The lollard legacy: an heirloom bible

This impressively bound folio volume contains an early fifteenth-century Wycliffite translation of the bible. Scriptural texts in the vernacular became closely associated with lollardy and their possession and perusal were severely constrained by the Constitutions of Archbishop Arundel in 1409. They nevertheless continued to circulate within both orthodox and heretical circles in late medieval England. The survival of a significant number of Wycliffite bibles is partly a function of Protestant patterns of collecting, which favoured and privileged texts that bore witness to the presence of a brotherhood of believers that had defied the papacy and kept the truth alight during the ‘dark ages’. Containing annotations and genealogical notes by Elizabethan, Jacobean and Victorian readers, this volume has been preserved down the generations as an heirloom. In 1620, its status as a treasured family object was cemented by the text that William Davenport had stamped in gold on its red leather binding. For devout Protestants like Davenport, this old book was a precious relic of England’s first Reformation. AW

Early fifteenth-century English bible of the revised Wycliffite translation, rebound in 1620.

CUL: Additional MS 6680

Further Reading

Mary Dove, The First English Bible: The Text and Context of the Wycliffite Versions (Cambridge, 2007).

Ann Hudson, The Premature Reformation: Wycliffite Texts and Lollard History (Oxford, 1988), ch. 5.

Shannon McSheffrey, ‘Heresy, Orthodoxy and English Vernacular Religion 1480-1525’, Past and Present, 186 (2005), pp. 47-80.

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