9th-century Gospel-book from Tours


The copying and decoration of this Gospel-book from Tours represent a remarkable artistic achievement. As is characteristic of grand copies, it features full-page title or incipit pages (from the first word incipit, meaning ‘it begins’). These pages are composed of decorated rectangular panels and interlaced golden cornerpieces, written in gold on a purple background.  The use of this special colour and of precious materials is replete with imperial and spiritual connotations. Certain Roman emperors famously reserved the use of purple clothing for themselves, and books written on purple pages were also high-status objects. 

The style of the illumination is sometimes known as ‘Franco-Saxon’, referring to the area in northern France in which the style was developed and the Anglo-Saxon or Insular decorative motifs it is thought to employ.

This manuscript was digitised with the support of The Polonsky Foundation.

Full title:
The Four Gospels
2nd half of the 9th century, Southern Netherlands or Tours, France
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 11849

Full catalogue details

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