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Library Spotlight: Spoils of War in the Cathedral Library

Cover of a 1784 Spanish Missal captured at the Battle of Finisterre, 1805
Posted By : Emily Naish Tuesday 12th April 2016

Written by Peter Hoare, Library Volunteer at Salisbury Cathedral.

In the Battle of Cape Finisterre off the coast of Galicia, on 22 July 1805 (a bare three months before Trafalgar) a British fleet under Sir Robert Calder attacked a combined French and Spanish fleet which was returning from the West Indies. The battle was indecisive, but it persuaded the French admiral Villeneuve not to sail to Brest to join the rest of the French fleet, which might have led to an invasion of England. The rearmost ship in the British fleet, HMS Malta, was surrounded by five Spanish ships, but by using her 84 guns to fire devastating broadsides to port and starboard she fought off the enemy ships. (Ironically she had originally been a French ship, the Guillaume Tell, captured in 1800 and re-commissioned into the Royal Navy.) By 8pm Malta forced two Spanish ships to surrender. One was the 74-gun Firme, and the other the larger 80-gun San Rafael - and it was this warship that yielded up a book which for the last hundred years has been in Salisbury Cathedral Library.

 

This stout but battered volume, in a late 18th-century black leather binding, is a Roman missal, printed in Madrid in 1784. It probably belonged to the chaplain of the San Rafael, since it bears the signature of  “Fr. Fran. Morales”, who must have been taken prisoner and taken his treasured missal with him into captivity.  A series of inscriptions records the book’s capture, and shows that it was acquired by Captain Edward Buller, captain of HMS Malta, who died in 1824 as Sir Edward Buller, a baronet and a vice-admiral. The book later passed to another member of his family, the Revd. John Buller (died 1847), who was vicar of St Just-in-Penwith, in Cornwall, and wrote a history of the parish in 1842. His bookplate, showing the family arms, is also in the Spanish missal. It may have been John Buller who added notes about the battle and the capture of the San Rafael.

 

It is not clear how the missal eventually came into the hands of John Wordsworth, Bishop of Salisbury 1885-1911, but it has a purple ink-stamp recording his ownership. Many of his books passed into the Cathedral Library after his death, and this volume, as well as having a decidedly interesting back story, is an important addition to the Library’s strong collection of liturgical works, going back to the Sarum Rite established by St Osmund, which by the time of the Reformation was the predominant liturgy used in England. 

 

This volume is one of several Roman missals in the Library, dating from the 16th to the 20th century, but appears to be rare - no other copy of this particular edition seems to be in a UK library. It has another missal, of the special festivals celebrated in Spain, bound at the back. Both the missals in the volume were printed by Antonio de Sancha, a well-known Madrid printer, in 1784 and 1787 - so the volume was less than 20 years old when it was captured. Like many liturgies of the period they are printed in red and black, with printed music and some striking engravings. The dramatic print on the title-page of the second missal commemmorates the Spanish victory over the Muslims in the mythical battle of Clavijo in the ninth century, in the person of St James the Moor - Slayer, one of Spain's patron saints.

 

See the accompanying gallery for further photos here.