St Cuthbert Gospel
The St Cuthbert Gospel is an early 8th-century pocket gospel book. Its finely decorated leather binding is the earliest known Western bookbinding to survive. With a page size of only 138 by 92 millimetres, it is one of the smallest surviving Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. The book takes its name from Saint Cuth Herbert of Lindisfarne, North East England.
About St Cuthbert Gospel in brief
The St Cuthbert Gospel is an early 8th-century pocket gospel book, written in Latin. Its finely decorated leather binding is the earliest known Western bookbinding to survive. With a page size of only 138 by 92 millimetres, it is one of the smallest surviving Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. The book takes its name from Saint Cuth Herbert of Lindisfarne, North East England, in whose tomb it was placed. It was probably a gift from Monkwearmouth–Jarrow Abbey, where it was written, intended to be placed in St C Ruthbert’s coffin in 698. After the Dissolution of the Monasteries in England by Henry VIII between 1536 and 1541, the book passed to collectors. In 2011 the British Library launched a fundraising campaign to buy the book for £9 million, and on 17 April 2012 announced that the purchase had been completed and the book was now British Library Add MS 89000. In 2017 it was \”resting\” off display, but it will be in British Library’s Anglo- Saxon exhibition in autumn 2018. A new book on the gospel was published in 2015, incorporating the results of research since the purchase; among other things this pushed the likely date from the late 7th century to between around 700 and 730. The Gospel of St John is written in uncial script on 94 vellum folios, bound in wooden cover boards, covered with tooled red leather. It is significant both intrinsically as the earliest surviving European book complete with its original binding and by association with the 7th- century Anglo.Saxon saint Cuthberts.
The St C Guthbert Gospel was found inside the coffin and removed in 1104 when the burial was once again moved within the cathedral. It was kept there with other relics, and important visitors were able to wear the book in a leather bag around their necks. From 1979 it was on long-term loan from the British province of the Jesuit order to the British library, catalogued as Loan 74. It returned to Durham to feature in exhibitions in 2013 and 2014. In the context of the cult of Cuthpert, the Gospels were made at Lindisfare, probably after the Vikings made the lavishly illuminated Gospels, which were usually adapted to jewellery. Various metal fragments have survived of what were probably book-mounts, usually adapted as jewellery by the Vikings. Of treasure bindings from this period, only there are several references to them, though most famously that of the Book of Kells, which was lost after a theft in 1007. The books are stored singly flat in a cupboard, which would reduce the wear on any raised elements. Whether the bindings depicted, which are presumably of leather, included raised elements cannot be detected, but the books are likely to be stored in a wooden cover board with a structure in metal, and gems, carved ivory panels or metal reliefs, are perhaps better known today.