A Volume 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.
The second of Augustine's books included in the manuscript, 'On True Religion', begins with a rubric (title in red) identifying it and a large, modestly decorated first letter. The beginning of the text is written in capital letters. All of these are conventional ways in which medieval scribes highlighted the beginning of a major division in a manuscript. Sometimes the decoration was much richer, if the manuscript was to be displayed during church services or to important visitors. This manuscript was probably used as a theological textbook. While respect for the author and his text are shown in the skillful handwriting and careful layout, little space is wasted, and the minimal decoration is functional, avoiding distraction.