Bodleian Library, MS Eng. th. c. 71

Bodleian Library, MS Eng. th. c. 71, or the Merton manuscript, contains more Donne sermons than any other manuscript. Sixteen sermons are included, preached from a variety of pulpits in between the years 1616-1622. Several items precede the Donne material: a court sermon by John King; some documents (complaints and a response) associated with Edward Coke and George Close about the liberties of the pulpit; two anonymous wedding sermons; another court sermon by John Burgess, and finally a sermon celebrating martial prowess, probably by Hamlet Marshall. The Merton manuscript is, in the words of Potter and Simpson, 'the most valuable of all the manuscripts containing sermons by Donne' (Vol. I, p. 33), not least because of the amount of sermons collected in a single place: twice more than in other other surviving manuscript. Some early correspondence about the manuscript suggests that it is possible that it once contained a series of sonnets by William Alabaster, and other poetry, and that these materials have subsequently been lost. Today, there is no trace of these materials. 

The manuscript is an exquisite production, written with great care, and probably rigorously planned and executed. Production is likely to have been divided between the main professional scribe and the rubricator. It is likely that the latter was also responsible for the manuscript's decoration in red ink, mostly consisting of rectangular and circular borders around titles, and some other ornamentation.