Medieval prayer guide written by woman to be published for the first time

(Credit: Dr Ben Parsons, University of Leicester)

One of the few surviving examples of a medieval text written by a woman will be published for the first time.

The text, Prayers and Meditations, will feature alongside Simon Appulby’s Fruyte of Redempcyon in a book edited by Associate Professor in Late Medieval and Early Modern Literature at University of Leicester, Dr Ben Parsons.

Prayers and Meditations is likely to have been written around 1415 and consists of fifty-four prayers, mainly referencing female figures of The Bible such as Mary, Martha and Mary Magdalene.

It is thought that the text is the work of a female writer, fulfilling the request of a second woman either in or about to enter a religious order.

Prayers and Meditations is a rare example of a medieval text written both by and for women.

The text survives in a lone and badly-damaged manuscript held by The Bodleian Library at the University of Oxford, which acquired it from the Coke family in 1956 as part of the Cokes’ collection at Holkham Hall in Norfolk.

Dr Parsons’ edition of Prayers and Meditations is the first time that the full text will be made widely accessible to the public.

Dr Parsons said: “Although the author has left little trace of her identity, she was clearly a skilled and learned writer. Her text is not only notable for what it can tell us about female literacy in the period, but for its intelligence, compassion, and vividly lyrical language.”

Two Middle English Prayer Cycles: Holkham Prayers and Meditations and Simon Appulby’s Fruyte of Redempcyon will be available for purchase and download from Medieval Institute Publications later this year.