Golden Canon Tables

Description

The Golden Canon Tables were created in Constantinople and date from the 6th or 7th century. They are precious evidence of the level of artistic skill in Byzantium before the Iconoclastic period (726-842 CE), when religious images were destroyed on a large scale. Although only fragmentary, enough remains of them to get a sense of the lavish scale of the original manuscript of which they must have formed part.

The canon tables are written on gold paint in this manuscript. Elaborate floral decoration adorns the tables, as do the portraits of four men, three of whom have halos. It has been suggested that there were originally twelve portraits in total, corresponding to the twelve Apostles.

Canon tables were used in Gospel manuscripts to identify parallel passages between the four Gospels.

When they were acquired by the British Museum, the Golden Canon Tables were inserted into a 12-century manuscript of the four Gospels. This manuscript, in two volumes, was formerly owned by Anthony Askew (1722-1774). The British Museum purchased it at Askew’s sale in 1785.

Full title:
Canon tables dating from the 6th or 7th century
Created:
6th century
Format:
Manuscript
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Shelfmark:
Add MS 5111

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Illuminated Gospel-books

Article by:
Kathleen Maxwell
Themes:
Art, The makers of Greek manuscripts, Religion

Kathleen Maxwell describes some of the remarkable illuminated copies of the Gospels to be found in the British Library’s collections.

Book illumination in antiquity

Article by:
Cillian O’Hogan
Themes:
The makers of Greek manuscripts, Art, Papyri

The history of illuminated manuscripts goes back to antiquity. In this article, Cillian O’Hogan describes the surviving fragments of ancient and late antique illuminated Greek books now held in the British Library.

Greek manuscript illumination

Article by:
Cillian O’Hogan
Theme:
Art

Many of the British Library’s Greek manuscripts contain beautiful illuminations. Here, Cillian O’Hogan provides a brief overview of the history of illumination in Greek manuscripts.

Related collection items