Parchment roundels

The nine conjoined parchment roundels. Two depict agate jewels showing St George and the Dragon within the Garter and a cameo of Queen Elizabeth I. Seven of the roundels feature texts in Latin and French on the properties of agate.

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Valued at £9840, the Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport (DCMS) has issued the block with a deadline of December 1 for an institution to commit to raise the money.

The Archbishop Matthew Parker (1504-75) gave the manuscript, made up of nine conjoined roundels which were likely to have been folded and integrated into a now-lost gold salt cellar, to Queen Elizabeth I in the early 1550s.

The use of shell gold suggests that the manuscript was gifted with the intention of impressing the Queen.

The decision to deny the export licence application follows the advice of the Reviewing Committee on the Export Works of Art and Objects of Cultural Interest.

The committee agreed that the manuscript had enormous research value, specifically regarding Archbishop Matthew Parker’s relationship to Queen Elizabeth I.

The committee also said the literary allusions on the roundels further suggested Matthew Parker’s engagement with classical humanist culture that was not typically associated with the clergy and would lead to illuminating further study. 

Committee member Peter Barber added: “These evocative, obscurely-worded and miraculously preserved roundels take us back to power politics and culture at the heart of Elizabeth I’s court.

I fervently hope the roundels will remain in this country where outstanding collections and libraries – not least that of Archbishop Parker himself - would enable their plentiful remaining mysteries to be investigated and explained.” 

The committee made its recommendation on the grounds that the departure of the manuscript from the UK would be a misfortune owing to its outstanding significance to the study of Matthew Parker and gift-giving culture in the Elizabethan period. 

The provenance of the manuscript is believed to be from John Sharp, Archbishop of York (1645-1714) and then by family descent to Thomas Barwick Lloyd Baker (1807-86) and again then by family descent until they were sold at Sotheby’s Treasures sale in December 2021 for a hammer price of £7500 (£9450 including buyer's premium).

The recommended price to buy the conjoined roundel manuscript is £9450 (plus VAT of £390 which can be reclaimed by an eligible institution).