Anglo Saxon Manuscripts, The British Library

Runes copied in the 10th century

Runes, 10th century, picture British Library

In winter, the Tower is closed, so it is a good time to spend on reading and visiting other sites.

I resolved this year to make one visit per fortnight to a historic site or museum,  quite an ambitious target.

In January, I achieved my goal.

The first visit was to the British Library, Anglo-Saxon Manuscripts exhibition.  It closes on 19th February, and is well worth a visit.

One of my co-volunteers at Peterborough Museum was surprised one day by a visitor who approached one of the Peterborough Abbey documents and began reading aloud from the ancient script.  It transpired that this visitor, an American Professor from Harvard University, had come to London to visit the British Library exhibition.  On being told that a particular manuscript was temporarily on loan to Peterborough, he came up to our Museum to see it!   Our exhibition has now closed, but the BL one is still open until 19th February.

The BL exhibition is billed as a “Once in a Generation” chance to see many otherwise widely dispersed items all collected together, with interesting information attached.  British Library Ezra

The Codex Amiatinus, loaned from Italy.  Picture: British Library 

This was my favourite, a huge book over a foot in height,.

“Codex Amiatinus is the earliest complete Latin Bible. It is one of three giant, single-volume Bibles, made at Wearmouth-Jarrow in the early years of the 8th century. Two of these Bibles were made for the church at Wearmouth and for the church at Jarrow: fragments of one of them survive.

In 716, Abbot Ceolfrith took the third and finest volume on his final journey to Rome, intending it as a gift to the shrine of Peter the Apostle. He died en route, at Langres in Burgundy, leaving his monks to complete the mission. Since that time, Codex Amiatinus has been cared for in Italy, renowned as the most accurate copy of the Vulgate translation made by St Jerome (d. 420).” (from British Library website).

More information can be found here.

I love the bookcase.  The design of a serious bookcase, complete with solid doors and shelves, has not changed much in over 1300 years.  Here’s mine:

Bookcase like Ezra

That gives me the most amazing feeling of continuity.  How wonderful that traditions of real books have survived and been passed down all those years.

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