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Forged Correspondence of "St Paul and Seneca"

Forged Correspondence of

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 1150

Shelfmark: Harley MS 2659

Item number: f.11r

Length: 32.7

Width: 23

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Manuscript

Medieval writers were keenly aware of the power of words. Before the late 4th century, an industrious but unnamed writer spuriously penned letters between St Paul and Seneca, a Roman philosopher. St Jerome mentioned the letters and included Seneca in his list of Christian authors. Full of contemporary names and references to events during the reign of Nero, the correspondence was widely accepted and even popular, with many manuscripts surviving from the 12th to 15th centuries. This manuscript has an inscription that it belonged to the Benedictine abbey of St Peter, in Gloucester.

Despite a preface by St Jerome, the letters are not elevated as works of literature. 'Paul' and 'Seneca' consistently refer to the correspondence just received from the other and carefully mention famous places in Rome such as the Gardens of Sallust. 'Seneca' lays the groundwork for further literary projects by mentioning his latest 'collected writings' which he intends to show to Nero. Subsequent correspondence reveals that 'writings' are Paul's letters.

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