A Decorated Letter, in a Collection of Writings By St Augustine
Medium: Ink and pigments on vellum
The priory of the cathedral of St Andrew, Rochester, possessed a great number of books, most of which became the medieval manuscripts section of Henry VIII's library when the bishop of Rochester's belongings were confiscated in 1534 or upon his execution in 1535. The clerics, monks and canons at the cathedral would have need for many types of books: for study, conducting church and prayer services and for personal devotion. This manuscript, copied in the early 12th century, contained St Augustine's 'On Christian Doctrine' and 'On True Religion'. In the late 12th or beginning of the 13th century, the monastery's cantor, Alexander, wrote out a catalogue of all the books owned by the priory on the flyleaves at the front of this manuscript.
Some of the priory's manuscripts would have been richly decorated, but many others would have had modest decoration, like this one. They were books for study of subjects like theology for which illustrations were unnecessary and which would not have been displayed in church services or to important visitors. On this page of 'On Christian Doctrine', the rubrics--or writing in red--in the middle of the page indicate the end of the prologue and beginning of the book's first section, which starts with a large letter decorated with colour. The reverence for the author and his topic are evident from the skillfully executed handwriting and careful page layout.