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A Page of Writing from the Time of Bede, in a Copy of the Epistles of Paul

A Page of Writing from the Time of Bede, in a Copy of the Epistles of Paul

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 715

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Vitellius C VIII

Item number: f.90r

Length: 36.5

Width: 25

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

This manuscript was owned by the 17th-century bibliophile, Robert Cotton, whose library became part of the British Library. Cotton often bound together unrelated manuscripts into one volume for the sake of convenience. This page comes from a manuscript that was at Durham in the middle ages, where it was touted as being "from the hand of Bede." Today this assertion is doubted, although it probably was written during Bede's lifetime and in Northumbria, where he lived. Many of the features of its writing suggest that the scribe was Irish or trained in Irish traditions. It is a copy of the Epistles of St Paul, written without decoration. Probably it was made for study in one of the monasteries of Northumbria--possibly Wearmouth or Jarrow. A careful look at the writing will reveal letters that look like the number '7'. This is abbreviation for 'et' ('and' in Latin) used by Irish scribes. Another Irish feature is the way that letters are combined and that smaller letters are placed within larger ones. On some pages, a gloss or explanatory notes for certain words can be seen. These, too, display Irish connections in that some are from the writings of Pelagius, an Early Christian author whose thought was declared heretical but who had been influential in the early days of Christianity in Ireland.

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