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Accession number 09.21
Title Biblia Sacra
Author Latin Vulgate Bible
Date ca. 1180
Notes John Hellstern: This Bible was sold to me by an antiquarian book dealer in London as likely being scribed at Cambridge, England about 1180.
Description: There are 148 vellum sheets, making a total of 296 r. and v. pages. Each page is approximately 5 by 7 ½ inches. The vellum is somewhat of a darker hue (due to age?) than later scribed Bibles. The first few pages of Genesis and the last few of the Psalms, two music pages, and 2 pages of prayers are even darker, almost certainly due to greater handling and length of time that this portion of the Bible was in a pre-bound state before my purchasing it. (See note below on purchase and binding.) The text is scribed in brown ink, typical of the above suggested dating, and measures approximately 3 1/8 by 5 ¼ inches, with about 10 lines per inch, and a full page numbering between 53 to 57 lines. Red and blue ink rubrication denotes both Book divisions as wells as major divisions of the text, later identified as chapter divisions. This hand rubrication begins with a capital letter, but continues with scroll work down the sides and middle of the text. The text is scribed on quite strongly marked lines, typical of Bibles done at Cambridge. (Cf. the website below on the Cambridge Bible.) The script is very similar to a 53 line Bible scribed in England about 1220-1240: Cf. It seems clear that the Bible has been cropped at some time in its history, but a good many centuries ago, as the corners have become darkened and rounded with wear. The wear and the notes on pages would suggest a lot of usage.
A number system has been added in black ink between the two columns of text, usually beginning with 1, 4, 10, etc., to numbers as high as 90. This number system does not correspond to the number of lines per page and there are about one-third of the pages without any numbering between columns. Thus, it indicates that the numbering system was for some other purpose than numbering lines, the purpose of which is not known at this time. The text is from Genesis through the 150th Psalm, with two pages of Psalms set to music on three-line staffs, following the 150th Psalm. At the end of the music pages, there are four pages of (prayers?), each short paragraph-48 in total-each beginning with a rubricated capital letter.) The British Museum identified 18 missing leaves in the text. (See folder regarding identification.) Divisions of the text, both books and other divisions of material, are also rubricated. (The word rubrication indicates the use of different colors of ink, but not gold leaf, which would then be classified as an illuminated manuscript.)
It was scribed before chapters came into use. Chapter numbers have been added by a later scribe from Genesis through Psalm 103, using slightly different colors of red and blue ink from that of the rubrication. (There is no chaptering from what would be Psalm 104 through 150.) Sometimes a line is drawn over into the text where the chapter was later determined to begin. This may not square with information provided by the British Museum, which is that the manuscript was not scribed before the 13th century. Assuming this information from the BM is correct, that leaves a tighter window of years regarding when it was scribed before chaptering became standard in copies. (Chapters for the books of the Bible were not devised until about 1215 and became standard around 1230 to 1250 in copies in both England and the Continent.)
Being scribed in England, it makes this Bible rarer than manuscript Bibles scribed in Italy or France. This is true both in terms of the number of Bibles scribed, as well as due to the dispersal and destruction of monastic libraries during the reign of Henry VIIIth, after 1539. Providing the early date above can be established, manuscript Bibles before the mid 14th century are quite rare. (Consult comments by Otto F. Ege, on web site and the Cary Collection of leaves at Western Reserve University.)
There are several hand-penned notes by later owners or readers. (See separate research folder which identifies these leaves.)
Seven signatures of this Bible have been identified by the British Museum, their assumption being that these are names of former owners. (I identify 12 such signatures, the one of the very last page so dark that it is barely visible and readable.) The earliest of owners identified by the British Museum is William Forster, who died in 1541. John 1Walshe, father of John 2 Walshe of Little Sodbury, married a _____ Forster, her first name is apparently not known. There is intersection of the Forster name with the Beauchamp name, who was Countess of Warwich, who bequeathed Sodbury to John 1 Walshe. The names Anne Beauchamp and Anne Poyntz are huge in the history of the English throne, and Walshe and Poyntz were of course strong supporters of Tyndale. I am still trying to trace Forster lineage and connect some possible dots.
There is much more to be discovered about this manuscript Bible: What Latin Vulgate text was used? Are there variances with other Latin Vulgate Bible texts of the time? Can it be established by the text, where the Bible was in fact scribed? How many Bibles were scribed in England in this period? Can the identity of some of the other signers be determined? What was the purpose of the numbering system down the center column of most pages? Did the numbering system in the middle column of many of the pages have something to do with copying the text, or was it for some study purpose? Was there illumination on some of the missing pages, which could explain their removal? A comparison with many other manuscript Bibles will hold answers regarding the pages missing in this manuscript as well as some of the questions above.
Acquisition: This manuscript Bible was acquired from an antiquarian book dealer in London, while we were living in England (1974 to 1977). When this Bible came into the possession of the London book dealer, it was wrapped in linen material, and apparently had been only this section of the Bible for a great length of time, as evidenced by the greater darkening of the vellum of the beginning pages of Genesis as well as the last 3 or 4 pages, along with the additional wear of these pages. This could also lend itself to an early date, when the Bible was scribed in units, e.g. Genesis through he Psalms, the Prophets, New Testament, etc. The London book dealer had it bound in the style of the time, i.e. wooden boards with a leather spine. An archival, book-box was made to hold the Bible. It has been displayed in two World's Fairs, Knoxville, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana.
I jokingly say "I traded a motor home for it!" (See more in research folder: 12th Century Manuscript Bible--Cambridge.)