Page last updated at 13:14 GMT, Wednesday, 15 July 2009 14:14 UK

New home for church's rare books

Books taken from St Mary's Church, Nantwich in Cheshire
The hymn book was one of many that had been in the church tower for years

A rare 500-year-old hymn book printed by the father of Fleet Street and kept for years in a church tower has gone to a new home in Greater Manchester.

Wynkyn de Worde - who established the first printing press in Fleet Street - printed the 1502 hymn book.

The book, one of only three known copies, has been kept for years at St Mary's Church in Nantwich, Cheshire.

It and other ancient books were donated to the John Rylands University Library at The University of Manchester.

Ed Potten, assistant keeper of printed books at the library, said: "Church libraries like this are increasingly rare and Nantwich is a particularly important example.

"We were particularly delighted to discover the Wynkyn de Worde hymnal - a truly spectacular addition to our collections of early English books.

"Wynkyn de Worde worked for William Caxton, England's first printer, and took over his business following Caxton's death.

"As a printer, de Worde was extremely prolific and he is credited with the creation of the mass book market."

Specialist care

Rick Appleton, from St Mary's Church, said: "Books like those in the Nantwich library need specialist care and curation and sadly we're not in a position to provide that at the church.

"We have long worried that the books were deteriorating - the staff at The University of Manchester will be able to conserve them and store them in the correct conditions."

The Grade I listed church is in the middle of a restoration programme and a campaign to raise £900,000 to help fund it has been launched.

"The sale of the library would have helped this campaign - but despite that we made the decision that the books should be maintained for posterity and so donated them to the John Rylands Library," Mr Appleton added.

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