs quite commonly (e.g., in Regula, chapter 5, on the duties of monks). Another comment is "aureum capitulum" (for example, in Book VI, 66, which concerns the qualities of a good soul, using the metaphor of a house). In the Quattuororationes, a numbering sequence is used for the paragraph divisions in the first prayer section, but in the subsequent prayers there are simply division marks without numbers. The index at the end of the volume has a modest number of highlighting pointers, most notably to the devil, death, and purgatory, to baptism before the age of discretion is reached, and to the well-known revelation about the three generations of women in judgment in Book VI chapter 52, which is also depicted in one of the woodcuts at the opening of the book.

The marginal comments seem for the most part to be mnemonics that summarize the main theme or subject for attention, rather than commentaries on the content. They often repeat the key words of a passage or summarize in short phrases the main point being made. St. Birgitta as a person was not of particular interest to the readership, nor, understandably, was Swedish history; nor indeed did her well-known criticism of the fourteenth-century Church receive much attention. The political interest is reflected in the passages that relate to English history, such as the French-English war in Book IV, chapters 103 to 105, in which the saint proposes a marriage alliance as a solution to the hostilities.

In the main, the commentaries reflect a devotional readership, most likely within a monastic environment. The most commonly highlighted passages concern the spiritual life of the ordinary clergy as well as the sacraments. All manner of very ordinary passages are highlighted that draw attention to the spiritual life, such as the private concerns of a priestly cleric and reader in his everyday devotions, and on almsgiving at a monastery (for example, Book VI 99). The good moral life, the dangers of vanity and the ways of the world, the imitation of the lives of the saints, purgatory, the devil, and the terrors of hell are also noted; and revelations in praise of Christ and the Virgin are frequently highlighted. The marginalia are suggestive of a high level of education among the readers, but in the main they do not cite authorities from the traditional teachings within the Church and they may even be intended as an expression and affirmation of the orthodoxy of the Revelations.

Provenance of the York copy

At first sight some of the bibliographical features of this volume suggest an affinity with the English Birgittine foundation of Syon. The Syon Birgittines were a richly endowed, centrally placed, and well-favored community, and intellectually at the very heart of late- medieval and early Reformation England. The Birgittine monks assiduously promoted and retained orthodox texts to defend the old faith, but at the same time they were at the forefront of new changes, such as the introduction of printing. Within the order, the Revelations formed part of the practice of regular communal reading, although the exact details are unclear and rules seem to have varied from house to house. The Syon Additions, which are the additional monastic regulations used at Syon, do not refer specifically to the reading of the Revelations in the house, although they do list as a "greuous defaute" the describing of the Revelations as dreams and their being held in contempt in any way. (27) On the other hand, the Liber usuum, which was produced in the Birgittine monastery of Gnadenberg in southern Germany in the mid-fifteenth century for the entire Birgittine order, states that members of the order were supposed to read the Revelations at meal times in four-yearly cycles, getting through three or four books each year. (28) Two other works that figure prominently as reflections of Birgittine spirituality in practice are the Sermo Angelicus, the specially composed weekly reading by the nuns at Matins, and the Rule, both of which were read aloud weekly in the community.

The York Minster volume contains several features that are similar to those of Syon books, in particular the presence of a book label and fore-edge tabs, and the absence of chain marks, foliation numbers, class marks, ex libris and other curatorial marks. (29) Furthermore, the secundo folio cataloguing system at Syon appears to be reflected in the subsequent cataloguing of the book in York. (30) It seems unimaginable that the house at Syon did not own a copy of the first printed edition of the Revelations; but there is no unequivocal evidence that it did. The register of the brethren's library, compiled by Thomas Betson, contains an entry, Septem libri reuelacionum beate Birgitte cum tabula (item M 115), that might refer to Ghotan's printed edition. (31) Although Betson's description and wording are not consistent with his method elsewhere, especially in respect of the secundo folio reference, Vincent Gillespie concludes that "the apparent absence of this famous edition of Bridget's works, seen through the press by brethren from the mother house of Vadstena, from elsewhere in the collection makes it likely that that edition is the one indicated here." (32) Elsewhere, Gillespie comments that the printed edition could have been held in one of the other collections of books known to have been in the abbey; in other words, it was not held in the library itself. (33)

However, two features of the York volume point away from a Syon provenance. First, the size of the book label is different from those on Syon books, being slightly larger than the Syon labels, and therefore not immediately recognizable as a Syon label. (34) Second, there is no evidence that the liturgical texts in the volume were the subject of particular study or use, as might be expected of an edition that had belonged to Syon.

The other great foundation of the later medieval period was the Carthusian order, whose history often interweaves with that of the Birgittines in England, especially the Charterhouse of Sheen, which, like Syon, was founded by Henry V on the banks of the river Thames--the two houses stood opposite and were, as Shakespeare puts it, "two chantries where the sad and solemn priests / Sing still for Richard's soul" (Henry V. 4.1).

Birgitta must have known the Carthusians from her pilgrimage to Santiago de Compostela in 1341, although they were not established in Sweden until some 150 years later. They are one of the few orders that she does not openly criticize in her revelations. Indeed, in the Extravagantes, chapter 4, she exhorts the Birgittine nuns to follow the model of the Carthusians in their song:
   Imitentur illorum cantum, qui Cartusienses vocantur, quorum
   psalmodia plus redolet suauitatem mentis humilitatemque
   et deuocionem quam aliquam ostentacionem. Nam non
   vacat a culpa animus, quando cantantem plus delectat
   nota quam res, que canitur, omninoque abhominabile est
   Deo, quando vocis eleuacio plus fit propter audientes quam
   propter Deum. (35)

The Carthusians had an interest in mystical writers in particular, and the surviving lists of their books include the name of St Birgitta alongside those of Richard Rolle, Walter Hilton, and Catherine of Siena. (36) They were known for their "spiritual reading" and for making marginal notes in printed books, and, together with the Birgittines, they contributed greatly to the spiritual following of the devotion to the heart of Christ, and of Christ's passion in the late Middle Ages. Some of the features in the York volume are suggestive of a possible Carthusian provenance, most notably the religious epigram on the front endpaper of the type that often occurs in Carthusian volumes and the abundant use of marginalia. (37) The frequent references to the Virgin Mary and the contemplative image that is created in the carefully colored image of the crucifix in Book IV are also in keeping with Carthusian observance. (38) Further, the lack of class marks makes it possible that the book was used in a cell rather than in a library. The most explicit suggestion of a Carthusian connection is the passage quoted above relating to Carthusian singing, which is highlighted with a pointing index, with a marginal gloss that summarizes the text itself.

In keeping with the pattern of the frequent loan and exchange of books between monastic houses, including Syon and Sheen, it is possible that the York copy of Ghotan's edition was loaned from one monastic community to another. The Carthusian house in London, for instance, is said to have lent a copy of the Revelationes to a house in Coventry in 1500 and one to Beauvale in 1510. (39) Donations of books from one monastic community to another also happened frequently. For instance, a copy of the second edition of the Revelationes (printed by Koberger in Nuremberg 1500) was donated by David Curson, a brother of Syon, to John Doo, fellow of Fotheringham College, and after him "to the comune use for euermore of the company." This copy is now in Lambeth Palace Library. (40)

The York Minster Library copy of the Revelationes was clearly a valued volume that existed within a stable monastic environment, and the evidence on balance points to the likelihood that it was in Carthusian hands in the early sixteenth century. This conjecture now seems the most fruitful line for a more detailed expert study of the different hands and scribes within the general context of marginal references and commentaries in early English printed devotional books. The book can also take its place among considerations of Birgittine compilations that were so extensively produced throughout Europe in the century after St. Birgitta's death; for although it is not a compilation itself, the highlighted revelations and passages, if drawn together, would comprise a compilation of their own and a unique reading of the Birgittine corpus in its entirety. (41)

Whatever the provenance and readership of this book, whether for preaching, teaching, or for silent reading in a cell, or as part of a communal and shared activity of monastic reading, this volume in York Minster Library retains its bibliographical integrity possibly to a greater degree than any other existing printed copy of the Revelations, and with the exceptional richness of its marginalia, it provides an important insight into the very private world of the contemporary English reader who was reading St. Birgitta's Revelations at the end of the Middle Ages.


Earlier versions of this paper were read at the Manchester Medieval Society, the Leeds Medieval Seminar, and the International Conference for the 600th Jubilee of St Birgitta, Vadstena, August 2002, and the Archbishop Scrope Conference, York, 2006. I am grateful for the conversations and correspondence I have had with the following: Stephan Borgehammar (University of Lund), Ian Doyle (University of Durham Library), Mirjam Foot (University College, London), Monica Hedlund (University of Uppsala); Veronica O'Mara (University of Hull), Christopher de Hamel (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge), Sue Powell (University of Salford), Vincent Gillespie (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), Elizabeth Westin-Bergh (Skokloster Library, Sweden). In particular, I wish to thank Deirdre Mortimer, formerly Librarian of York Minster Library, for her enormous generosity and encouragement while I was pursuing my research.


(1.) See Claes Gejrot, Diarium Vadstenense. The Memorial Book of Vadstena Abbey. Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis. Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 33 (Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 1988), 390. According to the same source, seven copies of the Revelationes were destroyed in a fire in Vadstena in 1495, together with a newly-installed printing press:
   Consumpsitque et in favillam redegit singula, que in illa domo
   servabantur, cum tecto et intersticiis etc. Tunc combusta
   fuit ibi inter alia una tunna plena cum septem voluminibus
   Revelationum celestium sancte matris nostre beate Birgitte,
   quam deponi hic fecerat quidam civis Lubecensis pro
   librorum huiusmodi venditione. Item, conflagraverunt etiam
   ibidem diversa instrumenta pro impressura librorum realiter
   aptata et iam per medium annum in usu habita, videlicet
   torcular cum litteris stanneis in brevitura et in textura in
   magnis expensis et laboribus comportata.

   [Everything that was preserved in this building [i.e., the
   infirmary], together with the roof and dividing walls, was
   consumed and transformed into ash by the fire. Among
   the destroyed items was a barrel containing seven volumes
   of the Revelationes of St Birgitta, our mother; this barrel had
   been deposited here by a citizen of Lubeck for the sale of its
   contents. In addition, various printing machinery was burnt
   that had only been fully installed and used for six months.
   This was a printing press with metal letters for large and small
   type, and it had been procured for a great sum of money and
   with enormous effort.]

(2.) On this controversy see further Claire Sahlin, Birgitta of Sweden and the Voice of Prophecy (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 2001), 221-223; Carl-Gustaf Undhagen, "Une source du prologue (chap. 1) aux Revelations de Sainte Brigitte par le cardinal Jean de Turrecremata," Eranos 58 (1960): 214-226; Heymericus de Campo: Anna Fredrikson Adman, ed., Dyalogus super Reuelacionibus beate Birgitte." A Critical Edition with an Introduction, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis, Studia Latina Upsaliensia 27 (Uppsala, Sweden: Uppsala Universitet, 2003). Torquemada's Epistola also includes the Bulla canonizationis beatae Birgittae issued by Pope Boniface IX on October 7, 1391, and Martin V's Confirmatio canonizationis beatae Birgittae, dated July 1, 1419, in Florence.

(3.) For further bibliographical information, see Isak Collijn, Sveriges bibliografi intill ar 1600, Svenska Litteratursallskapet, 10: 15 (Uppsala, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1935), 117-128; Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke. Herausgegeben von der Kommission fur den Gesamtkatalog der Wiegendrucke, Band IV (Leipzig, Germany: Karl W. Hiersemann, 1930).

(4.) On St. Birgitta in general, see Bridget Morris, St Birgitta of Sweden (Woodbridge, UK: Boydell, 1999), and for an account of the process of the recording of the revelations, see Denis Searby and Bridget Morris, The Revelations of St. Birgitta of Sweden, Volume 1. Liber Caelestis, Books (New York: Oxford University Press, 2006), 11-25.

(5.) See Bertil Hogman, Heliga Birgittas originaltexter (Uppsala, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1951).

(6.) The Ghotan text is most closely related to the Swedish "Vadstena" branch of manuscripts, although it also introduces several errors and independent readings of its own. See further Birger Bergh, "Tillforlitligheten i olika versioner av Birgittas Uppenbarelser," in Birgitta, hendes vcrk og hendes klostre i Norden, ed. Tore Nyberg, Odense University Studies in History and Social Sciences 150 (Odense, Denmark: Odense University Press, 1991), 397-405.

(7.) Two of the parchment copies are in private hands; the others are in Skokloster Castle, Uppland, and the Bodleian Library, Oxford; and there are forty-three leaves in the National Library in Stockholm). See further on the location of the paper copies in the British Library's electronic Incunabula Short-title Catalogue (ISTC), available at,istc/.

(8.) This catalogue was compiled as a penance for the offence of simony by a cleric named Timothy Thurscross; see G. E. Aylmer and Reginald Cant, A History of York Minster (Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press, 1977), 502-507.

(9.) See further James Raine, A Catalogue of the Printed Books in the Library of the Dean and Chapter of York (York, UK: Sampson, 1896), vi.

(10.) His books reflect some of the religious controversies in the early years of English Protestantism; the Jesuit Edmund Campion threw some doubt on his loyalty to the Church of England, and two of his sons later joined the Catholic Church. See Raine, Catalogue, vii.

(11.) Before the Matthew donation, the holding of the Minster Library was extremely modest, especially compared with the fine collection held by the nearby Abbey of St Mary's in York, as was noted at a visitation during the reign of Henry VIII; see Raine, Catalogue, v.

(12.) See Richard Sharpe, James P. Carley, R. M. Thomson, and A. G. Watson, English Benedictine Libraries: The Shorter Catalogues, Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues 4 (London, UK: British Library in Association with The British Academy, 1996), 266. See also Claire Cross, "Monastic Learning and Libraries," in Humanism and Reform: The Church in Europe, England, and Scotland, 1400-1643. Essays in Honour of James K. Cameron, ed. James Kirk (Oxford, UK: Blackwell Publishers, 1991), 263; and James P. Carley, "The Dispersal of the Monastic Libraries and the Salvaging of the Spirits" in The Cambridge History of Libraries in Britain and Ireland, Vol. 1, to 1640, ed. Elisabeth Leedham Green and Teresa Weber (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2006), 285-287. "Virginis" is a misleading--but not uncommon-- description of Birgitta, a mother of eight children; and she is sometimes confused with St. Brigid of Kildare, as, for example, in the catalogue of Gloucester Cathedral Library, which also houses a copy of the Ghotan edition of 1492; see Suzanne Mary Eward, ed., A Catalogue of Gloucester Cathedral Library (Gloucester, UK: Dean and Chapter, 1972), 39.

(13.) See further Neil Beckett, "St Bridget, Henry V, and Syon Abbey," in Studies in St Birgitta and the Brigittine Order, ed. James Hogg, 2 vols, Analecta Cartusiana, Salzburg, 35:19 (New York: Edwin Mellen Press, 1993), 2. 127.

(14.) See also Vincent Gillespie, ed., Syon Abbey, with the Library of the Carthusians, ed. A. I. Doyle, Corpus of British Medieval Library Catalogues 9 (London, UK: British Library in Association with The British Academy, 2001), 228.

(15.) See Julia Bolton Holloway, The Life of Saint Birgitta by Birger Gregersson and Thomas Gascoigne (Toronto, CA: Peregrina, 1991), 7-9.

(16.) David N. Bell, The Libraries of the Cistercians, Gilbertines and Premonstatensians, Corpus of British Library Catalogues 3 (London, UK: British Library in Association with The British Academy, 1992), 146.

(17.) K. J. Allison, ed. The Victoria County History of York, East Riding, vol VI: Beverley (London, UK: Institute for Historical Research, 1989), 62.

(18.) For examples, see Hans Aili and Jan Svanberg, Imagines Sanctae Birgittae: The Earliest Illuminated Manuscripts and Panel Paintings Related to the Revelations of St Birgitta of Sweden, 2 vols (Stockholm, Sweden: Royal Swedish Academy of Letters, History and Antiquities, 2003); Mereth Lindgren, 2nd ed., Bilden av Birgitta (Stockholm, Sweden: Proprius, 2002).

(19.) See Jeremy Goldberg and Patricia Callum, "How Margaret Blackburn taught her Daughters: Reading Devotional Instruction in a Book of Hours" in Medieval Women: Texts and Contexts in Late Medieval Britain: Essays for Felicity Riddy, ed. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, et al. (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2000), 217-236; Sarah Rees Jones and Felicity Riddy, "The Bolton Hours of York: Female Domestic Piety and the Public Sphere" in Household, Women and Christianities in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, ed. Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2005), 215-254. Although there are several studies of the Birgittine influence in the axis of London, Oxford, and Syon and in East Anglia (the home of her defender at the canonization, Adam Easton), less work appears to have been done on the Birgittine influence in northern England.

(20.) According to the information given in existing catalogues and judging by those copies I have had the opportunity to see in libraries in Sweden, Denmark and Britain, most other copies are defective in some way. For example, the preeminent copy in Sweden, which is in the library of Skokloster Castle (one of the four surviving parchment copies), is wanting the woodcut of the crucifixion in the middle of Book IV. The Skokloster parchment was bought in London in 1897 by Count Per Hierta pa Frammestad, and had earlier been owned by Lord Ashburnham.

(21.) I am grateful for this information to Professor Mirjam Foot, who in a private communication writes:
      A bindery that was at work in Cambridge and links
   through one or two tools with work produced by the Unicorn
   binder, used a signed tool with the monogram WG, as well as
   a roll signed with two monograms: WG and IG; the shop also
   used two panels signed IG. J. B. Oldham suggested that this
   shop belonged to two generations of binders, WG, the father
   and two sons, the elder: WG and the younger: IG, and indeed
   the (large) output from this bindery that covers books printed
   between 1478 and 1537, can be divided into three periods,
   linked either by the WG tool or by the WG/IG roll. The first
   period covers books printed between 1478 and 1507. It is
   possible that IG and WG were booksellers who employed this
   bindery rather than being binders themselves.

See further J. Basil Oldham, English Blind-stamped Bindings (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1952), 17-19, pl. XI; G. D. Hobson, Bindings in Cambridge Libraries (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1929), pls. XIV, XV; G.D. Hobson, English Binding before 1500 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1929), 21-22, pls. 47-51. G. Pollard, "The Names of some English 15th-century Binders" The Library, 5th ser. 25 (1970): 208, 212-213; M. M. Foot, "English Decorated Bookbinding," in Book Production and Publishing in Britain 1375-1475, ed. Jeremy Griffith and Derek Pearsall (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1989), 65-86.

(22.) The missing tabs are in Book VII (but the mark, measuring about 5 cm by 4.5 cm, is still visible), Quattuor Oraciones (5 cm by 2.5 cm), and Extravagantes (5 cm by 2.75 cm). For each letter of the index there is a tab, with the exception of "r" (where the tab mark shows), and "s" to "z" have no tab marks at all. The fore edge tabs appear to be more a feature of continental than of English books. For a comparative example of the functional purpose of the Syon tab marks, in a manuscript copy of the Bible where each book is indicated with a small gothic hand, see Christopher de Hamel, Syon Abbey: The Library of the Bridgettine Nuns and their Peregrinations after the Reformation (Otley, UK: The Roxburghe Club, 1991), 106-107.

(23.) Of these fourteen, four (including this one of the crucifixion) are whole woodcuts, while the other ten are formed from three or more blocks. This crucifixion block, which shows the Ghotan coat-of-arms at Mary's feet, is also found in a missal produced by an anonymous printer for the diocese of Lebus in Brandenburg. See K. Haebler, "Das Missale fur die Diozese Lebus (Missale Lubucense)," Nordisk tidskrift for bok- och bibliotekshistoria, argang 2 (1915): 53-76.

(24.) "There are two things that Christ kept for himself and as it were betrothed to himself, viz. vengeance and glory. He kept vengeance for himself, as he himself in the 32nd chapter of Deuteronomy said: 'Vengeance is mine and I shall repay.' [Deut. 32:35] Certainly that man is foolish who wishes to take vengeance for the injuries that have been inflicted upon him; when he wishes to cure his own wound from the wound of another. He seeks health in the sickness of someone else and he his own good in someone else's misfortune. He is like a man who seeks fire in water, sweetness in bile and figs on thistles and thorns. About this Augustine says: 'he who seeks a remedy from what is not his own is heaping up for himself a great torment.' And so no one ought to seek for vengeance for himself, but leave that to divine will. And so Solomon says in Proverbs 22: Let no-one say 'I shall return the evil' but wait for the Lord to whom it belongs to exact vengeance." The quotation from St Augustine may be found at Sermo 132 (Patrologia Latina, xxxviii. 684).

(25.) "When you speak good and meditate evil in your heart, You give me the kisses that Judas gave the Lord."

(26.) They were found at Books IV, ch. 111, Book VI, ch. 34, and Book VI, ch. 40.

(27.) See further G. J. Aungier, History and Antiquities of Syon Monastery, the Parish of Isleworth, and the Chapelry of Hounslow (London, UK: J. B. Nichols and Son, 1840), 258.

(28.) See Sara Risberg, ed., Liber usuum fratrum monasterii Vadstenensis: The Customary of the Vadstena Brothers. A Critical Edition with an Introduction, Acta Universitatis Stockholmiensis. Studia Latina Stockholmiensia 50 (Stockholm, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell International, 2003), 182-183. However, as Risberg observes (ibid., 14-18), the monks of Syon did not participate in the general chapter at Gnadenberg, where the Liber usuum was ratified in 1487, and the Liber usuum was not very widely circulated, so it is possible that it was not observed at Syon.

(29.) The Syon Abbey collection (containing some 1,500 entries) has now been reconstructed and updated in Gillespie, Syon Abbey.

(30.) The fore-edge classification and cataloguing of the book under "Turrecremata" in the York Minster Library catalogue of 1638 may also explain why it appears to have been overlooked; when I first discovered this book in York Minster Library the catalogue entry gave the impression that it contained simply Torquemada's defense rather than the complete text of the Revelationes.

(31.) The donor of this volume was a man named Copynger, who probably entered Syon in the 1520s and was elected confessor general in 1536; Ibid., 573.

(32.) Ibid., 257.

(33.) "The absence from this collection of the great Ghotan 1492 Lubeck edition of the works of Bridget raises serious doubts about the extent of their later commitment to studying her writings. If there was one printed book I had assumed would be in the collection it was this edition: its absence is eloquent, although it could have been held in one of the other collections of books known to have been in the house." Vincent Gillespie, "Dial M for mystic: mystical texts in the library of Syon Abbey and the spirituality of the Syon brethren," in The Medieval Mystical Tradition, England, Ireland, and Wales: Exeter Symposium VI: Papers Read at Charney Manor, July 1999, ed. Marion Glasscoe (Woodbridge, UK, and Rochester, NY: D.S. Brewer, 1999), 265.

(34.) I am grateful to Vincent Gillespie who drew my attention to this point. On the Syon labels see Gillespie, Syon Abbey, xlvii, and pls. 5a and 5b.

(35.) "They should imitate the song of those who are known as Carthusians, whose singing is more redolent of the sweetness of the mind, and of humility and devotion, rather than any ostentation. For the soul is not blameless when the singer finds more joy in the music than in what is being sung; and it is altogether abhorrent to God when the voice is raised more towards the listener than towards God." On the Birgittines and Carthusians in Scandinavia, see Alf Hardelin, "In the Sign of the Rosary" in Medieval Spirituality in Scandinavia and Europe, ed. L. Bisgaars, S. S. Jensen, Kurt Villands Jensen, and John Lind (Odense, Denmark: Odense University Press, 2001), 285-93. See also Bridget Morris, "Birgittines and Beguines in Medieval Sweden," in The Holy Women of Liege ed. Juliette Dor, Lesley Johnson and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 1999), 159-176.

(36.) E. Margaret Thompson, The Carthusian Order in England (London: SPCK, 1930), 313-334.

(37.) It is to Dr. Ian Doyle that I owe this line of argument. Dr. Doyle kindly spent time looking through this volume in York Minster Library and sharing his observations with me in 2003.

(38.) On the relationship between image and text, see further Jessica Brantley, Reading in the Wilderness. Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England (London and Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2007), 27-77.

(39.) See Gillespie, Syon Abbey, 626-627. The Ghotan edition was followed by eight further editions. The second was produced in Nuremberg in 1500 by Anton Koberger, with the patronage of the Austrian nobility and the emperor Maximilian. It contains seventeen woodcuts that have been associated with the atelier of Albrecht Durer. The third edition, based on Koberger's, was also published in Nuremberg in 1517 by F. Peypus. The fourth was produced in Rome in 1557 by the Swedish historiographer and exiled Catholic Olaus Magnus, who had charge of St Birgitta's house in the Piazza Farnese in Rome, where he installed a small printing press. The fifth edition was published in 1606 by the bishop and theologian Consalvo Durante, who made an attempt to emend some of the errors in Ghotan's edition and introduce commentaries of his own. Then followed three editions that were all based on Durante's, and printed respectively in Antwerp in 1611, Cologne in 1628, and Rome in 1628. The last edition was based on the 1628 edition and was produced in Munich in 1680 by Simon Hormann, the confessor general at the Birgittine abbey of Altomunster. See Isak Collijn, Sveriges bibliografi, 117-128; Isak Collijn and A. Lindblom, Birgitta-utstallningen 1918: Beskrifvande fortechning ofver utstdllda foremal (Uppsala, Sweden: Almqvist & Wiksell, 1918), 131. Over the past fifty years a critical edition of the entire corpus has been published by the Fornsvenska Fornskrift-sallskapet [Medieval Swedish Texts Society], and there is an online version of the Latin text produced by Svenska Riksarkivet (The National Archives of Sweden), Corpus reuelacionum samcte Birgitte, available at: ra/diplomatariet/CRB/index.htm.

(40.) Gillespie, Syon Abbey, lxxii; Michael Sargent, "The transmission by the English Carthusians of some Late Medieval Spiritual Writings," Journal of Ecclesiastical History 27, no. 3 (1976): 225-240.

(41.) On the uses of the Revelations in England, see Roger Ellis, "'Flores ad fabricandam ... coronam': an Investigation into the Uses of the Revelations of St Bridget of Sweden in Fifteenth-century England," Medium fivum (1982): 163-186. On some of the major vernacular compilations, see Bridget Morris and Veronica O'Mara, eds., The Translation of the Works of St Birgitta of Sweden into the European Vernaculars, The Medieval Translator 7 (Turnhout, Belgium: Brepols, 2000).
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Title Annotation:Nota Bene: Brief Notes on Manuscripts and Early Printed Books: Highlighting Little-Known or Recently Uncovered Items or Related Issues
Author:Morris, Bridget
Publication:The Journal of the Early Book Society for the Study of Manuscripts and Printing History
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUSW
Date:Jan 1, 2010
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