Cover of the St. Cuthbert Gospel

The original tooled red goatskin binding is the earliest surviving intact Western binding, and the virtually unique survivor of decorated Insular leatherwork. The decoration of the front cover includes colour, and the main motif is raised, which is unique among the few surviving Early Medieval bindings. The panels of geometrical decoration with two-stranded interlace closely relate to Insular illuminated manuscripts, and can be compared to the carpet pages found in these. Elements of the design also relate to Anglo-Saxon metalwork in the case of the general origin of interlace in manuscripts, and Coptic and other East Mediterranean designs.

St. Cuthbert Gospel: Folio 51 Recto

The St. Cuthbert Gospel is a pocket-sized book, 5.4 × 3.6 inches, of the Gospel of St. John written in uncial script on 94 vellum folios. It is bound in wooden cover boards, covered with tooled red leather. The St Cuthbert Gospel is significant both intrinsically as the earliest surviving European book and by association with the 7th century Anglo-Saxon saint, Cuthbert of Lindisfarne. Folio 51r, showing Jn 11:18-25a, with one of the requiem readings marked at line 10.

Book of Durrow: Folio 21 Verso

Folio 21 verso from the Book of Durrow; St. Matthew.

Book of Durrow: Folio 191 Verso

Folio 191 verso from the Book of Durrow; the Lion, a symbol of St. John.

Lindisfarne Gospels: Folio 3 Recto

Folio 3 recto from the Lindisfarne Gospels. The first of five major decorated openings in the manuscript introduces the letter which St Jerome addressed to Pope Damasus, at whose request he carried out the revision of the Latin Bible text during the late 4th century.

Lindisfarne Gospels: Folio 139 Recto

Folio 139 recto from the Lindisfarne Gospels; the opening words of the Gospel of St. Luke: ‘Quoniam quidem multi conati sunt ordinare narrationem’, Forasmuch as many have taken in hand to set forth in order a declaration.

Book of Durrow: Folio 192 Verso

Folio 192 verso from the Book of Durrow; knot work and zoomorphic interlace.

Lindisfarne Gospels: Folio 210 Verso

Folio 210 verso from the Lindisfarne Gospels; a cross-carpet page.

Lindisfarne Gospels: Folio 2 Verso

Folio 2 verso from the Lindisfarne Gospels; a cross-carpet page.

Lindisfarne Gospels: Folio 211 Recto

Folio 211 recto from the Lindisfarne Gospels; the beginning of the Gospel According to St. John.

Lindisfarne Gospels: Folio 93 Verso

Folio 93 verso from the Lindisfarne Gospels; St. Mark done after the classical style.

Lindisfarne Gospels: Folio 29 Recto

Folio 29 recto from the Lindisfarne Gospels; St Matthew’s Gospel includes a second major initial page, marking the beginning of the Christmas story. The first three lines contain the words: Christi autem generatio sic erat — Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise.