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Henry VIII’s Prosper of Aquitaine

Prosper of Aquitaine, Opera, 1539

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This folio edition of the works of the fifth-century theologian St Prosper of Aquitaine was purchased in July 1674 for the modest price of 8 shillings (40p). The work was not seen as especially important, indeed in the accessions register the book was given the wrong date of 1639 and the place of publication was recorded as Basel rather than Lyon.

Several centuries later, however, the true significance of this volume was revealed: the white doeskin binding bears the monogram HR together with the arms of England and France, and the edges are decorated with the motto ‘Rex in aeternum vive’ (‘May thou reign forever O King’).

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The book can thus be safely identified as having been bound for King Henry VIII. How it made its way from the royal collections to the Library’s bookseller is another question, and one we cannot now answer.

The work joins a select list of royal books held by the Library which includes a manuscript work owned by Elizabeth I, and the Aulus Gellius owned by Matthias Corvinus King of Hungary.

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