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Western Medieval Manuscripts : Gospel book

Western Medieval Manuscripts

<p style='text-align: justify;'>This manuscript, probably copied in the 12th century, or possibly the first two-thirds of the 13th, is a Gospel book illustrated with portrait miniatures of the four Evangelists. The text is fully equipped for liturgical use, with notes identifying the lections to be read in church included as part of the original process of production. The main content is also preceded by listings of the different lection cycles to enable the relevant passage to be found and explanatory notes on aspects of the lection system, and by an excerpt from the 3rd-century chronicle of Hippolytos of Thebes.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript was probably produced in a region on the fringes of the Greek-speaking world, perhaps in southern Italy, where, Greek communities persisted after the end of Byzantine rule in Sicily in the 10th century and on the mainland in the 11th. The script is quite crude and the parchment is of poor quality, containing numerous holes created during the stretching and drying of the skin. When making a high-grade manuscript, any sheet in which such holes appeared would have been rejected, while even in more humble products of the Byzantine mainstream they were usually only used if the holes were positioned where they could be kept to the margins, rather than impairing the writing surface itself. In peripheral regions such as southern Italy standards were often lower, leading to the appearance of manuscripts such as this one, in which the text is frequently interrupted by holes in the material, appearing right in the midst of the written area. The use of yellow paint in some of its decoration is also common in manuscripts from that region but unusual in those from the Byzantine mainstream at this time.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Three of the portrait miniatures, painted without the use of gold, survive but have suffered severe abrasion. The folio which, judging by its location, presumably bore the fourth, that of St Mark, has been cut out. It may be speculated that when this occurred the other miniatures were already seriously damaged but this one remained relatively intact, enabling it to be sold.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>The manuscript was bound in the past, its quires remaining largely stitched together and retaining some cloth used in the construction of the binding, but has now lost its boards and covering, while some of the early quires have become detached. It has also suffered severely from the effects of mould.</p><p style='text-align: justify;'>Dr Christopher Wright</p>

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