National Trust Saves Unique Caxton Book For The Nation

By 24 Hour Museum Staff | 07 April 2008
a photograph of an open book with illuminated pages

The Caxton Sarum Missal. © The National Trust

The National Trust has acquired the sole surviving copy of a book called the Sarum Missal, published by William Caxton in 1487.

A liturgical book for the performance of the Mass, the Sarum Missal was printed in Paris for Caxton in 1487. It is the only copy of the earliest known edition of the Missal according to the Use of Sarum – the most popular version of the Mass in use in pre-Reformation England.

It has been in the north-west of England since at least 1508 – and was at Lyme Park, in Cheshire, until 1946 in the ownership of the Legh family.

The Missal will be placed on display in the historic Library at Lyme Park from spring 2009 and will be joined by a digital facsimile using the British Library’s award-winning ‘Turning the Pages’ technology.

a photograph of a woman with head on hands beyond an open book with illuminated pages

Lym Park's House Manager, Amy Thornborrow with the Caxton Missal. © The National Trust

The National Trust has been able to complete the purchase of the Missal from the Legh family for a net cost of £465,000 with funding support of £316,000 from the Heritage Lottery Fund, £100,000 from The Art Fund, and the remaining amount from a range of other bodies and charitable foundations.

"The acquisition of the Sarum Missal is hugely exciting and presents us with a wonderful opportunity to share this intriguing and historic book," said Mark Purcell, the National Trust’s Libraries Curator.

"It is one of only two Caxtons in the world which has remained in the ownership of a single family for 500 years. The Trust is grateful to the Legh family for giving us the opportunity to purchase the book, and to the Heritage Lottery Fund and many others whose generous support enabled the Trust to return the Missal to Lyme Park.”

Other organisations involved in raising funds for the acquisition include The Foyle Foundation, The Pilgrim Trust, The Friends of the National Libraries, The Robert Gavron Charitable Trust, The Royal Oak Foundation, The Peak District National Trust Association together with private individuals.

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