Missel Romain (1692)

The lovely binding on this Roman Missal looks to be original, dating from the late seventeenth or early eighteenth century. The decorative tooling and raised bands on the spine are heightened with gold, but the book shows signs of use, as we can see from the dark stains on the front cover. This is not surprising as it would have been frequently taken to mass by its owners. A missal is a book setting out the form of the mass as well as other prayers and liturgy used by the Catholic Church.

In late seventeenth-century France, various missals appeared under the influence of religious reform groups, especially the Gallicanists, headed by Bossuet, the renowned Bishop of Meaux. Except for the offices of Holy Week, missals were generally published in Latin. This one, however, says that it is “translated into French” and is based on the official missal following (c.1570) from the Council of Trent. Mary Maire, owner of the book, may not have known Latin and would have found this translation easier to use. (According to ESTC, the first English version was not available until 1737-38; probably also an unofficial publication, as the place “London” is questionable.)

That Mary was English is indicated by her signature “Marie Maire Her Book” on the engraved title page. The Maires were a Catholic family in the north of England, most likely from France originally, as the name suggests (“maire” means “mayor”). A prominent branch of the family lived at Lartington Hall in County Durham. Thomas Maire of Lartington married Mary Fermor (1673-1729), so the missal might have been hers. The book itself would have been imported from the continent, but the imprint “Cologne: Chez Jean de La Pierre” is probably false. According to the Bibliothèque Nationale, that imprint was a pseudonym for printing prohibited religious books, which would have included the missal in French, and also books written by Quietists, members of a heretical Catholic sect. The books were probably disseminated from Amsterdam. Interestingly, one of the other titles carrying this imprint is Poésies et Cantiques Spirituels [Poems and Spiritual Songs] 1722, by Madame Guyon (Jeanne Marie Bouvier de la Motte Guyon), a French mystic, who had earlier run into trouble with the Catholic authorities because of her beliefs.

Source: Book offered for sale by Patrick Olson Rare Books, December 2019. Images reproduced with permission.

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