Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 422 / The Red Book of Darley

In its present form, this book comprises two parts: the first contains a mid-tenth-century copy of the Old English Dialogues of Solomon and Saturn (pp. 1–26): the second is a strange but fascinating liturgical book dating from around 1060 (pp. 27–586). It is the liturgical section of this book which concerns us. This section contains a great diversity of material, making it a difficult book to categorise: there is a computistical section, mostly taken up with a calendar and Easter tables (pp. 27–39); this is followed by the canon of the Mass (pp. 51–63); then, various masses—mostly votive mass and masses that could be adapted for the feast of any saint (pp. 63–268), but also including masses for St Olaf and St Nicholas (pp. 162–4); prayers for sins and morning prayers (pp. 268–76); rites for various blessings, including for blessing a marriage and for blessing candles at Christmas (pp. 276–309); ordeals by water, fire, and bread and cheese (pp. 319–44); rites for baptism and blessing holy water (pp. 344–99); rites for visiting the sick (pp. 399–429), various rites for the dead (pp. 429–90); the offices of matins, first and second vespers, and lauds for the common of apostles, martyrs, confessors and virgins (pp. 507–53); offices for the last three days of Holy Week and Easter Sunday (pp. 555–70 and 491–506). The mass for St Olaf is a particularly striking: it is the earliest known attempt to provide a service for this saint who was martyred on 29 July 1030.

The book does not provide either a complete sacramentary or a complete collection of offices: it omits many of the prayers and items required for a full temporal and sanctoral cycle in either a missal or a breviary. Its coverage of those feasts for which it has propers varies greatly, sometimes providing all of the required elements, but more often an eclectic selection. It has, nevertheless, the appearance of a book which might have been produced for parish priest of the kind who might have served a large minster parish of the kind that still existed in some parts of eleventh-century England. It is fat but small (measuring 194 × 380 mm), making it relatively portable. It contains many of the services such a cleric might have been asked to perform, the emphasis being on the occasional offices such as baptism and burial.

That Corpus 422 was used in just such a context is suggested by two items of evidence: the first is the ex libris inscription on p. 586 which has given the book its name, The rede boke of darleye in the peake in darbyshire; the second comprises a few items for the feast of St Helen which were added in a rough fashion by a twelfth-century hand at the foot of p. 49. These two items have been taken as evidence that the book was owned by the Church of St Helen at Darley Dale in Derbyshire as early as the twelfth century. Being recorded in Domesday, this church certainly existed during this period. If so, Corpus 422 may represent a remarkable survival: a liturgical book intended for the use of a relatively humble parish church. Its survival is perhaps to be explained by the second of the notes on p. 586: ‘This booke was sumtime had in such reverence in darbieshire that it was comonlie beleved that whosoeuer should sweare vntruelie vppon this booke should run madd.’

firebeastThe chronological coverage provided by the Easter table on pp. 44–45 strongly suggests that the book was made in about 1061: the Easter table covers 38 years or two full nineteen-year cycles, beginning with the data for 1061. The regular dates for the inception of new cycles in this period were 1045, 1064 and 1083. It is true that these rather irregular tables might simply have been carried over from the exemplar, but a date of about 1060 is also supported by the character of the scripts in which the texts are written. Certain contents strongly suggest that it was made at Winchester (possibly in the New Minster) or at a centre with close associations with that monastery. The calendar contains the feasts of many saints associated with that city: the natal feasts and translationes of Æthelwold (1 August and 10 September, respectively), of Birinus (3 December and 4 September), Judoc (13 December and 9 January), and of Swithun (2 and 15 July), and the natal-feast of Grimbald (8 July). Most of these items are written partly, if not fully, in majuscules. The calendar is broadly similar to those found in books such as the prayerbook made for Ælfwine, abbot of the New Minster (1031/2–1057), now London, British Library, MS Cotton Titus D.XXVII, fols. 3r–8v. Winchester saints also figure prominently in the two litanies: the first on pp. 379–82 has Swithun, Judoc, Grimbald and Eadburh; the second on pp. 402–5 has Swithun, Judoc and Eadburh. Grimbald’s is also the only name, furthermore, to be entered in capitals in either of these litanies (p. 380).

firebeastHowever, the entry in the calendar for the feast of St Wulfsige, bishop of Sherborne (c.993–1002), an entry written in majuscules and unique among English calendars from before 1100 (8 January, p. 29), has given rise to the theory that the book was produced in the cathedral priory there. This theory is compatible with the prominence given to the cult of St Swithun in the calendar, because a miracle-working statue of the saint had been brought from Winchester and established there during the pontificate of Bishop Ælfwald (1045–c.1062) (see William of Malmesbury, Gesta pontificum, ii.82). The calendar lacks, however, an entry for the translatio of Juthwara (13 July), an Anglo-Saxon virgin martyr whose relics were also brought to Sherborne during Ælfwald’s pontificate. Many feasts are entered in majuscules in this calendar, and the feast of Wulfsige is by no means its only rarity: it also has entries for St David of Wales (1 March), for Eadwold, an anchorite venerated at Cerne Abbey (12 August), and for St Olaf (29 July), to go with the mass-prayers at the heart of the book (pp. 162–3).

Useful comparisons may be made with London, British Library, Additional MS 74236, a magnificent service book about which there is no doubt that it was made for Sherborne Abbey. (I say ‘Sherborne Abbey’, because the house ceased to be a priory serving the bishop's seat in 1091 when a new cathedral was consecrated at Old Sarum; it was formally raised from being a priory to an abbey in 1122.) The calendar on pages 1–12 of this missal has many similarities to that in Corpus 422 (not least in the presence of Wulfsige’s feast on 8 January), but there are also contrasts, such as the prominence given to the feast of Juthwara’s translatio (which is to be celebrated in cappis, ‘in copes’), the absence of St Olaf, and the addition of an octave for the natal feast of St Swithun (9 July). The calendar also has a dedicatio for the ecclesia of St Mary at Sherborne (18 July), which was also to be celebrated in cappis; but this feast may well have been established long after Corpus 422 was produced. Wulfsige and Juthwara are also given full sets of propers in the sanctoral cycle (pp. 440 and 489). Made around 1400–1407, Additional 74236 was commissioned by Robert Bruyning, abbot of Sherborne (1385–1415), who figures prominently among its illustrations.

Description and Facsimile: Cambridge, Corpus Christi College, MS 422.

Edited Materials: There has, unfortunately, been no attempt to edit the liturgical components of Corpus 422 in their entirety, but various items are available in diverse forms:

  1. The calendar is printed in F. Wormald (ed.), English Kalendars Before A.D. 1100, vol. 1, Texts, Henry Bradshaw Society 72 (London, 1934), pp. 184–95.
  2. The two litanies are printed in M. Lapidge (ed.), Anglo-Saxon Litanies of the Saints, Henry Bradshaw Society 106 (London, 1991), pp. 125–31.
  3. The formula for bloodletting according the days of the moon (p. 27) is printed by H. Henel, ‘Altenglischer Mönchsaberglaube’, Englische Studien, 69 (1934–5), 329–49 (at pp. 334–5). And so on.

Texts for Discussion: Please give your attention to the calendar on pages 29–40, especially the entries for the month of July. The relevant page from Wormald’s edition together with the corresponding pages of the calendars found in Ælfwine’s Prayerbook and the Sherborne Missal may be downloaded from the Moodle Site.


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