VULGATE MANUSCRIPT

Codex Amiatinus - AD 750

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The best manuscript of the Vulgate is the CODEX AMIATINUS, of which a reduced facsimile, showing the lower half of the page, is given in Plate XXV (above). This has a special interest for Englishmen, apart from the value of the text contained in it, as having been produced in England at the beginning of the eighth century. Its English origin was only discovered about fifty years ago, and in a curious way. On its second page is an inscription stating that it was presented to the abbey of Monte Amiata by Peter of Lombardy, and it was always supposed to have been written in Italy. But Peter's name, was obviously written over an erasure, and, besides, spoilt the metre of the verses in which the inscription is composed. Still, the truth was never suspected until a brilliant conjecture by the Italian G. B. de Rossi, confirmed by a further discovery by Professor Hort, showed that the original name was not Peter of Lombardy, but Ceolfrid of England. Then the whole history of the MS. was made clear. It was written either at Wearmouth or at Jarrow, famous schools in the north of England in the seventh and eighth centuries (having probably been copied from MSS. brought from Italy by Ceolfrid), and was taken by Abbot Ceolfrid as a present to Pope Gregory II in the year 716. It was used in the revision of the Vulgate by Pope Sixtus V in 1585-90, and its present home is in the great Laurentian Library at Florence. It is a huge volume, each leaf measuring 19.5 by 13.5 inches, written in large and beautifully clear letters. The passage shown in the Plate is Luke iv.32-v.6. An example of a correction may be seen in column 2, thirteen lines from the bottom, where the singular imperative laxa has been altered by a corrector to the plural laxate, which corresponds more exactly with the original Greek. The text is carefully and accurately written, and it is taken by Wordsworth and White as their first and most important authority.

An interesting addition has lately been made to its history. It is recorded by Bede that Ceolfrid had two other copies of the Bible made, besides that which he took as a gift to the Pope. In 1909 a single leaf, in writing closely resembling that of the Amiatinus, was discovered by the Rev. W. Greenwell in a curiosity shop in Newcastle, and within this last year eleven more leaves, which had been utilised to form the covers of estate accounts in the north of England, were (largely through the agency of Viscount Wakefield and the Friends of the National Libraries) secured for the nation. All twelve leaves, which include parts of 1 and 2 Kings, and unquestionably form part of one of the sister codices of the Amiatinus, are now in the British Museum, where they are a monument of the time when, under the leadership of Benedict Biscop, Ceolfrid, and especially Bede, the north of England led the Western world in scholarship.

Description & picture from 'Our Bible & the Ancient Manuscripts' by Sir Frederick Kenyon (1895 - 4th Ed. 1939) Page 175 & Plate XXV. (Page selection illustrated: 26 x 21cm. Page-size: 49 x 34cm. ) 
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