Frank Mitjans - The Date of Birth of Thomas More

This article [1] was first published in Moreana, Vol. 47, No. 181-182, December 2010, pages 109-128. Citations are to be made from the original article; for pagination click the attached pdf version here.

Since the discovery in 1868 of the memoranda written by Thomas More’s father, most scholars have held that More was born on 7 February 1478. Some, however, have considered the evidence to be problematic and argued for 7 February 1477 or 6 February 1478 instead. The present article reviews the arguments and offers reasons for accepting as trustworthy the date of 7 February 1478 given in the family memoranda, based mainly on the relevance of the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary as a suitable landmark and on the internal evidence of the full text of the family record.


This article reviews the arguments and existing evidence and asks why 7 February 1478 is not the most likely date.

As is well known, the birth of Thomas More was included by his father, Sir John More, in a family record kept on MS O.2.21 now in Trinity College, Cambridge.[2] It is worth transcribing the whole record:

Md quod die dominica in vigilia Sancti Marce Evangeliste Anno Regni Regis Edwardi quarti post conquestum Anglie quartodecimo Johannes More Gent. maritatus fuit Agneti filie Thome Graunger in parochia santi Egidij extra Crepylgate london. [24 April 1474]

Med [3] quod die sabbati in xigilia sancti gregorij pape inter horam primam & horam secundam post Meridiem eiusdem diei Anno Regni Regis Edwardi quarti post conquestum Angliae xvo nata fuit Johanna More filia Johannis More Gent. [11 March 1475]

Md quod die veneris proximo post Festum purificacionis beate Marie virginis videlicet septimo die Februarij[4]inter horam secundam et horam terciam in Mane natus fuit Thomas More filius Johannis More Gent. Anno Regni Regis Edwardi quarti post conquestum Anglie decimo septimo. [7 February 1478]

Md quod die dominica videlicet vltimo die Januarij inter horam septimam et horam octauam ante Meridiem Anno regni Regis Edwardi quarti decimo octauo nata fuit Agatha filia Johannis More Gentilman. [31 January 1479]

Md quod die Martis videlicet vjto die Junij inter horam decimam & horam vndecimam ante Meridiem natus fuit Johannes More filius Johannis More Gent. Anno regni Regis Edwardi quarti vicesimo. [6 June 1480]

Med quod die lune viz. tercio die Septembris inter horam secundam & horam terciam in Mane natus fuit Edwardus Moore[5] filius Johannis More Gent. Anno regni regis Edwardi iiijti post conquesturn xxjo [3September 1481]

Md quod die dominica videlicet xxijo die Septembris anno regni regis Edwardi iiijti xxijo inter horam quartam & quintam in Mane nata fuit Elizabeth More filia Johannis More Gent. [22 September 1482]

This record was discovered by William Aldis Wright, librarian of Trinity College from 1863 to 1870. He mentioned it in a letter dated 17 October 1868 and published it in Notes and Queries.[6] In the letter he included the text of the memoranda expanding the contractions and adding the dates in square brackets. This is the text reproduced above.[7] Frederic Seebohm replied to this letter on 31 October 1868 stating that “There can, I think, be no reasonable doubt that Wright’s discovery has set at rest the perplexing question of the true date of Sir Thomas More’s birth”. Seebohm then goes on to explain how the suggested date.– 7 February 1478 – fits with the annotations given on the sketch of the Family group by Holbein and that all previous chronological difficulties vanish before the then newly discovered date.[8]­ Wright’s letter was commented upon by two other scholars who added minor clarifications on other issues, and the correspondence ended with a final letter from Wright thanking the others for theirs. The five letters were published as Appendix C, of Frederic Seebohm, The Oxford Reformers, second edition (1869), and reproduced as Appendix A of the edition of the same book prepared by his son, Hugh E. Seebohm and published in 1914.[9]

The seventeenth year of Edward IV went from 4 March 1477 to 3 March 1478, and therefore, the date given in the memorandum is 7 February 1478. Wright was aware that 7 February 1478 was not a Friday but Saturday. The memorandum stated, however, that Thomas was born between two and three in the morning. Therefore, in his letter Wright suggested that “the confusion is obvious and natural.”[10] The same conclusion was accepted by Bridgett, the first modern biographer of Thomas More; he relates Wright’s discovery and explains that “in the year 1478, 7th February was Saturday; but by a natural confusion it has been set down as Friday, since the birth took place soon after midnight.”[11] This was the common reception of the data in the memorandum: that More was born in the night from the Friday to the Saturday, 7 February 1478.

Some scholars, however, in particular R. W. Chambers,[12] did not accept that simple explanation and found the data in the memorandum problematic. According to them the options for the birth of Thomas More were Friday, 7 February 1477, or Friday, 6 February 1478, or Saturday, 7 February 1478. But any of these options implied for them attributing a mistake to the record of Sir John More. If there was a problem, it was a problem without a solution unless some more conclusive evidence should be discovered. In choosing any of the three options, the authors would have to assume that Sir John got the year wrong, or the day of the week, or the date of the month. In his introduction to the English Works of Sir Thomas More, edited by W. E. Campbell in 1931, Chambers considered 7 February 1477 to be the most probable date, but in examining the MS and seeing that “septimo die Februari” was written between the lines he assumed it was a later addition by the same Sir John and that “by that time his recollection of the day of the month may well have grown hazy, and he may, by a natural mistake, have written 7 February.” That allowed Chambers to agree with Wright, Seebohm, and Bridgett on the year – 1478 – as he found implausible that Sir John would have made a mistake there. Chambers, therefore, concluded, “John More’s statement is clear: his son was born on 6 February 1478”. This is not Sir John’s statement, however, but that he was born on the 7 February. Additions are meant to correct or clarify.

It is understandable that E. M. G. Routh favoured 7 February 1477 in his first edition of Sir Thomas More and his Friends, Oxford, 1934, because he based his choice on Chambers’ essay of 1931; but in his second edition, New York, 1963,[13] he should have been aware that Chamber’s position had moved on in 1935 in favour of 1478.

Marc’hadour, however, still favoured Friday 7 February 1477 in two in-depth studies dated 1963 and 1977,[14] which would imply that Sir John got the year wrong.

In summary, there are those who accept the memorandum as it stands – 7 February 1478 – as per Wright, Seebohm, Bridgett, Marius (1984),[15] and Reynolds;[16] those who follow Chambers’ conclusion – 6 February 1478 – without further discussion such as James Monti (1997)[17] and John Guy (2000);[18] those who also favour the year 1478[19] but do not indicate the date or are open to both 6 and 7 February: Daniel Sargent (1938),[20] Campbell (1949),[21] McConica (1977),[22] and Trapp (1977 and 1980, see below); and those who follow Marc’hadour – 7 February 1477. The chart illustrates the positions:

7 February 1477

6 February 1478

7 February 1478

Sir John got the year wrong.

Sir John got the date of the month wrong.

Thomas More was born in the night from Friday to Saturday, 7 February, between one and two in the morning.

Nichols (1897 &1918), Hitchcock(1932),[23] and Marc’hadour (1963 & 1977)

Chambers (1935), Monti (1997), and Guy (2000)

Wright and Seebohm (1868), Bridgett (1891), Reynolds (1968), and Marius (1984)

Sargent (1938), Campbell (1949), McConica (1977) and Trapp (1977 & 1980)



In 1968 Reynolds was aware of the controversy, found Bridgett’s conclusion and explanation reasonable, and sided with him; but referred to the date of the sketch of the Family group by Hans Holbein the Younger: “Was the drawing made in 1526 or 1527?”[24] Therefore, as suggested by Reynolds let us look at the drawing.

Date from the Drawing

The drawing is a preparatory sketch for a larger painting. The sketch could not have been produced before Holbein’s arrival in England in 1526 nor after the summer of 1528 when he returned to Basel with it. The date of his arrival in England, however, is uncertain. On 29 August 1526 Erasmus wrote a letter[25] to Pieter Gillis introducing Holbein to Gillis, city clerk of Antwerp, but we do not know how long it took him to travel from Basel to the Netherlands nor how long he stayed there. Certainly he was in England by 18 December 1526, when Thomas More wrote to Erasmus acknowledging the arrival of the painter. The reference in the letter – “Your painter friend, my dear Erasmus, is a wonderful artist. I fear he will not find English soil as rich and fertile as he hoped. But I shall do my best to make sure it is not completely barren”[26] – seems to imply that More had not yet commissioned Holbein for the portrait but that he proceeded to do so soon afterwards. Then Holbein would have had to draw the small sketch and the individual portraits for finally producing the painted full size Family portrait. It is not unreasonable to place all this work in 1527, also because the painted portrait of Thomas More now in the Frick collection, New York, has the inscription “1527”.

The sketch includes the figures of Thomas More, his wife, his father, his three daughters, his son, Margaret Giggs, Anne Cresacre, and his jester, Henry Patenson. Their names and ages were written in Latin on the sketch probably by Nicolas Kratzer, mathematician and tutor in More’s household.[27]

For Thomas More the inscription in the drawing is: Thomas Morus anno 50.

“anno 50” (ablative singular) means that Thomas More was in his 50th year; it does not mean that he was 50 years old – that would be “AETATIS 50 annos” (accusative plural), though the dates on most portraits produced by Holbein in England follow the classical usage, either “aetatis suae” or “anno aetatis suae”. Specific examples are: “AETATIS XXXII”,[28] “ETATIS SVAE 28”,[29] “ETATIS SVAE XLV”,[30] “AETATIS SVAE 29”,[31] “ETATIS SVAE ANNO XXXIII”, and “ANNO ETATIS SVAE, LVII”.[32]

The date of birth in relation to the drawing has been studied in detail by Seebohm,[33] Chambers, and Marc’hadour, and the three of them reached, in the main, the same conclusion.

In the sketch it is written that Anne Cresacre was in her 15th year. As her 15th birthday was on 22 April 1527, the notes on the drawing must be dated before that date. Chambers (1935; printing of 1976, p. 220, note 2) adds that “those who believe that More was born 7 Feb. 1477 will have to date these notes before 7 Feb. 1527”.

Marc’hadour (1963, p. 37-38) coincides with Chambers in saying that Thomas More was in his 50th year when the drawing was produced. He also mentions the date of birth of Anne Cresacre, and he adds that, according to his will, John More was in his 76th year – anno 76 – on 24 February 1527, which agrees with his age as given on the drawing. Marc’hadour agrees with Chambers’ statement that “those who believe that More was born 7 Feb. 1477 will have to date these notes before 7 Feb. 1527”.

The only difference between Chambers and Marc’hadour is that the latter argues that the drawing was produced between 18 December 1526 and 7 February 1527. This may be so, but it cannot be proved. Marc’hadour suggests that Holbein started working for More immediately after 18 December, and that the sketch being preparatory to the large painting would be the first item to be dealt with. It makes sense, but it is also necessary to point out that unless the sketch tries to portray a real event which took place on a specific date, the ages placed on the drawing after it was finished were meant to be reproduced on the large painting (as indeed appear on the 1593 version); therefore those ages do not need to be fixed near 18 December 1526.

In other words, so far the data given on the sketch are not conclusive. It can only be said that the ages given there were meant to correspond to a scene – real or artistically composed –between 18 December 1526 and 22 April 1527; it can also be said that this is in agreement with John More being on his 76th year on 24 February 1527, and with the oil individual painting of Thomas More done in 1527. It can safely be stated from the sketch that Thomas More was in his 50th year at some stage between 18 December 1526 and 22 April 1527; that is, that he was born either in February 1477 or in February 1478.

In 1963, the same year when Germain Marc’hadour published his piece on the date in L’Univers, Stanley Morison produced a study of the different portraits of More by Holbein; there he wrote: “A misreading of John More’s note of the birth of his son led to the presumption that More was born in February 1477, and that therefore, since Holbein only reached England late in 1526 and More passed out his ‘fiftieth year’ – the age indicated on the Base1 sketch – in February 1527, the family group must have been painted first.” The difficulty, then, of assuming that Holbein could have completed so large a work so soon after his arrival in England exercised the principal attention of scholars. But in 1935 Chambers demonstrated beyond doubt that More was born in 1478, and therefore the dates on the family group portrait could safely indicate a date of April 1527. The statements of Morison on p. 19 & 26 are contradictory. On p. 19 he accepts the date of 7 February 1477, while on p. 26 he says that “Chambers demonstrated beyond doubt that More was born in 1478”, and thus, he accepts that the family group was produced between 6 or 7 February and 22 April 1527, and that More was born in February 1478. Morison, however, is not trying to deal with the date of More’s birth (this he takes from others) but with the sequence of Holbein’s artistic production, and his conclusion[34] is that the first piece by Holbein was the pricked drawing of the individual portrait of More, then the oil painting in the Frick collection, which contains the year it was made, 1527, and in the third place the family sketch and the other individual drawings in preparation for the family painting. Thus, even though his opinion does not need to be given much weight, it can be said that, having analysed the different versions by Holbein, Morison is happier placing the date of the sketch between 6 or 7 February and 22 April 1527.

In 1980 J. B. Trapp analysed the issues regarding the date of birth. He considered the earliest possible date for Holbein’s arrival in England – just after Erasmus gave Holbein the letter dated 29 August 1526 addressed to Gillis in Antwerp – and reached the conclusion “both for the concept of that portrait, and for the features of the preparatory drawings” that “we should think he was born in 1478”.[35]

The opinions of Morison and Trapp, based on their consideration of the order of Holbein’s production, suggest that it is unlikely that the Family sketch was drawn before February 1527 and therefore favour the assumption held by Wright, Seebohm, and Chambers that More was born in 1478.

Friday after the Feast of the Purification

The reference to the Feast of the Purification given in the Memorandum seems to be the main objection raised by Marc’hadour against accepting a date in 1478.[36]

The following chart helps to consider the issue.

Chart of correspondence of some dates

in 1477


in 1478

(Sunday) Purification

2 Feb

(Monday) Purification


3 Feb



4 Feb

Ash Wednesday


5 Feb

Thursday after Ash Wednesday


6 Feb

Friday after Ash Wednesday


7 Feb

Saturday after Ash Wednesday




Ash Wednesday

19 Feb


Start of 17th year of Edward IV

4 March

End of 17th year of Edward IV


22 March

Easter Sunday

Easter Sunday

6 April


As can be seen in the chart, the Friday after the Purification in 1478 was the Friday after Ash Wednesday which might seem a more obvious landmark. But the Purification was a great feast, the end of the Christmas period, some of the liturgical hymns are meant to be sung from Christmas to the Purification; for instance, the Alma Redemptoris Mater has an antiphon “for Advent” (Angelus Domini nuntiavit Mariae) and another “from Christmas to the Feast of the Purification” (Post partum Virgo inviolata permansisti); while the Ave Regina caelorum was said from after the Purification until Wednesday in Holy week.[37] And equally, of the Votive Masses of the Blessed Virgin Mary in the Sarum use in force in England up to 1549, the first one was “From Advent to Christmas”, the second “On Christmas Day and until the Purification”, the third “From the Purification to Advent.”[38] Therefore, it was reasonable for Sir John to mention the Feast of the Purification instead of Ash Wednesday. We can see here also his willingness to link the joy of the birth of his son to the Nativity of Our Lord and to a feast of the Blessed Virgin Mary, rather than to the penitential Friday after Ash Wednesday.[39]

But apart from the reference to the liturgical celebrations then, it is relevant to point out that the Purification of the Virgin Mary was an important feast for London’s lawyers because it was a dies non juridici within Hilary law term; the others, beside Sundays, were the Ascension (in Easter term), St John the Baptist (in Trinity term), and All Saints and All Souls (in Michaelmas term).[40] In fact, the celebration of the Christmas season at the Inns of Court lasted from All Saint’s Day on 1st November to the Purification of the Virgin Mary on 2nd February. As the final feast day associated with Christmas, 2nd February was a day of important Revels at Lincoln’s Inn known as the Post Revels. Performance of dramas and music played an important part in the entertainments and attendance seems to have been compulsory. It was therefore an important landmark at Lincoln’s Inn and for all those related to it, as it was the case of Sir John who was admitted to Lincoln’s Inn at about the time of his marriage, and was Autumn Reader for 1490 and Lent Reader for 1495 there.[41] In L’Univers de Thomas More[42]Marc’hadour lists nine arguments of convenience in favour of 7 February 1477. The 5th argument is that Ash Wednesday would have been a more relevant landmark had Thomas More been born in February 1478, but the importance of the Feast of the Purification for the Inns of Court is not mentioned anywhere in the article. This is the key point.

Internal Evidence

In 1977, J. B. Trapp, in producing the Catalogue for the 1977/1978 Exhibition to mark the 500th Anniversary of the Birth of Thomas More, wrote that the internal evidence of the whole record favours the year 1478.[43]

Let us, therefore, look at the whole family record written by Sir John as reproduced at the beginning of this paper. It starts by a memorandum of his wedding on 24 April 1474 to Agnes, the daughter of Thomas Graunger, and it follows with the statements or the births of his children, first of Johanna, then Thomas, Agatha, John, Edward, and Elizabeth. In all cases the year is given with reference to the year of King Edward IV. It is most unlikely that Sir John would have made a mistake in stating the year; among other reasons, because year after year he would have seen such mistake and would have corrected it if needed be. We are not dealing here with an isolated piece of information about someone whose date of birth was unrecorded. We are dealing with a carefully drawn family record of seven entries written by a lawyer.

The manner of giving the date for the first two entries follows the usual method at the time of dating by Saints’ Days and festivals:[44] John More was married on the Sunday, the vigil of St Mark; and Johanna was born on the Saturday, the vigil of St Gregory, Pope; therefore, following the same pattern it makes sense to state that Thomas was born on the Friday, after the Purification. It is not stated that Sir John was married on the Third Sunday of Easter, or that Johanna was born on Saturday in the Fourth week of Lent; equally, it is not surprising that reference to the Friday after Ash Wednesday is not made. The full pattern however (reference to the saint of the day) is abandoned for the entries that followed; for them, Sir John just wrote, “Sunday, the last day of January”, “Tuesday, 6th of June”, “Monday, 3rd of September”, and “Sunday, 22 September”. It makes sense that Sir John took especial care in stating his own marriage, and the birth of his first child, and of his first son.

As for the date, it is very understandable that Sir John should have in mind the Friday after the Feast of the Purification of the Blessed Virgin Mary, which is when the birth pangs would have started and then adding the precise date, 7 February, when he realised that the birth took place already in the morning. As suggested by Marc’hadour, the words between the lines “need not be constructed as a later intervention, they may have been inserted as an immediate attempt at greater precision”.[45]

This author therefore concludes that Thomas More was born on the night between the Friday after the Feast of the Purification of Our Lady, and Saturday, that is, early in the morning on 7 February 1478. He has no problem whatsoever with the written Memorandum of Sir John More.

Frank Mitjans


What is described as MS O.2.21 in the catalogue of the Wren Library of Trinity College is a bound book that includes several manuscripts. They make up the three parts described in the catalogue. These manuscripts date from the thirteenth or fourteenth century. The book has hard covers plus three unnumbered blank paper folios at the beginning and three at the end, binding 140 folios in parchment. These are numbered 1 to 139 in black ink on the top right corner of the right hand page; the left hand pages are not numbered; folio 140 is numbered in pencil. The page size is approximately 5 3/4” x 8 5/8”, which was later the standard size of a printed octavo.

Folio 1 includes a table of contents written, it seems, by the same hand that numbered folios 1-139. Folios 1-4 are of darker parchment. On folio 1b there is a poem starting “Cur mundus militat sub vana gloria” and ending “Felix qui poterit mundum contempnere.” Folios 2-4 include “Tractatus de Physiognomia.” Folio 4b is blank and this blank page marks the end of part I.

Part II goes from folio 5 to folio 119. Folio 119b is blank. In the catalogue it is suggested that this part is in a hand of a later type. Folios 5 to 117b include “Galfridi Monumetensis Historia Britonum Inc. prol. super librum hystoriarum regum Britannie”, the history of the British kings by Geoffrey of Monmouth, first published in the twelfth century. Two more short texts follow, one on folios 117b-118b and the other on folio 119.

Part III in a large hand from the early fourteenth century includes three texts, one on folios 120-133b; the second (folios 134-138) being an extract from the Epistle of Aristotle to Alexander; and the third (folios 138 b-139), in another hand, “Secreta Hippocratis.”

Sir John More’s memoranda are written on the reverse of folio 139 and the front of folio 140 (a left and right page). This corresponds to the description of Wright (see below) who on 17 October 1868 wrote that the memoranda which he had copied are “on the last leaf and the last leaf but one of the volume”. The printed catalogue of 1902 and the online catalogue of 2010, however, state mistakenly that the memoranda are “on folios 139b-140b, and in J. B. Trapp, “Tommaso Moro nelle testimonianze contemporanee”, Accademia nazionale dei Lincei: Atti dei convegni Lincei, volume 46, Colloquio italo-britannico Tommaso Moro e l’utopia, Rome, 1980, p. 75-76, footnote 2and caption to figure 1, it is stated, also mistakenly, that the memorandum of the birth of Thomas More is on folio 141, whereas in fact it is on the reverse of folio 139.

On the back of folio 140 there are some jottings about weights unrelated to the rest of the volume; they seem to be older than the memoranda, and may have been on what was effectively the back cover of the original volume. These jottings are not mentioned in the printed catalogue of 1902 or the online catalogue of 2010.

Biographers of Thomas More often make the point of Sir John having written the memoranda on the back of the history by Geoffrey of Monmouth; it does seem that the whole volume was bound together before it came to belong to Sir John in the fifteenth century, but it would be desirable that further investigation be carried out by expert bibliographers to ascertain this fact. For more details see M. R. James, The Western Manuscripts in the Library of Trinity College, Cambridge: a Descriptive Catalogue, Cambridge U. P., 1902, vol. 3, p. 113-115, and (Catalogue of Medieval Manuscripts, James no. 1125).

[1]I am most grateful for the kindness and efficiency of the personnel at the British Library, the Library of Queen's University (Belfast), the Wren Library of Trinity College (Cambridge) and the Accademia Nazionale dei Lincei (Roma). Adam C. Green, assistant archivist at Trinity, and Josephine Hutchings, archivist of Lincoln's Inn (London), provided essential information lacking in previous studies; for this I am much obliged to them. I thank Dr Andrew Hegarty, Director of the Thomas More Institute (London), and Professor Gerard Wegemer, Director of the Centre for Thomas More Studies (University of Dallas), for their encouragement and suggestions.

This paper is dedicated to the memory of my father who, having been born on 15 July, chose, when he was an adolescent, to celebrate his birthday on the following day, 16 July, commemoration of the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel. I only found out the discrepancy today; all through his adult life his family celebrated his birthday on the 16th.

[2]For a description of the manuscript, see the Appendix.

[3]For “memorandum” Wright’s transcription has “Md” in several entries, but Med in one entry, and Med in another.

[4]The words in italics were written between the lines as discussed below.

[5]Wright’s transcription has “Moore” which has been kept here in faithfulness to the manuscript despite the lack of consistency with the rest of the memoranda. “Moore” was not an infrequent English spelling; it was used, for instance, in the accounts of William Roper and Nicholas Harpsfield, cf. The Lyfe of Sir Thomas Moore, knighte, written by William Roper, Esquire, whiche maried Margreat, daughter of the sayed Thomas Moore, ed, by Elsie Vaughan Hitchcock, and published for the Early English Text Society, Oxford U.P., 1935, and The Life and death of Sr Thomas Moore, knight, sometimes Lord high Chancellor of England, written in the tyme of Queene Marie by Nicholas Harpsfield, ed. Hitchcock, Early English Text Society, Oxford U.P. 1932. “Moore” was used also in the play, The Booke of Sir Thomas Moore, as it appears in the manuscript at the British Library, MS. Harley 7368, and reproduced in print for the Malone Society, Oxford U.P., 1911, and reprinted in 1961.

[6]Notes and Queries, 4th series, volume ii, p. 365-6, 17 October 1868.

[7]The same transcription is found in Nicholas Harpsfield, The life and death of S Thomas Moore, edited by Elsie Vaughan Hitchcock, published for the Early English Text Society, Oxford U.P., 1932, reprinted in 1963, “Historical Notes”, p. 298-303.

[8]Frederic Seebohm, The Oxford Reformers,London: Longmans, Green, and Co., second ed., 1869, Appendix C, p. 524.

[9]Frederic Seebohm, The Oxford Reformers, ed. Hugh E. Seebohm, 1914, Appendix A, p. 321-326.

[10]lbid., p. 322.

[11]T. E. Bridgett, Life and Writings of Sir Thomas More, London: Burns & Oates, 1891, p.2, and Life and Writings of Blessed Thomas More, fourth ed., 1913, p. 2.

[12]R. W. Chambers, Thomas More (1935), London, Jonathan Cape, ed. of 1976, p. 49-50.

[13]E. M. G. Routh, Sir Thomas More and his Friends, first ed., Oxford, Blackwell, 1934; second ed., New York, Russell & Russell, 1963, p. 1.

[14]Germain Marc’hadour, L’Univers de Thomas More, Paris, Librairie Philosophique J. Vrin, 1963, p. 34-41, and “Thomas More’s Birth: 1477 or 1478?” in Moreana, No. 53, March 1977, p. 5-10.

[15]Richard Marius, Thomas More (first published in the US in 1984), in the edition of Dent & Sons Ltd, London, 1985, p. 3.

[16]See below.

[17]James Monti, The King’s Good Servant, San Francisco, Ignatius Press, 1997, p. 23.

[18]John Guy, Thomas More, Arnold, London, 2000, p. 226: In the Chronology he writes that 6 February 1478 is the most likely date, and that other possible dates are 6/7 February 1477, or 7 February 1478.

[19]The three references to his birth given in the Complete Works support (cf. CW 2, p. lxi) or assume (CW 4, p. 283, and CW 12, p. 421) that he was born in 1478.

[20]Daniel Sargent, Thomas More, Sheed &Ward, New York, 1933, p. 1, and London, 1938, p. 1

[21]W. E. Campbell, Erasmus, Tyndale and More, London: Eyre & Spottiswoode Publishers, 1949, p. 77.

[22]James McConica, Thomas More, National Portrait Gallery, London, 1977, p. 2.

[23]After Wright suggested in 1868 that More was born on 7 February 1478, the first to argue for Friday, 7 February 1477 was Francis Morgan Nichols (Proceedings of the Society of Antiquaries of London, 18 March 1897, 2nd Series, vol. XVI, p. 32 1-327, and Nichols, ed., The Epistles of Erasmus, London, 1918, vol. 1, p. 212, and vol. 3, p. 401-402). Hitchcock, in editing Harpsfield’s Life of Sir Thomas Moore for The Early English Text Society in 1932, found many of Nichols’ arguments inconclusive (p. 300), but thought that the Basle sketch points to 1477 as the more probable year (p. 303). The positions of Nichols and Hitchcock are not stated in detail in this paper because they were considered by Chambers in moving from accepting 1477 in 1931 to favouring 1478 in 1935; their arguments are, however, taken into account throughout this article.

[24]E .E. Reynolds, The Field is Won: The Life and Death of Saint Thomas More, Appendix I: “Date of Birth”, Burns & Oates, London, 1968, p. 383.

[25]Collected Works of Erasmus, Toronto U.P., 2003, vol. 12, Ep. 1740, lines 20-25: “The bearer of this letter is the man who painted my portrait. [...] he is off to England in the hope of scraping together a few angels”.

[26]Collected Works of Erasmus, vol. 12, Ep. 1770, lines 77-79.

[27]For a description and study of the sketch, see Frank Mitjans, “Non sum Oedipus, sed Morus: A Paper on the Portrait of Sir Thomas More and his Family” in Moreana, No 168-170 (June 2007), p. 12-67.

[28]See for instance, Susan Foister, Holbein & England, Yale U.P., New Haven and London, 2004, figure 6.

[29]Ibid., fig. 10, 11, 34, 55, 214, 225, 226, 256.

[30]Ibid., fig. 231, 233.

[31]Ibid., fig. 211, 261.

[32]Ibid., fig. 241.

[33]Seebohm (1914), p. 323-324.

[34]See ‘The Order of Holbein Versions’, p. 26-28.

[35]J. B. Trapp, “Tommaso Moro nelle testimonianze contemporanee”, Accademia nazionale dei Lincei: Atti dei convegni Lincei, volume 46, Colloquio italo-britannico Tommaso Moro e I’utopia, Rome, 1980, p. 90. On that page, however, there is a typing erratum in dating in August 1526 the letter of Thomas More to Erasmus in which More promises to help Holbein, “I shall do my best”. In fact, the letter from More to Erasmus (Ep. 1770) should be dated 18 December 1526. The letter of August 1526 is that from Erasmus to Gillis (Ep. 1740).

[36]L ‘Univers de Thomas More, 1963, p. 34-41.

[37]Liber Usualis, 1927, p. 278-280.

[38]The Sarum Missal done in English, ed. A. Harford Pearson, London, 1868 (First ed.) & 1884 (Second ed.), p. 521-526; and the Missale ad Usum Insignis Ecclesie Sarum (1511) kept at the British Library (Catalogue RB23 A.17191).

[39]The Purification of Our Lady was also used for dividing the Hours of the day in the Office of Our Lady, cf. Eamon Duffy, Marking of the Hours: English People and their Prayers, 1240-1570, New Haven and London, Yale U.P., 2006.

[40]Cheney (ed.), Handbook of Dates for Students of English History, London, Royal Historical Society, 1945, p. 66.

[41]All the information given in this paragraph has been supplied by the archivist of Lincoln’s Inn on 16 April 2010.

[42]L ‘Univers de Thomas More, 1963, p. 34-41.

[43]J. B. Trapp and Hubertus Schulte Herbruggen, The King’s Good Servant: Sir Thomas More, 1477/8-1535, London, The National Portrait Gallery, 1977, p. 25.

[44]Cheney (ed.), Handbook of Dates for Students of English History, 1945, p. 40.

[45]Moreana,Vol. 14,  No 53, p. 7.