Coxe MS. 12
John Felton, Sermones dominicales per anni circulum, in Latin

[England, Oxford?, mid-15th century]


 Sermons preached at St Mary Magdalen
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John Felton (d.1434) was vicar of St Mary Magdalen, Oxford, from 1397 until his death. He opens the volume with a prologue by stating that the poverty of students in moral matters has led him to compile the work. The main text is a series of sermons suitable for the various Sundays through the year, which he completed in 1431; it survives in more than 30 copies, a dozen of which are in Oxford. This one, made within a few decades of his death, is a mid-level production: the text is in a cursive script, relatively quick (and therefore inexpensive) to write, and the decoration is limited to the red-ink pen-flourishing of the most important initials, themselves executed in plain blue. References to the Bible are underlined in red, and new sections are marked by alternating blue or red paragraph marks: the use of colour therefore has a functional purpose, rather than a primarily decorative one. It is therefore a functional book, probably originally used by an Oxford priest, not a show-piece with unnecessary embellishment. If written at Oxford, as seems likely, this copy would probably have been written within a five-minute walk of its current location, perhaps in Catte Street, a focus of book-production in medieval Oxford. After acquisition by the College it would have been chained to the shelves in the Library, with the fore-edge (not the spine) facing outwards, as evidenced by the marks from a chain-hasp on the upper cover.

The manuscript was given by Cornelius Burges, Commoner of the College, in 1614.

Text kindly provided, especially for this exhibition, by Peter Kidd