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Commentaries on Matthew and Mark, in English f.105r

Commentaries on Matthew and Mark, in English f.105r

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1400

Shelfmark: Additional MS 41175

Item number: f.105r

Length: 36

Width: 24.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Made probably just before Henry IV issued the first orders for burnings to punish heretics in 1401, this manuscript escaped a similar fate. It contains copies of commentaries on the gospels in English, mostly translations of Church fathers such as Thomas Aquinas. Its author was a Lollard or a follower of John Wycliffe (c. 1330-1384). Wycliffe was an Oxford professor who held the Bible as the supreme authority over the clergy or even the pope. He inspired the first complete English translation of the Bible, and the Lollards, who took his views in extreme forms, added to the Wycliffite Bible commentaries such as this one in Middle English. Wycliffe was too well connected and lucky to have been executed for heresy, although the archbishop of Canterbury condemned him. The support of his Oxford colleagues and influential layman, as well as the anti-clerical leanings of King Richard II, who resisted ordering the burning of heretics, saved his life. Forty years after his death, the climate had changed, and his books and exhumed body were burned and scattered. Nonetheless the English translations had a lasting influence on the language. 'The beginning of the gospel of Ihesu Crist the sone of god,' opens the Gospel of Mark, its first letter decorated with the Mark's symbol, the lion. The commentary begins, 'Gospel: the gospel is seid a good tellyng.' Red underscores pick out the gospel text, while the commentary is written in slightly smaller script. The gold frame decorated with flowers and leaves and presentation of text and commentary are completely conventional for their time.

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