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An introduction to Bible manuscripts

Overview Before 800 1000-1200 1200-1400 1400-1600

2: 800 - 1000

The large format Bible, in one or several volumes, like Codex Alexandrinus, was not, however, the most common form of Bible within the manuscript era, although certain very grand copies, such as the massive Moutier-Grandval Bible, illustrated below, continued to be produced. During this period the most common book was a portion of the Bible. Frequency of use was a much stronger factor in determining what was produced in the era before printing when every word was the result of painstaking copying by hand and entailed significant labour or cost.

Perhaps the most ubiquitous Christian book was the Four Gospels. Three beautiful copies of this text are included in this section, starting with the justly-famous Harley Golden Gospels, written entirely in gold. Also particularly numerous were Psalters, which were essentially copies of the Psalms structured to mirror their daily use in monastic liturgy. Two copies used in England in the tenth century are illustrated here. Because the Gospels and Psalms formed central parts of Christian services from the earliest days, it was natural that copies of them were in high demand. Although less common, copies of the Pauline letters of the New Testament were also produced separately, as in the ninth-century example made in northern France below illustrates.

(Click on an image for an enlarged view and detailed description.)

Harley 2788, f. 71v
Evangelist portrait of Mark, The Harley Golden Gospels, Aachen ?, Carolingian Empire Circa 800, 365 x 250 mm.
Harley 2788, f. 71v


Add. 10546, f. 449
The Book of Seven Seals, the Lamb, the Lion of Judah, Symbols of the Evangelists, The Moutier-Grandval Bible, Tours, France, 2nd quarter of 9th century, 510 x 375 mm.
Add. 10546, f. 449


Egerton 768, f. 63
John, in Latin, Gospels of Luke and John, Carolingian Empire, 9th century, 275 x 175 mm.
Egerton 768, f. 63


Egerton 609, f. 8
Matthew, in Latin, Four Gospels, Brittany ?, western France, 9th century, 310 x 210 mm.
Egerton 609, f. 8


Harley 2797, f. 92v
Luke, in Latin, Four Gospels, Northern France or Paris, 3rd quarter of 9th century, 265 x 190 mm.
Harley 2797, f. 92v


Harley 1772, f. 75
1 Thessalonians, in Latin, Epistles to Revelation, Rheims, France, 2nd half of 9th century, 290 x 185 mm.
Harley 1772, f. 75


Cotton Galba A XVIII, f. 21
Christ in Majesty with All Saints, The ∆thelstan Psalter, Winchester ?, England, 2nd quarter of 10th century (image), 130 x 90 mm.
Cotton Galba A XVIII, f. 21


Add. 28815, f. 162v
Portrait of Luke, Acts, New Testament, Constantinople, middle of 10th century, 290 x 210 mm.
Add. 28815, f. 162v


Add. 37517, f. 33
Psalm 52 (51), in Latin, The Bosworth Psalter, Canterbury ?, England, last quarter of 10th century, 390 x 265 mm.
Add. 37517, f. 33


Overview Before 800 1000-1200 1200-1400 1400-1600

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