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Syon Abbey Collection

Syon Abbey Medieval and Modern Manuscript Collection (EUL MS 262)

In 2004, twelve medieval and early modern manuscripts and one folder of manuscript fragments were deposited by the Bridgettine nuns of Syon Abbey with Special Collections for safekeeping. Three subsequent accessions since 2004 have increased the number of Syon Abbey manuscripts in this collection to 191 bound volumes and 8 folders of unbound papers. The collection ranges from early fifteenth-century to late twentieth-century manuscripts, and includes spiritual, devotional and theological texts, as well as histories and records of daily life at Syon Abbey.

The manuscripts in this collection were deposited at Special Collection as four separate accessions. Therefore they have been catalogued separately to reflect this. You can explore the different sections of this collection by clicking the different tabs in this box.

This collection contains twelve complete liturgical and theological manuscripts, dating between the 15th and 18th century. Many of the medieval  items were purchased by the community as they were known to have formed a part of the pre-Dissolution Abbey library. Other items have connections to other Bridgettine houses in Europe. Some items were acquired by donation to the Abbey. The so-called 'fragments' were found in an attic of Marley House, one the Abbey's former residences in South Brent.

The following items are included:
- EUL MS 262/1 Processionale mid-late 15th century,

EUL MS 262/2 Horae, c 1430s;
- EUL MS 262/3 Brevarium, 15th century;
- EUL MS 262/4 Horae, c 1423-1430s;
- EUL MS 262/5 Horae, 15th century;
- EUL MS 262/6 Brevarium, 15th century;
- EUL MS 262/7 Sermo de Sancta Anna et alia, 15th century;
- EUL MS 262/8 Missale Hollandicum, 16th century;
- EUL MS 262/9 Officium parvum Beate Mariae, 15th century;
- EUL MS 262/10 Breviary, 17th century;
- EUL MS 262/11 Antiphonale, 17th century;
- EUL MS 262/18 A looking glace for the religious spiritual study of contemplation, 17th century or early 18th century.

- EUL MS 262/fragments 1-8. The collection also contains fragments of parchment sheets (some with water, fire and pest damage) which have also been collected by the Abbey. Some of these are illuminated and are attributed to have formed part of the pre-Dissolution Abbey library.

This section comprises the contents of a bookshelf at Syon Abbey's last residence in South Brent, Devon, and consists mainly of religious manuscripts, including liturgical, devotional and theological texts. It also includes histories of Syon Abbey, personal accounts of the lives of sisters, and catalogues and notes on the contents of the Syon Abbey library. The manuscripts date to the 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries, with one possibly dating to the 16th century. Manuscripts in this section dating to before 1861 were presumably created or collected during the period when the community was living in exile in Lisbon, Portugal. Later manuscripts were created or collected after the community's return to England at three different locations: in Spetisbury, Dorset (1861-1887); Chudleigh, Devon (1887-1925); and South Brent, Devon (1925-2011). This section includes handwritten and typewritten material, as well as a small number of printed pamphlets relating to Syon Abbey and its history. Many of the manuscripts are inscribed with the names of the nuns or monks who transcribed or read them, providing insight into scribing and readership at Syon Abbey.

This section comprises 28 manuscripts that were deposited in 2011 as part of the Syon Abbey archive (EUL MS 389). The manuscripts date from the early 17th century to the late 18th century, during which time the community was living in exile in Lisbon, Portugal. They consist of mainly religious manuscripts, including spiritual, devotional and theological texts, as well as two histories of Syon Abbey, and a register of manuscripts that was compiled by the community in the 20th century. The majority of these manuscripts have been written by nuns and monks of Syon Abbey, and many are inscribed with the names of sisters or brothers, providing evidence of scribing and readership at Syon Abbey.

This section comprises two rare printed books and one manuscript, which were all written by brothers of Syon Abbey. All three volumes were kept in the safe at Syon Abbey in South Brent, together with archival documents of historical value to the community, including vows and profession papers. They were deposited at the University as part of the Syon Abbey archive in 2011 and transferred from the archive to sit with the manuscript collection in January 2018.

They include:

EUL MS 262/add3/1 - Printed book entitled 'The pype, or tonne, of the lyfe of perfection' (Pipe of Perfection) by Richard Whitford (1532);

EUL MS 262/add3/2 - Printed book entitled 'Here begynneth the Rosary of our Sauyour [Saviour] Jesu...' by William Bonde, first edition in late 18th or early 19th century morroco binding (1526);

EUL MS 262/add3/3 - Manuscript volume entitled 'The Life of St. Bridget and St. Catherine' and transcribed by an unknown brother of Syon Abbey [possibly the same hand as EUL MS 262/18] (c 17th century).

The manuscripts can be browsed in our online archives catalogue. To bring up all entries for manuscripts in this collection, search EUL MS 262* in the 'Ref no' box on the Advanced search page.

- The twelve medieval and early modern manuscripts, and the folder of manuscript fragments are described here at item level (click on a title to open the item description).

- Manuscripts in section EUL MS 262/add1 are described here at item level.

- Manuscripts in section EUL MS 262/add2 are described here at item level.

- Manuscripts and rare books in section EUL MS 262/add3 are described here at section level.

Please contact us at libspc@exeter.ac.uk for more information or to make an appointment to consult the manuscripts in the reading room.

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