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24 September 2014

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The Sherborne Missal
The Sherborne Missal

The Sherborne Missal

The lastest digital technology is helping to bring the pages of one of Dorset's religious treasures to life.

The Sherborne Missal is on display at the Dorset County Museum in Dorchester until Sunday 28th August in the form of an interactive digital book.

Devised by experts at the British Library, visitors can wipe their hand across a 30” touch screen to experience turning the pages of the priceless and colourful manuscript.

The Sherborne Missal was made for the Benedictine Abbey of Sherborne around 1400AD and contains the texts and music used in the Christian service of mass. 

Dr Jenny Cripps
Dr Jenny Cripps

Dr Jenny Cripps, who's the Curator of Collections at the County Museum, is impressed with the technology that's been used to bring the book to life:

"The computer generated graphics are really beautiful.  It's really clever - you can see the writing in great detail as well as pictures of people that were around at the time it was commissioned. Normally people wouldn't be able to get this close to the book as it's so very delicate and so very old "

The book is probably the largest and most lavishly decorated illuminated service book of such quality to have survived intact from the late Middle Ages.

Depiction of the crucifixion
Depiction of the crucifixion

Included in the decorated borders are the choir of the native birds of the British Isles, each with its name in Middle English.  Users of the virtual Missal can also listen to the sounds of the birds and of monks chanting, as depicted in the Missal.

The original Missal's survival to the modern day is unique as such books were mostly destroyed or defaced during the Reformation in the 16th century, or else discarded as useless in the following centuries.

Jenny Cripps sees the historical importance of the Sherborne Missal as priceless:

"Even though the book is describing religion at the time of Christ, the people who are in it are pictured in fifteen century dress.  It gives us a record of early 15th century society which is very rare."

Sherborne Abbey
Sherborne Abbey

Most medieval art is anonymous, but this Missal is very unusual because it contains portraits and the names of the patron, main scribe, and main artist; and inscriptions naming the scribe and artist. 

It was commissioned by Robert Bruyning, abbot of Sherborne and was created by two clerics: the main scribe was John Whas, a Benedictine monk, and the main artist was John Siferwas, a Dominican friar.

The original manuscript weighs 20 kgs and contains a picture gallery within its 694 pages.  It can be seen free of charge in the British Library's exhibition galleries in London.

The Sherborne Missal - Turning The Pages
Dorset County Museum, Dorchester
Until Sunday 28th August
Information: 01305 262735

last updated: 12/08/05
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