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"The Book of Margery Kempe," The First Autobiography Written in English

1436 to 1438
British Library MS 61823, dated c. 1440. The only known copy of the mystic, Margery Kempe

British Library MS 61823, dated c. 1440. The only known copy of the mystic, Margery Kempe's autobiography. f. 1r.

The earliest autobiography written in English, and one of the earliest English books written by a woman, The Book of Margery Kempe is known in a unique copy preserved in the British Library (MS 61823) The book telts of Margery's life and travels in England and on pilgrimage to the Holy Land and Santiago de Compostela. The original was dictated by her to a priest of Lynn. The British Lbrary manuscript, of which a full digital facsimile is available, is probably a copy made from the original, perhaps under Margery's supervision. It includes Initials in red with decoration, including human faces, Nomina sacra, marginal rubrics and highlighting in red.
"The mother of 14 children, Kempe became a chaste pilgrim after experiencing religious visions, travelling to Jerusalem and Santiago de Compostela while expressing her devotion to Christ through weeping and loud cries.
 Only one known manuscript exists of Margery Kempe’s story: its whereabouts were unknown from around 1520 until the 1930s, when it was discovered in the cupboard of a country-house during a game of ping-pong. One of the players stepped on the ball and while searching for another, the The Book of Margery Kempe manuscript fell out of a cupboard."  (, accessed 05-04-2016).
Previously on May 8, 2015 The Guardian reported that a letter from Margery Kempe to her son John Kempe discovered in Gdansk, confirms that Margery Kempe's account was more historically accurate that had been previously assume.

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