Henry VIII and his books

Henry VIII at Warwick castle. Photo (c) Hannah Meiklejohn 2011

While some people believe that to mark a book with ink, or to crease a corner of a page, break a spine or any other casual treatment is like book – cruelty; others see nothing wrong with making notes, underlining or marking passages.

Henry VIII was one of these people.  The British Library holds a collection of books which had belonged to the King, famous for having six wives, and creating the Anglican protestant church in England.  The books have his notes and markings all over them, showing us his thoughts about certain topics.   Whenever he came across something he thought was important or noteworthy, he drew little hands alongside the text.  As well as marking lines he thought were interesting, he also wrote love notes in the margin of a prayer-book.

Treating a book this way is not acceptable to everyone.  But what would come of these books if Henry VIII hadn’t scrawled over them?  The British Library would not have this fascinating, and a part of our understanding of his character would be lost.

The commentary of The British Library:
The King has annotated the right-hand page in two places.

‘O Lord, save the king: and hear us in the day that we shall call upon thee’ as ‘an appropriate prayer for kings’ (pro rege oratio).

With his pencil annotation ‘concerning kings’ (nota de regibus), Henry draws attention to Psalm 20: which instructs him that, as king, he is called to ‘rejoice in the Lord’s strength and delight in His salvation.

A page of Marulić's Evangelistarium annotated ...
A page of Marulić’s Evangelistarium annotated personnaly by the English King Henry VIII, kept in the British Library (843 K 13) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)