British Library secures oldest surviving book in Europe

By Culture24 Reporter | 17 April 2012
A close-up photo of black ink text from an ancient holy book
The St Cuthbert Gospel will go on show in the Sir John Ritblat Treasures Gallery at the St Pancras home of the British Library
© British Library
The British Library’s unprecedented fundraising campaign, pursuing £9 million for the oldest surviving European book, has ended in success.

The St Cuthbert Gospel, placed in a coffin in the North-East in the late 7th century, will go on open public display at the Library’s London home. The appeal was the largest in the history of the institution, drawing a £4.5 million response from the National Heritage Memorial Fund among a range of “significant donations”.

“To look at this small and intensely beautiful treasure from the Anglo-Saxon period is to see it exactly as those who created it in the 7th century would have seen it,” announced Library Chief Executive Dame Lynne Brindley, who said planners had been “grateful and touched” at the support the bid received.

“The exquisite binding, the pages, even the sewing structure survive intact, offering us a direct connection with our forebears 1300 years ago. Its importance in the history of the book and its association with one of Britain’s foremost saints make it unique.”

A special display will follow the path of the book since it was discovered in the coffin at Durham Cathedral in 1104.

It will also spend half of its future on show in Durham as part of a partnership between the Library, the Cathedral and the city’s University, and has been made fully available online for the first time.

“It is the best possible news to know that the Cuthbert Gospel has been saved for the nation,” said The Very Reverend Michael Sadgrove, Dean of Durham, praising the “heroic efforts” of the Library.

“It has been a privilege to be associated with this fundraising campaign. We look forward from time to time to welcoming this precious book back to the peninsula where Cuthbert's remains are honoured. It will be always be loved and cherished here.”

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