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Ref No EUL MS 265
Repository Special Collections Archives (GB 0029)
Date 1964-1990
Title Papers relating to the library and its readership at Syon Abbey
Extent 12 boxes, 15 volumes
Creator Name Glasscoe; Marion (fl 1976- ); lecturer in English and bibliophile
Creator Name Johnson; Claire (fl 1989-1990); bibliophile
Admin History The community of Bridgettine nuns were based at Syon Abbey South Brent, Devon until 2012. The community was unusual in being able to trace an unbroken tradition reaching back to their Abbey's foundation in 1415. The Bridgettine Order was founded in the second half of the fourteenth-century by a Swedish noblewoman who was canonised in 1391 and known as St Bridget of Sweden. This contemplative order was to accommodate both men and women. The order founded at Syon Abbey in 1415 became a major focal point of religious activity in the sixteenth-century and was well-known for its publication of religious literature. A surviving set of rules for Syon Abbey explicitly emphasises the importance of books and instructs the sisters in their proper care. Both the nuns and the monks had their own libraries but, whilst there is an extant catalogue of the brothers' medieval library, no catalogue of the nuns' medieval library has survived and little is known about what physically happened to either of the libraries following the Abbey's suppression in 1539.

The nuns did not disperse immediately and the re-establishment of Syon by Cardinal Pole was confirmed in 1557 during the reign of Mary. However, in May 1559 Parliament decreed the dissolution of the re-established monasteries and the nuns went into exile. The community then continued to exist in Flanders, France, and Portugal until its return to England in two groups, one in 1809 and the other in 1861, and settled in 1925 at Marley, South Brent, Devon until 2012 when the nuns left, effectively ending the community. Marion Glasscoe, who co-ordinated the transfer of the Syon book collections to Exeter University Library, has recorded that the sisters took a small core of surviving books with them when they first went into exile and she argues that the nuns continued to build up their library while abroad and that they brought all those volumes which survived a convent fire (Lisbon 1651) back to England on their return in the nineteenth-century. The community attracts considerable research interests from throughout the world.
Description This collection contains the following papers relating to reading habits and book collections of the nuns of Syon Abbey during 1989-1990:

Paper catalogue of the library of Syon Abbey (17 softbound volumes of card-index entries), in the following classification system: A Early books (shelved in the Special Collections Reading Room), B Bibles, C Liturgy, D Saints' lives, E Theology, F History, G Swedish, H Fiction, J Poetry, K Drama, L Non-fiction, M Reference, N Marian literature, O Art, P Periodicals, R Children's literature. Eleven boxes of the original loose index slips also form part of the collection, 1989-1990; file of records of books issued to the sisters and held for personal use in their cells, 1989-1990; file of cataloguing notes made by Claire Johnson, cataloguer, 1989-1990; file of mainly photocopied materials relating to the archive collections of Syon Abbey made by Marion Glasscoe, cataloguer, 1989-1990. Also two pamphlets relating to the history of Syon Abbey by F.R. Johnston, 1964 and c 1987; file containing xerox copy of the commonplace book of Sister Mary Gabriel, c 1989; envelope of colour photographs of Marion Glasscoe and Claire Johnson cataloguing and packing books at Syon Abbey, 1989-1990.
Arrangement The original order of this collection on deposit has been retained.
Access Conditions Usual EUL arrangements apply, except to the commonplace book file and file of records of books issued to the sisters and held for personal use in their cells which are closed under the Data Protection Act 1998.
Copyright
Language English
Finding Aids Unlisted.

 

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