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Decorated initial, in the Tollemache Orosius

Decorated initial, in the Tollemache Orosius

Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum

Date: 910

Shelfmark: Additional MS 47967

Item number: f.48v

Length: 27.8

Width: 18.3

Scale: Centimetres

Genre: Illuminated manuscript

Named the Tollemache Orosius for its former owners, this manuscript presents Orosius's 'History' in an Old English translation. In the early 5th century, Orosius wrote the first Christian world history, a medieval best-seller. The Old English translation, traditionally attributed to Alfred the Great, was probably done in the 9th century. Whether or not he was the translator, the Tollemache Orosius was probably made at Winchester within a few decades of his death. Book 4 opens with a story of the barbarity of the pre-Christian people of Tarentum, who brought Roman wrath upon themselves. Orosius is arguing against pagan claims that Christianity had brought war and atrocities to the Roman Empire. The beginning of the section is marked by a '7' symbol in the margin as well as the large first letter E, formed by fierce, imaginary beasts whose bodies sprout interlace patterns, in early 10th-century Winchester style. The leather thongs attached to the front of the 15th-century cover, visible here, have metal catches to fasten to nails on the back.

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