Watching the very brilliant BBC adaptation of Wolf Hall reminds me of seeing Henry VII's prayer book at The British Library Patron's Evening with Francesca Valli. A small group of patrons were invited in December to see a selection of rare Tudor books and manuscripts and Francesca invited me as her guest. The books were arranged around a long boardroom table, many on top of the protective cloth or leather cases they are stored in (many which looked as old as the books themselves so were also fascinating). The first music book to be printed in English (1530 - imagine, hardly anyone outside the British Isles spoke it then) was on display, featuring works by John Taverner amongst other composers. My eye was drawn to the 'The Spy's Choirbook' produced by Petrus Almire for Henry VIII and Catherine of Aragon in 1515, several of the texts set to music in here were on the theme of childbirth, a pressing matter for the royal couple as we all know. Looking at books printed 500 years ago was a first for me. Henry VIII's prayer book (or The Psalter of Henry VIII) was the star attraction with pages to be turned by gloved Library staff only - although there was a copy we could look at independently. The prayer book is full of exquisitely drawn illustrations with the inked colours still bright and there are lots of notes in the margins in Henry's own handwriting.
Although this evening was only for Patrons and the Tudor manuscripts are not on public display it is possible to see some of them as The British Library has put a huge amount of it's collection online (and their photographs will be huge improvement on mine!) http://www.bl.uk/manuscripts