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Beginning of the Gospel of Mark, In 'The Bodmin Gospels'

Beginning of the Gospel of Mark, In 'The Bodmin Gospels'

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 900

Shelfmark: Additional MS 9381

Item number: f.50r

Length: 26

Width: 16

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

The Bodmin Gospels of St Petroc's Priory, Bodmin, in Cornwall, are an important survival, providing a glimpse of Cornwall's early history. In many ways, their pages look back further still than the late 9th century when they were made. While the script in which they are written is much like that in use in contemporary France and Anglo-Saxon England, the design of many of the pages and the kind of ornament used also resemble what is seen in Irish and British gospel manuscripts from the 7th to 8th centuries. It was probably made in Brittany, a 'Celtic' area where cultural links with western Britain and Ireland were maintained. Its most well-known features are the records of freeing of slaves (manumissions), celebrated at the altar of St Petroc, dating from the 10th- 12th centuries on some of its pages, which preserve names in Old Cornish. The beginning of the Gospel of Mark is presented in much the same way as it is in the earliest surviving decorated gospel manuscripts from the British Isles. The first word, 'Initium' ('Beginning'), is written with its first two letters enlarged and combined into a monogram which is decorated with interlace--the same design and type of ornament which appears in late 7th-century gospel books. The simple linear ornament, however, is more closely related to 9th-century manuscript decoration from the Continent. The small red initials within the text mark the beginnings of sections of text, which are indicated by the numerals and notes in the right margin. These coordinate with the numbers in the canon tables, a kind of index of gospel passages.

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