Expositio hymnorum totius anni secundum vsnm [sic] Sarum

Early examples of commentaries on hymns and sequences (hymns used as part of the Church liturgy) date from the eleventh and twelfth centuries, including Expositio Hymnorum, which was compiled by Hilarius. He might have been a student of Abelard (1071-1142) in Paris. A twelfth-century manuscript of Expositio Hymnorum from Rochester cathedral opens with text almost identical to that in the present edition. Commentaries were used to deepen choristers’ understanding their music; Hilarius added to each stanza of verse a text summary (“Materia huius hymni est de aduentu Christi”). Because the manuscripts also served the purpose of teaching Latin, many incunabular editions of Expositio Hymnorum appeared.

In England, Richard Pynson and Wynkyn de Worde printed Expositio Humnorum for Sarum use. The books found wide application in teaching schoolboys Latin. The present edition was printed in Paris in 1502 for John Baldwin, an English bookseller. It is the first of many editions to include prefaces by Josse Bade (Jodocus Badius Ascensius), who included information that increased the pedagogical value of the book. An editor and later an eminent printer, Bade added to each stanza “Construe” and “Ascen.” (Ascen. referring to Ascensius) that provided grammatical analysis. Baldwin’s preface before the hymns—and a second before the sequences—stress the importance of featuring Christianity in educating the youth of Britain. He remarks (in Latin) that any seven-year-old boy can tell you in what season Aeneas celebrated the birthday of his father and in what season he was driven to Elissa, but be ignorant as to when our Savior arrived and what day his advent is celebrated. 

From the inscription in the present copy, we learn that the book was purchased by ‘Sir’ John Lye of Worfield (in Shropshire) in 1503 for “2s.9d.” Lye was chaplain of the Chantry of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Worfield, a post he held in 1500 and where he remained until his death in the late 1530s. Records indicate that John Lye lived in a small cottage that was used as a chantry school. Lye likely rubricated the book and as schoolmaster, he made numerous corrections to the text and annotations. Late Catholic use of the book is evidenced by the (half-heartedly light) crossing out of the sequence for the feast of St. Thomas a Becket on 29 December. This was undoubtedly executed after the Henry VIII’s royal proclamation in 1538 declaring Becket not a saint. 

Chrzanowski 1502e *

STC 16116

Title List

1479–1550 | 1551–1580 | 1583–1608 | 1609–1675