LACOCK Abbey is exhibiting a rare 14th-century manuscript that has never before been on public display.

The sheepskin dictionary of Biblical terms, used by Lacock’s nuns, has been kept hidden from view for more than 700 years.

But now the National Trust has brought it back to its home village after buying it at a Christie’s auction in London for £38,000.

A spokesman for the abbey said: “The true value of the book is that we can display it at the original location for the first time, which makes it genuinely priceless.”

The manuscript would have been used by nuns living in the abbey to translate Biblical terms and gives a rare insight into the way they lived.

It is unusual for a book relating to nuns or monks to have survived the Dissolution of the Monasteries in the 1530s under Henry VIII, according to the National Trust.

All other books of this kind are in cathedral libraries.

The book, by William Brito, is handwritten on parchment in Latin and is called Expositiones Vocabulorum Biblie. It was passed down through generations of the Talbot family who lived at the abbey, and has even earlier 13th-century financial accounts of the abbey pasted into the binding.

Sonia Jones, house and collections manager at the abbey, said: “This book tells us that the nuns studied the Bible closely and most would have been literate.”

Mark Purcell, the National Trust’s libraries curator, said: “Books of this type would not have been printed until the late 15th century. Being hand-written would have made it rare and valuable, even when it was new.”