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The Vernon Manuscript

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David Gregory | 17:14 UK time, Friday, 9 September 2011

The Vernon manuscript

This is an image from the Vernon manuscript. A book of religious stories for "pious people" that was written around 1400AD. But in recent times this "treasure of English literature" has been kept in the Bodleian Library in Oxford with little chance for anyone apart from academics to see it.

It's thought the book is from the West Midlands because of the dialect used within it. So "you" is written "yow" which is of course how someone with a Black Country accent would still pronounce the word today.

Now researchers at the University of Birmingham want to bring the Vernon Manuscript back to the Midlands and they're especially keen to record it being read by people with Black Country and Birmingham accents. To hear it sound like it would have done six hundren years ago. You can listen to the results here.

Although it isn't online sadly, the manuscript has now been digitised and it's this that has allowed this project to go ahead. On the University of Birmingham website you can read much more about the project and see a list of locations where you can meet the team and try your hand at reading from one of our most important books.

And if you can't wait, here's a text from the Vernon Manuscript to try for yourself;

IN . A . somer sesun . whon softe was the sonne .
I schop me in to a schroud . A scheep as I were.
In habite of an hermite un holy of werkes.
Wende I wydene in this world wondres to here.
Bote in a Mayes Morwnynge on Maluerne hulles.
Me bi fel a ferly. A Feyrie me thouhte.
I was weori of wandringe And wente me to reste.
Undur a brod banke bi A Bourne syde
And as I lay and leonede And lokede on the watres.
I slumberde in A slepyng hit sownede so murie.
Thenne gon I. Meeten A Meruelous sweuene.
That I was in A wildernesse wuste I neuer where
And as I beo heold in to the Est An heig to the sonne.
I sauh a Tour on a Toft wonderliche I maket.
With deop dich and derk And dredful of siht.
A Feir feld ful of folk fond I ther bi twene.
Of alle maner of men the mene and the riche.
Worchinge and wondringe as the world asketh
Summe putten hem to the plough. and pleiden hem ful seldene.
In Eringe And in Sowynge swonken ful harde.
that monie of theos wasturs . In Glotonye distruen.
To preyere And to penaunce putten heom money .
For loue of ur lord liueden ful harde
In Hope for to haue Heuene riche blisse.

Favourite fact from this story? It took two hundred calves to produce the skin needed for the vellum pages of this book.

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