Ancient Book Discovered in the Coffin of Saint Cuthbert

By February 4, 2020 Libraries, Literature, News

The oldest intact book in Europe has been discovered inside a coffin of an ancient monk.

The book was found after being enclosed in a monk’s coffin for longer than 400 years. The discovered text will go on display at the British Library as part of an exhibition featuring medieval Anglo-Saxons early writings. The ancient text that will be displayed among greats such as Beowulf, is named the Stonyhurst Gospel- also known as the ‘St. Cuthbert’ Gospel- and was discovered inside the coffin of the aforementioned hermit monk, who died in 687 CE.

It is said that the monk’s body was found intact decades after his death and this led to a cult that placed sacrifices around his remains.

Around 698 CE, the small red book arrived at St. Cuthbert’s tomb and centuries later in 1104 CE was removed and transferred to Durham Cathedral.

The British Library acquired the 1,300-year-old text in 2012, and were pleased to discover it still retained its original binding and pages.

“The decoration of the boards was enriched by tooling and colouring lines on the surface, with the tip of a fine folder or a stylus,” described The British Library. “The left board is decorated with a rectangular frame with interlace patterns in the upper and lower fields and a larger central field containing a chalice from which stems project, terminating in a leaf or bud and four fruits. This raised motif was apparently made using a matrix, with a clay-like substance beneath the leather.”

The St. Cuthbert Gospel, along with many other treasures, is on view at the British Library as part of Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War from October 19, 2018 to February 19, 2019. 

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