The Moore Bede is the earliest extant copy of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History of the English People, the first historical account of the origins of the English people and the development of their Church. The Ecclesiastical History was Bede’s last major work.
This copy may have been made at Bede’s own monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow within a few years of his death, perhaps as early as 737 to judge by the chronological additions to the final page.
The manuscript was written in haste by an expert scribe using Insular minuscule script, which facilitated rapid writing and made more economical use of the page than the higher-grade uncial script used for elite, Biblical manuscripts such as Codex Amiatinus and the St Cuthbert Gospel. The use of Insular minuscule at Wearmouth-Jarrow was a direct response to contemporary demand for copies of Bede’s works, at home and abroad.
The Moore Bede seems to have left England at an early stage. Other additions to this manuscript show that it was in France for a very long time, perhaps since the reign of Charlemagne (reigned 768–814). It was kept in the cathedral at Le Mans, France, before finally being acquired by John Moore, bishop of Ely (1707–1714).
The travels of the book, as well as its very early date and proximity to the life of Bede himself, make it one of the most important surviving early medieval English manuscripts.
- Article by:
- Becky Lawton
We look at two significant Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, both produced in a thriving centre of scholarship in eighth-century England: Codex Amiatinus and the St Cuthbert Gospel.