The Guest-Coutts New Testament


This manuscript contains the entire New Testament and was probably created in Constantinople in the middle of the 10th century. It was decorated on a lavish scale, with illuminated headpieces and initials throughout.

In its current form it contains evangelist portraits at the beginning of the Gospels of Luke and John, as well as a portrait of Luke at the beginning of the Acts of the Apostles. It originally contained portraits of Matthew and Mark.

Two stubs of purple parchment leaves before the beginning of the Gospel of Luke retain traces of chapter lists, written in gold letters. These leaves were torn out at some stage in the manuscript’s earlier history.

The illuminations are of exceptionally high quality and are very well-preserved. They give a sense of the capabilities of high-end artistic production in Byzantium. 

At some point the manuscript was divided in two. The larger volume (Additional 28815) contains the Gospels, Acts, the Catholic Epistles, and the first four Pauline Epistles. It was purchased from Sir Ivor Bertie Guest, 1st Baron Wimborne, in 1871.

The second volume (Egerton 3145) was purchased from Highgate School in 1938. Angela Georgina, Baroness Burdett-Coutts, acquired it in Epirus in 1864 for the school.

Both volumes arrived at the British Museum in fine bindings. Additional 28815 bears on its upper cover silver-gilt plates worked with figures, depicting the Evangelists and scenes from the life of St Demetrius. Egerton 3145 was previously housed in a binding of stamped brown leather over beech boards, covered with green velvet. This binding is bigger than the manuscript, however, and was likely removed from another volume for the purpose of covering Egerton 3145. It is now kept separately as Egerton 3145/1.

Full title:
The Guest-Coutts New Testament
Mid 10th century
Mid 10th century
Illuminated manuscript / Manuscript
St Luke (author) , St John (author)
Usage terms

Public Domain in most countries other than the UK.

Held by
British Library
Add MS 28815
Egerton 3145

Full catalogue details

Related articles

Byzantine bookbindings

Article by:
Ann Tomalak

Ann Tomalak provides an overview of the distinctive features of Byzantine bookbinding.

British collectors of Greek manuscripts

Article by:
Cillian O’Hogan
The Greek World, Scholarship

Cillian O’Hogan surveys how a number of manuscripts came to be in the British Library through the actions of successive British collectors over the centuries.

Greek illuminated Gospels

Article by:
Kathleen Maxwell
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.