GEMMS: Gateway to Early Modern Manuscript Sermons
TitleThe 'Merton' Manuscript of the Sermons of John Donne
ShelfmarkMS. Eng. th. c. 71
Creation Dateca. 1600 - 1649
RepositoryBodleian Library
Contents NoteContains sixteen sermons by John Donne (ff. 53r-171r), which is twice as many Donne sermons as any other extant manuscript. The titles and notes on these sermons contain information not found elsewhere. The Oxford Edition website dates the Donne sermons 1616-1622. Before the Donne sermons are six sermons by other authors (ff. 1r-5r, 20r-37v, 40r-46r, 49r-52v), and notes on Matthew 1:18. Also contains legal papers from a conflict between George Closse (fl. 1571-1621) and Sir Edward Coke (1552-1634) (f. 7). Collier describes a volume resembling this one in his History of Dramatic Poetry and claims that it formerly included sonnets by William Alabaster (1567-1640) and other poetry, but these pages were lost. However, Potter and Simpson doubt that Collier was describing the "Merton" manuscript in his dubious book, since the manuscript appears to be complete: the blank pages at the back have the same red borders as the rest of the volume, suggesting that these pages are supposed to be the end.
Material FeaturesA beautiful and carefully written manuscript, 8 1/4 x 12 1/4 inches, xii + 178 leaves. Blank on ff. 171v-176v, but with red ink border. The Donne sermons are not written in his hand; Potter and Simpson note that there are no known extant autograph manuscripts of Donne's sermons. This volume probably written partly by a professional scribe and partly by a rubricator, the latter presumably being the source of the decorative rectangular and circular borders around the text, and other decorative additions, in red ink. The volume was written in the early seventeenth century. The upper cover is made of contemporary calf. The initials of the 17th-century owner, H.F., appear in a large, gilt-tooled lozenge in the centre of the cover, on modern calf binding. The text is written mostly in a single unidentified hand, identified by Potter and Simpson as a "secretary" or "English" hand.
Associated Peoplemanuscript owner - Merton, Wilfredmanuscript owner? - Collier, John
ProvenanceThe "Merton" manuscript was owned by Wilfred Merton in the mid-twentieth century. The creator of the manuscript is unknown. The inscription on the inside upper cover reads "Mr. Collyer 3 Bouverie St. Fleet St." This was the address of John Payne Collier from 1818 to 1821. Accordingly, it was referred to as the "Payne-Collier" manuscript by Geoffrey Keynes before Potter and Simpson designated it the "Merton" manuscript. However, it is unclear whether the manuscript was ever owned by Collier, as he never spelled his name "Collyer" and the inscription is not written in his hand.
AcquisitionDonated to the Bodleian in 1960.
Source of DataJeanne Shami; Bodleian New Summary Catalogue, vol. 2; Bodleian Online Catalogues of Western Manuscripts; Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne website; George R. Potter and Evelyn M. Simpson, eds., The Sermons of John Donne, vol. 1 (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1953), pp. 33-34
Other NoteEach of the sermons by Donne in this manuscript was included in George R. Potter and Evelyn M. Simpson, eds., The Sermons of John Donne, 10 vols. (Berkeley and Los Angeles: University of California Press, 1953-62). They are also included in Peter McCullough et al., eds., The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne, 16 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013-). Most volumes of the Oxford Edition have not yet been published, so some of the sermons in this manuscript will appear in later volumes. In addition, except for the sermon on Pslams 38:9 (ff. 95r-101v), each of these sermons was published in at least one seventeenth-century collection of Donne's sermons.
Sermon Reports Contained
Attached URLs:
URLNotes Online Catalogue: The 'Merton' and 'Dowden' Manuscripts relating to John Donne Edition of the Sermons of John Donne website
GEMMS record createdApril 12, 2017
GEMMS record last editedNovember 30, 2021