Taverner Prayer Book


This tiny, richly decorated book of Psalms and prayers in English was most likely made for the noblewoman and literary patron Anne Seymour (née Stanhope), Countess of Hertford and later Duchess of Somerset (c. 1510–1587).

The manuscript

The elaborately illuminated volume contains a selection of prayers from a Latin collection by the German reformer Wolfgang Capito, translated into English by Richard Taverner as An epitome of the Psalmes, or briefe meditacons vpon the same, with diuerse other moste Christian prayers (London, 1539). The manuscript’s decorative frontispiece sports the marital arms of Edward Seymour, Earl of Hertford, and his second wife Anne Seymour, for whom the volume was likely produced. The crest bears the Seymour family motto ‘Foy pour Devoir’, meaning ‘Faith for Duty’.

This devotional manuscript is one of a small number of surviving miniature books that were commissioned by wealthy patrons in the Tudor period. Each beautifully decorated page contains elaborate coloured borders highlighted with gold. The volume’s exterior is equally ornate: the 17th-century red goatskin binding is decorated in gold with motifs of acorns and flowers. Two pages are embellished with the initials ‘A’ and ‘E’, for ‘Anne’ and ‘Edward’, giving the manuscript a personal touch. For owners such as Anne Seymour, these volumes served as a reminder of their faith, and a visual affirmation of religious piety and devotion.

Browse through the entire manuscript on our Digitised Manuscripts website.

Full title:
Prayer book ('The Taverner Prayer Book')
c. 1540
Manuscript / Prayer book / Illuminated manuscript
Richard Taverner [translator]
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 88991

Full catalogue details

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