Luxury Manuscripts

The Vernon manuscript must have taken a great deal of time and considerable resources to make. Copying the text would have taken the main scribe several years even if he was working full-time. The scribe was only one of a sizeable number of specialised craftsmen whose services were used to make the volume. The materials too would have been costly, particularly the large quantity of good quality vellum.

The Vernon manuscript is comparable with other luxury manuscripts made in England at about the same time. A manuscript of the Latin Polychronicon (Universal History) by Ranulf Higden has a large two-column format and similar border decoration. It shares with Vernon the use of imaginary creatures in the borders, and the motif of the columbine flower. The columbine is also found in an interlaced border in a manuscript of The Marriage of Mercury and Philology by Martianus Capella and other Latin texts.

It is harder to find manuscripts of comparable quality to the Vernon that are written in English. The outstanding example is the Simeon manuscript, whose contents and decoration are closely related to those of Vernon. But there are other examples, including some English translations of the Polychronicon, and manuscripts of the Lollard Bible, the translation of the Bible associated with the followers of the heretic John Wyclif. There is nothing heretical in Vernon. But Vernon, Simeon, and Lollard books spring from a wider movement whose adherents were willing to invest considerable resources in the production of books in the vernacular.

 

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