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An Anglo-Saxon scribe's signature, in an Irish Pocket Gospels

An Anglo-Saxon scribe's signature, in an Irish Pocket Gospels

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 910

Shelfmark: Additional MS 40618

Item number: f.66r

Length: 13

Width: 9.7

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated Manuscript

This small copy of the gospels comes from Ireland and is an example of the 'pocket gospels' made there in the early Middle Ages. While their use is not fully known now, markings in them, texts added to them, and the importance of gospelbooks in the lives of saints such as Columba indicate that they had multiple uses in personal devotion as well as in pastoral care. Books of scripture, especially gospels and psalters, were considered to have powers of healing and protection. By the 10th century, this pocket gospels had ended up in southern England, possibly Canterbury, where it was 'updated' with pictures in the latest style and its decorated initial letters scraped off and painted over with ones in a new style.

The Anglo-Saxon scribe rewrote the last page of the Gospel of John, adding his signature: 'May who reads this pray for the scribe Edward, deacon.' The script differs from that of the rest of the book, and the special shorthand abbreviations used so heavily throughout the book are missing from this page.

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