Tag Archives: The British Library

Lecture Series: The Giant Bibles of Twelfth-Century England (London, October – November 2014)

Lecture Series:
2014 Panuzzi Lectures at The British Library
The Giant Bibles of Twelfth-Century England
London, The British Library, October – November 2014

A series of three lectlambethures by Christopher de Hamel, Donnelley Fellow Librarian of Corpus Christi College, Cambridge.

The great Latin Bibles, in huge multiple volumes, are by far the largest and most spectacular manuscripts commissioned in England in the twelfth century, decorated with magnificent illuminated pictures.  The lectures will consider the purpose of such books and why they were suddenly so fashionable and also why they passed out of fashion in England during the second half of the twelfth century.

Lecture 1: Monday, 27 October 2014 18.15-19.30

The Bury Bible
The first lecture will look principally at the Bible of Bury St Edmunds Abbey, now in the Parker Library at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge. The manuscript, commissioned in the time of Anselm, abbot of Bury 1121-48, is usually dated to around 1130.  It was decorated by the hand of Master Hugo, the earliest professional artist in England whose name is known. The lecture will also examine the larger questions of where exemplars and materials were found for the Bible, and at the phenomenal expense of such undertakings.

Lecture 2: Thursday, 30 October 2014 18.15-19.30

The Winchester Bible
The Winchester Bible is still in the cathedral where it was commissioned, doubtless by Henry of Blois, bishop of Winchester 1129-71.  It too was illuminated by professional painters, who apparently also worked on frescoes in Spain.  The lecture will take advantage of the recent disbinding of the manuscript to make new observations about its production, and to suggest new dates for the different phases of the work, undertaken in parallel with a second (but lesser) giant Bible from Winchester, now in the Bodleian Library.

Lecture 3: Monday, 3 November 2014 18.15-19.30

The Lambeth Bible
Despite its fame and quality of illumination, nothing has been hitherto known about the Lambeth Bible’s original owner or patron.  The lecture will propose that it was commissioned around 1148 for Faversham Abbey by King Stephen, king of England 1135-54. The lecture will end with observations of why giant Bibles passed out of fashion in England during the second half of the twelfth century.


18.15 in the Conference Centre
British Library
96 Euston Road
London NW1 2DB

Please note that these events are not ticketed and seats will be allocated on the night on a first come, first served basis.

New Publication: Royal Manuscripts Conference Papers Now Online (Electronic British Library Journal 2014)

New Publication:
Royal Manuscripts Conference Papers Now Online
Electronic British Library Journal 2014 (articles 4–10)

The British Library is pleased to announce that selected papers from the two-day international conference associated with the ‘Royal Manuscripts’ exhibition (11 November 2011 – 13 March 2012) are now available on the Electronic British Library Journal 2014 (articles 4–10).


Royal Manuscripts: The Genius of Illumination showcased over 150 richly decorated manuscripts associated with and collected by English monarchs between the ninth and sixteenth centuries.  Drawn mainly from the Old Royal library given to the nation by George II in 1757, the exhibited manuscripts revealed a magnificent artistic inheritance and provided a vivid insight into the lives and aspirations of those for whom they were made.

On the 12-13 December 2011, seventeen speakers gathered in the British Library to discuss different aspects of the Royal collection, from the makers and users of these books to content as diverse as genealogy and law, legend and history, and liturgy.  An account of the conference, its speakers and their subjects, can be read here.

Source: http://britishlibrary.typepad.co.uk/digitisedmanuscripts/2014/09/royal-manuscripts-conference-papers-now-online.html

Collaborative Doctoral Award: Understanding the Anglo-Saxons: the English and Continental manuscript evidence (London, British Library)

Collaborative Doctoral Award:
Understanding the Anglo-Saxons: the English and Continental manuscript evidence
London, British Library
Deadline: 28 November 2014

Photo: The British Library (Stowe 944, f. 7)

The culture of Anglo-Saxon England before the Norman Conquest is highly distinctive, not least through the use of the Old English vernacular as a language of written record; but Anglo-Saxon political, religious, economic, linguistic, literary and artistic history cannot properly be understood without reference to contemporary connections with the European Continent. These cross-Channel connections were always significant and are manifest in many different ways, such as: migration stories re-told through Beowulf (Cotton Vit. A.xv) or the Anglo- Saxon Chronicle (Cotton Tib. B.i); records of the Christian missionaries from Rome in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History (Cotton Tib. C.ii); the adoption of a Frankish Rule for clerics in English cathedral churches (Add. 34652); a family history compiled in England for an Ottonian abbess (Cotton Otho A.x); the patronage of a Danish King of all England (Stowe 944).

The connections went both ways, and – especially in the eighth century – religious men and women from the British Isles travelled widely to Frisia, Francia, and Italy establishing a network of churches with scriptoria that produced books in the Insular style and which maintained active links with English communities through prayer (Cotton Dom. A.vii) and letters (Cotton Vesp. D.vi). Indeed, although the BL holds by far the largest single collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, there are also many manuscripts in European libraries which were written in Continental scriptoria by scribes trained to make books in the fashion of the Anglo-Saxons and Irish. The manuscript history of Anglo-Saxon England before AD 800, is thus a European as well as an English story.

The British Library collections preserve an extensive array of manuscripts, charters, and fragments written before c. AD 1100 that illuminate many aspects of this facet of the cultural history of Anglo-Saxon England. Some of these contain texts that refer directly to cross-Channel contacts, or are English copies of texts by Continental authors, others are books that were written in Continental scriptoria and subsequently imported to Anglo-Saxon England. The chronological range of this material is wide, covering the whole period AD 600–1100, and there are numerous examples of manuscripts made in diverse Irish, Frankish, Breton, Spanish and Italian scriptoria that enable meaningful comparisons with contemporary Anglo-Saxon books.

The depth and range of the BL collections opens up many potential PhD projects under this theme. It will attract students of early medieval history, language, literature, art, palaeography and codicology, as well as those with knowledge of techniques for scientific analysis, and those who want to employ an interdisciplinary approach to their research. It is likely also to attract applications from European students with knowledge of European libraries that have substantial comparative collections.

PhD projects on this theme could use BL MSS to explore aspects of:

– Networks and knowledge exchange across early medieval Europe – including textual analysis (of all genres – including literary, theological, historical, scientific), movements of specific texts, manuscripts and letters, regional connections
– Historical connections with Denmark, Francia, Italy
– Fragments(of books and of texts)
– Glosses and marginalia
– Methods of making: comparative production of manuscripts in England and Europe, incl. inks, pigments, parchment
– Script development in England and Europe, esp. minuscule
– Ornament and illustration
– Elite versus utilitarian books
– Comparative vernaculars / Latin and the vernacular – in England and on the Continent
– Perceptions of the past in Anglo-Saxon England

A CDA in this field would fit exactly with the three-year period of research and preparation for the major British Library exhibition on the Anglo-Saxons which is scheduled to open in October 2018. This exhibition would offer the student an opportunity to contribute to the development of the exhibition and related publications, events and conferences. The student could also support the development of the Library’s digital coverage of Anglo-Saxon and related Continental manuscripts; this is an area we intend to focus on prior to 2018.

For further details and to apply, see: http://www.bl.uk/aboutus/highered/hecollab/collabdoctpar/