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Oldest surviving complete Latin Bible goes on display in London

Fri 19 Oct 2018
By Cara Bentley

Biblical manuscripts are going on display in London, one of which has not been here in 1,300 years. 

An exhibition opening at the British Library on Friday displays some wonders of Anglo-Saxon England, from the end of the Roman era in Britain to the Battle of Hastings in 1066. 

Among the items will be some of the first examples of the written English language, the Domesday book and several Biblical manuscripts from the epoch. 

Dr Claire Breay, who curated the exhibition told Premier Christian Radio's News Hour: "Some of the most important exhibits in the exhibition are biblical manuscripts, with many fantastic illuminated manuscripts."

Codex Amiatinus, a giant Bible and one of the earliest surviving complete Bibles in Latin is on display. 

It was made at the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in north east England in the 8th century and taken to Italy in 716 as a gift for the Pope and is a rare example of a book with the whole Bible in as opposed to select books. 

It is a Latin Vulgate translation and is one of three commissioned at the time and is coming back to England for the first time in more than 1300 years, on loan from the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence. 

All three copies would have needed more than 500 animal skins to make the parchment and a team of scribes to hand-copy the text onto the leaves. 

"We're especially excited to have Codex Amiatinus in the exhibition" said Dr Breay. 

"It's never been back to England until now so we are absolutely thrilled to be able to include it!"

Other Christian texts include some the decorated manuscripts of the St Augustine Gospels - a book of the four gospels alongside illustrations from the 6th century - on loan from Corpus Christi College Cambridge.

Also there is the Book of Durrow on loan from Trinity College Dublin and the Echternach Gospels, with the Lindisfarne Gospels and the Utrecht, Harley and Eadwine Psalters (volumes of Psalms). 

Listen to the curator Dr Claire Breay talking to Premier's Cara Bentley here: