RepositorySpecial Collections Archives (GB 0029)
Ref NoEUL MS 262
Date15th century-20th century
Extent191 volumes, 8 folders
TitleSyon Abbey medieval, early modern and modern manuscript collection
DescriptionThis collection contains twelve complete liturgical and theological manuscripts, dating between the 15th and 17th centuries. Some of these are listed in Ker and de Hamel' (see 'Publication note' below).

The following items are contained:
262/1 Processionale, 16th century;
262/2 Horae, 15th century
262/3 Brevarium, 15th century;
262/4 Horae, c 1424;
262/5 Horae, 15th c.;
262/6 Brevarium, 15th century;
262/7 Sermo de Sancta Anna et alia, 15th century;
262/8 Missale Hollandicum, 16th century;
262/9 Officium parvum Beate Mariae, 15th century;
262/10 Breviary, 17th century;
262/11 Antiphonale, 17th century;
262/18 A looking glace for the religious spiritual study of contemplation, 17th century or early 18th century.

262/fragments 1-8. The collection also contains fragments of parchment sheets (some with water, fire and pest damage) which have also been collected by the Abbey. Some of these are illuminated and are attributed to have formed part of the pre-Dissolution Abbey library. Some of these are listed by de Hamel. A further fragment found in the Syon Abbey archive within a notebook listing accounts [EUL MS 389/FIN/3/10] was added to 262/fragments 2 on 7 August 2017. The fragment, possibly from a manuscript of the Syon Additions, appears to correspond to another fragment within this folder.

Three subsequent accessions of early modern and modern manuscripts (16th to 20th century) from Syon Abbey have been arranged into three sequences, respecting their different provenances and dates of the accessions/transfers to the collection. These are listed at item level in the catalogue under the reference numbers below:

EUL MS 262/add1 - Syon Abbey early modern and modern manuscripts, Addition 1 (c 16th-20th century)
EUL MS 262/add2 - Syon Abbey early modern manuscripts, Addition 2 (17th-20th century)
EUL MS 262/add3 - Syon Abbey early modern manuscripts, Addition 3 (1526-18th century)
Admin HistorySyon Abbey was a monastic house of the Order of our Most Holy Saviour (also known as the Bridgettines). The house was founded directly from the Mother House in Vadstena in Sweden in 1415, and the community followed the Rule of St Bridget of Sweden. 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. The enclosed Bridgettine community of Syon Abbey - comprising both monks and nuns and governed by an abbess - was renowned for its dedication to reading, meditation and contemplation. Syon Abbey 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.

Syon Abbey was unusual in being the only English Catholic community of religious to have continued existing without interruption through the Reformation period. In the wake of Henry VIII's Dissolution of the Monasteries, the community dispersed into smaller groups in which they continued their religious practice, with some remaining in England whilst others sought refuge abroad. Syon Abbey was restored for a short period in England under the Catholic rule of Mary I; however, following the accession of Elizabeth I and the return to Protestantism, the community began their exile. The community spent over half a century migrating through the Low Countries (Antwerp, Dendermonde, Haamstede, Mishagen, Mechelen) and France (Rouen), before eventually finding a new home in Lisbon, Portugal in 1594. In Lisbon, the community survived a convent fire in 1651 and the Lisbon Earthquake in 1755, but both events presumably resulted in the loss of many of Syon's early records, manuscripts and printed books. The last brother of Syon Abbey died in 1695. In 1809, at the height of the Napoleonic Wars, the community - with the exception of three sisters, who remained in Lisbon - attempted a return to England; however, by 1815, they were struggling financially, and eventually they relinquished many of their ancient treasures to the Earl of Shrewsbury in exchange for financial support (many of these treasures were auctioned at the The Great Sale of 1857 at Alton Towers). One sister returned to the community in Lisbon, whilst the last of the nuns in England died in 1837. Following the arrival of new postulants in the early nineteenth century, the community in Lisbon recovered and regained its strength. In 1861, amid rising religious tensions in Portugal, the community successfully returned to England, where they initially resided in Spetisbury, Dorset. Following a further relocation to Chudleigh, Devon, in 1887, the community finally settled in South Brent, Devon, in 1925. On account of dwindling numbers and the age of the remaining nuns, the decision was made to close Syon Abbey in 2011.

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 throughout the world.
LanguageLatin, English, Dutch, French
Access StatusOpen
Related MaterialThe substantial book collection (pre-1850) of Syon Abbey is also held at Special Collections, and is fully catalogued, with entries available on the library's online catalogue, under classmark 'Syon'.

Other Syon Abbey related collections held at Special Collections include:

EUL MS 389 - Syon Abbey archive
EUL MS 265 - Papers relating to the library and its readership at Syon Abbey
EUL MS 394 - Papers relating to Marion Glasscoe's relationship with Syon Abbey and the Syon Reliquary
Poor Souls' Friend and St Joseph's Monitor (local classmark POOR)
Other manuscripts relating to Syon Abbey, Middlesex, are held at the following repositories: Alnwick Castle, Cambridge University: King's College Archive Centre, Ghent University Library, Guildhall Library, Huntington Library, North Yorkshire County Record Office, Cambridge University Library, Cornwall Record Office, Lambeth Palace Library, the National Archives (Public Record Office), Longleat House, Cambridge University Library: St John's College Library, British Library, Lichfield Cathedral Library and at Ushaw College Library, Durham.
Access ConditionsUsual EUL arrangements apply.
ArrangementRetained in the order as used at Syon Abbey.
Finding_AidsListed. A handlist is available. See also Note.
Mgt_GroupTheological papers
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