Manuscripts and Special Collections

Saints, Sinner and Storytellers

This exhibition ran from April to August 2010.

It was curated by the Wollaton Library Collection research team, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, and by Manuscripts and Special Collections, with support from Professor Thorlac Turville-Petre, Professor Ralph Hanna, and Dr Gavin Cole.


It marked the culmination of two major projects within The University of Nottingham. One project, supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, concerned the Wollaton Library Collection. The grant secured the future of the collection at The University of Nottingham and allowed cataloguing, preservation and other work to be carried out. The second project focussed on the Wollaton Antiphonal, which also required extensive conservation workIt was funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC),National Manuscripts Conservation Trust, the Pilgrim Trust and other bodies.

The volumes on display represented a remnant of the rich library collection formerly housed at Wollaton Hall, together with the magnificent Wollaton Antiphonal. As a local collection of manuscript volumes, this exhibition offered an extraordinarily rich perspective on the literary tastes and religious faith of our medieval ancestors. Illustrated French romances and fourteenth-century texts in English demonstrated the move of literature from Latin to native languages, while a single leaf records in English the life of St Zita, the Italian saint of housekeepers.

Such books have faced many risks to their survival over the centuries and original binding features are often lost in later repairs. While the Wollaton volumes all remain fragile, they provide valuable evidence about their first creation and use.

The decoration of medieval volumes is an essential part of their charm for modern readers. The Wollaton Antiphonal is an extremely rare example of a late medieval church service book. It is one of only two known surviving English Antiphonals decorated with illuminated miniatures as well as intricate borders. A total of 75 pages from this sumptuous manuscript are available to access online.


A pamphlet was produced to accompany the exhibition, with more information about the medieval items from the Wollaton Library featured in the exhibition and their context.

Download the Saints, Sinners and Storytellers pamphlet

Exhibition themes

The exhibition boards which were displayed in the Weston Gallery are available to download in PDF format.

They present images and text on the following themes:

Visitor comments

Thank you – I feel privileged to have seen it

A treat for the eyes and mind

The Wollaton Antiphonal is the most beautiful book. Thank you for the opportunity to see parts. I didn’t know we had such a local treasure.

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Manuscripts and Special Collections

Kings Meadow Campus
Lenton Lane
Nottingham, NG7 2NR

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 4565
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