British Library, Additional MS 74236
(The Sherborne Missal)


Produced: England, c 1399-1407
Location: British Library, London, England, UK
Type: Missal
Language: Latin
Folios: 347
Illustrated: Yes
Illustrator: John Siferwas
Scribe: John Whas
Binding: French 18th century, with elaborate tooled gilt spine
Media: Vellum
Script: Gothic textualis prescissa
Dimensions: Height: 54.3 cm Width: 38 cm
Folio 192r


...formerly the Alnwick Missal: England, probably the Benedictine Abbey of St Marys, Sherborne, co. Dorset; circa 1399-1407. This is the largest, most lavish late medieval servicebook to have survived the Reformation intact. ... The Sherborne Missals ambitious and extremely extensive decorative program seems to have addressed a number of agendas, for this world and the next. Sketches of birds probably made in northern England, to judge by the species represented (many of which remain native to the West Country), perhaps in the form of a sketchbook like the Pepys Sketchbook (Cambridge, Magdalene College, Pepys MS. 1916), were used as a source for the large naturalistic depictions of birds, labeled with their Middle English names, which adorn the Canon of the Mass.

The Missal is considered a masterpiece of International Gothic art... John Siferwas was the Missals principal artist but he was assisted by at least four others, either members of the Sherborne community or more itinerant bought-in artists like the Dominican Siferwas himself... The volume is fully illuminated in gold and colors to an exceptionally high standard. Every page carries decoration... The Ordinary and Canon of the Mass are distinguished by marginal depictions of British birds...

[adapted from the British Library description]

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