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Current time:0:00Total duration:6:18

Video transcript

we're at an extraordinary exhibition in the British Library of anglo-saxon manuscripts and we're standing in front of perhaps one of the most important books in the world this is the Codex a meatiness codex a meatiness is one of the greatest treasures of anglo-saxon England it really is a giant both in its importance but just physically as well what we see at first is how enormous it is how many pages work folios there are it weighs 75 pounds the spine of the book is almost a foot thick and it contains over a thousand leaves of parchment so would have required over 500 animals to produce the skins that were laid into the parchment and what I find remarkable is that this was meant to be carried from Northumbria to Rome codex amyot eNOS was one of three giant Bibles that were commissioned by chareth and Albert had we're mouths Jarrow at the beginning of the eighth century one is completely lost for one we have a few leaves surviving but this one is the only one that survives intact and the other two were made one for Weymouth and one for Jarrow but this one was made to be taken to Italy as a gift for the Pope and we know that it left Northumbria in 716 and yeah it was taken all that way to Rome and carrying it was a great endeavor but it may have been taken dis bound so perhaps the whole 75 pounds bound into one manuscript so what we're looking at is a pan decked that is a book that contains both the Old Testament or the Jewish Bible and the Christian New Testament and this is in itself unusual codex a mere teenis is on display with the greatest treasures of Northumbrian book production but the other manuscripts are mostly gospel books and it is these gospel books and some Salters that mainly survived it's interesting to think about missionaries coming from Iona but also missionaries coming from wrong missionaries approached anglo-saxon England from two directions so famously ascent Augustine was sent by Pope Gregory in 597 but then as we go into the seventh century missionaries were sent from the Irish founded monastery on Iona and with the support of the kings of Northumbria came over to Northumbria and to Lindisfarne and founded the monastery on Lindisfarne we're mouth Jarrow and the kingdom of Northumbria were incredibly important Benedict Bisco and Abbot Jeffress together at where mouth Jarrow built up a fantastic library these were really great centers of learning and scholarship and places where manuscripts were collected and where manuscripts were produced and so we have to imagine manuscripts coming from the continent to Northumbria Benedict biskupin Jeffress made several trips to the continent they went to Italy into Rome and they collected manuscripts there and brought those all the way back to Northumbria and to the monastery at where mouth djaro so we're looking at the scribe ezra and also a page of text with lovely script it looks as though all the letters are written in capital form this is the dedication page and as I think you can see the text has been altered to make the dedications appear to be saying that Peter of the lombards had given this Bible to a monastery in Tuscany in Italy and so for a very long time this manuscript was thought to be Italian but actually these words are replacing words which stated that Jeffress was giving the manuscript to the body of st. Peter to Rome and that realization have changed the perception of this manuscript from be an Italian manuscript and realizing this hit have actually been made in Northumbria in anglo-saxon England yes in anglo-saxon England and apart from the dedication the other reason that people had thought that it was an Italian manuscript is that this script is very similar to what you find in manuscripts that were produced in Italy because Benedict biskupin Chavez had been to Italy anti-roman had collected manuscripts and brought them back to where mouths Jarrow and the scribes had copied not just the text but the style of the script imitating the italian features up there on the northumbrian coast and the illustration looks also very Mediterranean absolutely and here we see Ezra sitting in front of these shelves with perhaps books of another Bible with his scribes tools on the floor beneath his feet this looks very classical we have an illusion of space and illusion of the figure sitting firmly on that bench and the bookcase in fact reminds me very much of a mosaic in Galla Placidia in Ravenna all the way through the exhibition we have tried to bring out the contacts and connections that existed between anglo-saxon England and Ireland and continental Europe this exhibition is once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to see all of these manuscripts together what a treat to be here in the British Library today thank you thank you you