Europe's oldest intact book has been discovered after lying locked in the coffin of a hermit saint for more than 400 years. It will be displayed at the British Library as part of an exhibition that will include such valuable manuscripts as the Lindisfarne Gospel and Beowulf. The exhibition is a unique opportunity to see how medieval Anglo-Saxons portrayed their culture through early works.
Valuable materials include the Stonyhurst Gospel, a small book with a rich history. This Latin copy of the Gospel of John, also known as the Gospel of St. Cuthbert, was discovered in the tomb of St. Cuthbert, a hermit monk who died in 687 AD. It is said that his body was found intact decades after his death, leading to the creation of a cult that made sacrifices around his remains.
Sometime after 698 AD, the Little Red Book was placed in St. Cuthbert's tomb along with other offerings. The book is one of the rare surviving medieval manuscripts and was removed from the coffin in 1104 AD and moved to Durham Cathedral, where it was kept as a separate relic. In 2012, the British Library acquired his 1,300-year-old writings, with its original cover and pages still preserved.
The cover of the book was covered in dark red dyed goatskin and was glued wet to the board. The British Library, which also digitised the book, explains: "The decoration of the panels was enriched by embossing and coloured lines drawn on the surface with the tip of a thin folder or pen." "The left-hand board is decorated with a rectangular frame with a woven pattern on the upper and lower panels and a large central panel containing a chalice with a protruding stem ending in leaves or buds and four fruits." This sublime motif was revealed that it was made in the following way. It's a matrix with a clay-like substance underneath the leather. ”
In the 6th century AD, wax tablets and scrolls replaced legal codes in Europe. A codex is a handwritten manuscript bound between hardcovers of papyrus or parchment. This typology was created by the Romans in his 1st century, but it took several hundred years to become popular. As you might imagine, these bound books are fragile and therefore unlikely to survive, which makes St. Cuthbert's Gospel all the more valuable.