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Dedication to Hildelith, In A Copy of 'About Virginity' by Aldhelm

Dedication to Hildelith, In A Copy of 'About Virginity' by Aldhelm

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1190

Shelfmark: Harley MS 3013

Item number: f.11r

Length: 22.3

Width: 14.5

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

The Abbot of Malmesbury and Bishop of Sherborne, Aldhelm wrote 'About Virginity' ('De Virginitate') in two versions. He wrote the first about 705 in prose for Abbess Hildelith and the nuns of Barking. A few years later he produced a poetic version of the work. This manuscript presents the prose version and a copy of one of his letters. 'About Virginity' concerns purity as a Christian virtue. Aldhelm created elaborate allegories in which early Christian male and female virgin martyrs appeared as warriors and athletes triumphing over evil. He wrote Latin in a notoriously difficult style, packed with obscure figures of speech and grammar. Despite this, 'About Virginity' was still being copied centuries later. This copy belonged to the Cistercian Abbey of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Newminster, Northumberland. On the first page of his prose treatise, he addresses the abbess Hildelith and dedicates the work to her and her community. The many notes between the lines are 'glosses' or words written to help the reader with grammar and vocabulary. Most students (and many teachers) need help to read Aldhelm's latin.

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