LONDON: The world’s oldest complete Latin Bible in existence is set to return to the UK after over 1,300 years for display in an exhibition by the British Library next year.
The one-foot thick Codex Amiatinus, one of the three great single-volume Bibles that was made at the monastery at Wearmouth-Jarrow, is returning to England for the first time in 1300 years, after it was taken to Italy as a gift for the Pope in 716, the British Library said.
“It is now held in the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence which is generously loaning the manuscript next year,” the library said in a blog post on November 30. The Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms exhibition will be open at the British Library from October 19, 2018 to February 19, 2019. The Bible will be on show with the St Cuthbert Gospel, the earliest intact European book, which was also made at Wearmouth-Jarrow and was acquired by the British Library in 2012.
“The two books are very different: while the St Cuthbert Gospel, which contains only the Gospel of John, can be held in one hand, the spine of Codex Amiatinus, containing the whole Bible, is nearly a foot thick.
“These two books will be exhibited alongside the Lindisfarne Gospels, one of Britain’s greatest artistic treasures, and other illuminated manuscripts of international significance made in the late 7th and 8th centuries,” it said.
Ranging from the 5th to the 11th centuries, the exhibition will explore this “long, dynamic period” when the English language was used and written down for the first time and a kingdom of England was first created. The library said a key theme in the exhibition will be the development of the English language and the emergence of English literature.
“We will explore the use of writing on inscribed objects and in documents as well as in books, and will present highlights of the bilingual literary culture. The major works of Old English poetry survive in only four manuscripts, and all four will be brought together at the British Library next autumn for the first time,” it said.