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A decorated letter, in Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica

A decorated letter, in Bede, Historia Ecclesiastica

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 750

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Tiberius A XIV

Item number: f.112v

Length: 29.5

Width: 22

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

One of the most important medieval histories, the 'History of the English Church and People' was written by Bede, a monk at Jarrow, about 730. Copied at Jarrow probably within a few decades of the original, this manuscript is written in the beautiful handwriting that was developed to supply the demand for their house-author's work. It was nearly destroyed in a fire in 1731. Another contemporary manuscript of the book survives in the library of St Petersburg. Bede wrote his history for the king of Northumbria, Ceolwulf, who was a devout although not strong ruler. The book tells the story of the conversion of the Anglo-Saxons to Christianity, based on sources Bede gathered from colleagues and other books, which he referenced in his work.

This is the beginning of Book (or Section 3), marked with a very elegant first letter. The refined geometric decoration is confined the interior of the letter's shape, finely drawn with restrained touches of red, yellow, blue and white. Notes in the margin indicate names mentioned in Book 3.

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