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'Book From The Law of Moses', in a Collection of Irish and Breton Law Books

'Book From The Law of Moses', in a Collection of Irish and Breton Law Books

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 910

Shelfmark: Cotton MS Otho E XIII

Item number: f.3v

Length: 25.5

Width: 17.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

Thought to have been compiled in the early 8th century, the 'Collectio Canonum Hibernensis' ('Irish Law Collection') represents one of the earliest efforts to organise all laws from foreign and native Christian authorities. This manuscript has a copy of it, along with other early legal writings: 'Book From the Law of Moses', letters of St Patrick, ancient Breton laws, 'Law of Adomnan'. Made in Brittany (early 10th century), it later belonged to St Augustine's, Canterbury. Its origin and later history tell part of the story of early medieval church law. Scholars think that Irish missionaries took the collection the Continent, where it became the basis of Carolingian church law collections. Manuscripts of the Irish collection, copied in northern France, went thence to Anglo-Saxon England. In 1731, it was severely damaged in the tragic fire at Ashburnham House.

Although damaged, the large letter 'E' gives a hint of the manuscript's decoration. The interlace and animal forms are in the Breton style, which looks back beyond the Carolingian transformation of northern French art with classical styles (apparent in the plant forms of the decoration). It faintly echoes much earlier Irish book art in its animal-head ornament, interlace and limited palette of colour. This page is from the beginning of the Irish 'Book from the Law of Moses'. The words quote Exodus 20, the Ten Commandments.

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