600-year-old book from Wollaton church restored by University of Nottingham
NEW life has been breathed into a religious book more than 600 years old.
The Wollaton Antiphonal contains more than 800 handwritten and illustrated pages, which were used every day in the Middle Ages by priests at Wollaton's St Leonard's Church to sing in services.
After a 15-year project the book has now been completely restored by the University of Nottingham at a cost of £50,000.
It can also be read on a computer at the church and university, with explanations and audio clips adding to the original.
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Malcolm Stacey, a member of St Leonard's Church, in Wollaton Road, has been involved in the project.
"Although there were hundreds of these books they all got destroyed apart from two and this one is actually better than the other one so we are rather proud of that," said Mr Stacey, 72, of Lenton.
"People who know about these things think it's a remarkable survival and example of what every church would have possessed.
"Because it's 600 years old it's not as good as new, so what they have been doing for the past 15 years is preserving it and preventing it from decaying further and it is a pretty remarkable survival, better than you would expect."
Although the book has been around for 600 years, it was only used in Wollaton for half a century before the first prayer book in English appeared in 1549, making the all-Latin Antiphonal useless.
The Wollaton volume was taken to the library at Wollaton Hall for safekeeping, where it stayed for nearly 400 years.
It was then returned to the church in 1925, when Lord Middleton sold the Wollaton estate, before the University of Nottingham agreed to house it 50 years later. By that time the volume had become so fragile it could not be handled and the university financed the 15-year project that has now come to an end.
During the conservation process, the parchment pages of the book were repaired and the pigment was consolidated to make the writing clearer where it had worn.
Mr Stacey said: "The book looks magnificent now but what is also magnificent is a digitised version, which lets you turn pages and magnify the text.
"There's also explanations about every page and you can hear people singing from it so that adds immeasurably to the original."
People can view the original Wollaton Antiphonal at a Tombs and Tales event at St Leonard's Church on Monday, November 26 at 7.30pm. Tickets cost £5 and include refreshments. Visit the Parish Office or contact Mr Stacey on 0115 978 5718 for tickets.