Close XYL-24 King Henry VI of England

 [England, c.1490–1500]. Woodcut, with inscriptions in Latin and French.

 Schr. 1499. Henry VI, King of England, invoked as a saint. The king is portrayed with his crown, holding the sceptre in his right hand and the orb in his left, and wearing a mantle trimmed with ermine, standing on a carpet. He is positioned at the centre of an arch supported by pillars, which frame the picture, and surrounded by kneeling figures of smaller stature. At his feet the seated figure of a fantastic beast with serrated horns and tusks, to be identified as the antelope which Henry VI used as a badge. Two women and a man are shown kneeling to his right, three women and two men to his left. The man on the king’s right has a rope round his kneck. The woman kneeling in the foreground at his feet, on his left, holds a knife to her throat. The young man behind her is transfixed by an arrow. The second man on the king’s left has a javelin protruding from his throat. All eight figures are raising their hands as in prayer, evidently invoking Henry as their intercessor. Behind the king a brocaded hanging, adorned with a shield displaying the quartered arms of England and France. On either side of the curtain votive offerings hang or are affixed to the wall: to the left, where the woodcut is badly mutilated, a rosary, a taper, a naked figure and horse standing on a ledge, two legs (of a hanging figure?), and to the right a model ship, a chain, a shirt, a pair of crutches, and an inscribed tablet. There are two inscriptions, both almost totally lost through mutilation. All that remains of that above the frame are the letters ‘cu’ (from ‘Henricus’?), and of that inscribed over the pavement at bottom ‘mon d[:::]t’ (from ‘Dieu et mon droit’). Framed with a thick black line (preserved only in the right-hand margin). Unique copy. Dodgson, Grosjean, and Ettlinger have identified the supplicant figures as referring to specific miracles recorded after the death of Henry VI, as described in the Miracula postuma Henrici VI Angliae regis (ed. Grosjean). Henry VI, who was murdered in the Tower of London in 1471, came into particular favour during the reign of Henry VII (1485–1509), who built the chapel at Westminster Abbey in which he himself was to be buried with a view to the transfer of Henry VI’s remains from Windsor, although this was never brought about. In 1490 an application was made for his canonization, and in 1494 Pope Alexander VI appointed an investigatory commission for whom the collection of Latin miracle stories, covering the years 1481–1500, appears to have been compiled. This is the context in which this unusual woodcut must have been executed, and the inclusion of the numerous ex votos in the image makes it certain that it was specifically associated with the cult of Henry VI in St George’s Chapel, Windsor Castle, where the remains of the martyr king long attracted pilgrimages.

ills. Dodgson, ‘English Devotional Woodcuts’, pl. XXXVII; Hind II fig. 470; Dodgson, English Woodcuts, fig. 22; Hodnett fig. 18; Duffy, Altars, fig. 77; Gothic: Art for England, 75 pl. 46 (incorrectly identified as contained in MS. Digby 227).

refs. Dodgson, Ashmolean, 35–6 (Bodl.26); Dodgson, ‘English Devotional Woodcuts’, 104–8; Schreiber, Handbuch, VIII 90; P. Grosjean (ed.), Henrici VI Angliae regis miracula postuma ex codice Musei Britannici regio 13. C. viii, Subsidia hagiographica, 22 (Brussels, 1935), 257*–258*; Dodgson, English Woodcuts, 10–11 no. 22; Hind II 739–40; STC 14077 c.23B; Hodnett no. 2514; E. Ettlinger, ‘Notes on a Woodcut depicting King Henry VI being Invoked as a Saint’, Folklore, 84 (1973), 115–19 (with plate); B. Spencer, ‘King Henry of Windsor and the London Pilgrim’, in Collectanea Londiniensia. Studies in London Archaeology and History presented to Ralph Merrifield, ed. J. Bird and others (London, 1978), 235–64 (with fig. 1); B. P. Wolffe, Henry VI, 3rd edn (New Haven and London, 2001), 353 (with pl. 24); R. Marks, ‘Images of Henry VI’, in The Lancastrian Court. Proceedings of the 2001 Harlaxton Symposium, ed. J. Stratford (Donington, 2003), 111–24, at 117 with pl. 16 (‘early sixteenth century’); Nicholson no. 150.

copy Chancery sheet. c.370 × c.240 mm (woodcut 338 × c.230 mm). Chain-lines horizontal. Remains of a watermark (?) in the upper part of the leaf do not permit identification. Printed in black ink in a press on one side of the paper. Uncoloured. Much of the upper left-hand portion of the print (including the king’s face), as well as the upper, left-hand, and lower margins have been torn or scratched away, evidently as an act of wilful iconoclasm. Pasted to the otherwise completely blank verso of an original parchment flyleaf (fol. 376v), facing the lower pastedown (now lifted), at the end of MS. Bodl. 277, a large-format illuminated parchment manuscript of the complete Bible in English, c.1415–30 (408 × 260 mm), from King Henry VI’s own collection.

refs. SC 2124; Pächt–Alexander III no. 880; King Henry’s Bible, MS Bodley 277: The Revised Version of the Wyclif Bible, ed. C. Lindberg, vols I–IV (Stockholm, 1999–2004); Index of Images, I 58 no. 183.

Binding: Nineteenth-century inboard binding for the Bodleian Library, retaining the sewing from an earlier binding, rebacked in the late twentieth century. 422 × 285 × 115. Blind-tooled mid-brown straight-grained morocco over millboard. The binding retains an earlier all-along sewing on eight raised double (?) supports. An inscribed fragment, from the earlier upper endleaves, is now mounted on the upper doublure. The lower endleaves are retained in the binding as fols 376–7. The verso of fol. 377, the original pastedown, has adhered remains of red-tawed leather indicating a chemise pocket, impressions of board lacing which match the eight supports, and impressions and corrosion from two copper-alloy side pins. The edges of the textblock are stained yellow, with many parchment and red-stained tawed-leather place tabs on the fore-edge. The volume was rebacked with dark-brown morocco and provided with new paper flyleaves in the late twentieth century. The lower flyleaf has the watermark ‘J Green 1966’.

Provenance: London, Carthusians, Domus salutationis matris Dei; inscription at fol. 375r: ‘Hic liber erat quondam henrici sexti qui postea donabatur domui Cartusianorum quae Londino contigua est’ (early sixteenth-century); liturgical lection indicators added in the margins suggest that the manuscript was used for readings in the Charterhouse. The inscription is evidence that at a previous date the host volume belonged to Henry VI, King of England (1421–1471), a circumstance which no doubt gave rise to the addition of the woodcut; possibly to be identified with the Bible ‘in Engelyssh’ recorded as having belonged to Henry IV, King of England (1367–1413), appropriated from the royal collection after the king’s death by the London stationer Thomas Marleburgh (†1427). George More (1553–1632). Presented in 1604; see SC I 88. See also: C. Meale, ‘Patrons, Buyers and Owners: Book Production and Social Status’, in Book Production and Publishing in Britain 1375–1475, ed. J. Griffiths and D. Pearsall (Cambridge, 1989), 201–38, at 203 and notes 10 and 14; A. I. Doyle, ‘English Carthusian Books not yet Linked with a Charterhouse’, in ’A Miracle of Learning’. Studies in Manuscripts and Irish Learning. Essays in Honour of William O’Sullivan, ed. T. Barnard and others (Aldershot, 1998), 122–36, at 132 n. 32. Former Bodleian shelfmarks: Th. B 24 9; NE.C.7.1.

shelfmark: MS. Bodl. 277, fol. 376v.