Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: a once-in-a-generation exhibition
Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms: Art, Word, War, the largest ever exhibition on the history, literature and culture of Anglo-Saxon England, opens at the British Library on 19 October.
We are delighted to give you a brief glimpse here of some of the stunning exhibits that will be on show. They range from outstanding archaeological objects to unique literary texts, alongside intricately illuminated manuscripts, some of which are returning to England for the first time. The exhibition highlights the key role manuscripts played in the transmission of ideas, literature and art across political and geographical boundaries, spanning all six centuries from the eclipse of Roman Britain to the Norman Conquest.
The Utrecht Psalter, on loan from Universiteitsbibliotheek, Utrecht
Spong Man, on loan from Norwich Museums Service
The exhibition presents a once-in-a-generation opportunity to encounter original evidence from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, a time when the English language was used and written for the first time and the foundations of the kingdom of England were laid down.
Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms is on display at the British Library in London from 19 October 2018 to 19 February 2019. You can buy your tickets here. A book accompanying the exhibition, edited by Lead Curator Dr Claire Breay (The British Library) and Professor Joanna Story (University of Leicester), is available to buy from the Library's online shop.
Don't forget that the British Library has made its outstanding collection of Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and charters available online in full, allowing people around the world to explore them in detail, and to support future research in the field.
Regular stories about the exhibition will be published on the Medieval Manuscripts Blog. You can also follow us on Twitter, @BLMedieval, using the hashtag #BLAngloSaxons. We'd love you to tell us which is your favourite exhibit, from the selection published here.
Codex Amiatinus, the earliest surviving complete Bible in Latin, was made at the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in the north-east of England in the early 8th century and taken to Italy in 716 as a gift for the Pope. It has returned to England for the first time in more than 1300 years, on loan from the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana in Florence.
Codex Amiatinus, on loan from Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana, Florence
Here is a small selection of some of the outstanding illuminated manuscripts on display. They include the St Augustine Gospels, the Book of Durrow, the Echternach Gospels, the Lindisfarne Gospels, the Durham Cassiodorus, the Codex Aureus, the MacDurnan Gospels and the Boulogne Gospels.
The St Augustine Gospels, on loan from Corpus Christi College, Cambridge
The Book of Durrow, on loan from Trinity College Dublin
The Echternach Gospels, on loan from Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris
The Lindisfarne Gospels (The British Library)
The Durham Cassiodorus, on loan from Durham Cathedral Library
The Codex Aureus, on loan from Kungliga Biblioteket, Stockholm
The MacDurnan Gospels, on loan from Lambeth Palace Library
The Boulogne Gospels, on loan from Bibliothèque municipale, Boulogne-sur-mer
The exhibition also presents an opportunity to compare side-by-side the Utrecht Psalter with its later descendants, the Harley Psalter and the Eadwine Psalter.
The Utrecht Psalter, on loan from Universiteitsbibliotheek, Utrecht
The Harley Psalter (The British Library)
The Eadwine Psalter, on loan from Trinity College, Cambridge
Also on display is the magnificent treasure binding on the Judith of Flanders Gospels.
The Judith of Flanders Gospels, on loan from The Morgan Library, New York
The four principal manuscripts of Old English poetry are on display together for the first time. The British Library’s unique manuscript of Beowulf is on show alongside the Vercelli Book, returning to England for the first time from the Biblioteca Capitolare in Vercelli; the Exeter Book, on loan from Exeter Cathedral Library; and the Junius Manuscript, on loan from the Bodleian Library.
Beowulf (The British Library)
The Exeter Book, on loan from Exeter Cathedral Library
The Vercelli Book, on loan from Biblioteca e Archivio Capitolare, Vercelli
The Junius Manuscript, on loan from the Bodleian Libraries, Oxford
Domesday Book, the most famous book in English history and earliest surviving public record, is on loan from The National Archives. It provides unrivalled evidence for the landscape and administration of late Anglo-Saxon England.
Domesday Book, on loan from The National Archives
Also on display are a number of recently discovered archaeological objects including the Binham Hoard, the largest collection of gold from 6th century Britain, on loan from the Norfolk Museums Service; the Lichfield Angel, which has never been displayed outside of Lichfield since it was excavated in 2003, on loan from Lichfield Cathedral; and key objects from the Staffordshire Hoard, discovered in 2009, the largest hoard of Anglo-Saxon gold ever found, on loan from Birmingham Museums Trust and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent.
The Binham Hoard, on loan from Norwich Museum Service
The Lichfield Angel, on loan from Lichfield Cathedral
The Staffordshire Hoard, on loan from Birmingham Museums Trust and the Potteries Museum and Art Gallery, Stoke-on-Trent
Other objects on display (did we say that this is a once-in-a-generation exhibition?) include the Sutton Hoo gold buckle on loan from the British Museum, and the Alfred Jewel, on loan from the Ashmolean Museum.
The Sutton Hoo gold buckle, on loan from the British Museum
The Alfred Jewel, on loan from the Ashmolean Museum, Oxford
The River Erne horn, a wooden trumpet from the 8th century discovered in the river in the 1950s, is displayed for the first time alongside the Vespasian Psalter, which includes the oldest translation of part of the Bible into English and depicts two musicians playing very similar instruments.
The River Erne Horn, on loan from National Museums Northern Ireland
The Vespasian Psalter (The British Library)
A number of important documents are on display in Anglo-Saxon Kingdoms. They include the earliest surviving English charter, issued in 679 and granting land to the Abbot of Reculver; the oldest original letter written in England, from the Bishop of London to the Archbishop of Canterbury, dating from early 8th century; and the earliest surviving letter in English, the Fonthill letter, from the early 10th century on loan from Canterbury Cathedral.
The earliest surviving charter (The British Library)
The oldest letter written in England (The British Library)
The Fonthill Letter, on loan from Canterbury Cathedral Archives
The St Cuthbert Gospel, the oldest intact European book with its original binding, was made at the monastery of Wearmouth-Jarrow in the north-east of England in the early 8th century. It was acquired by the British Library in 2012 following the Library’s most ambitious and successful fundraising campaign for an acquisition.
The St Cuthbert Gospel (The British Library)
Last, and certainly not least, the exhibition has on display a number of significant historical manuscripts from the Anglo-Saxon kingdoms, such as the Moore Bede, Textus Roffensis, the New Minster Liber Vitae, and the will of Wynflæd, a 10th-century English noblewoman.
The Moore Bede, on loan from Cambridge University Library
Textus Roffensis, on loan from Rochester Cathedral
The New Minster Liber Vitae (The British Library)
Wynflæd's will (The British Library)
The British Library, London
19 October 2018–19 February 2019
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